I will be the first to tell you that switching over to a more sustainable and eco- friendly lifestyle has been one of the greater challenges I’ve faced in trying to sustain a healthier lifestyle. I totally hear it when people say how its sounds almost impossible. It is definitely not a “switch it all in one week”. It is however all about doing the best that you can to help the environment.
I remember growing up being taught not to be a litter-bug. I don’t think I truly understood the reason why until I got a little older. Learning about how trash affects not only the sides of the highways, but how it affects our oceans has been truly eye opening to me. Pollution not only happens from oil spills and the air we breathe, but it can happen from all of the plastic we use. A lot of places around the world are actually banning plastic bags all together to help the pollution of plastic. Because of our use of plastic, were not only disrupting the environment, but we are exposing animals to the danger of eating them. In short, plastic will break down in the soil and release toxins, which are horrible for animals, plants, and a whole lot of other resources.
I will admit that one-use plastic is easy. Being able to just throw a cup or bowl out without having to lug it around with you is easy. Making the switch to a more eco-friendly lifestyle isn’t easy, and it takes commitment. I know a lot of people think “Well, what does it matter if I switch, I’m just one person. Can I truly make an impact?” And the answer is yes. Surely it is going to take a lot more than just you to make a huge impact. But it is about reducing the demand for plastic products. It may be just one person, but the more people that are influenced, the greater the change will be. And you may have already taken on some sustainable practices that you haven’t noticed.
The first step I took was getting a reusable water bottle. Reducing the amount of plastic water bottles that end up in our oceans is so important. Every year, 8 million metric tons end up in our oceans. That number is more than I can wrap my head around. (You can read more on Plastic Pollution for facts and statistics if you want more info on why you should make changes to your habits) Switching to a reusable water bottle is the most common switch for people. Not only do you save money by not purchasing plastic water bottles, but you will also help your health by straying away from BPAs and other toxins in plastic. It is likely that your office provides a water supply where you can easily refill your reusable water bottle. You can also purchase a water dispenser for your home. We have one in our home. They are easy to clean and to use. We bring ours to our local Whole Foods and refill it at the water filter station. It costs about $1.50 for a 5 gallon refill.
The next step I took was banning plastic bags from our house hold. We purchased some reusable grocery bags from Whole Foods, and it has made a huge difference. They are easy to wash. Now when I go shopping for anything I will bring my grocery bags. Just yesterday, I went to Target and Sprouts and got more than I could carry with my hands. I also forgot to bring my grocery bags. So I tossed everything in my car with no bags and had to make a few trips to and from my home. Was that easy? No. But I am committed to using no plastic bags from stores.
I also use reusable produce bags when I shop. When you go to the grocery store and use the plastic produce bags and plastic grocery bags, think about how much waste that is. I use about 10 produce bags every time I shop. I also would probably fill about 8 plastic grocery bags. Thats a lot of plastic. I understand that buying reusable grocery bags and produce bags when they are free from the stores sounds crazy. But this is a huge change that impacts our environment.
Reusable sandwich bags is another game changer. There are a lot of plastic bag companies popping up. Stasher bags are the ones I’ve heard of the most on social media. But you can purchase packs of them for a cheaper prices on amazon. This is one that I know a lot of people disagree on. It’s a pain to have to wash your bags. but all you need is water, soap and a cleaning brush. I use a bottle cleaner to clean because it is easier that way. You also have to dry them. I dry mine by sticking them over a water bottle. Yes, it takes effort and you have to do extra dishwashing, but when you think about all of the one-use plastic harming our resources, that extra step you have to do isn’t so bad.
Tupperware is also a big one. Growing up, we covered our leftovers with Cling Wrap. But now I use tupperware for everything along with my reusable sandwich bags. Tupperware makes it easy to meal prep and keep your food fresh longer.
We also made the switch to reusable paper towels. This one was the hardest switch. We started this recently. We were going through so many paper towels. Without thinking we would just reach for one, wipe our hands and throw in the trash. Not only is this wasteful, but it is toxic to your body. Those paper towels you buy are very white if you never noticed. I thought about this and needed to know why they are so white. I learned that paper towels are bleached with chlorine, and often contain formaldehyde. When you are using them on your food and your skin, think about how those toxins are entering your food and your body. Next time you hit up target for your cleaning supplies, think twice. You will also save so much money by switching too. I’ve also noticed that we don’t really use the towels often since we switched. Paper towels are so convenient. You just use and toss in the trash. Now that we got rid of them we’ve noticed how we didn’t really need to use all of those paper towels.
Some other things weve switched to are
reusable plastic straws
We make coffee at home in a french press. I save glass bottles and use those to store coffee in the fridge. We buy coffee in bulk using paper bags.
I try to buy less products stored in plastic. You can buy products stored in glass jars.
I save all glass containers and use to store nuts and seeds and flours. We go to a grocery store with bulk bins and use the reusable produce bags for buying nuts instead of the plastic bags they supply.
Pet Shampoo (zero plastic containers used)
The period cup. (feminine products create SO MUCH WASTE!)
A few of the many things that are on my list of things to switch too are:
My razor. Too many razor blades end up in the ocean. Which sounds dangerous and harmful.
Hopefully find a solution for toilet paper and tissues. Like paper towels, toilet paper and tissues are just as toxic. And those touch very sensitive areas! I will definitely update is I find a clean solution!
Switching out my plastic cleaning brushes for bamboo cleaning brushes.
Beauty products not stored in plastic.
Hopefully find a trash bag alternative.
Switching over has been difficult. It’s been a practice. I am still discovering the wasteful things we use in our everyday life. Here are a few tips on how to make a change:
Start small! I made a commitment to switch over one thing a month. If you try to change things all at once it may be too difficult. Yes, I would love to switch over everything today, but it is too much. We have grown up and been taught to use single use products. It also takes 21 days to break/form a habit. So if you try switching over to bamboo paper towels, it will take a few weeks to adjust. And after that 21 days it will start to feel normal. Then the next month, switch another habit.
Research your products. You may find an awesome product through Instagram and other media sources, but there are cheaper alternatives. I love using Amazon and the zero waste store. You can find some inexpensive products on both of those websites.
Go through your home and write down all of the plastic waste and paper waste that you find. You’ll be shocked at how much stuff you have that creates waste. When you see it written out, it makes it clear at how much you need to change.
When you go shopping, pay attention to what your buying. If it’s stored in plastic, think twice about buying it. I love Costco and they have so much organic produce which is great. But it’s all covered in plastic. We once did a full grocery shopping trip at Costco and when we got home and I started unpacking it all, I was shocked at how much waste I saw.
Start off with the small stuff first. Especially when you are trying to get your household on board. Start with the water bottles, shopping bags, and toothbrushes. Save the big stuff like the paper towels for when you’re pretty adapted to a greener lifestyle. My boyfriend had a hard time the first week with the reusable paper towels. He didn’t want to use them because he didn’t know where to put them when they were dirty. He also didn’t like that they weren’t paper (they get soft when washed and are very different from the original paper towel). So we had to have patience when switching because it was very hard. We both grew up using a roll of paper towels a day, so we had to plan out the switch a few weeks before the actual switch. So make sure your household understands the reason behind it and how it all works first.
You will save SO much money.
Bring a reusable cup and straw when you go out for coffee.
Be patient with yourself. Change takes time.
I am still making small changes with my lifestyle. I have grown more awareness towards my everyday habits. It is all about doing the best you can. It’s also about influencing others to make a change too. Reducing the demand for all of these products is the goal. We aren’t perfect. I still catch myself buying food wrapped in plastic. I’m not sure if I’ll every be 100% eco-friendly. But I do the best that I can, and I encourage you to do the same!
If you have any tips and tricks for a sustain able lifestyle please let me know in the comments below!