Earth Day is a great time to reflect on the importance of taking good care of our planet. It is also meant to inspire people to make changes in their lives that can positively impact the earth. But going green all at once can be pretty intimidating, if not downright impossible. So rather than feeling overwhelmed that you can’t do everything, let Earth Day be a time to make one resolution to put into practice this year. Each year on Earth Day, try to make one small change that will become a permanent practice, going forward.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Keep a Reusable Straw on Hand
Straws are bad for the environment. But even knowing that, the straw habit can be hard to kick. There are plenty of reusable straws that fold up and even have their own carrying case. Keep one in your glove compartment or on your keychain so you can use your own when you are at a restaurant. And, of course, at home you can use full-size reusable straws.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
Keep a reusable bag full of all your other reusable shopping bags inside the trunk of your car or next to your front door for grocery trips. Make sure this includes a large canvas bag for bulky items, insulated for perishables, and mesh bags to replace the produce bags at the store. For spur of the moment shopping, keep one compact reusable bag in your purse or pocket. If you don’t have anything on hand, at least choose paper over plastic as it is biodegradable.
Use a Refillable Water Bottle
Small water bottles create a lot of waste. Even if your tap water isn’t safe to drink, at least filling up a reusable water bottle from a much larger container of bottled water will cut down significantly on the amount of plastic you use and dispose of. There are even silicone bottles that can be folded up like an accordion when not filled.
Choose Reusable Snack Bags and Containers
Snacking on the go doesn’t have to mean pollution. Silicone bags and reusable snack containers made from glass or metal can make a big difference in the long run.
Bring a Refillable Coffee Thermos
Many coffee shops nowadays will allow you to fill your own thermos. This can really cut down on pollution when you count how many coffees you buy a year. Plus, you can write your own name on it so it won’t be misspelled 😉
Switch to Biodegradable Garbage Bags
True, these aren’t always the best for messy kitchen garbage, but you can double them up, or at the very least, use them for your recycling bin and bathroom or office garbage.
Opt for Cardboard Over Plastic Cartons
When shopping for milk or juice, choose ones that come in cardboard containers, instead of plastic jugs. You will need to buy more containers but will be cutting down on so much plastic waste.
Switch to Laundry Cleaning Strips
Instead of bottles of detergent, which use unnecessary plastic and water, opt for laundry strips which are not only better for the environment, they also save space and are less messy to measure out.
Use Refillable Soap Bottles
Bars of soap produce the least waste, but if these make your skin crawl (no pun intended), use refillable soap bottles rather than buying individual plastic ones. Better yet, get hand soap and shampoo tablets that you can mix in a refillable bottle.
Make Crafts from Cardboard Recyclables Rather than Plastic
It might seem like reusing something rather than recycling it is even better, but sometimes crafts make a recyclable item no longer recyclable. It’s better to use recyclables that are made from cardboard, as they can still break down easily in the trash afterward.
Ban Glitter from Your Craft Bin
Glitter can add such pizzazz to an art project. But you may have noticed once some spills, you can never fully get rid of it. No matter how much you sweep or vacuum, six months later, you will still find glitter in some corner. Well, not only is glitter incredibly annoying for parents and teachers, it’s also pretty bad for the planet, because just like your craft area, glitter doesn’t come out of nature any more easily. It takes a long time to break down and its small size means it spreads everywhere.
Switch to Biodegradable Plates, Cups and Cutlery
Instead of plastic cups and plates, buy paper ones. Plastic cutlery can be replaced by biodegradable ones, like those made from bamboo. If you are a teacher and have to use what your school provides, when parents ask at the beginning of the year what they can donate, ask for these items. There will likely be at least one parent who is passionate enough about going green to be willing to help. And if you’re that parent, speak up at the back-to-school night and offer to make some donations.
Choose a Slower Delivery Time
If you do most of your shopping online, you probably often complain about excessive packaging. You can wait until you have several items in your cart so they can ship together to save packaging. You can also request a set delivery date each week with some companies, so that items which have been purchased will wait until a particular date to ship. Also, choosing the slower shipping method, even when the faster one is the same price, can help the whole shipping process use less waste, from start to finish.
Thoroughly Wash Your Recyclables
If you want recycling to be more effective, make it easier on the recycling center by washing your recyclables as thoroughly as you do your dishes. Food paste that’s stuck to the insides slows down the process for the recycling center.
Switch to Bamboo Toothbrushes
Like straws, toothbrushes might not take up a ton of landfill space, but they add up over time and are so incredibly easy to replace with compostable bamboo ones that there’s just no reason not to. They work just as well and are often less expensive.
Say No Thanks to Freebies
Everyone loves free stuff. And travel size items can come in very handy at times. But if you always say yes to free minis in hotels, at the dentist, and at events, before you know it you have a whole drawer full of items you don’t need and won’t use, but that add a lot of landfill due to their packaging-to-content ratio. So make it a habit to turn them down, and opt for larger sizes at home and refillable miniature containers for when you are on the go.
Save Your Wire Hangers
Trips to the dry cleaners can add up, and so can all the wire hangers that come home. Instead of tossing or recycling them, hold on to those hangers and send your clothes right back on the same ones when you drop them off again. You can even ask your dry cleaners if they will re-use the same plastic cover if you return it with your next drop off.
So? What will your Earth Day resolution be?