These days it seems like almost everyone is trying to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle but going zero-waste cold turkey can seem quite daunting. I know I felt that way when I first got serious about reducing my carbon footprint. In my personal experience I found it much easier to take it one step at a time and slowly start making small changes.
I first became truly aware of the need to reduce my plastic use about ten years ago when someone told me about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch where a total of 1.8 trillion plastic pieces are estimated to be floating. (And in case you need a more visual representation it’s twice the size of Texas.) I couldn’t believe it! I was absolutely horrified, and I knew immediately that I wanted to contribute as little as possible to plastic pollution. That day I bought my very first reusable water bottle and began taking it with me to work everyday so I would no longer have to buy bottled water. So this is where I’ll start with my tips for you on how to reduce your plastic use:
- Reusable water bottle
There are so many great options available from Yeti, Corkcicle, Swell and plenty of others. This should be an easy first step, because so many stores are carrying some brand of reusable water bottle. I’ve seen them at Walmart and Target, as well as local grocery stores. Many gift shops carry them, and you can often find them with fun designs (if you’re into that). If online shopping is your thing then just order one from Amazon.
My personal preference is Corkcicle. I’ve had mine for 4 years now and I use it every day. I’ve taken it to the gas station to get a fountain drink, a restaurant for my to-go drink, and especially in the airport where I’m usually the most tempted to buy a bottle of water (I just empty it before security and fill it up at a water fountain after). It has held up really well over the years. If you already have a reusable bottle but aren’t using it, ask yourself why. Choose a bottle that fits your needs. Do you want it to keep your drink cold or does is matter? How spill proof does it need to be? Can it be small because you have access to refill throughout the day or does it need to be large enough to keep you hydrated all day long? I have a few bottles sitting on my shelf that I should get rid of, (that’s for another post) but asking yourself these simple questions can make sure you buy something that you WANT to use everyday.
- Reusable grocery bags
I’ll be honest, I’ve only purchased one reusable grocery bag for myself and it was only 99 cents. The other bags I use for my groceries are totes I already had around the house. So if you’re wanting to save a little money, do some digging and see what you already have laying around that will do the job. For example, when I started my job a few years ago, they gave me a tote with all of my new employee stuff in it. Another tote I already had was from a giveaway I won. I keep those bags in my car at all times so I’m never without when I run to the store. When I travel, I roll one up into my luggage so if I buy something on vacation, whether it be a snack or souvenir, I don’t have to use a plastic bag.
Fun Fact: Some grocery stores will give you a small credit when you use a reusable grocery bag.
- Bee’s wax wrap and reusable ziplock baggies
I admit I used to go through a ton of plastic wrap and ziplock bags when it came to storing leftovers or packing my kids’ lunches. So when I started looking into ways to reduce waste, this was definitely something I had to find an alternative for. The bee’s wrap was the first thing I got, and it turned out to be a great substitute to plastic wrap. I can use it to wrap up sandwiches or even half an avocado or onion and store them in the refrigerator. When you’re done using them just wash gently with warm water and soap and let them air dry. As for the reusable ziplock bags, I absolutely love these! They work great for sending snacks in school lunches and I’ve even used them to freeze meat. I ordered these off of Amazon, and they have a lot of different options for colors and sizes.
- Wool dryer balls
Here’s something you probably weren’t thinking about when you decided to have a more sustainable household: dryer sheets. Ask yourself, “why do I use dryer sheets?” Other than making your clothes smell good, are they really doing anything? If you have sensitive skin like I do, you should probably stop using them for that reason alone (ask your dermatologist, they will most likely agree) because they are full of added fragrance that can irritate your skin. I recently found friendsheep wool dryer balls, and I love them. I just bought the plain white ones but they also have several cute character wool balls like sheep, penguins, and hearts. They come with a storage bag or if your like me, you can just leave them in your dryer between uses.
- Reusable straw
Whenever I go out to eat I usually tell the waiter I don’t want a straw. But sometimes there are drinks that you want to use a straw to drink. (I’m mostly talking to you, frozen margarita!) So that’s where a zoku straw comes in handy. This one is great because it collapses and fits in this little traveling case that you can attach to your keychain or just toss it in your purse so you’re never without it. It also comes with a little bush to make cleaning so much easier.
Well, there you have it. Five easy changes to make to start creating less waste. If you still feel a bit overwhelmed try choosing one change to make this month and work towards that goal.
What are some changes you have already made to start reducing your carbon footprint?