It's been said that we cannot do great things in this lifetime: just small things with great love. Though none of us can single-handedly wipe all the yuck from the planet, some pretty monumental changes can occur if each and every one of us just made a few simple changes in our lifestyles. We're now firmly established in the new year, and though some resolutions may have fallen by the wayside by now, it's not too late to make the decision to live in a way that's kinder and more gentle to the planet we all call home. Read on for 6 ways that you can lessen your eco-footprint in 2013 and beyond.
1. Reuse Bags and Containers
It’s easy to carry around a reusable bag in your purse or pocket so you don’t have to buy a plastic one at the store. There are countless styles available in a variety of fabrics, so feel free to scour local shops, Etsy, etc. for bags you’d be happy to tote around. Hell, if you know how to sew, you can even transform old drapery or upholstery fabric into the bag of your dreams.
Try to buy products that are contained in glass or paper (and thus, recyclable), or take your own containers to farmers’ markets, and bulk/whole food stores. Go right ahead and show up with BPA-free plastic containers when you order from take-out places too! Every little bit we do adds up to create a cleaner planet.
2. Use Biodegradable Cleaning Products
Every time I go shopping, I’m delighted to see how many great alternatives there are to standard cleaning products. Laundry detergent, dish soap, all-purpose cleaners—so many products out there are now far more eco-friendly than they were 20 years ago. If you use store-bought cleaners for your home, look for products that are biodegradable and phosphate-free, such as those made by Seventh Generation, Green Works, and Bio-Life (Shoppers Drug Mart brand).
If you’re in the USA, you can look for products with the Green Seal on them, while the Eco Logo/Bio Vert logos are the ones to look out for in Canada. Of course, to be super-environmentally-friendly, you could just make your own cleaners with baking soda, vinegar, and water.
3. Buy (And Use) Your Own Water Bottle
This should be on everyone’s list for this year. Along with all of those discarded plastic bags, plastic water bottles end up in landfills and waterways all over the world. Ditch the plastic, invest in a Klean Kanteen or BPA-free Nalgene bottle (or just hold onto screw-top glass bottles), and carry your own water around with you.
4. Stick To Reusable Personal Care Products
Most of us have become so accustomed to the idea of chucking icky personal care items into the rubbish as soon as possible, since companies that make tissues and tampons have inundated us with the idea that anything that comes from our body is gross, and should be whisked away to some magical “other” place by your friendly neighbourhood waste disposal people.
Well, one look at a landfill site will quickly dispel that illusion. Washable baby diapers, handkerchiefs, and reusable menstrual products (like the Diva Cup, Moon Cup, Keeper, and Glad Rags), are kind to our bodies as well as our planet, and keep unnecessary waste out of landfills.
5. Reduce Your Food Waste
This sounds like a no-brainer (who wants to throw out food?), but most of us end up tossing out food that’s gone bad before we’ve had a chance to use it. This not only wastes good food, but it’s also a means of tossing portions of your paycheck into those already-overflowing landfills. Try doing some meal-planning in advance—like on weekends, or on an evening when you and your family have some spare time—so you only buy the groceries that you know will be used over the course of the week. Remove vegetables from plastic bags before putting them in the fridge, and if you think something’s on the verge of going off, freeze it: you can use it for soup stock at a later date.
6. Drive Less, Walk and Bike More
A veritable mantra among most of the people I know, this is a fairly easy thing that all of us can do, regardless of where we live. We could all do with a bit more exercise, and cutting back on the demand for oil to fuel cars will hopefully scale back the extraction of it, which causes monumental ecological devastation world-wide every year. Invest in a good bike and accessories (helmets, please!) and help to cut back on pollution while strengthening your own fine physique.
It’s time for us to put more focus on responsible living, and less on disposable convenience. The ideas listed above really aren’t very difficult to implement, but they can have a dramatic effect on our world if we all commit to putting them into practice.
Lead Image © Victor Nuno