One thing in the past year that definitely inspired me was attending The Sustainable Living Fair in Fort Collins, CO back in September. It was really neat to see so many people passionate sustainability, but I was most inspired by the talk we heard from one of the speakers, Shannon Hayes. She raised a lot of different points during her speech, but one overarching idea that stuck with me was this concept that just because industrialization has made certain things easier, it doesn’t mean that they’re better for us or the Earth. Corporate marketing would have us believe that the resourceful way our grandparents lived before all of our modern conveniences can’t teach us anything about how to live our lives today…or can it?
(Many of these may seem seem obvious, but I figure we can all use a reminder now and then!)
Say bye-bye to bottled watter: Use a reusable water bottle instead! It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to create the plastic for the immense number of water bottles that Americans consume each year, and even though those bottles can be recycled, it takes a lot of energy to create them in the first place and then even more to recycle them. There are about a zillion cute water bottles available today, so there’s no reason to continue to buy bottled water day after day.
Cut down on shopping bags of all types: One thing that amazed me about the customers who’d shop at the travel store I worked at in Boulder is how often people would opt not to get a paper shopping bag for their purchases. If you’re just going into a store to buy something you can easily carry out and going straight back to your car, do you really need a bag? Probably not. Thankfully, many people are starting jump on board with the using the reusable bags at the grocery store, but do you really use yours on a regular basis? And even if you do use your reusable grocery bags, do you still end up using a ton of plastic bags for your produce? This is something Cam and I are guilty of, so I’d like to make a concerted effort to start saving some of those bags and reusing them rather than throwing away 5-10 of them after every trip to the grocery store. (You can find some great reusable shopping bag ideas in my green holiday gift guide as well!)
Buy foods in bulk: In today’s supermarket, you can buy individual packages of almost anything. And while I realize it’s more convenient to pack a lunch when you buy things this way, it also creates a lot more waste. Purchasing a larger quantity and packing things for lunches in reusable containers takes a little bit more effort, but it also cuts down on the amount of packaging that gets thrown in the garbage each day. It’s also a great idea to buy foods in bulk when you can. Not only does it generally save you money (sometimes up to 50% less!) but it also creates far less packaging waste. Studies have shown that if one of out ten products every US household purchased had little to no packaging, the aveage household would eliminate more than 50lbs of waste per year!
Rethink paper towels: This is a big issue for me. I know that paper towels are pretty wasteful, but they’re just so dang convenient. I happened to see a great idea on Pinterest the other day (there are a ton of great eco-friendly ideas on there by the way!) that I really loved about how to go paper-toweless in your kitchen. You can find the originally link here, but basically this family put a basket of cheap, white paper towel sized thin towels where their paper towels used to be and started using those instead. I realize you’ll have to wash all these paper towels, but I think they idea is if you’re using an actual towel, you’re going to be less inclined to grab 3 or 4 to clean up a small spill. And even if you’re not ready to go completely paperless, a small change can make a big difference as a decrease in US household consumption of just three rolls per year would save 120,000 tons of waste!
|How cute are these chevron napkins?! You can find them here.|
Nix the paper napkins: In addition to reducing paper towel consumption, cutting down on the amount of paper napkins you use, both at home and out, can make a huge impact. Cam and I use cloth napkins at home every single day, and I’ll admit, at first it was a little bit weird for me but now it’s just second nature. Plus, there are so many adorable cloth napkins out there, and it’s great that you can use them over and over again. Each American uses an average of 2,200 paper napkins a year, so by cutting back on them at home you can reduce that number significantly. In addition, when you’re out at a restaurant try to grab only the napkins you think you’re actually going to use. I know that many of us (myself included) have a big tendency to grab a huge stack of napkins, but unless you’re eating barbeque you can probably get by with less.
Reduce food waste in the kitchen: This is a huge area for me that I try to work on constantly. When you buy more food than you need that spoils leading you to have to get rid of it, not only are you literally you throwing money in the garbage, you’re wasting all the energy and resources need to produce that food as well. For example, each American throws away an average of 12 lbs of uneaten poultry per year. If over a year each household purchased just one pound less chicken, the total water saved by not having to produce/package it would be sixty-six billion gallons. I realize that you are going to have some food waste in the kitchen, so consider composting as an alternative to throwing everything in the trash. In addition to benefitting your garden, you’ll save tons of landfill space.
Rid yourself of unwanted paper waste: Even in the age of the internet, companies still continue to send out junk mail and phone books. The average US household receives 1.5 trees of junk mail each year, but you can reduce that going here and putting your name on the “do not mail” list. (This site and this site both have some other great ideas on reducing mail waste!) In addition, telephone books make up almost 10% of waste at dump sites, but you can opt-out of delivery here.
Recyle: This may seem like the most obvious piece of advice so that’s why I saved it for last because so many people fail to realize the incredible impact it could have. If everyone in the US simply separated out recyclable paper, glass, and aluminum products from their trash and recycled them instead, it could decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75%! And considering in currently takes an area the size of Pennsylvania to dump all our waste each year, that would be a great thing.
So there you have it, your first set of Eco-Friendly Friday tips! I’ll be back next week with another topic (and I promise these posts won’t be quite so lengthy in the future!), so please let me know if you have any questions or ideas you’d like for me to discuss! Have a fabulous weekend everyone! Xoxo
Post Note: All my statistics came from The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen, and my Eco-Friendly Friday image source can be found here.