Our society revolves around convenience. So when you try to reduce your impact on the environment, sometimes you have to make a slight mindset shift.
Maybe it’s more convenient to buy a bottle of water while you’re out for the day. But what are the effects of that convenient choice? Probably a $2 hit to your budget (which adds up if you do it often) and the possibility of adding even more plastic waste to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It’s just not worth it when it’s so simple to bring a reusable water bottle from home.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
~ Anne Marie Bonneau
I’d have never guessed that reducing would become a hobby of mine. But once my family took the time to understand our impact on the planet, we realized it was something we could be good at – and be proud of – together.
I hope that what my family has done (so far, because it’s a work in progress) inspires you and your family on your own path of living a little bit lighter and with some simple ideas to reduce your impact.
Here are 30 ways you can reduce your impact on the planet.
1. Avoid single-use items. Our oceans are filled with plastic bottles and items that were used short term. Thinking twice about buying short-term items in plastic is one of the most impactful green choices you can make.
2. Choose organic/ethical clothing as much as possible – reducing chemicals, formaldehyde, phthalates coming into your home.
3. Don’t buy or chew gum. If you can’t break the habit, try Glee Gum. It’s all natural, plus in a little box, none of those plastic blister packs in more packaging.
4. Don’t buy gift wrap. We use what’s around, including the kids’ artwork, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, or we use a reusable bag or a dishcloth, scarf or towels so the wrap is part of the gift. Green Child’s editor, Amity, has loads of great ideas for wrapping gifts sustainably.
5. Skip water in plastic bottles – including vitamin waters, herbal waters, and other bottle drinks pretending to be better than bottled water. Bring your own in a reusable water bottle.
6. Choose products that have less packaging, and safer packaging (glass or cardboard instead of plastic, toothpaste tablets in a glass container instead of a tube AND a box etc.).
7. Skip the takeout containers. Bring your own bag or container if you suspect you’ll be getting takeout or bringing home leftovers. Learn more at Take Out Without, a campaign I started. Occasionally, we bend this rule if the containers are compostable. Be sure you actually compost it!
8. Return egg, fruit, berries, and veggie containers and cartons to the farmers at the markets for reuse.
9. Shop for local, organic produce. We choose to support our local farmers markets for so many reasons, but one reason is NO pesky stickers on each piece of food. That’s a small step to reduce your impact, but one your body reaps the benefits.
10. When you consume meat, make sure it’s from a reputable source or farm where animals are treated humanely, can roam free, and are not given hormones or antibiotics.
11. Bring your own reusable bags to the farmers market or grocery. Vendors love it, and so do we.
12. Ask servers at restaurants not to give paper and plastic disposables – napkins, placemats, straws, cups, ketchup and soy sauce packets (don’t get me started on that green plastic sushi grass!)
13. Make your own household cleaners.
14. Reuse cloths (and old t-shirts that are too stained and torn for hand-me-downs) for cleaning cloths around the house.
15. Buy in bulk, or buy the largest size product for packaged foods.
16. Carry cloth napkins or People Towels for drying and wiping hands. They make a great carrier or placemat for food, too.
17. Avoid prepackaged, processed foods. In other words, eat real food.
18. Use glass straws or stainless straws instead of plastic ones. Each day more than 500,000,000 plastic straws are used in the United States. The Last Plastic Straw initiative seeks to activate citizens through a grassroots campaign to encourage individuals to push for change in restaurant protocol and practices in their local communities around the world.
19. Print only as needed and always use both sides. Opt for a printer with black and white capability only, to save money and waste on the color ink cartridges that never seem to be as empty as your printer says they are.
20. Remodel your child’s art into other art, or make it into gift tags (after taking digital pictures to preserve the memory, of course). And yes, we do keep some creations each year!
21. Don’t feel like you have to print every picture of your family (no matter how cute they are). We share them with others electronically.
22. Pack a waste free or litterless lunch.
23. Use cloth napkins for all meals.
24. Wash laundry in cold water and hang dry when the weather allows.
25. Use public transportation when you can. Avoid air travel when possible, as it uses large amounts of fossil fuels and contributes to greenhouse gases.
26. Unplug chargers, refusing to use energy when it’s not even working for us. Put the kids in charge for increased success.
27. Install rain barrels. You can repurpose them from barrels or other containers to conserve water.
28. Volunteer where we can, to inform and inspire others.
29. Teach our kids to be proud of all they do… no matter what the reaction is from others.
30. We live (and I work) by this African Proverb: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.”