Happy Friday Friends! I recently read an article about what I can do individually to minimize my environmental impact. It got me thinking, what do I do that minimizes my environmental impact? Pick one thing, that’s what resonated with me from the article. Imagine if everyone had one thing they actively tried to work on. We would have millions of people working on many different causes, versus a few working on every cause. To me that hit home, there’s no way I’ll single-handedly change the world, but there are small things I can do in my corner of the world to help!
With that in mind I figured I’d like to share a few small things I have been trying to implement in my day to day life, in an effort to minimize my environmental impact.
How Can I Minimize my Environmental Impact While Out and About
It began with a straw
Yes I know EVERYONE is about saving the turtles, and as cliche as it sounds I jumped on that bandwagon. The transition itself was easy and I don’t often find myself longing for a straw. I am totally fine drinking right from the glass. However, if I really do need a straw I’ll use a metal or bio-degradable paper straw alternative.
Where I struggled the most, was actively remembering to ask my server not to provide a straw. I often would receive a drink with a straw in it already which defeated my goal. As time has gone on, if my server brings a straw out I leave it on the table for someone else to use and actively try to remember to ask for no straws.
Anyway, the conscious decision to avoid plastic straws in my life got me thinking more about how I interact with single use plastic in my day to day life. The results were shocking, and from there it was a snowball effect. From water bottles, to reusable cutlery, and plastic bags I realized there were many items I could live without.
Reusable Water Bottle
The easiest and obvious change was my water bottle usage. I used to be a sucker for grabbing a bottle of water from the case purchased during the weekly Sam’s Club run. After consciously considering my impact, I realized at minimum I was using 1-2 bottles a day. At that rate at least 10 bottles a week and 520 over a year.
Around Christmas time I received both a Swell and Yeti water bottle. Ever since receiving those I have religiously been going out of my way to avoid water bottles. I will note, there are times where I crack, and I buy a water bottle. Often it’s when I’m in the airport and forgot to bring my reusable container and find myself parched. I try to avoid this as much as possible by always having a reusable container as part of my essential checklist, but I’m human and sometimes forget.
Single Use Cutlery
As a nature of my job, I travel every week to a client site and live in hotels. As a result, 90% of my meals are take-out while on the road. Most places like Chipotle have started serving their food in eco-friendly containers instead of plastic. However, almost all of these types of restaurant fail at providing eco-friendly silverware. If you eat out as often as I do, that is a lot of plastic silverware.
A great alternative can be personal and reusable cutlery, such as this bamboo set.
Currently I’m on a new client that has a large cafeteria at work. One of my favorite things about them is their environmentally friendly options. While they do sell water bottles and have plastic cutlery, they also provide reusable cups, water stations, silver cutlery, and all their food is served in reusable plastic containers. When you’re done eating you simply return your container, glass and cutlery to a “washing station” and staff on site clean them and put them back out for others to use!
Think twice about those napkins
Do you really need a fistful of napkins when you’re out to eat? If you’re like many of us and grabbed way to many, leave them on the table for someone else to use instead of throwing them out. Or, do what I do and shove them in your purse and save them for later.
Starbucks and alike
Unpopular opinion, I don’t think coffee every day is necessary. However, I’m sure 75% of people disagree with that. For me the waste is glaringly obvious in my work setting, where daily coffee runs occur twice a day. The amount of coffee cups, plastic cups, lids and straws that arise from one small team, let alone an office is insane.
If you are guilty of being a coffee addict, maybe consider getting a reusable Starbucks cup. The convenience of doing a mobile order and picking up is definitely high, but making a lasting impact on the environment can be higher. Consider going to the store and ordering coffee in person in order to use a reusable mug.
While we’re on the coffee topic, let’s skip the coffee stirrers. A metal spoon does the same thing, and eliminates trash in a landfill.
Do you really NEED a paper boarding pass? As someone that travels every week for work, I ensure I always have a mobile boarding pass handy and prevent the unnecessary printing of paper. I try to use electronic tickets whether it’s for a flight, a train ticket, or an event. Plus it’s super convenient to have it on my phone!
Since I travel for work during the week, I’m only home on weekends and as a result run all my errands at one time. While this has been a consequence of my life, I’ve also realized running errands in batches helps to minimize the amount of times I need to get in my car. By doing this I can lessen my carbon emissions and reduce our fuel costs.
How Can I Minimize My Environmental Impact and save money on those bills honey
I am guilty of standing under the hot water in the shower, and this is something I continue to work on. It’s definitely one of the few items I have yet to successfully achieve, but being conscious of my water consumption is something I’m trying to actively pay attention to. It’s the little things that add up.
- Cut down down on long showers
- Consider showers over baths
- Don’t run the water while brushing your teeth
- Try to hand-wash dishes over dishwashing. If you can’t go without your dishwasher, consider skipping the pre-rinse if possible.
- Only do full loads of laundry
Okay James and I are very conscious of our bills because we’re always tryna be fiscally savvy and save our money for our wedding, or travels. As a result, this has led to us using our electric very consciously. I would say we’re pretty good at turning lights off when we’re not in a room, or opening our shutters and using natural light during the day.
We purchased power strips, and set up entertainment systems and devices we don’t use 24/7 such as the Xbox, FireStick, Chromecast and Alexa. Whenever we’re not using these items we’ll simply turn the power strip off, this goes a long way to minimizing our electric usage.
In general we also only keep a few devices consistently plugged in, such as our TV and Fridge. Almost everything else we plug in/out as we need it.
If it’s a beautiful day weather wise we turn the AC off and open the door and let some fresh air circulate throughout our apartment. The humid Charleston summers makes this a bit harder and we often have to run our AC consistently through the summer, but we do this at higher temps. I read a statistic somewhere that adjusting the temperature in your house by one degree can save you upto 10% over the year.
Also, consider switching your laundry from hot to cold washes when possible. If every household in America washed with a colder temperature they could save millions in energy and oil consumption.
Shop in Bulk
Okay hear me out here, a “5 lb” bag of rice versus five “1 lb” bags of rice is both economically smarter and less plastic. Consider shopping in bulk when possible to minimize your consumption. With that said, I do think food waste is another critical issue we face. I definitely am a proponent for buying in smaller quantities, if it means preventing food waste.
James and I are completely paper free when it comes to our bills. All of our bills are delivered to us electronically, and paid electronically.
We also opted in for paper-free bank statements. In some instances, opting to go paper-free with some banks can save some you cash $$$ and obviously the trees.
How Can I Minimize My Environmental Impact at Home
James like to poke fun that I suddenly became this “eco-warrior”. Regardless, with my recent changes in our lifestyle, we are definitely consuming less plastic and paper.
We almost never get plastic bags at the store when we grocery shop. I always leave tote bags in our car and use those instead. If for some reason I forget to put the totes back into the car and we find ourselves without bags on our next trip – we’ll make the 3 trips to and from the car rather than getting plastic bags. On occasion I will get a plastic bag if it’s something frozen like ice cream and we’re trying to avoid the condensation on the other grocery items. In these instances I will re-purpose a plastic bag and use it as our “garbage bag” for our bathroom trash can.
I think recycling is the one thing most people do without a second thought. However, I recently learned that not all items are truly recyclable. Something you recycle in one city may not be recyclable in another.
It is really important to research what types of recyclable items are accepted in the area where you live. Most plastic items have “numbers” listed on them, and recycling centers will indicate which of those items are trashed, and which are recycled. In addition, there are “best practices” for recycling. For example, I learned some recycle centers will not recycle a water bottle if it doesn’t have the cap attached to it.
We all have them and we all upgrade them. I typically will keep my old cell phones and try to reuse them in some manner. However, when I no longer have use for them I recycle them at a designated location or turn them in. Sometimes carriers like AT&T or Verizon will accept your old cell phones and give you a discount on an upgrade.
I had a phase in college where I signed up for endless freebies. The downside? I got a ton of junk mail. Let’s face it, most of us throw junk mail right in the trash. That’s a ton of wasted paper for absolutely no reason. I’m still in the process of unsubscribing from mailing lists. There are services out there that can do this for you if you find this too daunting.
My recent vow to be more conscious of the products I use also encompass makeup. Whatever beauty products I already own I continue to use. However, when it comes to purchasing, I am selective and only shop for clean and PETA approved products. Currently my favorite brand is Physicians Formula.
One mans junk is another mans treasure. Unless it is truly garbage I often donate old clothing, appliances and household items to Goodwill. Not only does it clean up my home, but I know its re-purposed and used again. Plus, you can potentially get some money back tax time if you donate to an approved location!
We’re all probably guilty of getting take-out and then tossing the containers. Consider bringing back the broke college days, and clean and reuse those containers. How different are they from your cute Tupperware containers you use for your daily lunches? I’ve personally found Talenti Jars, when cleaned up, make great storage holders! I also often re-use the lids as candle holders to catch the wax drippings.
Future Goals for Minimizing My Environmental Impact
With that said there’s still a long way for me to go when it comes to making environmentally sound decisions. Below are a few areas that I am committing to work on in the future.
This is 100% the area where I have a TON of growth to do. I notoriously use paper towels when cleaning our apartment; whether it’s wiping down counters or cleaning up spills. I know I can easily replace these with dish towels, but I have yet to do so. This is something I definitely need to work harder on changing.
Think about how often we purchase items that are products encased within packaging, and packaged again, simply to be sold in stores. Toothpaste is a great example of this. There is literally zero purpose for the cardboard container except aesthetics, yet it contributes to an unnecessary use of paper. Once I get through my toothpaste supply, I plan to purchase non-packaged products only.
James will definitely be disappointed when I tell him that I want to switch from tea bags to loose tea. The dude loves his tea, but I recently started thinking that teabags are another source of unnecessary packaging. Loose tea and a tea-infuser does the same thing as a tea bag.
Okay seriously, James and I have talked about this one a lot. When he goes he inevitably wants to become a tree, whereas I’ve said I still want to be buried. However, when I buried I’d like to leave as little of a trace as possible. I hope to use a bio-degradable coffin and avoid preservation chemicals that can be harmful to the soil.
I am a fanatic when it comes to cleaning my ears. I probably clean my ears at minimum once a day – and that is a LOT of Q-tips in a landfill. I’ve recently switched to purchasing completely recyclable paper cotton swabs. However, while browsing the Internet I came across medical grade reusable silicon Q-tips. I’d like to eventually transition to these, as they would help minimize my paper consumption.
Once I’ve used up all my current home-cleaning products, I’d like to transition to using non-pollutants. Products like bleach contain harmful pollutants that can harm your health and the environment.
What Can You Do to Minimize Your Environmental Impact?
We all need to take some responsibility in protecting our planet. Whether it’s reducing your impact, educating others, or running causes. As long as you’re doing something, you’re helping to protect our environment. If not for your sake, but your future kids sake.
It starts with a small change. Try implementing one thing in your daily routine, and maintain it. Then try adding another, slowly you’ll be implementing many behaviors to help minimize your impact on the environment.
Remember, just ask yourself – How Can I Minimize My Environmental Impact, and then act on it!
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