I am someone who cares about the impact of my existence on this planet. I care about the legacy I will leave behind, the lives I can improve, and the help I can offer to those who may need it. I care about the lessons I am teaching my children about caring for others, and doing the right thing – even when it’s not easy and no one is watching. I care about living my best life, with the least impact I am currently capable of making, to our environment. It is important to me that I leave any space I occupy better than I found it, and this includes our beautiful planet.
I realized a few years ago now that there are some very easy steps anyone can take to help reduce their carbon footprint throughout their lives. I wish I had done so many things differently in my 20’s and 30’s when it comes to how I chose to live and spend my money. Now I check most decisions I make against a simple test. I ask myself – is there a way to accomplish what I want to accomplish in a way that is less damaging to our environment? Then I ask- Can I currently afford it? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, I move forward. I am not yet in a place financially where I can take some of the major steps towards sustainable living that I WILL someday take but there is plenty I can do right now to help mitigate my impact.
Here are some easy, simple, and affordable ways you can reduce your environmental impact.
Opt for reusable items in your everyday life.
I was the queen of single serve items when my boys were young. I was doing the “work from home mom” thing 21 years ago, way before it was cool or on trend. I felt that using single use items such as paper plates, solo cups, grab and go water bottles or juice boxes and plastic straws were a huge time saver. I can admit even now they do save time – a tiny little bit of time, not a lot of time – and nowhere near enough time to justify my additions to our worlds garbage problem. Plus, they’re WAY MORE EXPENSIVE!! Today I choose to reuse. I quit my toss away plate habit and made some simple substitutions in the kitchen. You may be wondering which single use items I have swapped out- well, here are just a few examples:
- Water bottles – We now have a selection of BPA-free refillable water bottles and I carry one with me pretty much everywhere I go. I chose bottles that have measurements right on the side, so not only am I keeping plastic out of the landfill I also know exactly how much water I have consumed in a day, which is helpful. I just use the filtered water from the refrigerator.
- Silicone baggies – This is a newer change and I am happy to report that it’s working out well. I just decided to purchase my second set to increase my overall stock because they do get used up quickly. However, the investment is minimal. They are less expensive than continuously buying the plastic ones that just go into the trash, and they’re pretty easy to clean. At first I was washing my plastic baggies (if they were salvageable) but I still was only able to stretch the uses to 2 or 3 times. The silicone versions come in all the same sizes you’re used to and can be reused over and over. You can easily have them delivered right to your door with your next Amazon order!
- Silicone stretch lids – I also ditched the plastic wrap sheets and began using the stretchy silicone versions. They work well and have reduced my dependence on plastic wrap. However, I have found them to be a little tricky to apply from time to time. Ease of application aside, I am very pleased with them and will continue to stay away from their plastic counterpart.
- Metal straws – These are super cute! They come in stainless steel or multi colors with their own little straw cleaner brush, and I also put mine in the dishwasher. I feel so much less guilty about using these. Plus they don’t have that weird mouth feel the paper straws have. Pro-tip – they travel really well too!
- Metal or glass soap bottles – One at a time, I am replacing the plastic single-use bottles with more sturdy options and going for the refills packaged in sustainable products. It’s a slow transition but eventually I hope to eliminate the plastic bottle from my life completely. For now, I make sure the items I still buy that way (like shampoo and conditioner) are in recyclable containers and that they get into the recycle bin at home, not the trash can!
- Make up removal wipes – Oh my Norwex! I love my Norwex products and I was so pleased to find that the body cloths did a great job of removing my makeup using only water! They also leave my skin feeling very clean, no chemical residue or slimy film left behind. More on Norwex products next because truly this company is doing some incredible things with environmentally friendly products and chemical free cleaning.
Opt for chemical free or natural cleaning products.
I was a diehard Tide user. It was my brand! I loved the scent and I felt it did an amazing job at cleaning my laundry. Turns out, many detergents actually consist of mostly water, harsh chemicals that degrade fabric, and are scented with artificial fragrance. I didn’t know that artificial fragrance items like those used in laundry detergents, dryer sheets, fabric softener and scent boosters are linked to cancer. Seriously. Google it. I have now swapped out the harsher items for plant-based laundry detergents, and I use white vinegar in place of fabric softener (which in my opinion actually works way better to soften and doesn’t leave behind residue that breaks down the fabrics in your clothing). I have also broken up with the dryer sheets and replaced them with wool dryer balls. If I want a scent I add essential oils. Oh yeah, these are also less expensive in the long run, too.
Chemical overload is another huge issue for our earth and our bodies. While the options for environmentally friendly plant-based cleaners are growing, and there are the original natural options like vinegar and baking soda, my personal go-to solution for everyday cleaning is the Norwex Envirocloth. The weave of the fibers helps remove 99% of germs and dirt using only water, while silver strands woven right into the fabric of the cloth self-purify. The window cloth works like magic so I ditched the glass cleaner too. I was using a steam mop to clean my laminate wood floors and realized a little too late that it was causing water damage, so I also switched to the Norwex mop system for my hard floors. No more harsh chemicals, no more damaging heat, and no streaks or films left behind. Just clean floors with minimal effort. Magic! Yes, I regularly clean my home with mostly water, even now during a pandemic, and no, my family and I haven’t gotten sick (knock on all the wood). I do still use small amounts of disinfectant products like diluted bleach on SUPER high touch areas since Norwex products are not meant to be disinfectants. I am also religious about hand sanitizer and masks. I have tons more information on this and other great Norwex products and I would love to discuss them with anyone who is curious to learn more, but this isn’t supposed to be a full-blown sales pitch. If you’re curious for more reach out! You can also visit this website to browse the full catalog of products they offer. I’ve been using Norwex for 3 years now and I signed up to be a consultant with Norwex last year for the awesome personal discount. I share information about them with my friends and family because I love the products and believe in their mission.
Invest in our greener future.
Let’s talk about K-cups. I love my Keurig! BUT the guilt over tossing those little K-cups was getting to me so when mine started to act funny I invested in a newer version that allows me to brew a full pot or a single cup with refillable pods. No more plastic trash guilt while I am trying to enjoy my morning cuppa joe. I even recycle the coffee grounds by adding them to my compost pile to fertilize my garden …which brings me to my next topic, food waste! Many cities are now starting to offer composting options by suggesting we add our kitchen scraps to the yard debris containers. This is a great option if you don’t garden, but if you do garden …COMPOST! Reduce the cost of commercial fertilizer by composting your own food scraps for use in your garden. I have only been gardening for 2 years (yep, I’m late to that party) so I have a lot to learn and I can’t wait for all the exciting things we have planned this year for sustainable home food production.
There are so many more things we can still do to help protect our environment and we will continue to systematically swap out harmful habits for sustainable ones little by little. Our first really big investment in this area is on the horizon. We plan to become less dependent on the power grid by converting our home to solar energy in 2021. We will then own our power instead of renting it from the electrical company. There are currently huge tax incentives being offered for converting to solar. We also have plans to go electric with our vehicles, eventually. If you’re interested in learning more about converting your home to solar, reach out! I have a hookup!
Other areas for improvement I have identified in my life include: choosing clothing made from sustainable fabrics by companies who run their businesses in sustainable ways instead of the fast fashion industry; cutting down on paper waste by making sure I am taking advantage of every e-delivery billing notice available to me; choosing beauty products that are made with natural ingredients and sustainable practices; driving less… I know there are many more. Maybe you have thought of some I haven’t yet. I would love to hear from you about what they are and what you are already doing in your own life to become more earth friendly.