At best, most people care about the environment enough to make a few eco-friendly lifestyle changes. Pat yourself on the back if you’re separating your recyclables from regular trash, reusing items like shopping bags, and maybe turning off the faucet while you brush our teeth. This Earth Day, you may be wondering what more you can do to be nicer to Mother Earth? Bam! Here are at least 7 ways to get your eco-friendliness on today.
Nix face and body scrubs with microbeads.
While exfoliating may do wonders for your complexion, the microbeads in these products do more harm to our lakes, rivers and oceans. These tiny pieces of plastic about the size of a grain of sand, even found in toothpaste, may seem harmless, but they add up quickly. Most wastewater treatment systems cannot filter them out because of their small size, so they often end up polluting waterways, attaching to toxins and are mistaken as food by small animals. For a great eco-friendly alternative, use a natural exfoliant like sugar scrubs, which you can buy in stores or make yourself using items in your kitchen.
Eat less meat and dairy.
The key word here is “less.” Did you know that the livestock sector accounts for massive amounts of greenhouse gases, including 65 percent of human related nitrous oxide (a gas with 296 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2!). Farm animals used for meat, milk and eggs are the “major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing,” report food and agriculture organizations. Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet can be intimidating, but a small change you can make is choosing a day (or two) of the week that you don’t eat meat. Meatless Mondays, anyone?
Forget the plastic straws.
The next time you’re eating out, don’t reach or ask for a plastic straw. Pull out a steel one from your purse. For around $10, you can purchase a set of reusable, stainless steel straws for your drink. Eco-friendly and stylish, too!
Avoid plastic packaging.
Most of us already know to reduce our use of plastic bags and bottles by using Tupperware, reusable bottles, and reusable bags at the grocery store. However, think about how many products we buy that are double wrapped in plastic or the number of bags we use for buying fresh veggies and fruit. Here are your alternatives:
- Use your reusable bag.
- Buy in bulk when possible (more product, less packaging).
- Use reusable jars. Some stores, like Wholefoods, have a wholesale section where you can buy nuts, flour, coffee beans, etc. by weight. Skip the wasteful packaging by putting them into a reusable jar.
This year’s Earth Day theme is End Plastic Pollution, by the way…
Give cruelty-free cosmetics a try.
We know you’ve got your favorite brands that work for you. Maybe you’ve been using them for years. Understood. But do the planet a favor, and take ethical cosmetics for a whirl. They’re made with natural ingredients from the earth, instead of chemicals you can’t pronounce. AND they leave the animals alone. Try Shea Moisture, Axiology, Laws of Nature or Blac Minerals Cosmetics products.
Store rain water for reuse.
During hot summers, we habitually use more water, for keeping our lawns green and washing cars. An easy way to save water (and money) is to store rainwater and reuse it for those tasks around the house. You can find pre-made rain barrels at a hardware store or you can make your own. Whether you invest a little money or invest a little time, your effect on the environment (and your monthly water bill) will be well worth it.
Buy secondhand or borrow.
In the market for new furniture, books or clothing? Before hitting your favorite store, try checking out Facebook Marketplace, LetGo App or your local thrift store first. Often, you can find items that are like-new or gently used for much less than you would pay at a retail store, and you’ll be stopping perfectly good items from ending up in a dump somewhere. This also goes the other way around. Haul your unwanted items to a second-hand shop or sell them to someone online instead of simply throwing them out.
Last thoughts: Always remember that in our favorite little saying, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!” that recycle is actually the last option given. Reducing your waste and reusing items is the easiest and most effective way to care for the environment. Many items that are put in recycling never actually make it to being recycled based on numerous factors. Be mindful of Mother Earth in your everyday life, and future generations will thank you!
Gabbi Gilliam is a food access coordinator, yoga teacher and essential oil educator who aims to inspire others to take care of themselves and each other. Follow her on Instagram @goodvibezgabbi