If you are an average person living in America today, the following things probably make it into your typical day;
Brush teeth. Fix hair. Drive. Grab coffee. Grab lunch. Grab groceries. Prepare meals. Grab ice cream with your kids. Go shopping. Take out trash.
This list of seemingly mundane practices could go on much longer, but I’ll spare you.
Within these activities I see; self care, endorphin release, basic needs being taken care of, luxuries and conveniences, connection, and even responsibilities that, well, stink. Simple tasks that make up so much of our lives.
Now, go over that list that again and this time, I challenge you to see how much waste those activities produce:
Toothpaste tube, disposable toothbrush head, aerosol canisters, disposable coffee cups with plastic lids (or if making coffee at home, packaging that the beans, cream and sugar come in) containers that you buy your lunch in, the plastic bags for your produce and your groceries. The plastic wrap that clings to your veggies and meats and holds your kids’ snacks, not to mention plastic milk jugs, juice boxes and yogurt containers. Cups for ice cream treats eaten with plastic spoons, the fast fashion industry that most of us support, and the big takeaway here is that— most of this shit ends up in the trash.
“But I recycle, and use reusable grocery bags and donate items I no longer need!” you may say, and that’s great, keep doing that. It’s just that, it’s going to take a lot more of us to start using a lot less if any noteworthy change is going to happen.
So what are we supposed to do? Not brush our teeth? Quit drinking coffee and wear our hair flat? Should we get a cow and churn our own butter? Yes. Ok, at least the butter part. Homemade butter is effing bomb. On a more serious note though, there are obvious things that we can’t really give up because they directly affect our health and well-being. But can we rethink them? Can we hold up our conveniences to the light and maybe pass on some of them for the greater good?
This year, I’m challenging myself and asking anyone else who wants to join to rethink the way that we live our daily lives. This isn’t about judgement, it’s about bringing awareness to a very real and very horrifying impact that we are collectively having on our planet. We can’t do this alone, it’s an effort that needs to be made as a whole. Don’t think it’s that big of an issue?
“The winning International Statistic of 2018 is 90.5%: the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled. Estimated at 6,300 million metric tonnes, it’s thought that around 12% of all plastic waste has been incinerated, with roughly 79% accumulating in either landfill or the natural environment”
That’s just the plastic bags, but it’s a great place to start! Plastic bags take anywhere between 10-1,000 years to decompose and many countries and even US cities have chosen to outlaw them taking a direct stand against contributing to the pollution that they create. (https://www.earthday.org/2018/04/20/10-cities-and-countries-confronting-plastic-bag-pollution-head-on/) I’ve been using reusable bags for years now but in recent years became a bit lazy and fell out of habit. So I started keeping the bags in my car so I wouldn’t forget and guess what? I still forgot, because forming a new habit takes time! It took a few times of me saying ‘no’ to any bags and just loading loose groceries in my car to pretty much remember my bags 97.25% of the time. Did I mention that I’m a quick learner? After unloading groceries from my reusable bags, I hang them on my doorknob so that I remember to grab them when I’m leaving the house.
If you already have solid habits in place about properly disposing of your waste, I challenge you to take it one step further with me and try to live as close to waste-free as possible. I know that’s a tall order, but if we aim for that, we will land in a much better place than where we are now. A few ways that I’m doing this is by:
- Using diluted castile soap for our hand wash, dish soap and body wash (my husband also uses it as a shampoo for his dreadlocks) Whole foods even has bulk castile soap that you can refill! Eliminating one time use soap containers and even the plastic bags that hold the soap refills.
- Replacing traditional items such as floss, toothpaste, and body wash poofs with package free, biodegradable alternatives that can be refilled. Keeping small, but just as impactful, waste such as floss containers, toothpaste tubes and more unrecyclable plastic out of landfills.
- Using my own cup when I get coffee and pouring in my creamer and sugar before the coffee to eliminate the need for stir sticks (silly, but I’m a bit of an extremist) and cutting out juice boxes from the kids’ lunch boxes. We’ll be sticking to the stainless steel containers from here on out.
- Carrying a waste-free bag with a container, plate, utensils, cup and cloth napkin if I’m ever out and need to grab something to go
- Making our own yogurt, granola, snack bars and gummies. Not only are these options practically waste-free, but they taste better and have a much higher nutritional content! What a great way for our kids to learn to be mindful about their snacks!
- Buying dairy in glass containers that I pay a deposit for. After we’re done enjoying the delicious milk that comes in glass containers, I just return it to the store on my next shopping trip and get the deposit credited back during checking out. The milk tastes 100 x’s better and the containers get reused.
These are just a few ideas, I highly recommend checking out the websites listed below for inspiration of living with intention. Let’s rethink our old ways because at this rate, our children won’t have much left to pass on to their children.
www.trashisfortossers.com is a great resource for living with less and swapping out old habits with new ones for lasting change. She also has fun and innovative ideas that may inspire you to live with zero waste yourself!
www.minimalism.co has so many beautiful articles on living with intention, challenging the ways that we view our environment and belongings along with great advice on a variety of topics that most of us face each day.
That’s all for now,