So you're ready to take the next(or first!) step in your eco journey. Great! But where to start? It can all seem super overwhelming and confusing to even choose the next thing to tackle. You probably already carry reusable shopping bags, a water bottle and maybe you even refuse plastic straws when you're eating out.
I think it's helpful to think of where you create the most waste and start with those. For example:
1. Paper Towels
Ahh paper towels... so easy and convenient. One sheet here, two sheets there and before you know it, the whole role is gone. Really keep track of the number of paper towels you use in a day or week. It's probably more than you think!
There are tons of reusable paper towel options these days. A popular one is Marleys Monsters. Or you could use good old fashioned towels/rags! Depending on what you plan to use them for, you could use different replacements. In the kitchen, you could use cloth paper towels and for cleaning up dog poo, for example, maybe try old cut up t-shirts.
2. Plastic Wrap/Ziploc Bags
We have settled on a few basic swaps that work really well for us. Beeswax wraps are great for covering bowls and plates or in place of plastic wrap. Also great for wrapping up the last slice of cake or a sandwich. Fabric and Silicone reusable bags can be used to store literally anything you would put inside of a Ziploc! Cookies, veggies, leftovers, toiletries, you name it. Jars are super handy for things like soups, sliced veggies, oatmeal... Once you start thinking outside the box and coming up with ways to NOT use plastics, you'll be surprised how many uses these alternatives have!
3. Coffee Cups
This one is simple. Find a reusable coffee cup you love and use it! Pay attention to the functions you need before purchasing to ensure you won't end up just leaving it at home, anyway. Maybe you need it to be leak-proof? With or without a handle? Large or small? Most baristas won't think twice when you ask them to use your cup in place of theirs.
My personal favorite to-go is my Kinto travel tumbler I found in a local shop called Turkey.
4. Food on the Go
Try to think ahead of time what you could stash in your bag or backpack to snack on later. This can keep you from being tempted to by prepackaged, processed foods to satisfy your hunger pangs. Apples, bananas, and oranges are all wonderful choices. Some chopped veggies, homemade sweets, granola, dried fruits and nuts, a PB&J for the kids. You get the idea. Anything that will be ok at room temp for a few hours.
Mostly talking bar soaps, shampoos, and conditioners here. Yes! Shampoo and conditioner can be found in bars now! And they work! My family loves the Ethique and Meow Meow Tweet brands, but there are several others out there. They usually come in a paperboard box that can be easily recycled. So cool, right? And if you get a soap dish they'll last longer and look even cooler in your shower, in my opinion, than any bottles ever could.
And a few extra, general things to keep in mind:
1. THINK BEFORE YOU BUY!
MOST importantly, just don't buy crap you don't need! Before you buy something, ask yourself:
1. Do I need this?
2. Could I find it used before buying a new one?
3. If it breaks, can it be fixed?
4. Where will this end up at the end of its life?
5. Is this something trendy that I'll be over in a year or so, or is this an investment piece?
2. DON'T TAKE FREE CRAP JUST BECAUSE IT'S FREE
Lol just politely say no thank you. We have developed a habit of giving people "stuff" at every event, party, and gathering. Be honest, you know most of it is unnecessary. Maybe even useless. Swag bags, party favors, thank you gifts... are generally things you'll end up bringing home and either throwing them directly in the trash or stashing them somewhere and tossing them out in a few months when you finally declutter that one drawer you always shove everything in. You know it's true!
I know it can be hard though to decline that little baggy of yo-yos and plastic jewelry at the end of your kid's friend's birthday party. So maybe you could at least not provide them at parties and events that you throw? Or send guests off with something useful and good for the environment? Like reusable paper towels? :P
Lastly, remember that little changes count. Choose one thing that seems doable to start with and become a pro at that thing. and then tackle the next doable thing. If we all take small steps to be more aware of the impact our choices have, together we could do a lot of good! Your choices have power!