by Laura Onstot | Laura Onstot, registered nurse and mom of 2 young kids, rarely pees alone, only frequents restaurants with Kraft Mac N Cheese, and blogs at Nomad’s Land. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids watch endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Her parenting advice is questionable, but at least she’s honest.
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In the chaotic lives we lead, it seems like there is always something we could be doing better: exercising more, cleaning our toilets with more regularity, trying to minimize screen time, and going green. So when Earth Day rolls around each year, visions of microplastics floating in the ocean flood my brain with guilt, adding to the list of “shoulds” that runs through my brain.
A couple of years ago, in the boredom of COVID lockdown, I vowed to be kinder to the Earth by going green. And I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
Here are nine easy ways to go green and help the Earth!
#1 Minimize the use of plastic bags.
Keep a collection of reusable shopping bags in your trunk, so they are always on hand when you need them. Check out these handy, reusable produce bags to replace the produce bags at the store that take forever to figure out how to open.
#2 Pick Glass
When you have an option between glass and plastic containers, pick the glass option. Glass is recycled endlessly, while plastic is downcycled– re-purposed a couple more times before it ends up in the landfill. So if you have a choice between a glass jelly jar or a plastic jelly squeeze bottle, go glass!
#3 Use Recycling Bins at Grocery Stores
Take advantage of the recycling bins at your grocery store! Most grocery stores have a spot to recycle plastic bags and Styrofoam. So rather than dumping them with your trash, bring them with you on your grocery shopping trip so they can be recycled. Rinse and dry your foam takeout containers (or Chick Fil A cups) and bring them to be recycled.
#4 Avoid Using Plastic
Avoid using plastic water bottles, and instead, use a reusable water bottle. Not only will you cut down on waste, but there are great options that will keep your water cold all day long. Say goodbye to the warm, plastic-y, water of your past!
#5 Bring Your Own Mug
The same goes for your coffee shop trips- BYOM! (Bring your own mug!) While many stores stopped allowing this during COVID, many are trying to find ways to make it work. Starbucks, for example, allows you to bring in your own clean mug if you order in-store- but you can’t do this in the drive-through. Check your local coffee shop’s policy!
#6 Know the Recycling Rules
Recycle- and make sure you know the rules! Did you know that the average person in the United States generates 4.9 pounds of trash each day? This is a stark increase from the 1960s when the average person generated 2.68 pounds per day. One way to help bring this number down is to recycle everything that can be recycled, so it doesn’t end up in a landfill. How do you know what can be recycled? Try googling “recycling rules” and the name of the county you live in to pull up what your county will and won’t recycle. Remember that the items you recycle cannot be in plastic bags/ garbage bags- they need to be loose.
#7 Donate for Reuse Before Trashing
Before throwing an item in the trash, consider whether the object still has life. Can it go to a thrift store to be re-used by someone else? Your county might have a paint recycling program- where you can bring used paint for other people to use. Donate your old & broken crayons to The Crayon Initiative , a California based company that melts down old crayons to make new ones for pediatric hospital patients. Bring your old athletic shoes (any brand) to a Nike store, where the Nike Grind Project will turn it into something new- a phone case, turf, or rubber flooring. Before you trash something, check google to see if there are any recycling options available- there are a lot of neat programs out there!
#8 Reduce Your Food Waste
Going green includes reducing your food waste. The USDA estimates that 30-40% of our food supply is wasted. Crazy, right?
Try to plan meals around ingredients that are going to spoil first.
When making your shopping list, double-check to make sure you don’t already have what you are going to buy. It will help prevent you from ending up with three containers of sour cream (me!) and five bottles of mustard (also me).
Check the expiration dates when you buy food to make sure you can consume or freeze it by that point.
Organize your fridge so that food that will spoil first is upfront where you can see it. Try using see-through containers so you don’t forget about items in your fridge.
Use a produce saver to keep your fruits and veggies fresh longer. We use ours for strawberries and have noticed that they last a lot longer.
#9 Buy Second-Hand
This will help save the environment by re-circulating things that could end up in the landfills; and, it will save a lot of money. Check Facebook Marketplace, apps like ThredUp, Poshmark, depop, and your local thrift stores. You can also check to see if your city has a “Buy Nothing” page on Facebook- just search for “Buy Nothing (and the name of your city)”. Here you will find items that people are giving away for free- and you can also list your own items.
To go green, you just need to start small, and watch as you reduce your waste without trying too hard. And remember, as zero-waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Do you have any other tips to go green? We’d love to read them in the comments below!