One day this past spring, my husband and I were taking a drive down the blue Ridge Parkway. We decided to take a break and stop at one of the overlooks. The view was spectacular, as to be expected in the North Carolina mountains (I may be a little biased). As I was standing there, gazing out over the hazy, blue horizon and taking it all in, a gang of teenage hoodlums threw their plastic soda bottles over the edge of the cliff! I immediately became angry, but before I even had a chance to start planning out my lecture, I was (thankfully) stopped by my husband. It was too late at that point to change things and getting on my soap box certainly would not have been very productive in front of this particular crowd. When we got back in the car, I felt guilty for not saying anything, and helpless because, unfortunately, I’m unable to control the actions and poor decisions made by others. However, I AM able to control my own actions and decisions and that is ALWAYS the best place to start!
Growing up on a 30+ acre farm inside city limits, my family was a bit of an anomaly. I was taught from a young age to respect the earth. We recycled, composted, grew most of our own produce, and when we took walks through the woods, we carried bags to collect any trash along the way. Fast forward a number of years to the time I discovered a community of people on Instagram living completely plastic free! That blew my mind! It’s hard to find everyday products that aren’t plastic or don’t come in plastic packaging; Yet, somehow, these people are living and thriving this way in a plastic-wrapped world. What was even more inspiring was a girl who could fit an entire year’s worth of trash into a small Mason Jar. How does she do it?!?
While I haven’t braved the small-scale compost thing yet, I have been making small changes in my daily routine in an attempt to reduce my waste. So, without further ado, here are 5 small steps to "greener" living.
- Use a refillable water bottle
This is, BY FAR, the easiest and quickest change you can make! I can’t even remember the last time I bought a plastic water bottle in the States (I buy bottled water in other countries to avoid getting sick). All you need is a couple of plastic, glass, or metal tumblers/cups to rotate and voila! Water bottle freedom! I carry mine everywhere and refill wherever I go. Just make sure the plastic cups are BPA free.
- Stop using straws
The cups at restaurants are just as clean (or not) as the plates and silverware you’re eating off of, so why are you afraid to drink from the side of the cup? If you’re still squeamish or find yourself in a situation where a straw is necessary, there are tons of companies who make biodegradable straws, complete with cleaning swabs and a carrying case. Or, you could just borrow a straw from your refillable cup!
- Use reusable bags
This one SHOULD be easy. However, if you’re like me you probably forget to take your canvas tote bags back to the car after you unload groceries. When I forget my tote bags at home, I opt for paper bags or just go without. If you end up with paper bags, save them! They’re great to use as heavy duty wrapping paper, fire starter, or to collect recyclable products.
- BYOS (Bring Your Own Silverware)
You might get some odd looks eating at the fast food restaurant with “real” cutlery, but who cares? Every time you use your own silverware instead of the plastic stuff, you’re reducing the amount of trash that ends up in a landfill and that deserves a high-five! I keep a stash of old silverware in my car, rolled up in a towel and just wash it after it’s been used.
- Start using natural body products
This is one of my favorites! I’ve found several local soap makers with awesome products! My soap, lip moisturizer, body butter, face cream, deodorant, and shampoo are ALL NATURAL! This is beneficial for 2 reasons. Reason 1: All of these products typically come without packaging, and if they do have packaging, it’s either paper or reusable containers. Reason 2: Most body products on the market have all kinds of chemicals and bad stuff in them. I’m no scientist, but with all the resources out there talking about health risks associated with chemical-based body products, I personally try to stay away as much as possible.
And that’s it! A “green” lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey and a learning process and I’ve only scratched the surface in my own life. Hopefully, these 5 tips are simple enough to get you started on your own “green” journey. Do you have any easy changes you’ve made to reduce waste in your daily life? Share this post on social media and share your own "green" strategies!