With the New Year comes the chance to start fresh, to set new intentions. Personally, I'm not a fan of resolutions, or thinking in absolute terms. I am, however, a big fan of learning, evolving, and progressing. This year I'd like to focus on creating healthier habits for myself and for the planet by striving to create less waste. It's no secret our planet is currently facing a laundry list of environmental issues due to overconsumption — none of which should be minimized.
There are a growing number of zero-waste superstars out there today such as Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer, trailblazing the path to sustainability by fitting over four years worth of trash into a single mason jar. This is no joke. Their examples are indeed inspiring, albeit extreme. It's important to recognize that no one becomes zero-waste overnight. It is a process. The first step I believe is awareness. Followed by a desire to make a shift in behavior. Becoming completely zero-waste isn't necessarily my goal per se, but I'd definitely like to start moving in that direction.
I firmly believe that individual action is the driver of real change. As we begin to live less out of habit and more out of intent, we can slowly evolve and create new norms for ourselves. By making sustainable shifts in our own lives, we set an example and pave the way for those around us to do the same.
Without further ado, here are 10 easy swaps to help us create less waste in 2019:
- Skip the plastic straw
Americans use 500 million drinking straws every single day. Shocking, right? There are so many alternative materials to choose from including stainless steel, glass, and bamboo. Carry a non-plastic straw with you in your purse, or simply ditch the straw altogether when dining out. Simply say, "No straw please".
- Buy a reusable water bottle
Around the globe, 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute. With so many beautiful alternatives on the market today, there's no reason why you shouldn't be carrying a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go. Klean Kanteen and Bkr have some great options.
- Stock up on reusable bags
Each year, billions of plastic bags end up as litter eventually making their way into our oceans and waterways. Make the swap to reusable shopping bags. Half the battle is remembering your bags so stash them in your car, your purse, whatever ensures you have a reusable tote handy when you need one. Baggu offers a variety of designs that fold up small — perfect for stowing away in your purse.
- Bring your own cup
Americans send 25 billion coffee cups to landfill each year. If you don't make your own coffee or tea at home, bring your own reusable to-go coffee cup. You can also bring your own tumbler for water or soft drinks at any eatery in lieu of using a single-use plastic cup.
- Pack a set of reusable utensils
Plastic utensils are one of the worst offenders of single-use plastics, adding to the plastic pollution crisis at hand. Stash a set of reusable utensils in your bag or in your desk at work.
- Give up disposable paper towels
Paper towels are one of those items that most of us have grown accustomed to, but are totally unnecessary. Challenge yourself to make the switch to reusable cloths — you may surprise yourself and not even miss them once you break the habit!
- Practice bulk grocery shopping
Grocery shopping package free is easier than you think, it just takes adopting new habits. When hitting the grocery store or farmer's market bring reusable cloth or net bags for fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding produce that comes pre-packaged in plastic. Bring along some mason jars or cotton produce bags for bulk items like pasta, legumes, nuts, and flours. An added bonus is that bulk foods are often less expensive than their packaged counterparts, not to mention bulk shopping is easy on the eyes as well.
- Rethink your period
Traditional tampons/pads are not only wasteful, but also contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. Fortunately there are healthier and more eco-friendly options available these days! Make the switch to a menstrual cup and/or period underwear.
- Ditch the plastic wrap & storage bags
There are so many options available that are less toxic and more aesthetically pleasing than plastic — glass containers, mason jars, cloth covers, and beeswax wrap are all great options to store or cover food. Stasher bags are a fantastic option for storing half an onion or packing a snack to take on the go.
- Learn to say "no"
So often plastic and other waste is just presented to us, and we take it without thinking. Becoming aware of the waste we create out of habit, and saying "no" to the things we don't actually need or want will add up to make a big difference.