I recently started reading a book called, “Saving Wild: Inspiration from 50 Leading Conservationists.” When I initially bought it, I misunderstood the whole concept of the book. I assumed that these 50 conservationists would tell me how I could save the planet. Instead, each conservationist wrote a short personal essay about what inspires them to keep moving forward. At first, I found myself disappointed by this, but as I continued reading, I couldn’t help but become inspired by their inspirations and motivations. In the foreword written by Jane Goodall, she references a quote that Jacques Cousteau made to Ted Turner: “…Even if we know the end is coming for certain, which we do not, what can men of good conscience do but keep trying to do the right thing until the very end?”
The opening paragraph of the essay written by Braam Malherbe, an extreme conservationist in South Africa, resonated with me the most.
I get that some of the conservation recommendations out there are either very expensive (solar panel installation, electric cars, or adding a bidet to your bathroom for example) or downright odd and outside you comfort zone (reusable toilet paper, anyone?). All of that can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not totally ready to overhaul your entire lifestyle. That’s okay. Just make one change. The point is that even the smallest changes made by just one individual can make a world of difference. Maybe you never get to the stage where you buy a Tesla or start washing reusable toilet paper and/or diapers, but maybe one day, you start adding another small change. And another. Maybe you convince your friends, neighbors, and/or family members to do the same. All of that leads to a much bigger impact.
We are part of a larger cycle or circle and unless you don’t watch television or movies, you’ve heard Mufasa discussing this circle with Simba in the Lion King.
Mufasa’s Circle of Life basically describes the function of an ecosystem in the simplest way possible. The circle works because each species keeps the other in check. If something goes unchecked, the circle is broken and we are the species who’ve not been kept in check.
I promised you that I’d give you tips for moving towards a more sustainable way of living. I covered a bit of this topic in the post I wrote for Shark Week and another post I wrote in regards to squalene, but we’ll briefly revisit some of those pointers here as well. The easiest, most effective way to start your journey on the path of sustainability is to help tackle the problem with plastics.
The world now produces 380 million tons of plastic each year and there are reports that indicate 50% of it comes from single use items. Plastic clogs up landfills, blocks drainage, and contributes to the destruction of natural habitats. Microplastic and other toxins (that we created) have been found in marine life, which we, in turn, consume. That means we are ingesting the garbage that we’ve thrown into the ocean in the first place.
Plastic ends up in the ocean a number of ways – items that should be recycled are thrown in the trash instead, litter (from pedestrian and highway litter to “accidental” litter from vehicles responsible for transporting said trash) and plastic sitting in overflowing landfills gets carried from wind and rainwater into rivers, streams, and drains (which lead to the ocean), illegal dumping, and flushing inappropriate products down the toilet all contribute to the ocean’s mass accumulation of trash.
This problem can’t be fixed by one person overnight. It’s the little things that we do that can help eliminate the amount of plastic that we put back into the environment.
- Cut back on single use household items. Start by using refillable water bottles instead buying a case of Aquafina or Poland Spring. Go one step further and use a refillable thermos for your coffee/tea instead of the disposable cups provided by your local coffee shops and delis. If that works out for you and feels like a relatively easy adjustment to make, you can start eliminating other single use items that you may not even realize you’re using. Saranwrap, parchment paper, and Ziploc bags are all items that we use that can’t be recycled, so when we throw them away, they sit in a landfill. As I stated earlier, a lot of this trash ends up in our oceans. There are a lot of companies that now offer products like reusable food storage bags and baking sheets. I ended up buying products from Net Zero Co., but they’re hardly the only company out there selling products like these. Since I can speak to this brand specifically, I can assure you that these products are durable and very, very easy to clean. While I understand that reusable food wrap and baking sheets may feel like a stretch for you (I was skeptical at first as well), reusable storage bags aren’t really that far from Tupperware or Pyrex containers. Just something to consider.
Even our laundry detergent comes in a huge plastic bottle. Plus, most laundry detergents consist mainly of water (which is not what you’re paying for) and include a number of other harsh dyes and chemicals that aren’t good for us (or the environment). To combat this, a number of eco-conscious companies have produced something called laundry detergent strips. They’re more concentrated than your standard serving of laundry detergent, free of toxins and chemicals, and biodegradable. Plus, it’s one sheet per wash, so you’re usage is controlled whereas we most likely use way too much liquid detergent than necessary when we pour it ourselves. I found EarthBreeze at the start of the lockdown because at the time Net Zero did not have a product like this and I liked it a lot. I don’t like overpowering scents at all, so the fragrance free was perfect for me. Net Zero has since added a product like this to their website, but I can’t speak to it since I haven’t tried it. The only difficulty I had was converting the rest of my household to these laundry sheets. Sal thought “they were weird” and Jared thought they were dryer sheets in the beginning. Thankfully, they’re both adjusted and on board now.
On the subject of dryer sheets, while not plastic, they are single-use items and not biodegradable or recyclable. They also often contain harmful chemicals that not only “swim around” with the clothes in the dryer, but also become emitted into the air that we breath. Now, you don’t really need dryer sheets for the laundry. They give your clothing a nice fresh scent and help with static-cling, but they don’t actually clean anything. Technically you can just stop buying dryer sheets entirely. My boys like to use dryer sheets, so I looked into more eco-friendly, natural alternatives. These wool dryer balls are chemical-free and each ball lasts approximately 1,000 loads, which is way more efficient than single-use dryer sheets and create way less waste than dryer sheets do. Plus, they accomplish the same exact thing as dryer sheets do – fresh scent, wrinkle guard, static-cling defender, etc.
A shampoo/conditioner “bar” (usually these bars can also be used as body wash as well – Jared uses Dr. Squatch soaps, but I see that they’ve recently added hair-specific products to their website) will help reduce your single-use plastic impact, but if the idea of using a bar on your hair freaks you out (or perhaps a bar makes you feel skeptical about its efficacy), buy the big boy version of your product to reduce the number of plastic bottles you have to buy. Better yet, find a brand that sells their product in refillable options so that you can just keep using the same bottle over and over again.
- Ditch the plastic shopping bags! They’re not only bad for the environment, but they’re also not the most durable, which causes us to double-bag, especially in the case of carrying groceries, and double-bagging means we’ve doubled our plastic use without even thinking about it. Reusable bags are more sturdy and more practical. The best way to remember to actually utilize these reusable bags is to either keep them in the car or by the front door so that you see them on your way out.
- Recycle. If there is a recycling symbol on the packaging, don’t throw it in the trash. Put it in the recycling bin. I don’t have anything else to say on this subject. It’s really that simple.
- When you order takeout, request that no plastic cutlery is included. I forget to do this too, but it matters. The food is being delivered to your house where I’m sure you’ve got your own silverware. You don’t need the plastic cutlery and neither do I. When you order an iced beverage from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, forgo the plastic straw and use your own reusable straw instead. I order a pack of two collapsible straws that come on a keychain from Amazon. The keychain is attached to my purse so that I know it’s always with me when I need it. As an after thought, I gave the second straw keychain to my friend, who is an avid iced coffee drinker and she totally embraced it! By just sharing a little token, I doubled my impact!
- Don’t use paper plates, brown bags, or plastic cutlery when packing your lunch. Instead, trade those things out for a lunchbox, reusable food container/storage bag, and silverware. You can opt for a travel flatware kit like this one because it can be your dedicated lunch silverware. It even comes with a handy storage case. How convenient.
After you tackle the plastic problem and you decide that you’re willing to take this journey further, you can reduce your negative impact by shopping responsibly.
- Choose to buy companies with sustainable and ethical practices/policies. A lot of companies (such as Arbonne, Athleta, and Tom’s of Maine) actually go through the trouble of becoming certified B Corp companies. A certified B Corp is a business “that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps accelerate a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” In order to become a B Corp, the company undergoes a rigorous impact assessment conducted by the non-profit B Lab, so it’s hardly a walk in the park. A company that chooses to embark on this process takes their impact on the world seriously. If a company becomes a certified B Corp, their packaging will boast a label like this:
Not all ethical companies go through the trouble of becoming B Corp certified. I briefly touched upon this concept in one of the bullet points above, but there are brands (like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day) that sell refillable options of their products, minimizing the need to continually buy more plastic containers. Other companies like Live Well and Native make it a point to either package their products in recyclable materials or at the very least, materials that use less plastic. Being “eco-friendly” and “ethical” is very trendy right now, so companies that do operate in this way are typically proud of this, so they’re more likely to openly advertise it, but they don’t all do this. Furthermore, as I indicated in the blog post about knowing what is in your beauty products, we can’t always trust a package’s labeling. When in doubt, research the company/brand yourself. As GI Joe once said, “knowing is half the battle.”
- Buy/eat meat/fish/produce from ethically sourced, organic companies. I briefly touch upon this topic in my Squalene blog post, which I mentioned earlier. Buying from ethically sourced, organic companies means that the companies/farms are not taking more from the land/ocean than “we” need. Remember Mufasa’s Circle of Life? There’s a reason why Mother Nature created an ecosystem with checks and balances. Using my favorite topic of sharks as an example, if we remove sharks from an ecosystem, herbivores flourish in a negative way. Too many herbivores in the system eat and destroy the seagrass. Seagrass (just like trees) help convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. We breath oxygen, not carbon dioxide. Guess what happens when seagrass (and trees) die out. You see where I’m going with this?
Other simple behavior changes that you can start implementing are:
- Convert any physical paper bills or mailers that you receive into electronic ones to reduce paper use and trash.
- If you leave a room empty, turn off the lights to conserve electricity.
- When you print documents off, switch the setting so that the printer prints on two sides instead of one to reduce paper use.
- Only run your dishwasher/laundry when it’s full in order to conserve water.
- Use cold water to wash your clothes (and if you have the time and patience to do so, hang them to dry).
- If you see trash lying on the sidewalk/grass/bush/etc. as you’re walking by, pick it up and throw it out.
- This may seem like stating the obvious, but don’t throw your garbage out of the car window. That includes your cigarette butts and chewing gum.
- Come to think of it, as a general rule of thumb, just throw your trash where it belongs. In the trash. Unless it can be recycled. Put that in the recycling bin.
The purpose of writing this blog is not to make you feel like a shit person and it’s not to force you to make all or any of these changes at once (or ever). The intention is to show you a few examples of simple adjustments you can make to your lifestyle that can have a positive impact on the planet.
I referenced a few product brands in this blog post and I feel that it’s important to share with you that I am not affiliated with any of these companies, with the exception of Arbonne. I mentioned them because they are brands that I use and like. I will never recommend something that I don’t use myself or that I don’t absolutely love.
Do you have any easy tips for transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle that I didn’t mention here? Or companies/brands that I didn’t mention that’s deserving of recognition? Share them with our community by commenting below!