Recycle, reuse, REPLACE, reduce.
A message that was ingrained in me from a very young age, followed closely by “Waste not, want not”. In fact, if my family had a motto, that’s 100% what it would be. It was a mentality that infiltrated everything my family did and, for the most part, still do to this day. My Grandma + Mom re-use everything from yogurt containers to bread bags to foil to napkins (to clean the floor) to old socks (for dusting), all the food scraps always got composted, the laundry hung out to dry (and the dryer was reserved for special occasions), my Mom would shop at garage sales and second-hand shops for furniture and clothes, and my Grandfather sure never let anything go to waste (In fact, if he heard of someone throwing out things, like doors or windows, he’d go and collect them and store them until they were needed. He also wouldn’t let me ever leave the table until I finished everything on my plate, ever…even at a buffet restaurant…because “waste not, want not”.) I’ll also never forget when Dave and I started dating and the confusion that ensued when my Mom told him not to throw out his napkin after dinner, or when he asked my grandma for a bag for leftovers she pulled out an empty (washed) cereal bag, or when he was asked to grease a dish, he was told to use a butter wrapper. Suffice it to say, he now saves all napkins…and containers and foil and bags.
As you can imagine, growing up in that environment meant that I, as a kid, got very into Earth Day. I’d throw little Earth Day parties and have everyone plant trees or flowers, and then we’d eat Dirt Cake (because why not?!). The newsletter that I wrote always had a special Earth Day edition, with ideas for things to do to help and make an impact. And now, here I am, all these years later and I am doing the same thing. Except instead of a newsletter, it’s an on-line article, and instead of mostly just my family reading it, it’s now, well, still mostly just my family reading it, and maybe a few others, too!
Of course, there are the classics, like recycling and reusing bags (which I hope you’re all doing by now), but in addition, there are lots of other easy things you can do. Below, I’m sharing 25 eco-friendly things you can do to make an impact. Some of these are things I’ve been doing since I was young, some are ones we’ve started doing as certain things have become available (i.e. metal straws) and there are ones we were inspired to start doing since moving to California. Because, let me tell you, nothing gets you inspired to make a change like walking on a beach (with washed up trash on it) almost every day. But, even if you don’t have a beach to walk on, I hope wherever it is you walk, live, work, etc. you’re inspired to make a change and thing about how you can reuse, replace or recycle every singe thing you use and do in your life. Every small thing adds up to make a big impact. If you don’t believe me, just ask Dave…
Use reusable metal straws instead of plastic ones.
Re-use containers from your food. For example, yogurt and sour cream containers are great for food storage, packing up things for picnics, or freezing things like soups and broths; the plastic bag inserts from cracker and cereal boxes can be washed out and re-used for storage, frozen juice containers can be used to start plant seedlings, jars and bottles can be used to store food or can be converted into containers to store spices, makeup brushes, as flower vases, etc.
Swap plastic for glass when it comes to storage containers.Outside of re-using the plastic options mentioned above, use glass for storage. It doesn’t even have to be anything fancy. A lot of times, we simply use mason jars (there are so many sizes available), or one of the bowls + lids from our mixing bowl set or one of the pans from our baking dish set.
Use reusable produce bags for fruits and vegetables. These bags are so cheap and easy to use that I am shocked (and saddened) to see how, more often than not, we’re the only ones using them. If you don’t have any yet, please order a set ASAP, and, in the mean time, be sure to at least re-use your plastic produce bags for trash bags.
Pick up trash on beach walks/hikes. You’re already going for a walk anyways, so why not bring a bag and collect some trash? It doesn’t even have to be for the full walk, but taking even just 5 or 10 minutes to collect trash will make a difference.
Swap out regular light bulbs with energy efficient lights bulbs. Bonus- you’ll save on your electricity bill, too!
Instead of one use drink items, try things like reusable water bottles and a reusable tumblers for coffee (a lot of coffee shops will even give a discount if you bring in your own reusable coffee cup).
If you shop at a farmer’s market, outside of bringing reusable bags and produce bags, reuse your egg cartons (we bring ours for our egg guy to re-fill every week). Also, most stands, if you ask, will cut off parts of a vegetable you may not be using (i.e. carrot tops), and they can then compost them versus you just throwing them out at home.
Swap detergents, cleaning supplies + beauty products for non-toxic versions. It’s better for you, your skin, the water, the plants, the animals and, well, just about everything. Most things can be cleaned with good old-fashion vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda, anyways. We also like to use Dr. Bonner’s for everything from body wash to cleaning soap. Just be sure to dilute it down.
Re-usable soap bottles are great for everything from our Dr. Bonner’s mixture to shampoo and conditioner in our shower. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they also just look more streamlined and chic than plastic containers with labels.
Wash your laundry on the cold cycle. Not only is it more eco-friendly, but it’s also more efficient aka it will save you money on your electric bill.
Save butter wrappers after you finish up a stick of butter and use them to grease baking dishes and cooking sheets.
Wash + reuse pieces of foil, food storage bags, etc.
Check with your electric company for energy efficient programs. We have one here in LA where you get rewarded with money off your bill for not using electricity during designated time periods (it’s usually only an hour at a time, once a week, and they send you a text to let you know when it will be happening). Not only does it save electricity, we’ve also saved a ton on our bill.
Swap out tv time for something that doesn’t require electricity. We don’t have cable, and, for the most part, we limit tv time to a few hours one night a week. Any other nights we play games, draw, read, for walks, spend time on our patio, garden, etc. There are so many things you can enjoy that don’t require the use of electricity.
Use old toothbrushes as cleaning brushes (great for scrubbing hard-to-reach small spaces), old socks and t-shirts make great dusting cloths, old towels are great for cleaning floors or can be donated to animal shelters (they’re always looking for old towels and sheets) and look for recycling programs to donate old clothes versus tossing them out (lots of stores even have programs where they offer a discount if you bring in a bag of clothes to recycle.
If you like to garden, wash out egg shell halves then use them to start plant seedlings. Once the seeds are ready to go in a pot or the ground, simply plant the egg shell. It will eventually break down and give added nutrition to the plant.
Always opt to have receipts emailed or texted to you versus being printed off.
Have a re-usable flatware set for when you’re on-the-go.
Use a re-usable lunch box, instead of plastic bags or containers, for packing up your food when you’re on-the-go.
Instead of tossing coffee grounds, mix them with a little coconut or olive oil and brown sugar and use them as a body scrub that helps with cellulite.
Use shoe boxes as storage for things like note cards, craft supplies, office items. etc.
Save and re-use wrapping paper, ribbons and tissue paper (even if it’s not in great condition, you can use it to store and protect jewelry, bags + hats, or as filler when shipping out boxes).