How to Make More Sustainable Choices for Earth Day and Beyond

*this article was originally contributed to Kind Publishing Co and published on April 15, 2021*

With Earth Day right around the corner, I tend to do a mental audit of how environmentally conscious I have been during the previous year. Since last year was the year of the lockdown, a lot of the conscious choices I always leaned into were a bit restricted.


For example, we did not have the option to utilize reusable grocery bags at some supermarkets. I thought it was a bit extreme as groceries are the only items that enter these bags, but the choice was removed. I cringed at the idea of using the plastic bags every week so we opted for paper bags. The supermarket employees usually had a slightly negative reaction every time I asked for paper. I don’t think they much enjoy bagging in paper and I would imagine it is because the plastic option is quicker.


That is one of our biggest problems, convenience. So many of our items we use on a regular basis are chosen out of our own convenience and nearly all of them are not convenient for our planet. I’ve talked to many people about becoming more sustainable and I am met with a variety of responses. What I have found is that people seem to be unaware of what sustainability truly means.


For me, sustainable means being able to use what I already have in new and exciting ways. The idea of sustainability is not to go zero-waste or change your whole life immediately but being more conscious of your choices for now and the future. The whole journey is a mindset shift. Once you start looking around to see what you find value in or start thinking, “how can I reuse that?” — then a whole world starts to open up.



 


5 Ways You Can Start Making More Sustainable Choices:




Reusable Shopping Bags



All restrictions aside, reusable shopping bags are the best way to eliminate plastic single use bags. Americans, on average, use 1,500 plastic shopping bags per year and sadly only 1% are returned to the stores for recycling. Nearly all recycling facilities are unable to recycle these as it is difficult and costly. Reusable bags come in all shapes, sizes and colors. I think it’s a great way to show off you care in style!



Reusable Water Bottles and Coffee Cups


Stopping for a quick cup of coffee or grabbing a bottle of water is the most convenient option, but it is not the most eco-friendly. Sometimes making better choices can take some effort, but once you g


et in the habit of bringing your favorite coffee mug or water bottle, it becomes easier. Not to mention you would be saving 80% of waste from entering landfills between coffee cups and water bottles. This also will help keep microplastics out of our oceans and from our soil.



Switching from Freezer Bags to Stasher Bags


My husband is the chef in the family and we are big fans of buying in bulk and freezing what we won’t use for the week. We often will freeze entire meals. Stasher bags are a fantastic alternative to plastic freezer bags. Stasher bags come in different sizes to fit your needs. You can use them for snacks, everyday use for lunches or use them for leftovers and of course freezing!



Thrifting


This one is my all time favorite. I am a big fan of going to thrift stores not just for clothes but for coffee mugs, baskets, lampshades and more. I typically head to thrift stores during the holiday season to find those one-of-a-kind mugs for gifts or that silly something for a white elephant. Going to thrift stores or even RE-stores or the scratch and dents places is a great alternative to buying brand new because it not only gives appliances or the like new homes, but it keeps items out of our landfills.



Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies


Many people don’t realize the aroma from your regular household cleaning products can be as dangerous as smoking 20 cigarettes (each time you clean!). That is because what is inside is pretty dangerous to you and the environment. In fact, 80% of cleaners or laundry detergent is comprised of water. You are essentially paying for plastic and water and of course those harmful cleaners. Stay away from any with a -thylene, -hyde, -bens or -phates suffix, and definitely stay away


from anything with ammonia and chlorine. I use Eco Sense products because they are plant based and come in concentrated bottles. I reuse the one plastic spray bottle, add my concentrate and the rest is my own filtered water. I like this concept because the concentrate bottles are much smaller so there is less plastic and one bottle of concentrate usually lasts me 4-6 spray bottles worth!



 

If you are looking to make some smarter choices for you and the environment these 5 ideas are great starting points. My family has been implementing these changes over the past several years and I can confidently say that it has improved our health, our mindset and helped our budget! It takes some time and some minor mindset adjustments to move away from convenience, but the end result will leave you and our planet feeling pretty great.