Here are some easy ways you can green up the new year. Try them all or a handfull. As long as you try something you’ll be making a difference. Every little change you make adds up to something big.
1. Say No to Plastic Grocery and Shopping Bags
Bring your own reusable bags everywhere. I always keep a small cotton bag in my purse, and a couple bigger bags in my car. I also plan ahead to bring a bunch with me when I go grocery shopping or shopping at the farmers market. Not only does this save you money (in most countries they charge 1-25 cents per bag) it’s also more fun and customizable. You can design your own, or just buy some with designs you like. I have bags covered in cactuses, or with logos from sustainable business I support, or from places I’ve traveled. Tote bags are my favourite souvenir.
1.5 Say No to Plastic Produce Bags
I just got a bunch of reusable produce bags for Christmas and I am excited to start using them. You can just use small canvas/tote/cotton bags, but I like these because they are made for produce. I prefer them to be see-through and light-weight so I have no problems at the cash register.
2. Say No to Plastic Bottles
This means more than just water-bottles. I see stats and infographics on plastic water bottles all the time. I know they are the main culprit but we need to stop using all plastic bottles. My university (like many) is a water bottle free zone. You can’t buy them anywhere, but you can buy pop, juice, and sports drinks in plastic bottles. Bring a reusable plastic bottle with you everywhere. I have a lot of them. It’s best to get them in glass or metal, but BPA free plastic is also good. Use an old jar if you have to.
I have a plastic bottle that rolls up and takes up no space that I use for travelling, a small metal one I bring in my purse, and many more. I change them depending on where I’m going (will it fit in the cup holder of my car?) and how long I’ll be gone (all day = a bigger bottle). I even have one with a place to put fruit/herbs/cucumber for infusing the water. Just get whatever kind you like and use it instead.
3. Say No to Any Disposable Cup
That means coffee cups, frappachinno cups, pop cups, you name it get rid of it. I always have a reusable coffee cup in my car, as well as a cute mason jar cup with a straw for iced/cold drinks.
4. Bye Bye Straws
We use thousands and thousands of straws, and they’re almost all made out of plastic. It’s such a silly thing to use such a horrible material for. Why on earth should we be digging up dinosaurs and turning them into a plastic straw? They would be upset. Either ask for no straw when you go out, or be super cool and bring your own reusable one. I hate asking for no straw. Sometimes they don’t care, but sometimes you get weird looks. It’s the price we pay for the planet.
When I make my own drinks I use reusable BPA plastic free straws, and I have stainless steel ones coming in the mail. They are easy to clean. I just rinse them out as soon as I’m done (especially with smoothies) and throw them in the dishwasher. Once my new straws and cleaning brush come in the mail it will be even better.
5. Go to the Farmers Market
Find whatever one is closet to you (I’m positive there is one, they’ve been poping up like crazy) and go to it. Even if you have to wake up early on a Saturday or day off. I work at the farmers market so I can tell you not all booths are organic, sustainable or healthy (I sell deep fried Russian food in paper bags or styrofoam, clearly I’m not in charge of the packaging), but there are lots that are. Even if they aren’t the best environmentally no one will stop you from using your own containers or bags (I use a reusable container nearly every Saturday and reusable bags constantly, since my customers are the best).
You’ll find seasonal produce, fresh produce and you can actually see the person who grows your food. You can ask them questions. It’s great. They might even have recipe ideas for you. You can find produce, cooked food, baked goods, meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, candles, soaps, knitted stuff from sweet old ladies, honey, seamstresses, and it goes on.
Not to mention “go to a farmers market” is on every article listing cool date ideas.
6. Change One Part of Your Routine
This could mean changing your bed time routine so you use an organic toothpaste, getting sulfate free shampoo, using locally made soap, or using zero-waste lipstick. What ever it is, pick one small thing you do everyday and change it for the greener.
7. Buy Something Sustainable and Ethical this Year
One way to convince yourself to become a greener person is with a reward. I know the minimalist zero-wasters wont be a big fan of this one, but it will work. We like new things, and we like getting ourselves treats. Pick one thing like organic fair trade coffee instead of cheap chemical crap, or sustainable and ethically made shoes. If you turn going green into a gift to yourself you might stick to your resolutions this year.
8. Shop Mindfully
I know I just told you to buy something, but you really should be buying less. It’s hard. Try and buy only things you need or really really want. When you do buy something buy the version that is the best for the planet and the people making it. Also buy something that will last.
Follow this handy chart I found:
9. Eat Less Meat and No Factory Farmed Meat
Eating meat is a tricky subject, but we all know the less of it we eat the healthier we are. If you want to become a vegan or vegetarian, if not just eat less meat. If you do eat meat, make it ethical. Spend more on good quality meat. If it doesn’t cost a lot than you know its from a factory farm that does not treat its animals well. An animal died so you could eat it, so we should at least take care of them well before that. The farmers market or a local butcher can be a good place to start.
This also goes for eggs. You can tell just by looking at an egg yolk if the chicken was treated well. The deeper and orangier the colour the better treatment the chicken had. A happy free-range chicken actually produces an egg with more nutrients! That’s just crazy. So make sure your eggs come from happy chickens, and your meat comes from happy animals.
10. Replace One Item with a Sustainable Version
This means things like switching from a disposable razor to a safety razor, switching from normal printer paper to sustainably sourced paper (certified wood, bamboo or sugar cane). There are a lot of options here so find a need in your life and swap it.
11. Bonus One: Plant Something
Growing something means more CO2 being turned into lovely breathable air, and it’s just fun. Make it a veggtable garden so you really know where your food comes from, a flower bed to make things prettier, an herb garden to spice up your meals, or a houseplant to make some clean inside air. Whatever it is, growing a plant can make you feel closer to nature, which is good for encouraging you to go greener. They’re also just pretty.
Let me know if you’ve tried any or all of these resolutions.