GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Often we hear people asking, "What can I do to be more environmentally friendly?" The many answers can feel overwhelming at times so our company has decided to put together the "all around" guide to help you on your way.
Note: You may find that your stress levels decrease when putting this guide into practice as you'll eventually have more money to do the things you enjoy.
Below are some useful things to bring with you if you plan on shopping or eating out:
1. BRING YOUR OWN RE-USABLE PACKAGING AND BAGS
- Re-useable grocery bags: Every household already has these so it's just about getting into the habit of bringing them to the store. There are also some really good ones that fold up and can easily be stuffed into a backpack or purse.
- Re-usable produce bags: These are super useful to replace plastic bags and ties when shopping in the bulk section. Take a picture of the bulk bin number and just let the cashier know when you get to the till. It helps to store these with your re-usable grocery bags as your least likely to forget them.
- Re-usable coffee cup: In 2010, Americans alone used 23 billion paper "to-go" cups and 25 billion styrofoam cups. Every cup counts at this point so remember to bring yours when visiting your local coffee shop.
- Carry your own utensils: If you eat out at lunch quite a bit, this will save loads of plastic.
- To-go container: Bring your own for leftovers at the restaurant or even to bring your to-go lunch depending on how busy a restaurant is. (Some places might say no to this because of Health & Safety regulations.)
- Cloth napkins: Keep one of these in your bags like a handkerchief.
2. PLASTIC AND PACKAGING
- Plastic: As mentioned throughout our site, plastic never leaves the Earth once it's created and we use large amounts of oil to produce it. Plastic contains endocrine disruptors which leach into food and water sources, particularly when heated. Avoid putting hot foods in plastic or using plastic to heat up your food in the microwave.
- Packaging: If possible, choose food options that have less packaging. For instance, buying bananas wrapped in a plastic bag. It's unnecessary and contaminates the food.
- Compostable vs biodegradable: Choose compostable packaging as this means it will decay into organic matter. Biodegradable can be a confusing term. Depending on what the packaging is made of, the matter will break down into smaller pieces but if it's made of synthetic material such as plastic, it often finds it way into our waterways and doesn't go back to the Earth.
- Glass over plastic: As we mentioned often before, plastic never disappears and puts toxins into our food and drinking water. Glass is a much safer option, keeps food fresher and can be reused without worrying about bacteria typically found on plastic when it's been cleaned.
3. BUYING PRODUCTS IN BULK
- Bulk bins: Most grocery stores can give you access to many types of ingredients such as rice, legumes and even popcorn in their bulk section. By using this option you will save on plastic packaging and cans. Plus most foods which have been canned are exposed to the BPA that lines these cans.
4. SHOP LOCAL
- Reading labels: A quick turnaround of any product will let you see where it comes from. Whether you're buying a tomato or a coat, labels go a long way! The closer the things you purchase come from, the less gas we use. Purchasing locally also let's consumers see how product makers make the goods they purchase from them. When factories are based on the other side of the world, it makes it more difficult to know exactly how ethical factories really are. Another thing we like to do as customers is to simply email companies and ask them about their methods. Often you get a good sense of their social responsibility in their replies.
- Farmer's market: Shopping at local markets is a great way to save on packaging and as mentioned above, saving on the amount of gas used to move produce. Currently, the average distance food travels to get to us is 1200 miles. The amount of petrol we use to do this is off the charts and to top it off, modern societies waste over 30% of the food we produce. Also, if buying eggs or items that can't be stored in glass, bring back the packing to the farmer you purchased them from. Might seem petty but keep reminding yourself to think on a larger scale.
- Sadly, the government doesn't regulate any of the ingredients that go into most cosmetic and cleaning products we use on a daily basis. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon of marketing their products as natural when really they aren't. Organic is the only word which requires producers to get certification but even some products don't need to be 100% organic to get this certification. Anyone can write natural on a product and no one checks to see if it is. Everything else is fair game so read labels and learn what to look out for. Please be aware that organic doesn't always mean it to be great as well. Often, farm hands are underpaid and goods are shipped from far even if they are already being made and grown locally.
We of course don't want to ingest these chemicals but they do end up in our waterways permanently so even if we're trying to live healthily by eating organically, these things are still finding their way into our bodies. So don't fool yourself into thinking that the weed killer you're putting on your lawn is only killing your lawn, it's also killing you... and most of the life that lives in our oceans and on Earth. No matter what, these chemicals make their way back into our bodies so think twice before using them.
6. SHOP SECONDHAND
- Many people might think this to be disgusting but really it isn't. Plus it's so much cheaper than buying anything new and full price. On average, secondhand stores will save you 90% of the price of the original good, leaving so much money to go outside to find an adventure. Nowadays, you can buy anything secondhand or refurbished, even ink cartridges or computers. By doing this, you are also putting money back into the hands of someone living in your community which is good for everyone.
The clothing industry is one of the most exploitative markets in the world. Fast fashion is the second highest polluter on Earth and is bad for the environment, the consumer and their workers. If you really must buy new clothes, look at buying clothing made in your country and again, ask questions. What methods do people use to dye their fabric and so forth. Give your money to companies that put effort and thought into their craft, not to those who think it's ok to pay someone $0.30 an hour. We need to think more about how we would want to be treated and our choices give us the power to demand that.
7. REFILLABLE STORES
- These work in the same way that our platform does. Slowly but surely, more and more of these stores are popping up around the globe. Please visit our directory of refillable stores. If you plan on opening one of these, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add you to our directory.
8. "HEALTH FADS"
- From coconut water to Quinoa, the latest health fads do impact the Earth in a negative way, whether we like it or not. So if you want to eat avocados or bananas, maybe try to curb how much of these you buy each month. Often, local farmers struggling to survive will simply wipe out sensitive forested areas to keep up with western demands so look into where your food comes from and see what alternatives are grown closer to where you live.
9. BUY WHAT YOU NEED
- Wasting food is one of the worst things we can do as consumers considering most of it has to travel 1200 miles to get to us in the first place. Modern society sends roughly 30% of food to landfill so keep an eye on what is going bad in your fridge and use it as soon as you can. If you can't eat it, you can always can it or freeze it to save it.
- Choosing a toothbrush made of bamboo like the ones Environmental Toothbrush is a good place to start. In 2011 & 2012, the United States alone sold almost $1.5 billion dollars of toothbrushes so you do the math. If we purchase ones that are compostable like the ones above , they go straight back to the Earth. Another great option is the Bogobrush which is made in Detroit and is closer for North American consumers. Again, ask where it is made and choose the option made closer to your home.
2. RAZORS - HAIR REMOVAL
- Re-usable razor: This will set you back at least $50 for a good one but disposable razors are so expensive anyways that in the long run, you will start saving after only 6 months of shaving so if money is the problem, ask your friends to get it for you at your next birthday. Then all you'll have to do is buy blades and you're set!
- Sugar waxing: This can be made at home using sugar, lemon juice and water. Here's a useful beginner's guide to learn how to do this.
- Laser removal: According to "Ecoholics", this is the most environmental way of removing hair but can be quite costly as it has to be paid upfront.
3. RE-USABLE COTTON PADS
- This is a great alternative to using disposable pads. They usually come with a little bag that you throw in the laundry when you wash your clothes.You will save so much money by doing this.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN
- Oooooh, this is a scary one. We know time is scarce and let's face it, can we really be bothered? We know people who have been doing this for years. Whether it's deodorant or toothpaste, most things are actually so easy to make and homemade toothpaste will clean your teeth so much better than the pharmacy stuff. Check out Lauren Singer's page called Trash Is For Tossers. She has great tips to learn how to make your own and tons of information on making better choices for the planet.
Note: there is a big debate with regards to humans needing fluoride in their toothpaste so this option might not be for fluoride lovers.
5. SHAMPOO BARS
- These are usually made by natural and artisanal companies. They will save you a plastic bottles and they wash your hair in the same way liquid shampoo does.
6. DIVA CUP AND RE-USABLE PADS
- Many people get uncomfortable talking about periods but we need to be talking about this and now. Even men need to talk about this! If you care about the women in your life, this is something we all need to be telling people about. Most tampons have been dyed. Anything we use which is white has been dyed for it to look this way, and women shouldn't be putting chemicals of this kind inside their bodies. Plus disposable pads and tampons make so much waste and they contaminate our soil. Diva Cups or Lunapads are a sure way to cut down on this kind of waste and all their products are made in Canada. The average women will have her period for over 40 years. For some women, that can range from 20 to 40 tampons a month, times 12 months times 40 years... You do the math.
7. RE-USABLE DIAPERS
- Human beings cause the most amount of waste in their lives when they are babies. Why? Because of disposable diapers. It's been estimated that the U.S consumes roughly around 27.4 billion diapers every year. And to think that it takes between 200 to 500 years to biodegrade andthat you are putting so many chemicals on your baby's bottom. If you care about your child and their future, re-usable is the only choice really. Many communities have businesses that pick these up and clean them for you.
8. CLOTH HANDKERCHIEFS
- Ok so this might seem really gross, and in many ways, it is but all one has to keep in mind is strategic folding. How much water and trees does it take to make toilet paper you ask? 37 gallons of water for one roll and 27000 trees are cut a day to supply our toilet paper needs. Our grandparents did this and they were fine so we should be doing it too. This really cool company from San Diego called HankyBook has come up with a good solution to the keep your "nose blowing" organized.
IN YOUR HOME
- Canning is a lost art and is actually one of the coolest human inventions because it's how we used to preserve food before we had refrigerators. Canning is something great to do with others as well. Make 50 pots of spaghetti sauce with the local veggies you get in the summer and voila, you're eating locally all winter. Our parents used to do this in the 80s. A group of friends would come over and they would cook to stock up on food for the whole year. Most ready-made food for sale in our grocery stores usually come from the other side of the country or even further. So why not make your own. Learn more about canning here.
2. ABEEGO / WAXED CLOTHS
- Wax cloths are seriously so cool. When you see it at first you think, this won't work but the crazy thing is, it does. It acts exactly like cling film or aluminum foil does and as long as you take care of it, it will last a long time. Some companies even make baggies out of it that you can use to store your sandwiches. Abeego is a great company to check out and it's made in Canada.
3. HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
- Often, this is where the most toxic ingredients hide in or households. We understand the difficulty of finding natural products that work so there is always the option to use products that are partly synthetic. Some ingredients are worst than others so if you find you can't read what the ingredient is, check out our ingredient page or the EWG website to get a better idea of what you are putting on your skin and in our waterways. Making your own is also another option. Pinterest has many recipes to try.
- Baking soda & Vinegar: We had a friend tell us that she uses baking soda to clean all the areas in her house that end up having a layer of soap scum on them. Vinegar mixed with water and lemon is also a good way to get rid of bad smells in drains around your kitchen and bathroom.
4. DRYING CLOTHES
- Hanging your clothes to dry can be a good way to save money on your bills and it's much better for the environment and your clothes. If you're drying them indoors, a good tip is to spray them with a mixture of distilled water, rose water and lavender oil so they smell fresh by the time they're dry.
5. WATER / SHOWERS
- Don't we all love to just stand in a hot shower after a long day at work? Doing this once in a while is ok but it quickly adds up if everyone does it. Same goes for the tap in the kitchen. Turn it on and off when you need it instead of letting it run. Water is one of our most precious resources so let's do what we can to preserve it.
6. WOODEN WASHING UP BRUSHES
- Replace the plastic ones you have with these. Many of these have replaceable heads with compostable bristles so you don't have to re-buy the whole thing.
7. LIGHTBULBS / LIGHTS
- Getting light saving bulbs will do magic for your electricity bills. The initial cost will be slightly more than regular bulbs but they last so much longer. Also, if you aren't in a room, take the time to shut the lights off. On an individual basis, it seems like nothing but if you add up what each household uses, it goes up quickly.
- Draft proofing your home can be extremely effective in keeping your home warm, especially when you live in a country that has harsh winters. There are several ways you can do this, from using plastic sheets that you can install using double-sided tape and a hair dryer to simply putting tape on the cracks if it's safe to do so. If renting, consider that the tape might wreck the paint job or leave marks. Here's a good starting point to read more about the subject. Lastly, it also helps keeping warm if you wear more clothes in these times instead of walking around barefoot and in a t-shirt.
9. GREEN ENERGY
- Powur is a decentralizing movement aimed at moving consumers away from fossil fuels by introducing people to the opportunity that clean energy has for their homes and lives.
- In the UK, consumers have the option of having the option of buying green energy without having to make modifications to their homes. Visit the GEM website to switch over today.
- We'll be honest, this may sound so crazy but in many countries around the world, the bidet is used and toilet paper is frowned upon. You can get attachments for your toilet in places like Home Depot or even check for smaller stores that might sell these.
11. TOILET PAPER
- Bamboo toilet paper: Since hemp toilet paper currently doesn't exist, we suggest using Caboo a bamboo alternative.
- Recycled toilet paper: Although that may sound confusing, we mean that it's best to buy brands that use recycled wood products to make their paper.
- Quantity: It's easy to just use lots of TP because often it's cheap but it's important to remind ourselves that 27000 trees get cut every day to supple demand so let's all do our part in reducing how much we use of it.
12. FAMILY CLOTH
- When we heard about this, we we're really confused at first. A cloth, to wipe your bottom? You've got to be kidding? But they weren't. As crazy as it sounds, knowing how much water it takes to make toilet paper, you then realise it's not as crazy as it sounds. You can read this great blog post about how to transition here.
14. REPLACE PAPER TOWELS WITH CLOTHS
- Like we said before, it takes a lot of water and trees to make anything that's disposable so replacing these with cotton versions will save you money and the environment.
- Composting is a great way to keep food resources out of landfills and if we all compost, it will reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. 40% of landfills are currently made up of food that we could compost.
- Because of the lack of oxygen, when we put organics in landfills, it actually produces methane and greenhouse gases so it's like if thousands of cows we're all pooping at the same time...
14. EAT LESS MEAT
- Who doesn't love a good hamburger? Well it's ok to eat meat once in a while but the problem with producing meat on such a wide scale is that we have to feed the cows and that in itself takes up most of the farming land in the United States. Also, cow poop creates a lot bad gases that are harmful to environment. So if you can't give it up, maybe try to reduce the number of times you eat it or have chicken as it's impact is 20% of what it takes to produce red meat. Keep in mind that a lot of cows are fed with modified grains and that anti-biotics often find their way into grocery store meat so try to hit up your local farmer to get the best goods. It'll be more expensive but better for you in the long run and better for the animal as they won't get treated badly.
- Re-usable straws come in plastic and metal and you guessed it, we prefer the metal alternative but either way, if you have a family with kids who need them to drink their daily beverages, this is something to consider.
16. RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES
- For anyone who has a computer with a wireless mouse and keyboard, we all know how many batteries these can go through. We also use batteries to power so many small appliances around our homes and often these end up in landfill as most people often don't have time to bring these to the proper recycling facilities. A great way to minimize our impact is to get a charger with a few sets of AA's & AAA's to keep all our appliances stocked. The initial cost might seem like quite a bit but they will last you for years. Even better, if you have a friend who has the charger, just stock up on batteries and share the unit to recharge them.
OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE
- Go paperless! Your house will thank you for it as well. Bills always seem to pile up in a drawer somewhere until it becomes unbearable. Just save all the emails you receive into a folder once you switch over and you just have to do a quick search when you need to pull something up.
2. PAMPHLETS & FLYERS
- You may find that your post box or doorway constantly get filled with pamphlets. Put a sign on your door or postal box with a polite message that you prefer not to receive these.
3. BUYING PEOPLE GIFTS
- Buying people gifts is always a nice thing, especially when you find the right thing or know that they need something in particular. If you're unsure, think about getting them food instead! A nice bottle of oil or wine. Or a voucher for an activity always guarantees that they will use their present instead of just getting something for the sake of getting something.
4. SHARE OR RENT INSTEAD OF BUYING
- Are you going to a wedding or want to go kayaking? A good way to save money and the environment is to borrow or share things you need. Many stores and websites will offer the opportunity to rent things instead of buying them which in the long run, will stop you from accumulating a bunch of stuff that will only collect dust because you use them infrequently.
- Car Pooling: Are you driving somewhere or go to work every day in your car? Why not bring other people with you and split the gas? There are many websites to check out that will help you find people to travel with.
- Bicycles: North America is a pretty big place and riding your bike might not always be possible but it's definitely worth thinking about commuting this way. Plus, your physique will love you for it.
- Holidays: Often we think getting on a plane is the only way to go on holiday but road trips or even checking out local areas can often be surprising. Plus it keeps your money in your local economy. If in Europe, taking the train can also be a great way to see the variety of each country.
6. BUYING DIGITAL
- This can seem weird for those of us who grew up in the era of being able to see what bought. But in the digital age, it is easier than ever to get electronic books, music and films. We also understand the die-hards who love collecting or holding covers so maybe consider buying these second hand. They will cost a tenth of the price and the variety in secondhand stores will astonish any cultural connoisseur.
7. FIXING BROKEN THINGS
- But it's so cheap to just a new one... And this part of the problem. Cheap isn't good for anyone. Not for the workers making these things, not for the consumer who will shortly have to re-purchase this again but most of all, not for the environment, who's resources are being depleted on a daily basis to make low quality goods. So if the zipper on your coat is broken, paying a first world employee will cost more than you'd expect but this is what goods should be costing you in the first place. Remember, you wouldn't work for $0.30 an hour so why should others.
8. PAYING MORE FOR LOCAL GOODS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM CHEAPER
- This is the last thing we want to remind people about. Giving your money to a local company will go a long way in the end. It's hard at times because it'll cost a few dollars more to buy the local option and things can quickly add up but as consumers, we hold an incredible power when we choose who we give our money to. So instead of buying 5 tops and 6 pairs of shoes, why not buy less and give the money you have left to someone who makes great products and most importantly, who chooses to keep jobs in your country instead of choosing profit. Remember, change starts at home so use your power to choose!
Lastly, no one can possibly do everything marked on this list but focus on one aspect and eventually it will become habit. Good luck!
"Never underestimate the power of individual action and always remember, small actions are what make up a whole."