Plastic: Everywhere and Inevitable

Have you ever done something you’ve done hundreds of times only to realize the impact your action is making this one time in particular? I have eaten Rita’s Italian Ice for years and never thought twice about getting a plastic spoon at the counter. That is, until a few days ago when my husband and I took our dogs for a treat after a day of painting in our new house. I hadn’t been to a Rita’s in years since there isn’t one anywhere near us in WV at all and didn’t even think twice that I would be given a plastic spoon with my order. As soon as she handed it to me, I thought, “Where are my reusable utensils when I need them?!” Of course, if I would have ordered a Misto to drink, I didn’t have my reusable straw either and would have been stuck with a plastic one, something I try to avoid at all costs. Four years ago, using plastic silverware or a straw wouldn’t have fazed me. Today, it bothers me knowing that so much energy and resources are used to make something designed to be used once and then thrown away. As a whole, I feel society has the attitude of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to garbage. As soon as the lid shuts, we forget what we threw away. I know because I’ve been there. When I started doing research into my waste and carbon footprint, I was floored at how I preached recycling on one hand and was so wasteful on the other. My attitude today is much different than it was even a year ago. I don’t believe in overnight changes because let’s face it, we would all fail. I believe in baby steps toward change. Buy a reusable silverware set, a reusable straw, and use cloth bags at the grocery store. Simply say no to straws at a restaurant. Bring your own water bottle EVERYWHERE; it’s cheaper, better for you, and keeps plastic water bottles out of the landfill. My two favorites are Contigo and S’Well, which are durable and hold up extremely well. Hydro Flask and Yeti are two other high-quality brands if you want to splurge a bit, but Contigo and S’Well have worked fine for me. I could go on and on about the importance of using reusable items and ditching disposables, but for the sake of time and attention spans, I will leave it here:

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Where is your item going when it’s no longer needed?

I encourage everyone to think about their purchases and their environmental impact. Is an entire zero-waste lifestyle attainable for the long-term? Likely not simply based on the world we live in and accessibility (or lack thereof) in many areas to more sustainable options. It is possible, however, to reduce our impact and be more conscious with our purchases and where we invest our money. The planet and future generations will thank you!

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Earth Day 2017-Five Ways to Go Green!

Earth Day is in two days, so let’s talk about some ways you can up your green game. Some are pretty straight forward, but still are some of the simplest (and best!) ways to save the environment and help your wallet.

  • Reusable Napkins. Ignore the pet hair on mine. We have two dogs and three cats, so pet hair is a permanent part of our home, no matter how often we vacuum! The conventional disposable napkin is chlorinated to make it white. Not only is the process extremely toxic to our environment, but do you really want chlorine around the food you eat? Reusable napkins can be neat patterns, are more durable than paper, and last way longer. Purchasing reusable napkins, no matter if you make them or buy a cheap set at Walmart, will save you money in the long run as well because you aren’t buying them so often. fullsizeoutput_3665
  • Reusable Bags. Save those free bags you get at conferences and use them for your grocery trips. Plastic bags are one of the top contributors to pollution in the world (approximately 1 trillion are used and discarded each year with only a small fraction of them being recycled). Did you know plastic is not biodegradable? There are no properties in it that benefit the earth, so any plastic that is used will just sit there. It is easy enough to leave extra reusable bags in your trunk as well for those spontaneous shopping trips we all know happen now and then. If you do get plastic bags, consider taking them to your local grocery store or Walmart for proper disposal. I know ours has a bin at the front of the store to put them. Mine pictured is an insulated Trader Joe’s bag, but I have at least 6-7 I use on a regular basis.

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  • Reusable Water Bottles. This one is a no-brainer. Although it may be convenient to buy a 24 pack of water and grab one as needed, the amount of plastic, both for the bottles and the packaging, is outrageous. Also, the plastic is #1, which should never be refilled due to chemicals leaching from the material. Invest in a stylish water bottle that will make you want to drink water each day. I have the one pictured that I got for $3 at TJ-Maxx and has reusable “ice cubes” in it; they’re BPA free, in case you’re curious. I have a stainless steel one that has served me well in the six years I have had it. Glass it fantastic, but do keep in mind it has a higher chance of breaking. Mine fell off a table and shattered 😦 Some excellent high-quality water bottle brands include Hydroflask, Contigo, Nalgene, Clean Kanteen, and S’Well. Other bottles have filters built-in (Brita makes a good one that can be bought at CVS) in case your tap water may not be the best for drinking. Add some fruit to your water for flavor as well!

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  • Wool Dryer Balls. Typical dryer sheets consist of nothing but chemicals that wreak havoc on your body and are actually flammable. Plus, they are ridiculously expensive. Wool dryer balls work just as well as dryer sheets and are non-toxic. If you like the scent of dryer scents, I highly suggest purchasing a high quality essential oil of your choice (lavender is great) and putting a couple drops on the balls before throwing them in the dryer. I use three balls per load, but when I have more laundry at a time, I will certainly invest in some more. My mom bought these for me years ago, and they have held up to hundreds of washings. I experience minimal static afterwards and feel better knowing I’m not simply throwing away something else to add to the landfill. Not mine, but here is a set in case you’re interested. I wish I knew how much money I have saved by not buying dryer sheets since graduate school!

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  • Storage Ideas. This Star Wars container is PERFECT to store the dryer balls. For Christmas last year, a pair of pajama pants for my husband came in it, and I hated to throw it away. Lo’ and behold, a dryer ball holder came out of it! It adds character to our laundry room too. Reusing items you already own is an excellent way to go green. I feel like every single child learned “Reduce Reuse Recycle” in elementary school, and that phrase holds true well into adulthood. Reusing helps your environmental impact because you’re simply not purchasing as much, which is less that you’ll put in the landfill. Be creative with your ideas; it can be fun to use your imagination!

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These ideas barely scrape the surface of ways to reduce your environmental waste, but are extremely beneficial. What are some of your favorite ways to go green? I’d love to hear them!