I’m not sure when it happened exactly – there no was no big epiphany where we decided we this was our journey, nor did we get a visit from everyone’s favourite early 90s super hero Captain Planet and crew (but, like, it could still happen…?).
For a few years we had been making an effort to use our reusable bags when we went shopping and tried our best to choose recyclable items when possible. When we moved from our first apartment into a rental house we were able to start using green waste too.
Eventually we learned that what we thought was recyclable … really wasn’t. And if there was any contamination in our blue bin (food, etc) the entire load was diverted to garbage.
I started reading over and over again in the news about the large environmental impact animal agriculture has and that reducing meat intake was the single best way to make a difference. We started trying to have more meatless meals, and eventually I gave up meat in March.
At worked I switched offices, and one of my co-workers is big into environmental issues. She runs on an online marketplace where she finds and sells reusable and sustainable products. After weeks of chatting with her, I knew there was so much more I could be doing.
Then this summer we went on a 5 day canoe trip and I spent my 34th birthday unplugged from the outside world, totally immersed in nature. We ate wild blueberries, caught and cooked a fish, bathed in the river, followed a map rather than GPS, and gazed at countless stars and constellations in the night sky.
One thing about camping in parks is that you have to bring all of your garbage back with you. We’ve done that countless times, but perhaps this time I was finally in the right headspace to appreciate what that meant.
On the way home, my husband and I made a conscious decision to opt for choices that would help reduce the amount of waste we make.
Through this series of events, it became glaringly apparent to us that there was so much more we could be doing. We started with small changes and found it didn’t take long before we noticed the amount of garbage we put out every two weeks for pick up was cut almost in half.
If you want to start living more sustainably and reducing your waste I have some suggestions for changes you can make in your home, on the go, and at the store. Keep in mind you can do one, some, all of these, or even more – these are just a few suggestions to get you started!
1. In Your Home
I’m sure you’ve also heard about the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Reducing your meat intake is one way to have an impact. Try introducing meatless meals into the rotation. Food waste is another big one to tackle. You know that container of leftovers that got shoved in the fridge? Plan to take it for tomorrow’s lunch so it doesn’t get lost in the deep abyss of your fridge, only to be thrown out in a few weeks when it turns green and fuzzy. Leftovers and less-than-ideal cuts of veggies (e.g broccoli stalks) can be used for soup stock or blended up for soup. Research zero-waste household item swaps (laundry detergent strips, shampoo bars, etc). Read up on what your city recycles and composts and divert as much as you can into those avenues.
2. On The Go
If you can, leave the car at home and walk, bike, or take transit. If that’s not an option, see if you can carpool. Ditch plastic water bottles in favour of a reusable bottle. Ditto for coffee. Bring your travel mugs with you and make your coffee at home. Or bring your reusable travel mug to the coffee shop; a lot of places offer you a discount for doing this. Bring your lunch and snacks in reusable containers. Takeout and fast food unfortunately comes with a lot of garbage. To minimize this, keep a plate/bowl and utensils at work that you can wash so you can say no thanks to the single-use utensils. Bonus points if you feel brave enough to bring your own reusable container to the restaurant.
3. At The Store
Bring your reusable grocery and produce bags. Avoid prepackaged fruits and veggies (whyyyyy do supermarkets wrap those cucumbers in plastic!?). Bring your jars and containers and buy items in bulk – rice, flour, spices, candies, etc. Shop secondhand when you can to save money, avoid packaging and to give new life to objects.
The good news about making sustainable choices is that it’s never too late to start, and small changes can have a big impact. To paraphrase a great quote, we don’t need a few people doing it perfectly. We need millions of people trying their best to make small, sustainable changes that will have positive effects on our planet.
What changes have you made?