7 Ways to Cut Down Your Waste and Save the Earth

Our environment is in a pretty sad state of affairs right now. Perhaps you read the prequel to this article, Life in Plastic: Not Fantastic. Perhaps you didn’t, which is also fine. Who cares about anything. (YOU care. WE care. This is our EARTH. We LIVE here.) I know you feel small and helpless and insignificant, but together we are huge and efficient and able to make really important changes. So let’s rally, and fight, and agree to make very painless individual changes. You know, for the greater good.

1. Stop buying stuff

Challenge yourself to buy only things you need. This includes novelty grocery store items, clothing, toiletries and pretty much everything in your Amazon cart. Speaking of which, rather than having things shipped to you in cardboard boxes, wrapped in air-filled plastic, perhaps go back to that whole inconvenient venture to the nearest store. Rule of thumb: if it’s an inconvenience, it’s probably better for the Earth. Don’t shoot the messenger.

2. Bring your bags

Now that you’ve re-committed to the old-fashioned journey to your store and back, don’t forget the reusable bags. And if you do, punish yourself by having the juggle your items back to your car. Improve your dexterity, save the world. Win-win. While we’re here, ditch the produce bags. Assess everything you purchase, and see how much excess plastic you can avoid. Buy in bulk! Leave individual and single-serving packaging behind. Hit up your local Farmer’s Markets! Farmers rarely use plastic for anything (it’d just be an unnecessary expense), and are usually offer more competitive prices. Get creative in our comments section — let’s help each other out by sharing personal tips and tricks.

3. Study up

Yeah, sure, you break down your cardboard and your throw your plastic bottles in an old Trader Joe’s bag next to your trash can. But do you know the actual rules of recycling? Don’t waste your good intentions — make them count!

4. Get thrifty

First of all, fashion is a cycle. The 90s are back in full force, and the best (also cheapest) hauls of such styles are found at thrift stores. Stop buying remakes — it’s harder to feel like a poser if the stuff you’re wearing is actual vintage. While you’re in the spirit of second-handing, when buying electronics try to stick to pre-owned or refurbished. They’re usually half the price, often in good-as-new condition, and always ready to diminish your carbon footprint.

5. Learn to cook

Prep your meals. Minimize your food waste. Conquer your kitchen and save your little corner of the world. Be cognizant of what you can eat within the food’s shelf life. Waste not, want not! If produce often goes bad in your fridge, cook it all on a day off and portion it out into (glass) re-usable containers for the week. If you use the oven a lot, switch out your parchment paper and aluminum foil for silicone baking mats. As you get into a cooking routine, notice what you’re throwing away, and figure out if there is a more reusable replacement. Bonus points for going vegan, or at least establishing blocks of time (or even single days) when you don’t eat meat.

6. Pull the strings

(I apologize for this heading.) Ladies, how much do we hate pads and tampons? Dudes, we appreciate you joining in solidarity. They’re gross, they suck, and they’re bad for the world. Luckily, we’ve got women working on a variety of eco-friendlier alternatives. The Diva Cup, for instance, is a menstrual cup made from healthcare-grade silicone, free of latex, plastic, dyes and BPA. It is as sustainable as it is comfortable. And now, of course, there are competing products on the market. So now, all you have to do is find the right one for you!

7. Eco-friendly Cleaners

Yeah, there’s a market for them. These guys do great work. But you’re still buying all that plastic. Save old spray bottles and dish soap containers and make your own household cleaners. There’s plenty of room to get creative with essential oils and make your own signature scents. (Also comes with free bragging rights. You’re a chemist, now. An earth-loving chemist.)

And just like that, you’re a savior of the Earth. Just try not to get a complex about it. Stay humble, stay kind, stay conscious. Love you.