I’d be lying if I said I grew up caring for the Earth. My family, like many Americans, lived on single-use bottled waters and soda cans. Recycling campaigns covered school hallways without us recognizing the small percentage of waste that gets successfully recycled. Corporations used an exorbitant amount of fossil fuels, paying for campaigns to shift the blame of the climate crisis on consumers. After years, I realized climate legislation is something I needed to be passionate about because it will affect my nephews and children. And on an individual level, I learned that recycling is important but reducing is vital.
Falling in Love with Earth
Like every other millennial in the pandemic, I grew an impressive houseplant collection. Convinced I had a brown thumb after a bout of failed succulents, I thought I would be destined to fail but I was shocked to see my first new leafs come through on my plants. I wasn’t pulling late hours at work or hitting up multiple events a week. I was home and had time to cultivate life and watch things grow.
Sure, I love nature. I’ve traveled to beautiful destinations and hiked trails. I’ve benefited from radiant beach days and adventures outdoors. Despite appreciating a landscape, I never felt deeply connected to nature. Owning a piece of it and nurturing it allowed me to build this deeper relationship that honestly took me by surprise. My house plant collection soon grew into at-home composting with Happy Earth Compost. My composting led to a flurry of zero-waste purchases, from swapping out cotton swaps to shopping local.
One of the biggest impacts this shift has had on me is my appreciation for Earth itself. In the last year, I have found local hikes I never knew existed. I can now take a walk through a park and point out flower species and plants. My time spent at home allowed me to slow down and reconnect with myself, which ultimately led me to reconnect with the environment around me. Now that I have, I can’t imagine going back to a life without it.
Little Shifts Make a Big Impact
As the saying goes, there is no Planet B. While I always thought making sustainable choices sounded like work—that I’d have a learning curve—I realized that not everything has to be an overhaul of our entire life. Every little choice becomes a habit, and those little habits can have a big impact. In honor of Earth Day, I’ve rounded up 15 areas of your life where you can convert to eco-friendly living.
15 Ways to Live a Zero-Waste, Sustainable Life
Minimize Food Waste
Consider composting my entry point into striving for a zero-waste life. I had heard about composting before and ran the idea across my partner who was convinced it would be a fun project to try on our own but research led me to find Happy Earth Compost, a Houston-based composting pick-up service. I reached out to the company last year to write a business story for Innovation Map prior to trying the service and I found the concept of composting not only fascinating but vital.
According to Happy Earth Compost, one human creates an estimated 1,642 pounds of trash each year. That trash ends up in landfills that emit dangerous greenhouse gases and further pollute the environment. In Houston alone, 81 percent of waste ends up in landfills, exceeding the national waste average by 25 percent! I have seen a dramatic decrease in my at-home trash because I am able to compose things like coffee, paper towels, fruits, vegetables, food scraps, nuts, tea, and rice. Happy Earth Compost also provides customers with finished compost that is like gold for gardeners and houseplant lovers. It’s a really rewarding process to see environmental efforts come full circle.
Happy Earth Compost’s pricing ranges from $15 to $35, which includes a compact composting container for your kitchen, compostable trash bags, and a larger composting bucket. The buckets can be picked up weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly while the company does all of the labor and dirty work to help you compost. For Earth Day (4/22/21) the company is offering a free month of composting. If you miss the promotion you can use my code, Cupofcharisma25 for 25% off your first month.
Wipe Away the Day
Getting stubborn eye makeup off doesn’t have to generate as much waste as you think. I made the swap to reusable bamboo cotton rounds and will never go back to disposable cotton. These velour bamboo rounds are soft for the delicate skin around my eyes and easy to wash. I also upgraded my cotton swaps to bamboo ones that are biodegradable and free of single-use plastic.
Have a Sustainable Smile
Dental care is a future step on my list of sustainable swaps. Regular floss is typically plastic, and can often be coated with PFCs, a chemical that’s found in teflon.
Shop Smart at the Grocery Store
Once you start to dig into sustainable living, it becomes apparent that plastic bags are the enemy. While some states have made the move to ban or tax plastic bags, Texas is slow to embrace environmental changes. Contrary to popular belief, plastic shopping bags are not recyclable. In fact, they can ruin the recycling process entirely. Many community recycling centers can’t process plastic bags, which often jam the system and can create stoppages. When bags end up in landfills and the ocean, they can end up killing animals like birds and sea turtles who mistake the bags for food or get caught in the material.
If you’re going into a store, always ask for a paper bag when you can. You know what’s even better? Bringing your own cute totes!
Say Goodbye to Ziploc
Seriously, these sustainable alternatives are MUCH cuter.
Restock Your Kitchen Supplies
Did you know that you can find recycled aluminum foil and parchment paper? Well, you can.
Swap Out Single-Use Napkins and Paper Towels
Not only are these fun Swedish dish towels patterned, they also soak up way more water than traditional paper towels.
Eat Out like a World Changer
Say goodbye to straws. With COVID-19, carrying your own utensils and straws might actually provide a sense of relief, too! It’s a win-win.
Change out Your Laundry Supplies
While detergent containers are often recyclable, you can avoid plastic altogether with an alternative from Dropps.
The thing I hate just as much as a plastic bag is a plastic bottle. Once I converted to the Hidrate bottle, I realized I was able to save plastic and drink SO much water. Hidrate earns the top spot for my favorite water bottle because its app allows me to track my water, modifies for my weight and activity level, and provides gamification that lets me know how many plastic bottles I’ve saved. If a smart water bottle isn’t in your future, any tumbler will do!
Support Your Local Plant Nurseries and Farmers Markets
According to the Farmers Market Coalition, markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution. Typically, these farmers also use certified organic practices, reducing the number of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. Not only is shopping local more sustainable, but it also directly impacts someone’s business versus buying from a big box grocery store.
Grow Your Own Garden
Eat Your Veggies
Vegetarian and veganism is a movement that dives deeper than saving animals. By replacing meat with vegetarian protein helps reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian diet requires two-and-a-half times less of the amount of land needed to grow food, compared to a meat-based diet If you’re a meat-eater, considering a meatless Monday! Any little bit helps reduce your carbon footprint.
Be Kind to Yourself
Going “zero-waste” can sound intimidating, but it isn’t all black and white. I believe that as long as we are striving to make sustainable swaps when we can, we can be closer to a more eco-friendly life that nurtures the Earth. When I started this mission to become more eco-friendly, a switch flipped in me and I began to feel more connected to nature as well. Being conscious of the world and how we leave it can make you feel grateful for little things like a new leaf on your houseplant or a walk on a trail you never had time to check out in all your busyness. The pandemic has forced us to slow down, sit comfortably in the quiet and recognize things that didn’t fit into our tightly curated schedules. With the distance we’ve experienced, nature has always been there to keep up company. It’s time we start taking care of it.