I love following this girl online called Be Zero Waste Girl – she lives a “zero waste” lifestyle and she can fit all of her family’s landfill trash for the month into a small glass mason jar. She brings containers to the butcher, has an active compost and keeps her purchases to a minimum. It’s pretty exceptional and yeah it would be great if we all lived that way BUT that is some AP senior level green living stuff. Today I’m bringing it in and talking to you, your mama, your friends and your Uncle Chuck – people who may want to make a change but don’t know where to start. Or people who maybe don’t realize that a few simple changes can make a huge impact on our planet and our health.
Living a greener lifestyle doesn’t have to break the bank and it doesn’t always mean a huge lifestyle change. I’m not here to tell you to start a compost, take up beekeeping and exclusively cloth diaper (although all great ideas!) I’m talking about you still doing you but with a few tweaks and substitutions – you will barley notice the difference in terms of convenience yet you will be on the road to better health and reducing waste. Plus these tweaks are cost effective, inexpensive and some even save you money!
#1 Don’t microwave plastics
Heating plastics causes chemical plasticizers to leach into our food increasing the food’s toxicity. This means avoid heating plastic baby bottles, single serving cups of macaroni and cheese or noodles, tupperware, food on plastic/paper plates, frozen dinners etc. Instead transfer food to a dinner plate or a glass container like a Pyrex or mason jar, before heating and serving.
Bisphenol-A-diglycidyl (BADGE) is a cold-cure adhesion used in plastic packaging and many plastic bottles. This is a toxic chemical for human consumption and was shown in a study published in Food Additive and Contaminants in 1995 to release small amounts of BADGE into food during microwaving. Benzophenone is a component of ink on printed paperboard. This toxic chemical has been shown to migrate from the packaging into the food. PVC plastic films have been found to release plasticizers into the food when microwaved according to a study done in 1996. – Building A Healthy Child, Melina Roberts, N.D.
#2 Use a reusable water bottle
The days of buying plastic bottled water need to come to an end. Not only are they junking up our oceans and landfills but plastic toxins are leaching into our water making it unsafe to drink. In addition most big brand bottled water is filled with good ol’ tap water. There are very few companies that are actually delivering true spring water. So invest in a reusable water bottle and use it. I like a stainless steal or a glass one. Klean Kanteen has one that is totally plastic free. I have the one shown below in lime and I LOVE it. If you are on the go all day you can make fill-ups at pretty much any fast food restaurant or grocery. And while you’re at it – try a reusable/travel coffee tumbler as well!
#3 Stop your junk mail
Seems like there is no real easy way to do this so my solution is baby steps. Every time you get a catalogue or flyer in the mail, call that company to get taken off their mailing list. Even doing one call a week will make progress. Here are some online services I looked into that may or may not be worth trying – some are better than others.
CatalogChoice.org – Lists catalogs and you can click the ones you want to cancel. The first one I wanted to cancel was Restoration Hardware and it was not listed. So then I tried Oriental Trading Company and it was not listed either.
41pounds.org – Will call companies on your behalf and reduce your junk mail by 80-95% for a 35.00 fee for 5 years. I may try this one.
DMAChoice.org – This one is easy to do and removes your name from lists companies use to find NEW subscribers for magazine offers, catalogue mailings and other mailings. It does not stop current mailings.
optoutprescreen.com – Will opt you out of rogue credit offers but I didn’t go through with it because it asked for my SS#.
Also consider reading the paper, your fave magazines and opting to pay bills online in lieu of getting paper delivered.
#4 Bring your own grocery bags
More than one billion single-use plastic bags are handed to consumers each day in the US and it takes a 15-year-old tree to produce just 700 paper grocery bags (source). I get a lot of my reusable grocery bags free from event swag and I keep a hodgepodge of them in my trunk so I always have them on hand. If you are looking to buy some – my favorite one that I own is an insulated one from Whole Foods. They sell them in store for 5.00 each. Bringing your own bags not only reduces waste but they wont rip or break, you don’t have to double bag them and you can fit more groceries in each one = less trips bringing groceries in. Plus some stores give you money back if you BYOB. Whole Foods gives .15 which means in about 8 months the bag pays for itself and you start actually saving on groceries with out doing much! Plus you made no trash! A win win all around.
#5 Ditch the dryer sheets
Dryer sheets are filled with toxic chemicals that make their way into our clothes and homes. These chemicals include Alpha-Terpineol which causes central nervous system disorders, depression and headaches; Campor which is on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list and causes dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions; Chloroform which is neurotoxic and carcinogenic….and that’s not to mention Benzyl Alcohol, Ethyl Acetate, Linalool, Pentane….and the list goes on. Living Healthy blog did a good job of breaking it down you can check it out here. I ended up making my own dryer balls which is a fun, safe and cheaper alternative or I sometimes dry using nothing. I followed the Seasoned Homemaker tutorial to help guide me – try it!
#6 Mason jars
Use these instead of plasticware to store and freeze food. Again – just say no to plastics! Mason jars come in a ton of different sizes to accommodate whatever you need to store. I have tiny ones for left over dressings and even a gallon size for when I make a stock. I love the 16oz size for storing chili, soups, noodles or salads because it makes it so easy to grab and take for work lunches or dinners. A simple and cheap alternative to storing in plastic. You can buy a case for around 10.00-15.00. (I just picked up another case at Whole Foods for 11.00 on sale).
For the days when I grab a smoothie on the run or I stop and pick up lunch on the go – I love carrying a set of utensils and a reusable straw in my bag. In the US we use 500 million straws A DAY! That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year. And that’s only the US! (source). Something as simple as reaching into your own bag and using your own reusable straw or your own reusable fork can make a HUGE impact on our planet. I like these glass straws by Hummingbird that come with a lifetime guarantee. If it breaks, they will replace it for free! If you like this idea and want to take it to the next level, considering bringing your own to-go containers to restaurants or insulated reusable tumblers for smoothies….or ice cream frappes.
#8 Read labels
I’m talking food, personal care and cleaning product labels. There is a ton of crap going into our food and into the products we use. For example, preservatives in our foods like BHT that affect the neurological system of your brain, alter behavior and have the potential to cause cancer (source). Or SLS in your hair color, body washes, cleansers, makeup, detergents and toothpastes which has shown links to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, possible mutation and cancer (source). We are being exposed to hundreds of toxins daily though or toothpaste, soap, cereal and hamburgers and it’s the gradual cumulative effects of long-term exposure that are the real concern. Read labels, Google ingredients, know what you are putting on your body and make healthier decisions. If you want a place to start, I have a list of products I love and use daily here. And I also have a list of clean pantry staples here.
EWG.org has a Skin Deep Database and is a good place to start when looking up personal care products, makeup and ingredients.
The Think Dirty App is a similar resource.
I also like A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter.
#9 Stop buying and using anything with “fragrance” listed as an ingredient
I’m talking car fresheners, candles, air fresheners, plug-ins and room and furniture sprays. This applies to personal care products too like lotions, perfumes, shampoos as well as cleaning supplies like laundry soap or cleaning sprays but lets take this one step at a time and focus on air fresheners. Not only does this tip save you money but it saves your health too.
Although companies are required by law to list all chemical ingredients in a product, a special loophole allows them to hide ingredients under the term “fragrance”. The word “fragrance” on a label can house complex mixtures of up to hundreds of chemicals. Studies show these chemicals may be linked to a variety of health problems including allergies, skin reactions, endocrine/hormone disruption and possibly even birth defects (source). Housing undisclosed ingredients under a catch-all word like “fragrances” was originally allowed to respect formulators trade secrets but now it it out of control and has become the rug that toxic chemicals get swept under.
I love The Optimist Company cleaners and room sprays. They are nontoxic, scented with essential oils instead of toxic chemicals and they work.
#10 Filter your water
Ditch the bottled waters or plastic water dispenser. Real spring water is best but if you do not have access to that, filter your tap…and your shower. Chlorine is often added to city water as a disinfectant. Unfortunately as if chlorine wasn’t bad enough, it reacts with the organic matter in our water forming toxic compounds called THMs – known carcinogens. These chemicals vaporize in the hot shower so they are not only absorbed into your skin but you are also breathing them giving them direct access to your blood stream. Several studies link these chemicals to cancer, birth defects, respiratory issues, impacts on the immune system, gut heath and more. Study. THM Fact Sheet.
In addition, we have to consider lead, fluoride and the other 316 chemicals in U.S. tap water, 202 of which are unregulated, that The EWG has identified. Filtering your water is a simple step you can take to better your health without much change in lifestyle.
At home I have a Zero Water filter that I use in between getting spring water. I like it because it filters 99.6% of total dissolved solids and they are certified to reduce lead, mercury and chromium by the NSF – but a major pitfall is it’s made from plastic. Even their new stainless container is lined with plastic. Next time I get my hands on an extra 250.00 I will splurge on a Berkey water filter.
For the shower we use this one by Aquasana. My husband said it was easy to install and we change the filter every six months.
It’s easy being green
If you are interesting in reducing your plastic waste footprint – Beth Terry’s 100 Steps to a Plastic Free Life Guide is a great place to start.
If you are interested in seeing where a lot of our plastic waste is landing, check out this video on The Pacific Trash Vortex.
Just a quick note on plastics. There are essentially two types of plastics; ones that can be recycled and ones that can’t. Ones that can’t are obviously not preferred because they are used one time an then sit in our landfills or oceans and do not break down. Recycled plastics on the other hand are used once and then recycled into clothes or textiles BUT once those clothes or textiles are disposed of they then sit in our landfills and oceans and still do not breakdown. We can get rid of these plastics by stopping the demand. We stop the demand by refusing to buy and use single use water bottles, plastic straws, utensils, to-go containers…etc.
Of course there are a million ways to live a greener life. These ones that I’ve highlighted today are simple, doable, affordable, they don’t require much effort yet they make a huge impact.
Green it up guys!
What would you add to this list?