Happy Earth Day!
I’m not going to lie, I used to be one of those people who didn’t really give a lot of thought to my everyday actions contributing to environmental damage. I am still a constant work in progress–it’s easy to forget to recycle, to not think twice about reaching for a plastic straw or purchasing a water bottle–but I’m so happy for Earth Day initiatives because they bring awareness to how little changes can add up to a big impact!
Today, I hope this post inspires you to do the same! Nobody is perfect, but I think the biggest takeaway here is that implementing some eco-friendly changes doesn’t have to mean upending your lifestyle as you know it. We can all do a lot better–these 7 simple changes are a big start!
7 Attainable Eco-Friendly Changes That Make A Difference
It’s easy to forget how much plastic straw waste adds up, but it does! Eliminating the use of plastic straws is something I’m trying to be a lot better about, but I’m not going to lie, I am not a fan of paper straws outside of their use as a cute instagram prop. Thankfully, there are a great alternative–metal straws! I love my SWZLE straws that come in their own carrying case (so you can always keep it stashed in your bag!) with a cleaning brush, too! Update: SWZLE was so nice and saw this post and created a 20% off code for us!! Use code JESS20 to get 20% off your order!! (Totally not sponsored, I just love this brand!!)
Fun fact that will help you remember to bring your metal straw: Researchers at the University of Georgia found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in a single year, and the UN estimates that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans. ?
Reusable water bottles, tumblers, and coffee cups:
Over the past year, I’ve made an effort to get a lot better in bringing my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere. It takes approximately 450 years for ONE little plastic water bottle to degrade in a landfill–and Americans consume around 50 billion water bottles per year. That’s NUTS. I really love both Hydroflask and Swell for water bottles–plus, they keep your water cold, too! For tumblers and coffee cups, I love Yeti!
If you need more motivation to reduce your single-use plastic consumption, just read the increasing reports of dead whales washing up on beaches with 88 pounds of plastic inside of them. Heartbreaking! It’s easy to continue thinking this is someone else’s problem–but it’s not! It’s ours–and if for nothing else, be more cognizant of recycling solely for the marine animals who suffer because we’re lazy. ?
Non-toxic cleaning swaps:
According to a U.S. Geological Survey study of contaminants in stream water shows 69 percent of streams sampled contained persistent detergent metabolites, and 66 percent contained disinfectants. That’s pretty scary, right? By reducing the chemicals that end up down our drains every day, we can make a significant impact on our water.
Not only is it better for the earth to reduce toxins in your home, it’s WAY better for you, too! I really love the Grove Collaborative, which is an online retailer that has a great curated assortment of products that are healthier for your home and the planet! I’m very picky when it comes to all my products–they still need to perform just as well, and smell just as good! Which is why I love their stuff! ???
Make some switches with your laundry routine:
If you’ve read my “How to do laundry properly and stop ruining your clothes” post–you’ll be excited to hear that much of what is good for your clothes is good for the environment too! Here are a few ways you can “green-ify” your laundry:
Wear your clothes more than once in between washes:
Something my mom taught me from a very young age–you don’t have to wash your clothes every time you wear them–and actually, you really shouldn’t. Washing and drying adds more wear and tear and wears out your clothes! And if that wasn’t enough reason–it’s far better for the environment for you to cut back on laundry. It saves a ton of water and energy!
Wash with cold water:
This is an easy one, because it’s way better for your clothes anyway. ?According to the EPA, about 90% of the energy used doing a load of laundry goes toward heating the water. Only 10% goes toward the electricity used by the washing machine motor. It is estimated that 34 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be saved if every U.S. household used only cold water for washing clothes.
Try to only do a full load:
(A GREAT excuse to procrastinate doing laundry, right?) By doing this, you could save 3,400 gallons of water each year! (Same concept goes with your dishwasher!) It is estimated that 99 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions could be saved per household each year by running only full loads of laundry.
Another swap that will make your clothes last a lot longer, anyway! Air drying your clothes can save can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year, according to greenamerica.org! (Fun fact: You should be hang drying your jeans and your workout clothes ANYWAY!)
Ditch dryer sheets for dryer balls:
Fabric softener is LOADED with toxic chemicals–not only is that harmful for you, but it’s harmful for the environment, too! Instead of fabric softener sheets, I use wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oil for a natural scent. They also cut drying time by up to 45%, and help save energy! You can find them on Amazon!
Switch to a non-toxic detergent:
Another household product we don’t think about being toxic, but it is! Again, not just for us, but the environment as well. The Environmental Working Group has a helpful list of detergents that scored an “A” rating in terms of toxicity and chemicals that is a good place to start. (I’m still trying to find a good one that I love myself.)
Switch to a mineral sunscreen:
You’ve likely heard about many coastal cities voting in a ban on Oxybenzone–a chemical sunscreen which is leading to damage to coral reefs (in addition to being super toxic to humans, known to permeate into the bloodstream–YIKES!) According to OceanConservatory.org:
The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defenses against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development.
It’s almost as though sunscreen for humans has the opposite effect for corals! This damage, along with harm from other stressors including ocean acidification, water pollution, rising sea temperatures, and coral disease, prevents corals from successfully reproducing and surviving in current marine environments.
For my tried and tested non-toxic sunscreens, see this post! In short, I love Beautycounter’s zinc-based sunscreen. It’s not impossible to rub in unlike a lot of other zinc-based products! The sunscreen stick is especially awesome to keep stashed in your handbag and you can even re-apply over your makeup without messing it up!
See my meatless TJ Cowboy Quinoa Burger enchiladas hack right here!
Opt for more meatless meals:
This stat is maybe the most shocking of all.
According to an article from the Earth Day Network, it is estimated that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. (This is more than the entire transportation sector!)
Additionally, producing meat also requires substantial amounts of water–an estimated 1,800-2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. The Livestock industry also uses almost 50% of the corn produced in the United States.
According to the article, if we ate one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles. If the entire U.S. didn’t eat meat and cheese for just one day per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
Aren’t these numbers astonishing? In addition to the health benefits of reducing meat intake, this is VERY motivating to get back to my heavily plant-based diet during the week!
Make reusable grocery bags and produce bags a habit:
I think we all use reusable grocery bags whenever we can at this point, right? BUT–there are so many times where I forget them or I don’t want to carry them around, or I think I’ll just pick up a couple things that I can fit in my tote, but then I end up needing an extra bag. I just bought these little net bags (two for $15!) which are adorable and also take up ZERO space, so you can stash one in your everyday handbag and never be without a grocery bag!
I also bought this beeswax wrap and reusable produce bag set on Amazon–it’s so cute and affordable! The beeswax wrap is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap (my mother in law got me on the beeswax wrap train!), and the produce bags are to use instead of the plastic ones at the grocery store!