When was the last time you went for a walk and didn’t see any litter on the street? How about the last time you visited a really big city and weren’t greeted by smog? When was the last time you went shopping and didn’t see anything wrapped or packaged in disposable plastic that you simply use once and then discard. Think about it for a minute.
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Personally I cannot think of too many instances in which I experienced absolutely no waste during my day. Trash, gases, pollution and waste are all around us every single day. Being an avid traveler I’ve seen a ton of waste. From transportation to food to the onslaught of ‘easy’ disposable products clogging our landfills, it’s really hard to go a full day without experiencing or partaking in any waste-free activities.
The truth of the matter is that humans have been poisoning the Earth for a long time. And it needs to stop. Furthermore we need to do our part to fix as much damage as possible while also preventing further damage down the road.
So what can we do? Believe it or not it starts with you and me. Below I’ve listed some significant ways for you to reduce your ecological footprint. This is a great way to get started. The more you reduce your footprint and show others how easy it is to do the same the more people will get on board. You can also gently raise your voice to get companies on board too. The following tips should help you in your quest to reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. So without further ado and in no particular order here are some easy things we can do together to make Earth a little greener.
By reducing the amount of plastic in your life you are helping out more than you realize. Plastic not only never decomposes but is actually made by burning fossil fuels and chemicals which is awful for the air as well. Buy a reusable grocery bag. Better yet buy ten reusable grocery bags! You can purchase them at almost any grocery store. If you’re feeling crafty you can check out Pinterest tutorials on how to make your own! I make reusable grocery bags out of gently used pillow cases and tee shirts!
Bring a reusable bottle with you wherever you go. Better yet buy a good quality plastic-free reusable bottle. Something made of glass or stainless steel is way better than something plastic. It will save the environment and last longer as well. For a cheap option just you can use a mason jar. However what I like best are double walled stainless steel water bottles by Wellness Bottles. Not only are they designed with the environment in mind but they also give 20% of their profits to Love Mercy which helps fund the building of wells in Africa. By getting a Wellness Bottle you are helping the environment and bringing fresh drinking water to people in need. You can save 20% off your purchase from Wellness Bottles by using the coupon code AprilVL20 at checkout.
These things are the best. They help you to reduce the amount of energy used when doing laundry. Just throw them into the dryer along with your clean, wet clothes. They bounce around separating the clothes thereby drying them more quickly. They cut dryer time in half saving you time, money and the environment. You can buy your own wool dryer balls here or in health food stores.
This will help you reduce water waste saving you time, money and the environment. Did you know you don’t need to wash your hair everyday? In fact it’s bad for your hair. Hair washing is usually what takes the most time in the shower so next time just tie up your hair and only wash your body. Wash your hair every other day. Or just ask yourself, do you really need to be in there for half an hour? To see how much water you use when you shower just plug the drain and watch how full the bathtub gets. You may be surprised at the result.
Do some research. The red meat industry is one of the worst things we are doing to the Earth. If you don’t want to stop eating it altogether just buy local and grass fed red meats. The best thing to do is to just eat a vegetarian diet but don’t freak out! Simply embracing a Meatless Monday can help a lot too. Every bit helps!
Buy some reusable ones (preferably made of cotton) to continue cutting out plastic! You can buy reusable cotton produce bags here or at health food stores.
Try opting for whole foods from the bulk section. Bring a jar and fill it up. Lots of places are starting to have reusable container programs. You can also use your reusable produce bags. Not only will you drastically reduce waste but you will also be forced to eat much healthier. You can even reduce food packaging when making lunches to take to work and school. One company that I am absolutely in love with is Eco Lunch Boxes. They make plastic free lunch containers, reusable snack bags and even cloth napkins. I have a stainless steel Eco lunch box that I use to take my food to work and I absolutely love it.
How many half used plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, laundry detergent and dish soap do you have lying around? First off, don’t buy any more goo until you finish what you have! Second recycle the plastic bottles! And third, did you know you can get all of your shampoo and conditioner and soaps from a few simple ingredients? Look online for natural recipes. I use Castile soap mixed with various kitchen ingredients to make all my household soaps. The best part is that I can bring glass jars and fill them up at my local soap dispensary. Yes that’s a thing! Look online and see if your city has one too!
Do you have a bike? Use it! What about a good bus system? Try using that sometimes. Travelling a lot has taught me that using public transport in a new place is one of the best ways to see a city. Next time you travel opt for this instead of renting a car. If you do have a car try carpooling more often. It all helps!
Clothes, books, appliances, furniture etc. can all be bought used. Think about the environmental cost of each new item you buy. How many greenhouse gases were emitted in the making of the product? How much waste and gases were emitted in the making of the packaging of the product? Is the packaging disposable or reusable? Could you have bought it used at a second hand shop or from someone online? If you absolutely have to buy something new make sure you choose something durable and good quality. Choose something that will last you and is made of environmentally friendly materials.
Only keep the light on in the room you’re using. Don’t heat the house when you’re out and about. Use LED light bulbs. Wear warm clothes. Open the windows in the summer. Unplug electronics you don’t regularly use. Wherever you can just reduce!
Reuse glass jars that once held pickles or jam etc. You can use them instead of plastic bags and Tupperware to bring snacks and lunches to work and school!
Reuse anything that would look good in a collage or scrapbook. Personally, I like to save old calendars, cards and paper to use in my travel journal.
Upcycled travel journal collage
You can save lots of trees this way. When you’re out and about use the air dryer instead of paper towels in public bathrooms too.
Chances are you you don’t wear all the clothes in your closet. Clear some space.
You’re probably wondering what to do with all the half empty bottles of soap you’re not going to use. Check to see if there’s a Soap For Hope in your city. They’re part of the Canadian Disaster Aid Society and they collect partially used soaps and shampoos that are then repackaged and shipped overseas to refugee camps or places recovering from natural disasters. I love this because not only are you saving the environment but also helping people all over the world.
Separate and take what you can to the depot. If you and no one else you know can use it then it’s time to recycle. You’ll even earn a little money doing this. Or you can donate to bottle drives for different causes.
Why throw away organics (fruit peels, egg shells, meat bones, paper towel etc.) into a landfill when they would decompose much more quickly in soil? If your building or city doesn’t have a good compost system just make your own. It’s actually incredibly easy. You can even make your own self composting unit by using a giant bin with holes poked into the lid to house soil and organics… and worms. It might sound a bit gross but it’s actually amazing. Just fill the bottom with some dirt and worms (you can buy worms from gardening stores or dig them up yourself) and whenever you need to dump your organics out just add them to the bin. The worms will eat everything for you producing nutrient rich soil which you can use in your garden.
You have probably heard about how bees are endangered and if they die out our entire ecosystem will be thrown off. Bees are dying rapidly due to pesticides and sprays among other factors. Plant some bee friendly flowers such as echinacea or lilacs and don’t use any pesticides to make your home bee friendly!
Save some money and be a little more self sufficient by growing some fruits and veggies. Not only will you know exactly where everything comes from but by not using pesticides or sprays you will also avoid ingesting chemicals. You will also help make your neighborhood more bee friendly and you will have a larger area to spread your compost enriched soil!
This is a great way to educate yourself on different environmental problems around the world today. It may also help you come up with various environmental solutions you can implement at home or while traveling.
Even if it’s just a Facebook Group of people in your community who care about the environment. Get a group of like minded friends together and go pick up trash on the street. Get your voice out there and learn from others. I personally am part of a Zero Waste Facebook group from the city I live in. I also am part of the 1 Million Women Facebook group which is an all women environmental group. If you are female and want to join the Sustainable Travel group I’ve created, it’s called Ladies Leaving Footprints, and you can join by clicking here.
Attend a protest about an environmental problem you’re passionate about fixing. Reducing your own energy and waste is great but don’t forget that you have a voice. Use it and use it wisely!
My favorite part about this list is that not only do these tips help the environment but many help you in other ways as well. Reducing red meat intake and increasing the amount of veggies you grow will improve your health. Reducing gas, energy and water and shopping for used items will save you money. All in all this list of changes will make your life a little more simple, a bit healthier and a lot greener. Sometimes it seems as if environmental issues are too large to tackle but if we all band together we really can make a big difference. So get started and spread the word!
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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