I’m not sure where my passion for protecting the environment/ loving nature stems from (pun intended). Perhaps its my love for hiking and spending time in the woods. Or maybe its my fascination with green energy. Regardless, I care a lot about living a “green” life, in a world full or plastic and waste. I’m that person that carries my own bags to the grocery store, checks the ingredients in my cleaning products, and reuses almost everything I own...
This time of year though, with holidays full of parties, food, and gifts, I find myself cringing at all the waste being created more than usual. Sure, we can recycle our plastics and donate the things we don’t want, but we really are still creating waste.
I cringe because I know the harm waste (specifically plastic waste) is causing our environment. Big production of plastics, which began only six decades ago, has grown so quickly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so all of it still exists in some form. That means that that straw you drank your Mcdonald's milkshake out of when you were 8 is still hanging around somewhere - whether it was recycled or (in the more likely case, unfortunately) is in a landfill or ocean.
Plastic doesn’t go away, and everything from food to plastic toys is wrapped individually in layers of plastic these days. Simply making an effort to purchase things/ use things without plastic is important to me. People often use the excuse that living a “greener” life is “too hard” or “too expensive” or “too inconvenient”. I would argue otherwise. In fact, there are very practical ways that you can save huge amounts of waste each day, simply by being more mindful.
Tis the season though for some quick and effective tips to waste less this holiday season.
- When doing all the holiday grocery shopping, use mesh bags for produce/ canves bags for groceries. (The produce bags are for the produce section- you honestly don’t need a bag for those bananas, but I like keeping my herbs, leafy greens, peppers, and items like that in bags until I can throw them in glass tupperware when I get home)…I can’t count the number of times people have told me that they want to use their reusable bags, but “forget them” or “leave them at home”. Seriously, just keep a few extra in the car and if you do happen to “forget” completely, just throw your groceries in the back of your car without a bag. Honestly bags don't make that much of a difference.
- Then, as you head out of the grocery store and begin to crave that afternoon coffee, bring a ceramic travel mug into the store with you and give it to the barista. So much less waste, and chances are your drink will stay warmer longer. This brand is BPA, phthalates, PVC, lead and cadmium free, keeps drinks warm for a long time, and looks cute.
- If you opt for the cold drink, carry around these metal straws so you can opt out of the plastic ones. I use these all the time, for smoothies at home and drinks on the go.
- Give the gift of an experience. Buy a family tickets to a show (for those of you close enough, Sight and Sound Theater - comparable to a Broadway show for sure, and 100% kid-friendly. Otherwise, look for a local theater), give smaller children passes to the zoo, pay for dance or music classes etc. These are memorable gifts that do not create clutter or waste.
- If you must purchase something physical, search for brands that source their materials ethically. For women, I would suggest brands like Everlane and Madewell. For kids who are used to getting plastic toys, maybe opt for Melissa & Doug (whose focus is on long-lasting, primarily wooden, toys). For the adventurous people in your life, check out Patagonia (who has lifetime guarantee on their products and sources their materials ethically.) For Men, Everlane is also a great choice for clothing. Also check out artists and craftsmen on Etsy - you can find great handmade watches and belts.
- Finally, one of my go-to gifts is a beautiful, handmade ceramic mug, bowl, or plate. A functional piece of art really carries a life of its own and can reflect the receiver's personality perfectly, if you can find the right piece. I enjoy purchasing from local artisans, but one of my favorite national brands is Heath Ceramics, a small business based in San Francisco. Mark and I visited one of their pop-ups while on our honeymoon. I was in love.
- To top it off, wrap gifts in old newspaper/ or look for wrapping paper made out of recycled materials.
- Don’t let your food go to waste! If you know you won’t be wanting heavy holiday leftovers for the next two weeks, grab a few extra mason jars or ask your guests to bring tupperware with them. Share the leftovers and chances are, there will be less waste!
- With this said, invest in some good glass tupperware. If you have this, you will be less likely to dump your food, throw your lunches in cheep plastic containers, and constantly throw away ziplocks. It is well worth the investment, and your organized fridge will thank you for it.
Think about whether you need an item before you buy it. Can you make do with something you already have? The more you buy, the more trash you will create, so if you can make the items you already own do double duty, you will create less trash in the long run.
I hope my ideas are helpful for you over the holiday season. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section on how you live a "greener life" this time of year!