A year and a half ago I started slowly and systematically changing my behaviors to live a less environmentally-impactful life. I'm proud to say that I now have a list of 100 sustainable swaps that I have personally implemented. Read on to learn about the first 10 and see if you can apply any to your life!
Note: I will be releasing this article in 10 parts with each part containing 10 swaps. The order of the list is completely random.
Click here for parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
1. Went Vegan(ish)
The positive effects that going vegan has on the environment are well known and proven at this point, but just in case you didn’t know yet, check out this article from PETA.
For a while I was strict a strict vegan but I now allow myself to occasionally indulge in animal products. This has alleviated the unnecessary anxiety and guilt that I used feel when I would slip up. I still consume SIGNIFICANTLY less animal products than the average American and eat plant-based meals a majority of the time.
If you don't want to go full-vegan, try to limit your meat intake to a few times a week or at least consume animal products in smaller portions. Fresh fruits and veggies should be the main component of your meals.
2. Homemade House Cleaner
Many cleaning products sold in stores contain chemicals associated with eye, skin, or respiratory irritation. Additionally, traditional products almost always come packaged in plastic containers.
I opt for natural cleaners in my household that get the job done without the dangerous chemicals or wasteful packaging. Pure white vinegar or lemon juice work on their own, but I’ve recently been using this recipe that resembles a more traditional multi-purpose cleaner.
3. Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax wraps are a reusable alternative to plastic wrap. They easily adhere to foods and can be cleaned with cool water and dish soap.
There are several companies that sell beeswax wraps but you can also make your own if you choose.
4. Reusable Grocery Bags
1 million plastic grocery bags are used around the world each minute. On average each bag is used for 25 minutes and then takes between 100 and 500 years to disintegrate. Plastic bags can’t be recycled in traditional recycling facilities and are typically thrown in the trash.
Reusable cloth grocery bags are practically weightless and get the job done BETTER than plastic bags (no ripping!). Get in the habit of keeping a few reusable bags in your purse or car and eventually you’ll wonder why you ever used the plastic version. Find reusable grocery bags on my products page.
5. Reusable Produce Bags
Plastic grocery bags are often the first thing that people target on their low-waste journey, but what about those smaller plastic produce bags for individual produce items?
These bags are used for several minutes, ripped open once the groceries get home and immediately thrown away. Investing in a few mesh produce bags will help you avoid plastic waste at all stages of your grocery trip. Find reusable produce bags on my products page.
6. Avoid Produce Bags
An even simpler way to reduce waste from plastic produce bags is to simply not put produce in bag. What is the point of bagging produce when it's already inside of a NATURAL, BIODEGRADABLE CONTAINER?
Next time you find yourself reaching for produce bags, ask yourself – is this really necessary? Here's a list of produce where the answer to that question is definitely “NO”:
Any produce that isn’t on this list can simply be washed before consuming. I often put broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery, etc. directly into my bag (much to the horror of the cashier) and simply wash them before consuming.
7. Alternatives to Plastic Snack Bags
Another form of the evil plastic bag – the plastic sandwich/snack bag. I can’t even imagine the number of these I must have thrown out over my years of daily packed school lunches.
There are many alternatives to snack bags: manufactured bags like Stasher (find them on my products page), reusable containers, beeswax wraps, paper wraps, glass jars, cloth produce bags, homemade bags, and more! Get creative and find other ways to store your snacks.
8. Bulk Shopping
Nothing will make you feel like #zerowaste boss than going shopping in the bulk isle. Many stores have bulk sections where you can buy custom quantities of dry goods like nuts, beans, grains, etc. out of large communal containers. This reduces the waste that would be generated by purchasing these products in individual packages.
If you’ve never shopped in the bulk isle, you’ll be blown away by the number of products available - sometimes you get lucky and find things like nut butters, oils, spices, and vegetables in bulk.
To LEVEL UP your bulk shopping game, you can bring your own containers to the bulk isle. Check out this video to see how.
9. Public Transportation
I live in New York City and don’t have a car, so I rely on the subway system to get me from point A to point B. There is also a large bus system to cover routes without subway access and regional trains that lead out of the city (MetroNorth, Long Island Railroad, and Amtrak).
Even if you don’t live in NYC, see if you can reduce your carbon emissions by incorporating more public transportation into your daily life.
10. Freeze Your Own Fruits and Veggies
Frozen fruits and veggies are super convenient for quick meals, but they almost always come in plastic packaging. To avoid this, I buy unpackaged fruits and veggies at the farmers market and freeze them myself.
If the items need to be cooked first, you can steam or bake them and let them cool. Next, lay them out on a baking sheet so that they don't touch and put them in the freezer for a few hours. When they're solidly frozen individually, you can put them all into a reusable bag or container and store them in the fridge for months.
Click here to continue to Part 2