I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the past year or so. I strive to be as eco-friendly as I can be, and I’m continuously working toward that lifestyle. These changes have greatly reduced the amount of waste I’ve produced, and I’m very proud of that.
We all have our own reasons for wanting to live a less wasteful existence. Maybe you want to reduce your carbon footprint. Perhaps you want to live a cruelty-free lifestyle. It’s probable that you’d like to make your life more convenient or to save money.
Whatever your reason may be, I’ve broken down all my tips into categories: difficulty, convenience, and price. Whether you like one or all of my ideas, there’s a little something for everyone here. You’ll find that there’s a give-and-take with all of my ideas, but the underlying idea is that if you decide to implement at least one of my ideas, you’ll be a less disgusting human being.
1. I use green bags, both large and small.
Convenience: Somewhat convenient for me, more convenient for cashiers
I don’t know about you, but I buy most of my products in the produce section of the grocery store. I have been bringing my green bags to the grocery store for several years now, but recently, I discovered that there was no “green” way to bag my produce! Almost every produce section provides those tiny plastic bags to place our different produce in, right? Well, after I paid for my food, I would have my green bags full of tiny plastic bags! Hmm… there was something wrong. This might not be true for everyone, but once I get home, all of my produce comes out of bags and into crisper bins, so there is absolutely no reason for these bags in my life.
I asked my local grocer if they sold any small-sized green bags for produce. “Hmm… that’s an excellent idea! But no,” was the paraphrased response I received.
I knew what I had to do. I went to my nearest Target Dollar Spot to see if there were any small green bags. Sure enough, I was in luck! I bought these for $1 each:
When I go to the produce section, instead of using the wasteful plastic bags, I place my produce in the green bags like this:
I bought 5 of these little produce bags to try to keep everything as separate as possible. Sometimes, if I’m buying a lot, I might need to place two different items in the bag like this:
But it’s okay, guys. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, I have gotten several compliments from a handful of cashiers! Have you ever seen a cashier try to decipher a product through the plastic bags, or scan an item through the plastic? It’s a pain in the ass for them. They have told me that my bags make their job more convenient, as it’s easier for them to scan the product or remove it from the bag, if necessary. Cool, huh?
The only inconvenience is remembering the bags every time I go to the store. I try to keep a stash in my trunk for emergencies, just in case. Other than that, this idea is one of my favorites.
2. I stopped buying bottled water.
Convenience: Not very convenient
Price: I’ve actually saved money!
I can’t emphasize enough how much water bottles suck. “It’s cleaner than tap.” LIE. “Tap water is disgusting.” NO. “I can’t go anywhere without a water bottle.” WRONG.
Watch the documentary Tapped (available on Netflix). It will change your life.
Basically, bottled water companies (owned by corporate assholes, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle) take water from public sources, such as lakes and springs, that are available to everyone. They don’t pay the towns or state for the right to use that water. They just take it. They pump it, bottle it, and sell it to you for a ridiculous price. It’s a huge scam.
Not only that, but even in times of drought and water restrictions, they will ignore it completely and pump water from our lakes and springs anyway, which can lead to complete depletion/elimination of the water source.
And tap water? It’s EPA-regulated, required to undergo testing for e. coli and produce quality reports. Bottled water, on the other hand, isn’t required to meet any of those standards. The whole “tap water is disgusting” thing was a lie started by bottled water companies to get you to buy their product.
We, the consumers, are assholes, too. Out of all the bottled water we drink, only 12% of it is recycled.
So, now that you know how fucked the whole thing is, it’s time to do something about it.
You can certainly buy reusable water bottles. They’re awesome to take on-the-go. You can buy something that will match your personal style, which is always a plus. However, these bottles are not meant for the absent-minded, like me. I had lost about 10 of these fancy bottles before deciding I needed to do something else.
Recently, I’ve been buying glass bottles that contained a different product and reusing that bottle for my water. I love tea, so I buy Sweet Leaf Iced Teas (the one with the cartoon grandma on the front). Once I drink the tea, I remove the labels, scrape off the gunk with hot water, a knife, and Goo-Gone, and place it in the dishwasher. After that, I fill it up with filtered water from my Brita Filter and stick it in the fridge. I have a whole stash of them!
Part of the reason people opt for bottled water is that they can grab it and go. Stocking pre-made homemade bottles in the fridge ready to go really helps up the convenience factor.
These bottles last a really long time and have saved me a ton of money. Instead of spending $3-$4 per week buying water bottles from the store (or $2+ per bottle at restaurants), I use these bottles over and over again until I lose them. Losing them isn’t that much of a loss, as they are way cheaper to buy than reusable water bottles. Plus, I get yummy tea out of the deal!
Travel can be a pain in the ass without bottled water, but it’s still possible. The glass bottles I use aren’t ideal for air travel, but reusable water bottles (especially those ones that shrink) are fantastic. For road trips, I bring a cooler filled with my glass water bottles, and it works out nicely. I just refill them as I move along throughout my trip.
3. I’ve reduced the amount of paper cleaning products I use.
Convenience: Very convenient
Price: An initial expense ($), but it helps save you money over time.
I have several systems in my house that reduce the amount of paper products my family uses.
I barely buy paper towels anymore. Instead, I have accumulated cloth rags over the years that are strictly used for cleaning. I use them to clean my countertops, stove, sink, mirrors, glass, the fake wood from Ikea, and just about anything else with a surface.
I have a two-bin system. One bin is for clean rags and the other is for dirty rags. When the dirty rag bin fills up, I wash the rags in the washer and dryer. Once they’re clean, back in the clean bin they go, and the cycle continues!
I also use this method for my Swiffer. I was so over buying those expensive cloths that I just threw away after one use. I knew there was a better way. I saw on Pinterest that you could convert a microfiber hand towel into a Swiffer dry cloths, so I bought a pack. It makes sense, since microfiber towels are prone to static.
The microfiber towels actually work BETTER than anything Swiffer has to offer. I love them! Here is what it does for my floors:
I place the dirty microfiber towels in my dirty bin with the rest of the dirty rags. When they’re clean, they’re spick and span. You’d never know they were once covered in dirt!
For those of you using Swiffer Wet Jets, don’t use the microfiber towels. They don’t glide across the floor when they’re wet. A regular rag works better for this situation. That’s how I mop my floors.
4. I’ve stopped using tampons and pads.
Convenience: Somewhat convenient
Price: An initial expense ($$), but it saves you money over time.
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Who wants to get into excruciating detail about this subject?
5. I use eco-friendly products.
Difficulty: Easy – Medium
Convenience: Somewhat convenient
It sounds simple enough – go to the store and buy products with less harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, in reality, it isn’t that simple. You’ve been using the same products for years, and you know what’s worth the money, what works, and what doesn’t. Some great eco-friendly products aren’t available in all stores, and they tend to be on the pricey side. How are you supposed to know what’s great?
A friend of mine told me about Conscious Box, which is a company that sends eco-friendly, organic, non-GMO samples to their customers via mail once per month. There is a Classic Box, Gluten-Free Box, and a Vegan Box. I bought the Vegan box subscription, obviously. Every month, I get a box of 8-12 large samples of products for me to try. If I love it, I buy it. If I don’t, then I’ll use the sample and move on with my life.
By the way, I’ve been thinking about uploading my reviews of my Conscious Box products every month. I don’t know if anyone gives a damn, but if you’d be interested, comment below or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
6. I bought a Hybrid.
Difficulty: Buying a car is ALWAYS difficult
Convenience: Inconvenient during buying process, but buying less gas is way more convenient
Price: An initial expense ($$$$$), but it helps save you money over time.
I know this isn’t realistic for everyone out there. You’re not going to go out and buy a Hybrid tomorrow because you read this post. However, you are going to buy a car eventually, whether it’s next month or in 10 years. When you do, I encourage you to consider buying a Hybrid.
I’ve always had crappy used cars that were at least 7 years old. My last car was a 2001 Volkswagen Golf that I bought in 2009. It was reliable at first, but fast forward to 2014, when the car was 13 years old and breaking down at every turn. My dad is a mechanic, and it was even too much for him to take. It was time for me to buy a new car, and I knew I wanted something more eco-friendly.
Looking at hybrids was definitely a process. I’m a teacher, so I don’t have a lot of money I can work with. My top two picks were the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Toyota Prius II. These two were my top picks because they had the highest gas mileage (Accord is 51 mpg city, 50 mpg highway; Prius is 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway), which meant the most eco-friendly cars.
I test-drove both cars. The Honda Accord had a seamless switch from engine to battery, and was definitely more luxurious. It was a beautiful car. The Toyota Prius had a more modern interior, had a hatchback body (which I love), and was a better price. Once I talked to the car salesmen, I realized that buying a brand new car was something that was a bit out of my reach. I ended up going the Certified Pre-Owned route. Since the Accord Hybrid is brand new, with its first model being a 2013, I had to go with the Prius. In March, I ended up buying a 2011 Prius II for $18,000-ish, which was a former lease.
Fast forward to 4 months later: I LOVE LOVE LOVE my car! I will always buy Hybrid for the rest of my days! That is, until the next futuristic thing emerges within my price range.
Anyway, I feel so much better about what my car puts into the environment. There is NO REASON why my engine needs to be running when I’m at a complete stop. My car “turns itself off” when I’m at red lights, stop signs, and when I am sitting in idle. It uses the power of gas and battery to propel itself, and I love watching it work!
In my old car (which was a compact car, mind you), I paid on average about $50 every week and a half at the pump. Now, I visit the pump less often, about every two and a half weeks, and pay $30-$35 at the pump. A full tank of gas will get me about 500 miles, which is absolutely superb. Plus, my Prius is a sedan, so the car is bigger and is way more practical.
7. I don’t consume animal products.
Difficulty: Depends on how much you love meat!
Convenience: Depends on how often you cook with meat!
Price: You’ll save a buttload of money!
Oh, here we go. The VEGAN GIRL is going to tell me to eat less meat. OF COURSE.
No no, that’s not my intention, guys! Just hear me out. I don’t want to shove too much vegan mumbo-jumbo down your throat. Animal cruelty aside, I just want you to know some facts about how we eat and how eco-friendly it is.
In order for us to consume anything, we need water. Lots of it. We need water to feed the crops and water to feed the animals. As it turns out, crops require a lot less water than animals do. One serving of chicken requires 330 gallons of water, and one serving of beef requires over 1,200 gallons of water! YIKES. A complete vegan meal requires only 98 gallons of water.
Those animals also need to eat to grow to the size of ideal human consumption. In order to do that, we need to feed those animals. Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses 30% of the Earth’s land mass.
In the United States, 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals. That doesn’t seem to make any sense. We should be using that grain to feed humans, or to use that land for other crops.
Not only that, but 20% of man-made pollution comes from running factory farms. This means that factory farming is a bigger contributor to the planet’s greenhouse effect than the cars we drive.
Lastly, if #6 on this list is out of the question, switching to a diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs saves 50% more carbon emissions than driving a Prius.
You can help by consuming less animal products. Even participating in Meatless Mondays can help make a big difference!
What do you do to be more eco-friendly? Comment below! I’d love to hear and implement your ideas.