New Years Resolutions are something that nearly everyone falls victim to at one time or another. We all promise to work out more, eat better, manage our finance, take more photographs, try new things, gossip less, even fly a plane! No matter what your resolution is, chances are, within a few days or weeks, you will have given up and forfeited the idea. This year, why not forgo the trad resolutions and go Green this year?
Below are 6 steps that are easy, attainable, and will make a huge impact on your carbon footprint and possibly your wallet as well.
We’ve all seen that rack near the checkout stand of reusable grocery and shopping bags. You may even have a few that you’ve purchased or acquired over the years around the house. However, plastic shopping bags are still one of the largest contributors to landfills.
- Not recyclable or reusable: There are only a few facilities around the US that recycle or down-cycle these bags because they are a low quality of plastic, are usually dyed, and are easily torn or damaged.
- Easily airborne: Walk down any street and you’re bound to see bags stuck in a tree, a water drain, or bushes. Even with our best attempts, they end up flying away and animals mistake the colorful bags for food.
- Contain toxins: All plastics contain a certain amount of toxins that can leech into our skin and bodies. After touching a plastic bag or a waxy sales receipt, you now have a small amount of plastic on your hands. If you then touch your eyes, eat food, or touch your children, you are spreading these toxins.
I recommend purchasing several reusable bags for different reasons:
- Grocery & household: Should be larger, sturdy, and have comfortable straps. These can be used for grocery, clothing, household items, and other toiletries. It’s a good idea to keep your grocery, toiletry, clothing, and other bags separate and be able to distinguish between each bag since groceries or cleaners can accidentally leak in the bag and may stain your new clothes. Perhaps purchase different color bags for different purposes or tie a different color ribbon around the handle. I recommend THE GREEN APPLE BAG-a Reusable XLG Tote made of 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles.
- Produce: Instead of using those green or clear produce bags found in the produce area, use a reusable washable bag instead. If you think about it, all they’re good for is moving produce from the aisle to your crisper. There are several good options for produce bags. Something similar to the E-String 100% Cotton Reusable Grocery Produce Market Bags (6 Pack) is a good option. You can even made your own with old t-shirts. Here’s a good tutorial. The other option is something similar to the Flip and tumble Set of 5 Reusable Produce Bags. These are smaller and a little easier on the wallet. They are also sometimes easier for the cashier to see the item or sticker.
Bulk Bin Items: Here is another time where you can avoid those small plastic bags. Products like flour, sugar, pasta, candy, or pretzels can be purchased out of the bulk bins. You can get exactly how much you need, it’s often less expensive, and you avoid the plastic packaging. I like Bring It Recycled Cotton Reusable Bulk Food and Produce Bag, Sizes Vary, 2-Pack. They come in 2 sizes and hold everything from flour, to nuts, and even malted milk balls. They are washable and made from recycled cotton. Take a photo with your phone of the bin containing the product code and show it to the cashier. Then when you arrive home, you can either leave the product in the bags, or transfer it to glass containers like I do.
Small Purchases or Take-away: Sometimes you will be out and about and you may not be planning on purchasing anything so you left your bags at home. What do you do? There are now bags that fold and zip up into tiny pouches that can be kept in your car or purse. There are many products out there for many different purposes, but a good starter bag is something like the FINEX Reusable Shopping Tote (Set of 5) Travel Recycle Bag – Fold-able to Save Space -Various Color. A set of 5 costs $12 and easily fit in your pocket or bag. A few other options that I like are the Easy Fold Bag – Reusable Grocery Bags – 3 Pack, Moss Green and the 5pcs Reusable Rose Shopping Tote Bag By Catalina Folding Up Reusable Compact Eco Periodic Duty Recycling Use Shopping Bag. You can also whip this out when you are taking food home from a restaurant. Restaurants will often put your food in a recyclable styrofoam or paper container but they always try to offer you the plastic bag with “Thank you :)” on it. Refuse the bag and instead pull out your own bag! If you really want to go crazy, bring your own glass or tupperware containers to have the left overs put in. As long as the containers don’t go in to the kitchen, there is no health code being violated. You may get some crazy looks though.
- Snacks and Lunch: Instead of using zip up bags in your children’s lunches or to sneak a snack into the movies, try reusable instead. I recommend either Blue Avocado (Re)zip Reusable Storage, Snack, and Sandwich Bags; 7-piece Kit, Insulated Resealable Sandwich Bag / Reusable Thermal Lunch Snack Bento Picnic Pouch, 5 Count, or Skip Hop Zoo Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bag Set, Monkey. If you’re concerned about your little ones throwing them away, instead of a brown bag, get them a reusable insulated bag that can be folded and stored in their backpack like the Kids Lunch Bag, Evecase Waterproof Neoprene Insulated Carrying Lunch Tote Bag/Backpack for Kids – Cute Monkey Theme. There are A LOT of options out there, find the one that works best for you!
Trash: It’s inevitable that unless you’re the No Impact Man, you are going to create a small amount of garbage. Instead of using trash bags that will sit in landfills forever, try biodegradable ones! Be careful though, because many bags only biodegrade the items inside of them and the bag itself doesn’t actually biodegrade. You want one that does both. I like the Green Legacy Tall Kitchen Trash Bags – 60 Bags/Box ON SALE! (17 Cents/Bag).
Food packaging is the largest contributing factor to household waste. From your produce, to pasta, and even in your treats, everything comes in packaging these days. Unfortunately, a lot of packaging contains multiple materials are are not recyclable. Canned food contains a thin layer of plastic, kale chips bags have a layer of plastic for freshness, and those green bags avocados come in are made mostly of plastic as well.
Here are my tips for avoiding some unnecessary packaging:
- Don’t buy Bulk Bin items or produce that are prepackaged: Sometimes it may be a better deal to purchase a package of 4 tomatoes rather than just selected 4 yourself from the shelf, but usually the savings isn’t very much. Plus, then you’re left with a container that adds to your trash and may not be recyclable. This goes for your dry products too. Instead of buying flour in a plastic bag, that then comes in a box from the baking aisle, use your new bags to purchase from the Bulk Bins. Both of these will reduce the garbage coming out of your home, but also you may save some money. Sometimes, items that we need very little of only come in large quantities. Then that special type of sweetener Aunt Phyllis needed for her coffee spoils and you’ve wasted money.
- Avoid Fast Food: I shouldn’t have to tell you this anyway… but Fast Food comes in SO MUCH PACKAGING. Your burger is wrapped in paper and then put in a box which is in a paper bag. Most Fast Food places will not put your food in containers you bring in. Food safety rule or something… Anyway, just avoid it all together if you can.
- Plastic bottles at home: Plastic water bottles are a major issue. Plastic water bottles are often a “on the go” thing so they rarely get recycled. Plus, a plastic bottle can usually only be recycled once and then it either gets down-cycled or put in a landfill. Avoid plastic water bottles at all cost! For your home, get a system like Brita or PUR. These systems can either be installed so that your tap or refrigerator water is purified, or a cheaper apartment option is a pitcher. The only waste is the box and plastic wrap from the unit, replacement filters, and the filter’s packaging. Most of this waste, is cardboard and can sometimes be recycled or is biodegradable. I’ve had my PUR for a year and only had to replace the filter once. There’s an indicator light on the top that tells you when it needs to be replaced.
- Plastic bottles on the go: The above option is great at home, but what about on the go? I use and love my Camelbak Eddy Glass .7-Liter Water Bottle. I fill it at home or work, and I’m off.
Coffee: Instead of using disposable coffee cups at work, bring in your favorite mug or tumbler. Refill it with work coffee and wash it out. If you prefer getting a regular coffee or tea from Starbucks, they offer refillable tumblers for only a few dollars. Pickup a few and remember to bring them in with you.
- Utensils and plates: I know that paper plates and plastic utensils are very easy for parties or at work, but they’re a huge waste. At my job, my team and I purchased BPA free plastic plates, bamboo utensils, and tumblers that we keep at our desks. This way, when we want a morning bagel, or someone brings in pizza, we don’t have to use disposable plastic or paper items. We purchased soap, towels, and sponges and wash them in our utility sink. If you’re having a party, perhaps consider purchasing some “guest” plates. These are glass or BPA free plastic plates that you can keep and reuse. This way someone won’t accidentally break your fine china. If you have good friends, a few will usually be willing to help wash the dishes at the end of the night. Or, throw everything in the dishwasher for a water saving load. You can also consider servicing smaller appetizers that guests can grab with their hands and walk around with. This way you’ll only have to use a few pretty platters.
Many stores like Costco or Sam’s Club offer the same products you use, but in larger quantities. Things such as shampoo, cleaners, and toilet paper can be purchased in bulk. Instead of getting multiple 20oz bottles of shampoo, get the bulk ones instead. You will often save money as well as the 1 larger bottle is less plastic than many little bottles. Another good thing about buying these things in bulk is that many come in boxes instead of plastic. Especially toilet paper and paper towels. You can get a box of 12, 24, or 36 and there is no plastic wrapping on them.
Skip the Roll
Many brands now offer tube-free toilet paper. There’s no point to it anyway. Scott Naturals Tube-Free Bath Tissue, 32 Count is available online and in most stores.
Another way to skip the roll is to omit disposable paper towels from your home. In my house we have a plethora of washable towels. I have some for cleaning countertops, glass, pet messes, dusting, floors, etc… Microfiber towels are best for glass because they don’t streak. I even have a washable pad for my spray mop so that I do not have to use Swiffer pads which put chemicals on my floor and on my dog’s paws.
Make it Yourself
There are many products that we use in our homes that can easily be made at home. This is a great money saving alternative. A jug of laundry detergent costs $6-20 depending on brand and size. However, purchasing the ingredients yourself can cost around $8 and can facilitate about 50 more loads than the average concentrated detergent.
The other benefit of making it from scratch is there’s less to recycle. Each time you purchase detergent you are purchasing a new plastic bottle that usually cannot be recycled. I recommend finding a bottle or jug that is sturdy, BPA free, and is meant to be used over and over again. In my house we have a large bucket from The Home Depot. True, materials come in packaging, but it’s usually minimal and often cardboard.
Don’t limit yourself to detergent. You can make your own shampoo, glass cleaner, floor cleaner, dish soap, or just about anything. Plus, then you know exactly what is going into your house. Checkout Wellness Mama for good recipes and tips. There are even websites that offer tips for different beauty and cosmetics.
My final tip is to try buy local. Whether it’s cleaners or food, try to purchase from stores in your town, and from farmers that grow near your town. Whenever something is shipped to your store, the fuel that it takes to get it there takes a toll on the environment. Instead, try to purchase from stores that you know get their products locally or check out a farmer’s market. If you’re like me and live in the desert, it can be a little trickier. Do your research. There are a lot of Facebook groups or blogs that will help you find and buy local.
Online shopping is amazing and I use it more than I should because of its convenience. However, often with Zappos offering free overnight shipping and Amazon with 2 day Prime shipping for free, products are being flown across the states, when you can get them locally. Now I’m not going to stop shopping with Zappos or Amazon anytime soon, so instead I elect for ground shipping. With Amazon Prime, you can elect to have your items sent ground, and you receive a $1 credit each time you do this. This credit can be used to purchase ebooks, books, 3rd party services such as Shutterfly, and a few others. Generally you will be notified at checkout what type of promo you are eligible for. This is FREE MONEY! If you absolutely don’t have to have the product right away, wait a few extra days and get the bonus. I personally placed 54 orders in 2015 alone. That’s $54 dollars that I was eligible for! That buys a lot of ebooks about tiny houses.
Thank you everyone for reading these Green and money saving tips. If you have any other tips, please feel free to leave a comment.