During our recent vacation in Hawaii, I was struck by the level of environmental sensitivity I encountered there. All to-go containers were compostable, straws were all paper, and there were educational signs everywhere about our oceans. It’s also impossible to miss the juxtaposition of these precautions against some of the most breathtaking scenery this Earth has to offer.
When I arrived home, it was like a switch had been flipped: I saw, with increasing horror, ALL of the environmentally dangerous practices our society engages in as a whole. How did we get here? How could we not see what we were giving up (our planet) for the sake of convenience?
Ok, ok, I have since cooled my jets a bit and stopped panicking…but I have also implemented and improved some simple practices in my home and life to limit my own contribution to the clutter on our planet. Being a working mom, or a mom in general, means you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to sit down and craft a new waste-free life from scratch, so I’ve put together the following list of barely-noticeable changes that are easy to implement but pack a pretty environment punch!
Keep Your Own Straw Stash Handy-Or Go Without: Upwards of 500 million plastic straws are used in the US alone, daily. These straws are a part of the plastic that threatens our oceans and makes its way into our seafood…and our bodies! I curb my straw use by keeping my own stash of straws in the car and at home. I have a box of these biodegradable paper straws in my car (bonus, they’re so pretty!), and I’ve just been lucky enough to receive these bamboo reusable straws from Grove Collaborative, an amazing eco-conscious in-line distributor. If you don’t have more eco-friendly straw options available…consider going without! They are entirely unnecessary for most and you can sip your beverage with peace of mind about not contributing to the plastic crisis!
Actually Use Those Reusable Containers You Have: If you’re like me, you’ve received countless reusable shopping bags, bottles, and other receptacles as gifts or free merchandise from a festival or event. Well…do you use them? I’m sad to say my own small collection of unused reusable water bottles and bags sat mostly untouched in my kitchen cabinets until very recently. Lately, I’ve made it a point to fill my nice reusable Yeti, a gift from my sister, throughout my day. It eliminates the plastic bottles I used to waste and also reminds me to drink more water (I have the 36 oz for reference)!
Some eco-friendly options I love for water bottles for kids are Kleen Kanteen’s toddler sippy cup (I can’t help but be proud they’re made in my hometown!) and Pura, which has some interesting looking plastic-free baby bottles I’m going to be trying out!
Familiarize Yourself With Recycling. Okay, I know I said I would make this easy on you, but this one will require a little legwork in the form of a tiny bit of online research. Previously, I was guilty of throwing away a lot of things simply because I didn’t make time to clean them out. I thought every food container was treated the in the world of waste management and wasn’t recyclable. Actually, the truth is, I knew some of the stuff I was throwing out was recyclable, but I was too lazy (or tired, or whatever) to look up which containers were and were not. I also knew that most recycling has to be clean to be processed, and I thought myself too busy to do that constantly.
Don’t worry, there are a couple of sites that make familiarizing yourself with recycling in your state easier! Martha Stewart actually has this great comprehensive list of recycling websites by state. You can also check Recycle Across America for tons of info on how to recycle right in your state! Finally, Terra Cycle is a mail-in service that claims to be able to recycle anything!
For items that require mail-in or drop off at a specific recycling location, I’ve started a system of saving cleaned recyclable containers in a bag hung on hooks under my kitchen sink. This way, I can collect them until I am able to make time for that extra stop.
Double check for eco-friendly swaps. We all have household staples that we buy regularly, and I know my household has favorite brands or products we frequently purchase (hello, Costco EVERYTHING). What I’ve been challenging myself to do lately is, when out of a product or about to purchase more of something, to do a quick internet search for an “eco-friendly xxx” or “biodegradable xxx”. Surprisingly, there are multitudes of greener options for many of my regular goods out there, especially on Amazon! I even glance around the product I’m about to buy at a store to double check for anything similar in a glass container or made with greener ingredients.
Some regularly purchase items I’ve been on the lookout for swaps for include: trash bags, toddler flatware, wipes, sponges, plastic sandwich bags, yogurts (I’ve been purchasing glass jars), and kitchen brushes.
Finally, I’ve also swapped out many of our chemical-based household cleaners for eco-friendly natural versions in refillable glass bottles (check out these from Grove Collaborative). Better for my household AND the environment!
Of course, there are barriers to going greener, like cost (in fact I’ve been reading all about how privileged the greener movement is) and geography. Lord knows we’re all busy enough as moms for one more thing on our plate. I hope some of these practices are easy enough to implement in most homes.
Have you implemented greener practices in your home? What are some of your favorite green products??