I am far from perfect when it comes to sustainable living, and this pandemic has complicated my traditional methods of sustainability. I have chosen to shop curbside which prevents me from being able to use my reusable grocery bags, and most coffee shops have temporarily barred use of reusable containers and cups. I don’t allow myself to feel too discouraged; there are still a number of ways to contribute to the movement!
While there are an alarming number of bigoted conspiracy theorists who chose to support pseudoscience over actual science in 2021, I guess I shouldn’t be distressed over how many people still commit what I consider to be, the most glaringly conspicuous environmental sins I know of. These items are common sense, in my humble opinion. Allow this to serve as an annual re-education, to ensure you have not slipped up on your sustainability commandments!
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If you don’t recycle your bottles, cans or glass at this point in the game, I am at a loss for words. It’s one of the easiest, most passive ways to contribute to the world’s sustainability efforts. Children are taught to recycle in elementary school! While you may have an eco-friendly mindset, your place of work or residential space may be the actual culprits. Unfortunately, this is where you have to take matters into your own hands. Find independent recycling centers near you, and dispose of your recyclable materials there. Sites such as Earth 911 are an awesome resource!
Letting the Faucet Run
Water waste is just as harmful as physical waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaving the faucet running while brushing your teeth wastes on average, about four gallons of water. About eight gallons of water is wasted when shaving with the water running. I’m not castigating anyone’s lack of access to water-efficient appliances and fixtures that can prevent tremendous water waste overtime. It would be optimal to renovate all outdated appliances to the most innovative, efficient technologies but that’s an investment. Being mindful of the water you can control, makes a world of a difference. Turn off the faucet in between brushes, strokes and scrubs! I’d also recommend reserving uses of heavier water-consuming appliances, such as washer machines and dishwashers, for when the appliance is full!
Wrapping a Single Item in Plastic
Excessive plastic wrapping is frustrating AF. If you want to buy a singular bell pepper or golden potato, why is it wrapped in plastic? WHY, WHY, WHY? Do not contribute to this kind of patronage. Shop smarter! When browsing the produce aisle, hand pick your own produce, plastic-free! The packaging does not make it any cleaner. Plus, you have control over which specific item you want to buy. You can easily avoid purchasing the bruised apples and peaches, or decide which specific bundle of broccoli suits your needs. Avoiding excessive use of plastic can actually save you money, time and food waste.
Keeping Unused Appliances Plugged In
Leaving your appliances plugged in when not in use is a major pet peeve of mine. Some major appliances have to be left plugged in, such as a refrigerator and microwave, but not every single item with a plug should be left in the outlet. This unnecessary energy waste is called “standby electricity loss”, and it costs to be so careless! It isn’t enough to just turn off the appliance. The “black box” power cord consumes energy it converts just by being plugged in. I mean, I’m not an electrician, but this is just one of ways we can make energy more user-friendly and accessible. Consider purchasing a power strip so that your most commonly used items can be unplugged easier (Unplug the power strip). If able, consider even unplugging your washer and dryer, too! The proof is in your electricity bill. I had a close friend of mine unplug his chargers, blender, side lamps when they weren’t in use, and he noticed a tremendous difference in his electricity bill at the end of the month. Give it a shot, and thank me later (by commenting on one of my many blogs)!
Not Reusing Single-Use Items
During our journey towards zero-waste living, there will be some unavoidable single-use items. The idea is not to be 100% perfectly sustainable from the beginning. That’s okay, however, this doesn’t mean you should toss all single-use household staples after a single use. Plastic bags are a perfect example. Especially with use of curbside pick up, sometimes plastic bags are inevitable, but why throw away the plastic bags after emptying your groceries? When I see someone tossing a plastic bag in the trash, I die a little bit inside. I reuse my plastic bags as trash bags for my bedroom and bathroom, and as shower caps for when I deep condition my hair. If you all love the aesthetic of mason jars, then consider repurposing old glass containers. Wash out some of your cool-looking glass jars, and reuse them as Tupperware, drinking glasses or candles!
Some less obvious items to reuse are butter wrappers. Keep the wrapper in a ziploc bag in your freezer to reuse when greasing pans, or to separate homemade patties you would like to store for later. Tissue boxes can be used to store a number of things, including your plastic bags! Paper bags can be deconstructed and repurposed, too. Growing up, we were required to cover our textbooks with some type of book cover. Instead of spending $40 on several book covers, my mum would use old paper grocery bags instead. Get creative!
You have to hold yourself accountable in terms of living sustainably. There rewards you will reap are far from immediate. For a while, it can feel overwhelming if you feel as if you are the only one making an effort. Trust me– you are not alone! Your efforts do not go unnoticed. We need to continue developing a more consistent sustainable routine, and encouraging our peers to join the movement.