Welcome to the Stupid Simple Sustainability Guide for Beginners.
If you’re reading this, you are probably interested in transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle. This could be because a close, conscious-minded individual in your life forced this blog upon you, or maybe you recognize that climate change is in fact, real. You are choosing to participate and make an impact. Thanks for being here!
“The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere” (Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?). As a result, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, as well as glacial and snow covers. Sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the last century, and the oceans overall have become more acidic due to the “amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year” (Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?). Changes to the ocean affects the health of ocean life, including the coral reefs and animal populations. There is a reason dystopian disaster movies always portray massive tidal waves crashing over entire cities. The ocean encompasses about 71% of the Earth, so we are royally screwed if we challenge Mother Nature anymore than we already have.
The most noticeable effect of climate change for me was the extremity of natural disasters. There are more natural disasters than ever before, and they are more catastrophic.
In the 21st century, we experienced some of the most devastating natural disasters in years, including:
- Earthquake in Haiti (2010)
- Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004)
- Earthquake in Kashmir (2005)
- Cyclone Nargis (2008)
- Hurricane Katrina (2005)
- Afghanistan Blizzard (2008)
- Cyclone in Burma/Sri Lanka (2008)
- Hurricane Dorian (2019)
- Hurricane Maria (2017)
- Hurricane Harvey (2017)
- Hurricane Sandy (2012)
- Australian Bushfires (2019)
- California Wildfires (2020)
But you already know this– That’s why you’re here!
I’ve identified myself as environmentally conscious since middle school but at the time, I was limited on resources. As we progressed through the new millennium, we have introduced new methods of sustainability that have transformed the way we can protect our environment.
The overriding mantra when striving for sustainability is that you do not need to be perfect. We don’t need a million people doing zero-waste living perfectly, we need one million people doing zero-waste living imperfectly, to make a difference. Consider how wasteful you are right now. With a few simple changes, you can transition into the eco-friendly leader you aspire to be. Mother Earth will thank you eventually (hopefully…).
Let’s start simple; Reuse!
There are plenty of items we use on a regular basis that we can reuse and re-purpose. Wash out the empty salsa or pasta sauce jar and use it for storage, dishware or as a plant pot! Use your existing stash of plastic bags as shower caps (I deep condition my hair with plastic caps instead of a shower cap, yes!) or a garbage bin for your car. Keep old shipping boxes to reuse for holiday gift wrapping.
Wash up with a bar of soap.
We have plenty of options in a variety of scents. We even have a bar of soap suitable for your dog! Get yourself a handmade wooden soap deck to place the soap on in your bathroom, while you’re at it!
Opt into reusable bags.
Did you know that plastic grocery bags and plastic sandwich bags are the same weight? Just as harmful, and just as littered and harmful to the environment. During the peak of the pandemic on the east coast, reusable bags were banned from grocery stores. I’ve noticed that a few grocers are allowing the bags once again, as long as they’re clean. Stash a few bags in the trunk of your car, or by your purse or backpack so you will remember to grab them before a grocery or shopping trip. If your local store still restricts the use of the bags, ask for the bagger to place the items back in the cart for you to bag yourself in the car! Less work for the bagger, right?
Purchase a set of reusable bamboo utensils.
These are incredibly handy for when you’re on the go. I keep my set in my purse at all times. Pre-pandemic, I would pack the utensils when I would travel on day trips, or during my domestic and international trips. Reflect on how many plastic sporks and knives you have wasted over the years when you didn’t have access to a standard metal alternative. Listen, trash and plastic altogether just suck.
“A minority of plastics are “compostable” or “biodegradable”, which means they can be reduced to their chemical components by, say, your home compost” (GrrlScientist), but many cannot make the distinction between each type of plastic. You may make an effort to dispose of these items appropriately, but it doesn’t always remain there. I mean, “there are an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic floating through the world’s seas where it threatens 700 marine species with its presence. Further, there is growing evidence that plastics play a role in rising rates of species extinctions” (GrrlScientist). If masses of garbage aren’t disposes of properly, they litter. They end up in the ocean, on the sides of highways or sidewalks, which make plastic more accessible to smaller, local creatures. Plastics are usually broken up into microplastics, which are tiny particles derived from single-use plastic items that litter literally anywhere you can think of. Just, make the switch.
Metal straws are amazing.
If you are an iced beverage addict like myself (cold brew = life), investing in a bamboo or metal straw is worth it. I have about 5, and I keep at least one in my reusable bamboo pouch. Easy! Plus, they also serve as excellent stocking stuffers! Plastic straws are also susceptible to becoming micro-plastics, plus they are often forgotten about, littered or blown out of trash bins to become waste on the side of the road or in the ocean.
Upgrade your oral hygiene.
This was such an easy swap for me that I wish I had converted sooner. Bamboo toothbrushes are pretty similar in price to traditional plastic toothbrushes and work just the same! While you’re at it, why not commit to a zero-waste floss? It is a 99% zero-waste product! The floss is made with 100% Mulberry silk works like any regular old floss, except the initial purchase will include the glass container that can be reused. Simply repurchase your floss refill!
These are introductory steps you can take to ease into a more sustainable lifestyle. It takes some time before you grow more comfortable with the adjustments made, but these habits will become second nature to you. Soon, you will be able to adopt even more sustainable swaps into your portfolio!
Check out the ways some of my friends adopted zero-waste, sustainable living into their lives!
Valentina (valgambino2) is the queen of eco-friendly initiatives!
I always suggest you browse the shop for additional inspiration. You may discover that there are products you are more comfortable swapping sooner than others. To be honest, our items are pretty incredible, cute and timeless, so it may be hard to resist the urge to splurge on everything in store! Here is a showcase of my newest obsessions!
Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know? 27 May 2020, climate.nasa.gov/evidence/.
GrrlScientist. “Five Ways That Plastics Harm The Environment (And One Way They May Help).” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Apr. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/04/23/five-ways-that-plastics-harm-the-environment-and-one-way-they-may-help/.