My day never officially starts until I’ve had my first cup of tea, but throw-away bags and disposable cups can make the impact of my daily caffeine fix skyrocket. The same can be said for coffee drinkers whose cup o’ joe may come with additional concerns regarding the ethical treatment of farming communities.
In order to minimize waste, I opt for organic loose leaf tea, which I steep using a stainless steel infuser. Coffee and tea drinkers alike can choose fairtrade brands that help to ensure workers are treated with dignity and given additional funds to invest into local communities. Bonus points for switching to non-dairy creamers in order to minimize the environmental impacts associated with cattle raising.
If I’m on the move, I also never leave home without a reusable mug. I personally am a fan of this one from Net Zero Company, but there are many on the market that are all equally impactful. Additionally, I try to always have a Tea Drop (think a bathbomb, but made of organic tea) in my purse, which helps stave off afternoon energy crashes without having to resort to more wasteful alternatives.
Call it Compost
Composting is one very easy way that anyone can cut down on harmful methane emissions while creating a useful resource for yourself or your community. Getting started can be as simple as filling up a compostable bag (some of my friends even use a recycled paper bag) in your freezer. This option is both low cost and prevents your leftovers from starting to smell; however, Bokashi and tumble bins are other composting systems that are well-suited for apartment living. If you have a backyard, check out this guide for other at-home composting options.
Disposing of your compost may require some research as different cities may offer varying pickup or drop-off services. If your city does not have a dedicated composting program, never fear! A quick search of local community gardens or sustainability-oriented groups will connect you to neighbors happy to take your compost off your hands.
Lots of cleaning supplies are full of harmful chemicals or packaged in hard-to-recycle plastics. One of the easiest cleaning swaps I’ve made has been making my own laundry detergent using this recipe from DIY Natural. The process is not only simple, but has the added bonus of helping cut down on laundry-related costs.
In addition to nixing store-bought detergents, reusable dryer balls and GUPPYFRIEND bags are helpful for keeping your laundry environmentally clean. GUPPYFRIEND bags are especially important because they keep microplastics from synthetic materials (think polyester, rayon, etc.) from ending up in the water supply and, eventually, our food chain. Up your sustainability game by investing in clothing made of natural, organic materials like linen, which have smaller footprints across the garment’s life cycle than petroleum-based fibers.
Though some sustainability swaps must be done consciously every day, others require one-and-done changes that help the environment without a second thought.
Ecosia is a free browser extension that uses its search-generated ad revenues to help plant trees all over the world. To date, users have helped Ecosia plant over 91 million trees in communities that need it most, aiding in building climate resilience and mitigating global deforestation. After it’s downloaded, Ecosia integrates seamlessly into your browser so that you can search the web just as you always have while doing the planet a whole lot of good.
Transitioning to renewable energy is another profound way that you can make a daily difference. Some states enable you to easily switch your residential electricity to renewable and low-impact sources with just a few clicks. Green Mountain Energy, for example, integrates directly into your traditional electricity provider so that you can access clean energy without having to change the way you pay your bills. Though every state and provider is different, I have personally noticed little difference in my electricity costs, which has made the transition to renewable energy easier than ever.
One Change (and Day) at a Time
Becoming sustainable does not require you to throw away all of the single-use items in your house and start over again. Rather, I started my sustainability journey by taking stock of which items I was running out of soon and researching potential sustainable alternatives. For example, is that tube of toothpaste running low? Maybe it’s time to consider switching to a toothpaste tablet (yes, they make toothpaste and mouthwash tablets!), many of which come with refillable glass jars and subscription plans that keep your post-consumer waste low.
I have found this approach critical because it has:
- Made the transition to sustainable living less overwhelming;
- Allowed me to learn more about how each swap impacts the environment; and,
- Helped me get invested in the organizations I choose to support.
No matter where you currently are in the process, know that this is a journey that is unique and personal to you. By making one change at a time, you have the power to make a huge difference today and tomorrow.