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6 Tools To Use When Starting on Your Sustainability Journey

Consider some of these simple swaps to make a difference!

Written by
Diana Kasprzycki

Living a more environmentally friendly life doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it's more sustainable to use up what you have before you head out and buy more eco-friendly alternatives! However, when you're on the lookout for new items, consider going for the reusable and sustainable products outlined below. No one expects you to be perfect – everyone's situation is different, so do what you can. Here are some simple suggestions that have helped me on my sustainability journey.

1. Download the Ecosia Search Engine

This is the easiest swap on the list! The Ecosia internet extension is free and only takes a few seconds to use. Switching over to Ecosia allows for the effortless guarantee of contributing to reforestation. By using ad revenue from your searches, Ecosia builds up the funds to plant trees on your behalf. It takes about forty-five searches to plant a single tree so imagine the impact all of our combined searching endeavors could have! Ecosia is also officially Carbon negative meaning they sequester more Carbon than they emit so you can feel confident in supporting a non-profit genuinely dedicated to the environment. Finally, don't worry-- they also automatically encrypt your searches which protects your privacy and searches. It's safe for you and our planet.

2. Swap in a New Minimalistic Grocery Shopping Mindset

Zero-waste stores are not the only option to minimize your grocery shopping Carbon footprint, especially because they are not easily accessible to many of us. However, there are many simple actions to take to decrease your waste while getting groceries.

One simple swap: always have a reusable grocery and produce bag in your car to never be left without. You can find these items for under $20 and they prove to be a lifelong investment.

Another swap when you are actively shopping-- try to get items that come in cardboard packages or glass to lower your plastic consumption preemptively. It also often allows you to recycle or reuse them with ease!

Finally and most importantly, try to avoid buying an excess of produce! Believe it or not, 1.3 BILLION tons of food gets thrown away each year. Not only is this food that could have been put to use, but is additionally wasteful because food takes a lot of water and energy to produce.

If you're interested in learning more tips for sustainable grocery shopping, check out the show notes from Good Together's episode on Corona Conscious Eating. Laura and Liza go into depth on how to enjoy your meals without feeling guilty about your impact on the planet.

3. Shop for In-Season, Local, or Plant-Based Produce

One of the easiest swaps is to try to eat less meat, especially red meat. Oftentimes, meat production requires a lot more water than plant-based produce and also produces more greenhouse gasses. In fact, meat production makes up for almost 20% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It also takes on average a whopping 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. However, that does not mean we all have to become strict vegetarians or vegans! It can be as simple as trying a meatless Monday recipe once a week.

If it is available to you, shopping in season and locally while grocery shopping will also make a substantial impact on your lifelong Carbon footprint. It can also be fun! Farmer's markets are one way to make ethical grocery shopping fun and are even a potential way to make it a group activity with friends (masks on, of course!).

4. Take Another Look at Your Dental Products

Each year over one billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away. For each of these plastic toothbrushes, it takes over four hundred years to decompose. We need to be replacing our toothbrushes every 3-4 months for hygienic reasons anyways, so consider buying a bamboo one next! Using a bamboo toothbrush is an amazing alternative because the price is about the same as regular plastic brushes, but the body is easily compostable (beware of the bristles that are often not compostable themselves!).

Toothpaste tabs are an amazing replacement because they don't come in plastic packaging. However, if toothpaste tabs are not for you, David’s makes a metal tube toothpaste that is recyclable. Both are often slightly more pricey than their plastic counterparts, however. Finally, floss. No part of standard floss can be recycled because it is all plastic so ensure that you don't accidentally throw it in your recycling bin! Luckily, there are flosses made out of silk or bamboo fibers that come in refillable glass containers. Silk and bamboo are both compostable and glass can be reused or recycled. Try experimenting with Public Good's silk dental floss that comes in an adorable mini jar! They also supply dental floss refills so you're all set to reuse the original jar.

5. Give Your Cleaning Routine a DIY Makeover

Cleaning products usually come in plastic and have a lot of ingredients that are harmful to the planet. Making your own all-purpose cleaner is incredibly easy and cheaper than buying one! Most of them only call for a few ingredients you probably already have: vinegar, water, and soap.

You only truly need a few different products to clean your entire home. Many products that are advertised for different purposes are made up of similar ingredients. Do some research and think about if you really need all the spray bottles that have been cluttering up the space under your sink.

A good alternative cleaner for specific surfaces is microfiber cloths from the brand e-cloth. They make non-toxic cloths for cleaning stainless steel, glass, dust, and more. These cloths only need water to work and can be simply washed once they get dirty. I have used mine for over a year and they are still as good as new.

6. Experiment With Menstrual Cups and Organic Period Products

The average menstruating person will use five thousand to fifteen thousand pads and tampons in their life. Most of that goes into the landfills. These products are essential, but there are a few alternatives to the popular pads and tampons we tend to see in commercials.

A menstrual cup is an amazing alternative-- they can be used up to twelve hours and they last up to ten years. Most range from $20-$40, but can save you over $1,400 during those ten years.

However, menstrual cups are not for everyone and have quite the learning curve, so another good alternative is using organic period products that have less packaging or are made of natural cotton. This will still mitigate the unavoidable waste that oftentimes comes with a period.