Instead of growing out of my teenage angst, I seem to instead have discovered the delights of millennial angst and can see all the ways in which the world will end, the state of the environment being one particular area that gives me a constant feeling of low-level worry. While I can’t stop big businesses from doing what they’re doing, I can control my own little footprint and reduce it as much as possible. These are some things you can do to try and be a better person for our one-and-only earth:
- The basics. Walk or use public transport instead of your car, carpool when you can’t, recycle your recyclables, buy local produce, don’t buy a new cellphone every six months, turn the lights off when you leave the room, limit the amount you use the dryer, shut the curtains when it’s cold, etc etc etc. The really obvious ones that everyone already knows.
- Use a KeepCup. If you live in a city like Wellington where every second person is clutching a takeaway coffee, it’s easy to see just how much waste this causes. KeepCups are usually around $20 and most places will give you a free coffee with purchase. I’ve saved roughly 40 disposable coffee cups since I started using my KeepCup in May (please don’t calculate how much that means I’ve spent on coffee). Plus some places give you a discount for using your own cup, so you’re also saving money too! Again, please don’t compare that to how much I actually spend on coffee.
- Bring your reusable items when you go out. Along a similar line to the KeepCup, reusable shopping bags are a super easy way to reduce your impact. In NZ our major supermarkets are phasing out single-use plastic bags, so you might as well get used to it now. Another tip is to buy metal straws and bring those with you when you go out, because plastic straws aren’t helping anyone be more sustainable and they really don’t add much to the experience of drinking something.
- Recycle everything. You already know to recycle your tins, papers and glass bottles. But there is so much more you can recycle outside of your weekly pickup. That broken mug is now a pen-holder. Instead of leaving your old cellphone in a drawer somewhere, find a free drop-off zone so your eWaste can be repurposed safely instead of slowly poisoning the earth around it (Wellington people can find them here). Charity clothing bins sell clothes that are too ripped and stained to companies that turn them into rags, so you don’t need to biff out your sad old jeans into the regular rubbish. Most supermarkets now also have bins where you can recycle your soft plastics (full list of recyclables here) so if you do use a plastic bag at the supermarket, you can assuage your guilt! Yay!
- Be smart with your clothes. Fast-fashion is bad for your wallet and the environment. If you can, invest in good-quality pieces that haven’t been made by people earning 10c an hour. If you can’t, op-shopping is a good way to get new clothes on the cheap, and if you’re super motivated, you could host a clothing swap like one of my lovely friends did a few months ago. To combat boredom with what you’ve already got, TFD has a cool idea where you challenge yourself to wear outfit combinations you never have before, something I’m definitely planning on doing.
- Eat less meat. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m now a vegetarian and loving my meat-free lifestyle. I’m not telling you to stop eating meat, but even introducing one meat free day a week, like by doing Meat-Free Mondays, your carbon footprint is reduced a lot. Plus a vege-diet is so cheap, and you know by now that I love saving money.
- Buy reusable menstrual products. If you have a uterus, there is absolutely no reason why you need to go through a pack of pads or tampons every period. DivaCups (and similar menstrual cups) last for several years, you can leave them in all day without worrying about getting toxic shock syndrome or feeling gross, and you’re drastically reducing the amount of waste you produce. If menstrual cups aren’t your jam, reusable cloth pads are relatively cheap and work just like disposable pads, except you’re not filling up a landfill every period. Again, this saves you money in the long run, so win-win!
If you’re curious about your carbon footprint, this is a pretty simple quiz to give you a rough estimate of how you’re doing. And if you have any tips that I’ve missed, let me know!