We are still practicing sustainable living after our enlightening yet at times challenging #PlasticFreeJuly. I can honestly say that I have learned a few valuable lessons after that experience. Although I was aware of our outrageous and conscious consumption of things that typically carried a useful life of a year or less, I was not aware of our level of consumption for plastic and this happened completely subconsciously.
My boyfriend, Sammy and I decided (mostly I decided) to join yet another “do gooder” cause during the month of July called Plastic Free July. The explanation is all in the name but if you must know, Plastic Free July is a radical environmentally and socially conscious movement to Reduce, reuse and recycle our single use plastic to save our oceans. The marine life, our ecosystems and this planet is at risk. According to Business Insider, By 2050, the oceans could have more plastic than fish. I know what some of you are thinking. Here’s another tree hugging veg trying to make me feel bad about global warming and eating meat. Wrong! (Although, we should feel bad about cruelty of any kind). I’m not a veg, I still working on not eating meat because I love Mother Earth and I want to do better.
And so began my first lesson.
Zero waste does not existThere is plastic all around us. However, we can reduce our waste with reusable items and by supporting companies that encourage environmental and social awareness. There are tons of options we have access to, like bulk food grocers and farmers markets. If you don’t have either in your community, there are plenty of bulk food groups, co-ops, community gardens and local farms near. Just check social media.
Some places are willing to have you pick up a batch of their fresh harvest and some times the surplus is even free. Some community gardens will allow you to compost your own scraps to really help you reduce your waste by turning it into plant food! So make friends. Get to know your local farmers and herbalists because they have some of the most ethically sourced and fresh seasonal produce that our bodies love.
I don’t know about you but there is something fulfilling about cooking and eating fresh and whole food ingredients. I mean have you had farm fresh eggs before? BIG DIFFERENCE. You maybe able to save your egg cartons and bring them back for a refill. (How’s that for zero waste)?
The other option you have is to grow your own food. You’ll see the terms permaculture and homesteading float around a bit too to help give you some ideas. Growing your own food would be a nice challenge to test out that green thumb of yours and see what you can grow this season, you may even love it. My dad gave it a try and now he can’t stop growing stuff and sharing his harvest with friends and family. But if you don’t have the means to do this, volunteering at your community garden is a great start and a lot of fun.
Takeaway: Buy bulk, local and fresh ingredients. Usually these items are cost efficient. Keep your reusable bags in your car and bring them inside with you to save even more just by bringing your own bag (B.Y.O.B). Whole Foods takes a little off your bill when you do this and they offer 10% off certain items for Prime members when you download the Whole Foods app (totally not sponsored)… AND they will even wrap your meats in paper only or let you bring in your own containers versus using plastic. Either way, keeping your bags in your car, prevents you from taking home any plastic bags and saves you and the planet at the same dang time.
Use what you already have on hand (and swap as needed)
As your curiosity grows for this never ending world of sustainability you will start to discover more jargon and like I did, you’ll learn your limits of how much you’re willing to commit. Now don’t get me wrong, I support the
zero minimal waste movement but it is very restricting as a beginner and a bit overwhelming. It can also be expensive if you let it.
I quickly learned not to go buy bamboo toothbrushes and safety razors so quickly (although I eventually broke down and bought a razor). I still didn’t ditch all my perfectly fine tupperware for stainless steel tiffins in one day. Not only were these swaps pricey, I already had a cute lunchbox and fully functioning tupperware that I just wasn’t ready to part with until I knew of what made this movement so important. So I swapped as I needed.
Sam and I did make small permanent changes at first and we each bought a reusable stainless steel water bottle which I love! Sammy got himself a stainless steel coffee cup but I am fine with making my tea at work with an old fashioned mug. I even use my mug for other purposes like making oatmeal. We also switched to filtered water after recycling the last of our plastic water bottles. This was the first step we made because I just hated seeing all those bottles collect in the back seat of my car and knowing that I was part of this growing plastic problem. Just to give you an idea of how frugal yet committed I was, I carried our silverware to work until I repurposed these cute bamboo utensils I was using for an old unfinished D.I.Y. We still pack our lunches in plastic tupperware because it’s what we have on hand. We say no to straws since we really don’t need them and we now compost and have a separate recycling bin.
After all, the movement is about reducing your plastic consumption, reusing what you have including plastic (if that’s what you have) and recycling your waste. If you make a mistake and buy that triple chocolate fudge brownie wrapped in cellophane, recycle it and do better next time. The idea is to be a conscious consumer and instead of shopping off impulse, ask yourself “where does this go once it leaves my hands?” or #whomademyclothes?
Takeaway: Don’t be so eager to follow the trend as this movement is about reducing your waste and reusing what you already have for a different function. Instead of buying new things, make a list of what you want to buy, take an audit of what you have and see what can be re-purposed. Example: I re-purpose old sauce (mason) jars to fill up with bulk items.
TIP: To remove the label from old containers, wash with warm soapy water and peel back the label. To remove the residual adhesive, wipe down with olive oil.
I know right, what do clothes have to do with being less wasteful? As Our demand grows steadily for new garments and new tech so does the demand for time and harsh working conditions for those who make them. in 2003 of the Rana Plaza collapse, over 1,000 garment factory workers lost their lives after being forced to continue working in an unstable and and unpermitted building, if not, they would lose their jobs.
On April 24, 2013 the building collapsed due to the constant vibrations of heavy machinery and an already unstable building structure. There were 1,134 fatalities and 2,500 injured patrons.
The #whomademyclothes movement runs in tandem with being zero waste and conscious because as we stop and ask ourselves this question, we force ourselves to see think twice about buying new clothes because doing so indirectly exploits human rights. Shop sustainable brands instead or shop second hand. It’s like voting with our dollars. If we stop buying/supporting fast fashion, these big companies stop producing as much and over working their employees for pennies on the dollar.
To combat these sustainability issues, we can upcycle, donate or even resell our clothes to prevent them from going into a landfill where they will not compost and further produce green house gases from the chemicals and materials used to create them (polyester). We can also shop second hand. These days there are many conscious businesses that help support this cause and I know of a designer consignment shop in my area that sells only second hand high fashion and there are plenty more sustainable brands that create new and beautiful eco-friendly pieces.
I personally, have found some gems from my thrifting adventures and I love that I can keep the extra money in my pocket that I would have otherwise spent paying for that item at market value. But, we’ll talk about my thrifting and money managing tricks in another post. I love being just as economically conscious as I do being environmentally and socially conscious.
Let’s not leave off the tech and the aviation industries with their green house gasses mucking up the clean air and the ozone. If you’re interested in how a Netflix binge or your last instafamous excursion to some unknown island are piloting our one way ticket to global warming, read here and here.
Did you know that in 2017 Burberry burned over millions of dollars in off season merchandise just to keep their clothes from going on sale or being handed down to a discount store for a lesser value?
Takeaway: Shop second hand and make it fun to see how much money you save each thrift trip versus how much you would spend paying the retail price. While doing so, try to down size and reduce your clutter by replacing your old rags with your new ones. If you have a fetish for fashion, choose which items you cant live without and donate the rest. There are still lots of people struggling after 2017 natural disasters and many 501 (c) organizations and consignments that would graciously accept gently used clothes.
So there you have it. I could list a million more reasons why it’s a good idea to live more consciously and incorporate minimal waste habits into our daily lives or why we should at least consider it, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Feel free to drop me line in the comments. As a beginner, I am open to hear more on green living and sustainable suggestions and experiences.