With Earth Day coming up this weekend, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what this day means and how I (we) fit into it. Earth Day is a worldwide event that dates back to 1970, and is used to generate much-needed awareness in regards to environmental protection.
Nature at it’s Finest – Lansdowne Channel – Lake Huron – Ontario, Canada
While I think about my impact on the environment on a daily basis, when it comes to my own carbon footprint, I am by no means perfect. I take planes, I drive cars, I use electricity regularly and many of the products in my home are plastic. I don’t live on a self-sustaining farm, I eat takeout from disposable containers, I enjoy receiving Bon Appetite magazine in the mail and I replace my perfectly good iPhone with a new one every few years.
But being a part of the environmental-awareness movement doesn’t require you to be perfect. It only requires you to make adjustments whenever you can and to make an honest effort every single day to reduce your carbon footprint. So I’m going to move away from focusing on my flaws, and instead, I’ll list the core ways in which I am particularly earth-friendly. Then, I will list the practices I’ve tried to adopt that definitely need some focus and attention.
What do I want to get out of this? First and foremost, this is a self-reflection type thing. In honor of Earth Day, I want to acknowledge the part I play in reducing my footprint, while at the same time, explore the ways in which I can further help save the earth.
My list is by no means the bible of being eco-friendly. Everybody’s lives and priorities are different, and everyone needs to make choices that make the most sense for them. But hopefully this will inspire you to 1) think more about reducing waste on a daily basis 2) give one of my eco-friendly practices a try or 3) share your eco-friendly efforts and inspire me!
Mother Earth at her Finest – Monte Verde – Costa Rica
What I do well
1) Recycling everything
My commitment to recycling is INTENSE. I will take an empty container home with me if I can’t find a recycling bin – no joke. Of course, recycling has its own issues – for instance, it requires fuel to recycle things. But even still, I believe that recycling is still better than not recycling. Furthermore, companies like Seventh Generation sell 100% recycled tissue paper and paper towels, and other companies take pride in using recycled items to make their products and packaging as well – so clearly there is a use for the products I recycle.
Want to learn more about the creative ways in which companies are using recycled materials? Check out this list from Global Citizens.
2) Unwavering commitment to reusable water bottles & coffee cups
While recycling is important, what’s even more important is eliminating the products that need recycling. Plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups are two items that I’ve easily cut out of my life. The amount of waste I’ve personally reduced by simply giving up disposable plastic water bottles and daily coffees from the coffee shop is insane. I make coffee at home which also allows me to drink only organic, fairly traded coffee too. Then, I drink/transport my coffee in a glass mason jar. Now that I’m in the habit of carrying my reusable water bottle everywhere, and making my own coffee in the morning, it’s second nature and easy-peasy.
My reusable water bottle brand of choice is S’well – definitely check out their products and mission. S’well is a women-run company focused on giving back in a multitude of ways.
3) Plant-forward eating
This category is where I truly shine (I’m a health-based chef after all). If you know me, you know I’m a vegetarian. While I do eat dairy and I sometimes need to taste meat/poultry when cooking for other people, most of what I eat is plant-based. I avoid meat and eggs, I cut back on dairy when possible and I eat TONS of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. This style of eating is far more sustainable and eco-friendly than an animal-focused diet. I’m not saying that you need to be a vegan, or even a vegetarian. The point here is that you don’t need to eliminate meat, poultry and dairy completely – simply reducing our dependence on animal products and intake of animal products makes a difference to the earth. Why? In short, livestock require more water, food and fossil fuels than plants do and they produce far more greenhouse gas. Simply cutting out animal products just one day a week can make a difference, which is truly incredible.
To learn more about the benefits of reducing animal products, check out Spoon University’s Meatless Mondays article here.
4) just saying no to excessive & mindless shopping
I like to decorate my home and wear cute outfits just like the next girl, but in the past few years I’ve learned that quality is far more important than quantity, and that I simply don’t need anything that will only be used five times or will end up getting tossed within a couple years. I used to go shopping all the time, with no reason to buy anything except for the fact that it would give me an immediate high when I purchased it. I was your typical American consumer, no doubt about it. However, my mindset has since shifted completely. Now days, I shop for only things that I’ll get a ton of use out of and I won’t make a purchase unless it’s something that I’ve been thinking about needing. Same goes for home decor. When choosing decor for my apartment, I think long-term about what I’ll get the most use out of for the next decade, and focus on purchasing adaptable furniture and artisan-made pieces that will eventually transition to my forever home.
Emma Watson has taken a major stand on the fashion side of this issue, and I love where her head’s at (how incredible is this woman??) – along with promoting eco-friendly designers and challenging herself to wear as many eco-friendly brands on the red carpet as she possibly can, she’s also a strong supporter of the #30wears movement which is based on the notion that if you won’t wear something 30 times, don’t buy it. Want to learn more about sustainable fashion, this Harper’s Bazaar article is a great place to start.
Lennon Wall – Prague, Czech Republic – Be the Change
What I can do better
1) Eliminating shopping bags
I have probably 10 reusable shopping bags at home. The issue is, I’m not in the habit of using them enough. If I go to the farmer’s market, I’ll bring my own bags. If I’m going on a big grocery shop, I’ll bring my own bags if I remember. But it’s those impromptu grocery shops and those small errands where I could do MUCH better. Reusable shopping bags should be in every bag & purse I carry, and in my car (if I had one). There is absolutely no reason to use plastic shopping bags. Paper are a bit better, as they can be composted, but still, there’s simply no point when you can just bring your own bag. My next major lifestyle adjustment is to use reusable bags as much as I use my reusable water bottle – every single day.
New York City has made major strides on this front – Brooklyn buildings now provide a compost container sitting next to the trash and recycling bins. It’s super easy and beneficial to compost, but for some reason I haven’t fully committed to composting in my own kitchen. I’ll compost sometimes, definitely when I’m cleaning out the fridge, but it’s time I make composting a priority every single day.
Check out the NYC community composting guide here. Not in New York? Do a quick google search to find out how composting is done in your city.
3) Researching earth friendly alternatives to products I plan to buy or consistently buy
More and more I see companies making every day products in a more eco-friendly way. I’ll 100% buy the eco-friendly version if it’s right in front of me, but that’s not always the case. Often times there’s an eco-friendly version of a specific product if only you do a little research first. What I really need to start doing, is taking a few minutes before making a purchase to find the most eco-friendly version. Here are some awesome examples to check out…
Pela cell phone cases
Green Toys children’s toys
Allbirds contemporary sneakers
Nisolo leather shoes
Seventh Generation cleaning & home products
Boll & Branch bed & bath linens
Dakine sportswear, bags & luggage
Patagonia clothing & outerwear
Now it’s your turn!
What are your best eco-friendly practices? What could you do better? I’d love to know!
Lansdowne Channel – Lake Huron – Ontario, Canada