This is a blog post I’ve been itching to write for a long time. I keep drafting it in my head, and then deadlines and everyday life get in the way. Oh, #momlife!
My 2019 New Year’s Resolution was to become more eco-friendly. The funny thing is that I used to be much better at this. When I was a teenager, and during my undergrad years at university, I was a hippie! Anyone who knew me during that time would attest to it: I brought my own container to restaurants for leftovers, I wore hemp clothing, and I worked at a health food store (a store that I still love and frequent).
What happened to that hippie girl? I’m not sure, to be honest. She never truly went away, but she stepped aside for a while while I took on an office job, planned a wedding, went back to school, and had a baby. Although I always prioritized natural products, I fell into the convenience trap. But now I feel like that side of me is back, full-force, and full of excitement.
And it feels a bit like a homecoming. It feels like I’m reclaiming a part of myself. Although the current state of the world and the environment is extremely frightening to me, I want to take things on and do the best I can.
Why does it matter?
Without getting into too much detail, one of the areas I’m focusing on is reducing waste.
It’s so easy to convince ourselves that garbage just magically goes away, but it’s not true. We all know this, but we can be good at tricking ourselves. It takes a bit of a wakeup call for us to truly see our trash.
Even if you put something biodegradable in a landfill, like a paper bag, it doesn’t really decompose because there isn’t enough sunlight, soil, water, and so on. Landfills are designed to store things, not decompose them. And recycling should only be used as a last resort, after reducing and reusing. That’s because plastics aren’t actually recycled: they are “downcycled“, becoming weaker and of lower quality over time. Whereas you can recycle a glass jar into another glass jar forever, a plastic bottle can’t be used to make another plastic bottle. We’re using far too much plastic, and single-use plastic should arguably never be used. Finally, when plastics break down, they’re toxic–and harmful to wildlife and the environment (that includes us).
There are more issues to get into, but that’s enough for now, I think.
I think that people tend to approach resolutions backwards. It’s silly to expect perfection from the beginning. When we inevitably trip up, we feel defeated. How about doing the opposite? Start doing small things, and get better and better over time. That’s how I’m approaching 2019 from an environmental standpoint: learning, growing, and improving over time.
Things I was already doing (before 2019)
- Going car-free as much as possible
- Living in a small home
- Choosing natural, nontoxic beauty, personal care, and cleaning products
- Choosing organic/local foods when possible
- Going meat-free most of the time
- Avoiding skincare products that contain microbeads
- Avoiding impulse clothing shopping
- Bringing my own bags to the grocery store (and the mall!)
- Using my water bottle (and not buying bottled water)
Changes I’ve made so far in 2019
- Using bamboo toothbrushes (because really, how awful are plastic disposable toothbrushes?)
- Asking for no (plastic) straw when I go to restaurants
- Bringing my own containers to restaurants for leftovers and takeout (I also ask for no cutlery/chopsticks/fake plastic sushi grass)
- Using a travel mug or “for here” mug at coffee shops
- Saying “no thank you” to free promotional items
- Omitting plastic wrap (I use this instead!)
- Omitting plastic sandwich/snack bags (I use these for dry goods and these if I’m worried about moisture)
- Reducing my use of foods in crinkly bags (that means chips and toddler snacks) and returning the bags to the store
- Choosing glass, paper, and (non-BPA) cans when possible, instead of plastic
- Choosing better plastic packaging if I am using plastic (larger bags, plastics that are better quality and easier to recycle)
- Using cloth makeup removal pads instead of disposables
- Using cloth pantyliners instead of disposables
- Switching to lip balm and deodorant in paper tubes
- Following the recycling rules better (to avoid contamination, etc)
- Vowing to buy textiles/clothing made from natural fibres to reduce microplastic pollution when possible
- Buying milk in glass instead of plastic
- Buying recycled toilet paper
- Buying recycled paper towel
- Choosing experience and zero-waste gifts
- Trying to choose foods with as little packaging as possible
- Keeping a jug of water in the fridge, rather than running the tap for cold water
- Hanging clothes to dry when possible, especially those with a high percentage of synthetic fabrics (this is challenging in a small space!)
- Choosing non-plastic toddler gear, such as plates/cups/cutlery, etc (I’ll have to do a post about this!)
- Giving items away to moms in need (using Mom groups on social media)
- Saying “no” to receipts (with a few exceptions)
- Doing bulk tea and coffee
- Repairing clothing items rather than replacing (I recently spent $20 on a broken hoodie zipper rather than replacing the hoodie for $120)
- Using paper or biodegradable bin liners
- Spreading the word 🙂
My short-term goals
- Using more refill stores (like the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and the Port Moody Refillery) for food, personal care, and cleaning supplies
- Using cloth napkins
- Switching to a metal safety razor and blades
- Going completely zero-waste in my feminine hygiene
- Drastically reducing waste/packaging in my cosmetics routine
- Switching to shampoo and conditioner bars
- Doing more DIY/from-scratch everything, to help reduce waste (baking, cooking, cleaning products, etc)
- Creating a balcony garden for herbs and some veggies
- Drastically reducing my use of paper towels (which I love…sigh…)
- Supporting farmers’ markets and local businesses even more
- Replacing household goods with better versions as they wear out and need replacing (for example, biodegradable sponges/scrubbers for cleaning)
- Buying more items second hand, when applicable
- Spreading the word even more 🙂
My longer-term goals
- Doing cloth diapering if we have a second baby one day
- Choosing a hybrid for our next car, possibly
- Using handkerchiefs instead of tissues
What about you?
Do you want to join me? I’m going to be making little changes all the time, and documenting them here (when I get around to it!). I’m hardly perfect, as you can see, but I take heart from the quote:
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly– we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” — Anne-Marie Bonneau
My actions, however small, make a difference. So do yours! I mean that with the least amount of judgment possible. Let’s celebrate our little victories together.
Have you been at this for a while? If so, I want to hear from you! Please let me know your thoughts, tips, tricks, recipes, or anything else.