I don't often make New Year's Resolutions, but one of my goals for 2018 was to find ways to create less waste. The idea of stewardship has been on my mind for quite some time, wrapped up in the ways that we use our time and resources, take care of relationships with each other and our planet. The internet is great for throwing around terrifying pictures of islands of trash floating around in the ocean and informing us that our plastic straw habits mean that turtles end up with unfortunate accessories. But you have to dig a little deeper to actually find conversation about creating real change.
And the more I talked about it with other people, the more I realized that most people have no idea where to start a lot of the time, or just need some encouragement in the right direction - myself included. So I started researching little ways that I could do less harm without completely unsettling my entire life right away, and worked to incorporate them into my routines. It's been an interesting project in becoming more conscious of the things we use and the impact that our choices have on the planet.
So here are six simple ways to create less waste in your life that aren't just banning plastic straws:
Stop Clinging to Cling Wrap
Can we talk about the unholy amounts of plastic cling wrap we all use in our kitchens? The stuff is the literal definition of waste, and can be replaced by any number of reusable containers. I've started to use Abeego food wraps in my kitchen, and I've had a great experience with them so far. They're great for wrapping up that awkward partial bell pepper that you didn't use in dinner, or for throwing over a bowl you want to stick in the fridge for later. They're completely biodegradable and reusable for up to a year or so if you use them on a regular basis (but I'm sure you can stretch that out if you're also using them in combination with reusable containers). Mine have held up well so far, and I've miraculously remembered to only clean them with cold water so that I don't melt the wax right out of them.
Track What You Use and Stick to Your Grocery List
This has been a big one for me. Throwing away produce that was perfectly fine until it sat in my house too long is always frustrating because it's a waste of food and money that could have been put to better use. So I started keeping track of what I'm actually using on a regular basis and then adjusting my shopping habits accordingly. It's helped me to be more intentional in my meal planning as well as cut down on the amount of food I'm throwing out.
The other thing with this is not to get sucked into sales just because they're there. If you're not going to use the bigger bag of carrots in time, don't buy them - regardless of how much of a good deal they might seem to be. There's no point in spending a bit of extra money to get twice the amount, and then throwing half of it out when it spoils in the fridge. Not only will it cut down on the amount of spoiled food in your life, but it will also be easier on your wallet in the long run.
Don't Be Afraid of the Bulk Bins
Buy in bulk when you can. Places like Bulk Barn allow you to bring your own containers to use in place of plastic baggies, or the regular grocery store alternative which is often significant amounts of packaging. I like this for buying things like lentils, barley, and pasta especially, which I'd be likely to put into a different container at home anyway. Bulk stores also often have a variety of specialty grains and other baking supplies that can be difficult to find other places, or that you only need once every three years or so for that one particular recipe. The sticker shock can be a real when you're shopping in bulk, but keep in mind that you're not paying for any packaging; what you're buying is just the product itself and not a ton of plastic and cardboard. And if you watch for sales and shop with a bit of a plan, it's really not too bad.
Ladies - Switch to a Menstrual Cup
Honestly, this one was a little terrifying to jump into and still feels a little TMI to talk about. But I'm doing it anyway, because the concept seemed far grosser and weirder than it turned out to be in reality. I made the switch about a year ago and I'm not going back. There's no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and it doesn't have to be changed out every couple of hours. And it's a one-time purchase that lasts for years, meaning you don't have to keep buying overpriced disposable products that aren't great for your body or the planet.
Switch to Sustainable Beauty Products
I've used solid shampoo and conditioner from Lush for a while now, and it's been great. I don't even like to think about the number of plastic bottles from shampoo and conditioner alone that I've contributed to the heap at the landfill. I wasn't sure how I would feel about using a shampoo bar at first, and it did take me a couple of days to get the hang of it, but I don't really want to go back. My hair always feels fresh and clean, and I love the way the products smell. My bathroom sink also has a bar of soap beside it, rather than a disposable plastic pump. There are still a bunch of products I haven't found replacements for yet, but it's coming slowly.
Realistically, I just really like Lush products in general. They're committed to using natural ingredients and staying away from preservatives, none of their products are tested on animals, and many of them are vegan as well. Some of my favorites include the Cup o' Coffee face mask, Sexy Peel soap, Charity Pot lotion, and of course the Montalbano shampoo and Big conditioner bars.
Figure Out Your Local Recycling
Let's be honest, your city probably has more recycling capabilities than you take advantage of. Most major centres now have a municipal curbside recycling program alongside their garbage collection services, so it's easier than ever to cut down on trash. Even if you throw your cardboard and some plastics into the bins periodically, there are probably more things that you can put in there than you do. I must confess that I'm still not always the best at remembering to keep everything separate when I'm cleaning up my kitchen (but I'm working on it!). So do some research and do your best to keep recyclables out of the trash.
These are just a few ways to cut down waste; I know there are dozens more, but these are some of the ones that I've been working on lately. Do you have other tips? I'd love to hear them to find other ways to leave a less harmful footprint on this planet we all share.