Tips to be more eco-friendly in 2021
The journey to becoming 'eco-friendly' can be a daunting thing, especially when people are filling their entire year of waste into a tiny mason jar. Don’t worry, this intimidates us too. And depending on your life, that might never be possible.
Sometimes it can feel like our small attempts to do good and make a difference aren’t making much of a difference at all. Like when we juggle everything in our arms in lieu of paying 10 cents for a plastic bag and the person behind us gets one for every item of food. Or when we carry around our eco cup all day and then see someone throw their rubbish on the sidewalk. While we can’t control everyone around us, the small things we do on a personal level really do help.
Being eco-friendly can also be discouraging when you look at the initial costs of buying sustainable products. We’re all for those, mostly because they don’t usually require consistent payments. But when starting, it can seem like a lot.
Of course, many reading this will have already jumped aboard the eco-friendly bandwagon and are doing a great job. But there are many of us who are still learning, still confused, or are reluctant due to costs or it being “another thing to do.”
We don’t want to overwhelm you. But we would like to continue to encourage you to make small, affordable steps. Instead of focusing on achieving ‘zero' waste this year, why not just go for ‘less’ waste?
Below are five simple shifts you can make that won’t cost you much (if anything), and in our opinion, are easy to implement.
Buy in bulk: This is a great way to save money and reduce the amount of plastic you use. It doesn’t mean you have to fill your kitchen with hessian sacks full of dried goods. Just go to a bulk store shop and get the quantity you want. You can stock up on nuts, grains, flours, olive oil, maple syrup, honey, dried fruits, nut butter, pasta, snacks and much more. When you get home, put them in glass jars. Storing food in glass makes everything much easier to find and keeps things for longer.
Start composting: Composting reduces landfill waste and helps makes beautiful, nutrient-rich soil that is great for the land. In the natural world, organic waste (plants, fruits, vegetables, etc.) breaks down rather quickly due to the air. When we send all that to landfill, there is not enough oxygen for it to break down. It benefits you because you'll use less plastic bags and it benefits the earth to get all those nutrients back again. Now you should know, what you can compost far extends fruit and vegetable scraps. Here’s what else you can compost: paper towels, wrapping paper, teabags, nail clippings, floor sweepings, dog hair, dryer lint, pizza boxes, matches, stale bread/cereal/crackers, cotton balls, pencil shavings, paper take out containers, natural loofahs, nuts and their shells, coffee grounds. Friends, the list goes on! If you’re unsure if something is compostable, google is always there to lead you in the right direction. You also don’t need a fancy compost bucket. Any bucket will do — we only recommend one you can put a lid on because it might start to smell as it breaks down. Once your compost bucket is full, you have options: spread it around the roots of trees, use it as mulch for your garden, see if a local farm can use it, or find a compost service that will pick it up from your door.
Rinse out your zip-lock bags: This might seem like a funny one. But from what I've observed, these guys seem like one of the more difficult things for people to give up, because they're just so convenient. So if you’re going to use them, you may as well re-use them too. Simply run them under water and leave them to dry on the rack, or even on the clothesline with a peg.
Continue using your cleaning products… and then don’t buy anymore: Marketers will have you believe that you need a particular cleaning product for every surface, appliance and room in your home. Back in the good ol’ days, they had this special concoction that did it all. The secret? 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water (if you’ve got essential oils, add a few drops to make it smell nice). This all-purpose solution can be used on counters, the stovetops, windows, cabinets, sinks and toilets. You don’t even need to buy extra glass spray bottles. Fill up the plastic ones you’ve got with this solution. Bi-carb is another friendly pantry-item you can turn to in times of need, especially if something needs a good scrub. Just put a bit onto a wet cloth. If you’re really not into DIY kitchen products, you can refill your bottles with an all-purpose cleaning product at the bulk store.
- Make rags out of rags: instead of buying disposable cloths and paper towels, make your cloths by cutting up an old shirt or an old towel. Then, once they’re dirty, put them in the wash with the rest of your dirty laundry. You’ll never again have to buy paper towels or rags. You can use them for all the same stuff: to mop spills, clean the oven, clean surfaces, wash dishes.
Oh, and one other thing. Don’t feel like you have to throw out all the plastic items you own. We know there is an appeal for everything in your house to be made of coconut and bamboo. But it isn’t necessary. If you’ve bought it, you’ve got it. So keep using whatever it is until it has reached its life.
Good luck. And don’t worry if you slip up — you’re human.