Now that the holidays have all passed and we are mid-way into January, we have been looking towards our fresh new start in 2016. The holiday season can be stressful, creating massive amounts of food and plastic waste, and the days after New Year’s can be difficult to navigate as the intense year-end energy starts to settle. Looking forward, what are some ways we can ground in and turn our focus back to care of Mother Earth? Here’s some ways you can go more eco in 2016:
1. Reduce Plastic!
There’s lots of ways that we can continue to reduce our plastic. We may have already started but there’s always more to do. One great way to start getting rid of more plastic is to look at your kitchen containers. Chinese food takeout containers seem to build up during a cold winter in the city, or perhaps a long time ago in college you invested in a Tupperware set. Try switching to glass containers for both you and the environment. Over time the chemicals in the plastic do begin to break down, no matter what the packaging says, and will leech into your food. So, in addition to your commitment to the environment, going plastic-free is a commitment to your health! If it’s overwhelming to try it all at once, consider recycling (check your town’s recycling codes) or giving away your plastic containers a little at a time and replacing them with glass ones.
Despite the fact that Mason Jars seem to have gotten a bad rap (“hipster glassware”), they are extremely useful because they are sturdy, thick glasses with amazingly tight-sealing lids. You can take almost anything around in them without spillage. Plus they double as containers for storing homemade goodies like grains, herbs, infusions, homemade nutmilks, etc. You can usually purchase them at a hardware store or at your local co-op. I personally have been able to order mine in bulk from Ace Hardware and they will ship for free to any store near you.
Other great ideas are to reuse glass jars from salsas, jams, baby foods, etc. A little at a time we can de-plastic our environment and show others how easy it is to ride the plastic-free train!
2. Buy Bulk, Reuse Bags!
Bulk bags = Right Living
Find a place to buy dried goods in bulk. Beans, rice, granola, nuts, soap, and coffee are all great examples of delicious bulk items that are often sold in plastic. Your local green market, food co-op or natural food store should have a bulk section. This is a great way to find local foods and support local businesses. Bringing your own reusable cloth bags can reduce your need to constantly use the plastic bags offered at the store. Carry one or three (or five!) of them with you when you go around town just in case that desire for local tomatoes or purslane or shitakes should give you a loving nudge! You can find very lightweight eco-friendly bags usually in your natural food stores, Whole Foods, or can perhaps go in with friends on a bulk order online. Check out these brands:
Credo Bags (based in Montreal, Canada) – 100% organic cotton – contact to buy wholesale
Eco-Bags (from New York, USA) – organic cotton – set of 3 sizes produce/bulk bags for $11.49 USD
Care Bags (from B.C., Canada) – polyester mesh – set of 4 bags for $12.49 CDN
Mothering Mother – (from NY, USA) – 100% unbleached cotton – set of 3 large, 3 small bags for $16.99 USD
You can even make your own!! Check out this awesome DIY project: Design Sponge: DIY Farmer’s Market Bags
If your local food store doesn’t carry reusable produce bags, perhaps suggest that there’s a growing demand they should consider!
Another option, depending on the store, is to bring your own mason or glass jars and ask the cashier to weigh the jar before you fill it, or bring an extra of the same size. Then you can directly fill your jar and the cashier will be able to properly calculate the weight of your item. Some cashiers may get flustered, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to be a more eco-friendly buyer! Every purchase is an opportunity to connect and explain your passion for Earthcare, perhaps inspiring those around you! Remember that your actions always make more impact than you may realize.
3. Shop Thrift or Clothing Exchanges
Beacon’s Closet, Greenpoint, NYC
Thrift stores are excellent ways to reduce how much we support major textile corporations who exploit workers and use artificial, damaging dyes. If you’re not ready to spin your own thread and sew your own clothes, consider making a date to explore local thrift and vintage stores. If you’re in a more remote area, consider creating a get-together between friends for a clothing swap! These are great for the new year as we let go of our self-created limitations and invite in exciting growth and opportunities. If you want to take it a step further, next time you’re visiting another city on business or vacation, look up what thrift stores are available there. It’s a great way to add some variety from outside your typical environment. Stop in a hip coffee shop and ask the barista where to find some good thrift stores. You’re sure to find some gems.
4. DIY Cleaning Supplies
Easy peasy vinegar spray!
Clean your house and take care of Mother Earth at the same time! A commitment to safe, eco-friendly household products is a commitment toward a healthy, happy future for all beings. A great first step is to create an all-purpose vinegar clean spray. Make sure to hold onto and reuse any old spray bottles for DIY home cleaning supplies!
Here’s the bare bones recipe for an all-purpose cleaner from one of my favorite blogs, Zero Waste Home:
1 1/2 tsp castille soap (optional, for scent)
3 tsp. white vinegar
in a spray bottle!
Vinegar is a great cleaner, you can use this for your bathroom, kitchen, tables, even your floor. Start replacing your cleaners with this and begin to feel the inspiration of eco-friendly cleaning!
5. Commune with Nature
“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” – Thoreau
This never gets outdated. It is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and our Mother Earth. Start off 2016 by finding moments to connect, no matter your climate zone! For some of us we are in a cold winter, and though it can seem hard to find Nature, She’s still there. The trees may be bare of leaves but they are still alive! Spend some time with the trees, or your local lake or river. Think of it as scheduling a date with your loved one! Connecting with all of Earth’s creatures ultimately helps us to create more space for compassion and devotion to our blossoming eco-lifestyles.
— Contributed by Diana Egizi