The only truly environmentally friendly method to dispose of your waste is composting. Recycling is nearly as bad for the natural environment as landfills, and puts out far more pollution at a recycling plant. Besides, only about 9% of plastic is ever recycled, and that percentage decreases by the day.
Trevor Noah included a fantastic segment on The Daily Show where two men discussed why it is so difficult for most people to comprehend and fear climate change. In the clip, Dan Gardner, author of The Science of Fear, talks about how evolution and primal instincts have made it very difficult for humans to recognize anything as a true threat if it does not place them in immediate danger. This helps explain why people are aware and concerned but not taking enough action against issues such as climate change, which includes the fast fashion industry, single-use plastic packaging by large corporations, continuous fossil fuel usage, and more. The human brain has two “sides” now--System 1: "Caveman Brain" and System 2: "Analytical Brain". He explains “climate change is too abstract and distant of a threat to feel fear. It’s much like the common sentiment: “out of sight, out of mind.”
Compost helps enrich the soil with a variety of nutrients and offers the soil ecosystem many benefits. If you start a compost pile in your backyard, chances are that your plants will be much happier and healthier.
In addition to composting, there are many other green habits that you can incorporate into your everyday life.
- Use biodegradable soaps/cleaners for your home and car
Many people own a variety of cleaning solutions for their belongings and truly believes that using them makes their surfaces more “clean." While some of these products may be sanitizing everything they touch (which is helpful during a pandemic), they do not make anything more clean, in the literal sense. Many are full of harmful ingredients and will eventually end up in the drain or outside in another way, harming and/or killing wildlife, and are mostly likely dangerous for humans as well. Ensure that cleaning products you use have “clean” ingredients!
- Only use the laundry or dishwasher machines when you have a full load
Both laundry and dishwashing machines use a huge amount of water! You can save a great deal of both water and electricity if you wait until you have a full load of dirty clothes and dirty dishes to run these appliances.
- Carry glass or metal straws and utensils when eating out
While “VSCO” girls made metal straws popular, and they may seem like a silly addition that prompts people to ask “why do you use that if it doesn’t make a big difference?” Well, it really does make a huge difference. Americans use an average of 500 million plastic drinking straws per day. If even a few million of those straw users, or even one person, had used a glass one from home, imagine the difference they would have made!
Did you know? The average person consumes enough microplastics for a whole credit card each week.
- Avoid One-Use Items
Although it’s easier said than done during a pandemic, decreased consumption of single-use items, especially single-use plastics, can and will go a long way. Once the world resembles normalcy again, make sure to bring a clean, reusable coffee cup from home when getting coffee, bring a reusable water bottle with you when going out, and more.
- Grow Produce at Home & Avoid Store Produce
Although this is very difficult if not impossible for those who live in apartments, anyone who lives in a house with at least a small yard should consider growing their own produce. Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, and more are perfect for growing in Washington weather! Every year my mom plants an extensive garden and everything always tastes better than store-bought produce.
- Don’t get stuck in the cycle of fast fashion
Everyone has heard the ugly truths about fast fashion: factory workers and seamstresses are mistreated/paid far below a living wage, thousands of gallons of water are used to treat clothes, clothes are made out of cheap, synthetic material such as polyester and ethylene (plastic and oil)…the list goes on and on. Furthermore, many sites (Amazon is one of the worst) simply throw away any customer returns, regardless if they’re still in the package. While no retail company is perfect, brands like Patagonia, REI, Levi’s, and more do their best to decrease their carbon footprint. All three of these brands accept their old or used gear from customers to professionally clean and re-sell in their second-hand sections. If consumers can begin to realize the value of investing in high-quality clothes that will last a long time at a slightly higher price and a much lower cost to the environment, and boycott fast fashion brands, it would do wonders for the environment.
As Rupi Kaur said, “we’ve ruined our only home for convenience and profit, neither of which will be useful once the earth can’t breathe.”
- Turn off lights, TVs, faucets, etc before leaving a room
I always thought that everyone did these until I stayed over at a friend’s house a year ago! Please turn off lights when you’re not using them as well as during the day when the sun is bright. Little acts like turning off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth makes a huge difference as well.
- Biodegradable trash bags
While it is probably inevitable that you’ll need to use garbage bags, since there are some items that can’t be immediately replaced, biodegradable trash bags (or paper bags/bags made of another biodegradable material) make a huge difference!
- Use your own tote bags to carry groceries
Plastic bags are very very bad for the environment! And one of the main contributors of microplastics in the ocean. While some cities, such as Seattle, have banned plastic bags and instead implemented paper bags with a small cost to consumers, cloth tote bags are still the best option. They tend to be more eco-friendly and convenient, since you can put most of them over your shoulder, unlike paper or plastic bags. I personally keep mine in the trunk of my car and bring them in with me!
Hopefully this article inspired you to incorporate new environmentally habits into your everyday routine ♡