Climate change is a serious issue, and it will take a great deal of effort to reverse the course of our constantly-warming planet. We all leave a carbon footprint, and in this day and age it seems nearly impossible to avoid plastic and other excess waste. Making changes is possible (some would say its easy) and if we all make changes our efforts can help reduce the harmful effects we have on this planet. Take initiative and be a part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. In honor of Earth Day, we have put together a list of easy things you can start to do so you and your families can develop better habits and play your role in making our planet healthier.
Use Non-Plastic Reusable Water Bottles
If you are one of those people who uses a re-usable plastic water bottle- you have taken a small step. If you have one that you use, we are not going to encourage you to toss it. But if you are just choosing to start using a reusable water bottle, look for a container that is not plastic. There are plenty of options in glass or metal. Find something that’s not too big (or too small) and we recommend using something insulated to keep your drinks cold or hot.
Give Up the Straw
Under a new bill passed by Suffolk legislators earlier this month, straws and stirrers would need to be biodegradable and will be made available by-request-only in sit-down restaurants and self-service beverage stations. This ban will go into effect beginning on January 1, 2020. Until then, or if you live outside of Suffolk- make sure when you order drinks at a restaurant you request no straw be included. If you simply need to use a straw purchase one of your own and bring it along.
Avoid Takeout Containers
A separate bill was also passed by Suffolk Legislators earlier this month that bans restaurants from using Styrofoam takeout containers and packaging. A third bill will also ban the sale of single-use plastics at county parks and beaches, including plastic utensils, plates and cups. If you are someone who can never finish their meal, bring your own containers for restaurant leftovers. If your house has take out once a week or more, maybe try to find restaurants that pack up their food to go in eco-friendly containers.
Ditch the Plastic Bags
If you are like those of us who live in Suffolk County it is likely that you already carry reusable bags. If not, and you are still using plastic, this is an easy way to go a little greener. If you carry a purse, toss in a reusable bag that folds up easily. If you’re only getting a few things, carry out what you purchase in your hands and pockets. If your city/county doesn’t have a plastic bag ban, speak up and talk to your local representative to request they implement one.
Stop Using Paper Towels
Yes, they’re convenient. Yes, your family’s messy. But it’s easy to live without paper towels. Instead of these perforated one-use paper sheets, start using your dish towels (sure, even the nice ones) to wipe up messes. You can even use them to pat meat dry and clean mirrors and windows (just not at the same time). Toss them in the wash and reuse next week. You can even cut up old bath towels to use around the house.
Eliminate Food Waste
The production of food is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S. This year try to shop smarter, offer and take smaller portions at meals, and find ways to incorporate leftovers into lunches or other meals. Shopping more often and organizing the refrigerator can also help you cut back on waste. You also can reduce the environmental damage of food waste by starting a compost. Composting is a great way to return food waste to the Earth rather than putting it in a landfill.
Buy Local Produce or Start a Garden
Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can start a garden on a windowsill, deck or sunny corner in the living room. Gardening reduces, one tomato at a time, the carbon emissions on your daily salads. While you’re waiting for your Earth Day garden to produce, you could also commit to shopping from local farmers, either at a farmer’s market or a grocery store that carries locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Pay Bills and Receive Ads online
Have junk mail? Most of us do. Take the time to reach out to solicitors and take steps to reduce the mail that shows up in your mailbox. Most times advertisers will have the same promotional information available to consumers via email so you should not miss the paper clutter. Even if you recycle all of your junk mail, not having it in the first place has a much better environmental impact.
Go Green when you Clean
Store bought cleaning products are typically made of toxic ingredients and often yield the same results as quick cleaners you could make yourself. There are so many natural cleaning agents that will leave your home clean and not add to toxins to the environment. For example baking soda, lemon and orange oils, and castille soaps are also good natural cleaning agents. Try swapping out your everyday cleaning products for home-made cleaners, use your own re-usable containers and also reduce your plastic use.
This is a good general rule to follow. Think about how many things we are given in a day that we don’t even ask for. Straws with our drinks, napkins in a bag, packages surrounding food, condiment packets, tote bags, flyers, stickers, etc. We may not think about it or think it may be rude to refuse. But not taking something, no matter how small, is the first step in cutting down excess waste. Reusing and recycling are great and important actions to take to reduce carbon footprints, but refusing is a sure way to eliminate waste.