We have until 2030 to slow down climate change enough that the human race can survive on earth until at least 2050. While this all sounds far into the future, it isn't, and every day we are making small decisions that only speed up the decline of our planet.
Believe it or not, it's easier to help than you think.
Sometime in the past few years, the internet decided that plastic straws from fast food joints and coffee shops were killing too many sea turtles and sea birds. This caused individuals to urge others to skip the straw when they order drinks or to bring their own straws. There are so many options for reusable straws on the market now, it's kind of annoying if you still try to make excuses not to buy one.
Plastic straws are also too small for recycling machinery to process, meaning they fall through the cracks or they get caught and tangled.
But, straws aren't even that big of an issue. Boycotting the single-use straw, while it does help the sea turtles and the environment, does only a small amount of good. In fact, of the 9 million tons of plastic waste added to the ocean each year, plastic straws only make up about 2,000 tons.
So, how else can we help?
1. Stop using plastic grocery bags.
Plastic grocery bags are easy to grab when you're buying a few things at your local grocery store, but investing in a reusable bag or two to take to the store is one way to cut back on your plastic waste.
And, if you forget your bag, try to carry your purchases without a plastic bag, and if you have to, cram them all into as few bags as possible.
2. Eat less meat and dairy.
According to The Guardian, "meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority — 83% — of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions." Vegan diets are the single biggest way to reduce your impact on our planet, reducing greenhouse gases, land and water use.
Even eating one meatless meal a day can make a change, and I think it's a serious option to consider when you're trying to treat the planet right.
3. Stop drying your hands.
When you're in public restrooms, avoid using hand dryers or paper towels. Either way that you are choosing not to dry your hands, you're saving electricity or you're cutting back on paper towel waste. Your hands will dry eventually, anyways
4. Skip the dryer when doing laundry.
This cuts back on electricity usage and prevents not only wrinkles but also static. The only drawback is it can take a long time to air dry and drying racks take up a good bit of space. But, saving the planet is going to include a few sacrifices.
5. Try using wool dryer balls.
Ever thought about how many dryer sheets end up in a landfill? Me neither, but once you think about it... that's a lot. Dryer sheets also contain lots of yucky chemicals and can actually do more harm than good to your clothes and your dryer.
Wool is a great alternative that most people don't even know about.
Wool dryer balls take the place of dryer sheets and make your clothes softer and dry faster without creating nearly as much waste and without the chemicals.
6. Bring your own produce bags to the grocery store.
I've always tried to just skip out on the produce bags altogether to cut back on plastic, but sometimes you need one, because produce can be wet from the water sprayed on them or even dirty from literal dirt. You don't want to get everything else in your cart wet or dirty, so a produce bag makes sense.
Invest in some reusable, non-plastic produce bags to create less plastic waste.
7. Use a reusable bottle and a water filter.
Another easy way to cut back on plastic is to stop buying and using bottled water. In just the United States, about 1,500 plastic bottles are being used every second. Reusable water bottles and cups are sold almost everywhere, and keeping one with me at all times to prevent myself from drinking from single-use bottles is a change I have tried to implement in my personal life.
Water filters can help make sure the water you're drinking is actually safe to drink, so there's really no excuse to buy reusable water bottles at this point. You're literally just paying for plastic when you buy them. Save your money and the planet.
8. Replace disposable face wipes with reusable ones.
Single-use face wipes to take off makeup (or even just to wipe off your face when it feels extra grimy) are essential in almost every makeup wearer's bathroom. They're easy to use and almost foolproof.
Except, if you're using one, maybe two, of these wipes every day, that's a lot of wipes that end up in the trash. Eventually, those all end up in a landfill somewhere and, let's be real, that's a lot of unnecessary waste.
Microfiber cloths can take the place of wipes and do the job just as well. Of course, it's still important to wash your face afterward but to take off your makeup, they do the trick. You can throw them in with your laundry when you've used them and they'll come out looking brand new.
Also, if you use something like micellar water to take off your makeup with a cotton pad, or if you use a toner with a cotton pad, or you use cotton pads in general, there are reusable bamboo pads that will do the same job.
9. Use bamboo paperless towels.
Imagine all the paper towels you've used in your lifetime. It's a lot, right?
Invest in some paperless towels that will clean up and soak up your messes just as well. When they're dirty, throw them in the washer and air dry. They'll be just like new in no time.
10. Find a reusable coffee filter.
Whether you use a Keurig or a regular coffee pot, there are reusable K-cups and reusable coffee filters to replace their disposable counterparts. Both use regular coffee grounds and will brew normally.
11. Plant a vegetable garden.
Growing your own veggies can increase the oxygen in the air, cut down on costs at the store, and reduce carbon footprints created by transportation from farms to grocery stores. It's also good for you!
At the end of it all, every small difference each of us makes does just that: it makes a difference. Don't be afraid to mess up and forget the reusable straw. As long as you're making an effort to practice more sustainable choices, you're a part of the change.