Happy New Years! Enjoy your time with friends, reflecting on the past year, and night of partying it up. One thing that will be left to do tomorrow is clean up all the trash. Most people it is ritual now to pick up the confetti and plastic champagne flukes then just putting them on the curb come trash day. Very few think about where that trash goes- a landfill- or the impact it has- a big one.
On average we produce over 4.4 lbs of trash everyday, cumulatively that creates 700,000 tons of garbage a day. For only containing 5% of the global population we create over 30% of global waste. It is using up our natural resources. Destroying the environment. Using up precious land that could be used for farming, natural parks, or nature preserves. While recycling has made great strides in recent years not enough people have been doing and a far easier solution exist; stop creating so much waste.
How do you do this? In this mounting world of packaging and on the go culture it just seems habit. Well it is New Years and this year instead of some vague goal which we all know you will never achieve try picking on, just one, thing off this list. Start with just one thing to make the world better.
1. Bring a reusable cup with you to coffee shops
Did you know Starbucks gives you a discount if you bring a reusable cup to their stores? Yeah. A discount. You can buy a few which look like their regular cup if you really need something for the gram. And they are far from the only coffee shop that do it. At AU's campus every coffee place on campus will give you a discount for using a reusable cup. Most local chains will also gladly fill it up for free (always check first though). For a little extra effort on your part think of how many cups you are saving (around 500 each year).
2. Use a reusable water bottle
The only time you need bottled water is in case of emergency when you cannot get water or when the water system has been compromised. The other 99.8% of the time you can drink tap water. If you are really worried about water purity in your local tap water you can get a water filter for cheap. The bottle pictured above is $8. One filter can replace 300 bottles of water and they are replaceable. You not only take waste out of the landfills but save energy and oil since less plastic is used.
3. Actually use the reusable bags you have
I know you all have a few in your closet or shoved in the back of a cupboard. Maybe some of you even have them in your car. Well pull them out and actually start using them. Even if you use plastic bags for trash liners or dog poop holders do you actually need as many as you have? For most of you the answer is no, no you don't. So pull out the reusable bags or at least get paper so you can recycle them.
4. Try to shop at a farmers market if possible
I know this one can be hard depending on where you live, the time of year, and your budget. For those of you who can go buy things at farmers markets. Bring your own bags, jars, and cheese cloth so their is no waste in packaging. You also have cut down on natural gas use since your lettuce did not get shipped in from California to DC. You can support local farmers instead of big farming. Plus you get to eat healthy, delicious food. If you can manage a farmers market it is the best place you can buy food from.
5. Try reusable period products
There is an amazing product called a menstrual cup. It is a little cup of silicone which can be used for up to a year. It goes into a women's vagina to catch the uterine lining for up to 12 hours. There is also period underwear which is made of special fabric that absorbs blood for up to 12 hours. Both have different styles, fits, brands which can help you find what best works for you. While the up front cost is a little pricey they will save you money over the course of the year. Plus it keeps a huge amount of both packaging and products out of the landfill.
6. Don't buy thing you won't use or need, especially food
America is #1 on food waste. The easiest way to reduce this is to actually eat what you buy. If you have trouble doing this start meal planning, keeping a list of things you need for the week. Keep track of what is in your pantry so you use it up before it expires. Make smaller trips to the store so you only have to buy what you need. The bananas won't rot before you can eat them if you only have three days worth.
7. Use a cloth napkin
Get some cheap on sale cloth from a craft store, hem the edges, and presto a cheap cloth napkin. I suggest having a few around. If you're like me and only do laundry when you're out of clothes to wear then have more then a few. If you can do laundry every few days you might not need as many. When you do use them you will get rid of the paper napkins themselves and the plastic packaging for them. Then when the cloth wears out they can be dish rags, cleaning rags, dusting rags, and then years later be thrown out.
I know it's almost impossible to go 100% trash free. Some things will always have packaging i.e. medicine. Even just one of these changes will help reduce the amount of waste we create on a daily basis. For those who are already doing one try adding another this year. Make one green change a year and do your part to start stopping climate change.