Sometimes it seems like the only affordable way to make a contribution against climate change is by buying those reusable bags found at your local grocery store and vowing to use them till the end of time. In spite of that dedication, there are actually countless ways to combat global warming that doesn't involve putting a substantial dent in your wallet but I'm going to give you 20.
Replace Plastic Straws With Stainless Steel Or Glass
Americans throw away over 500 million straws a day and if they aren't deposited in landfills, they are often found in oceans. Stainless steel and glass straws are great alternatives to the plastic that has been seen choking and often killing marine life. They are easily washed with the pipe cleaners manufacturers supply them with and can be affordably found online from places like Amazon.
Start Using Reusable Water Bottles
According to Ban The Bottle, the average American used 50 billion plastic water bottles in 2017. Like the many other plastic materials they are often found in the ocean or in landfills where they take centuries to decompose. Using a reusable water bottle provides the convenience of not having to worry about where the nearest trash can is t and saves money in the long run. After all, buying $1.69 bottle of water every day on campus can begin to add up, especially if you're buying multiple a day.
Trade Bottles of Body Wash For Bars Of Soap
While soap bars may seem outdated with everyone using bottled body wash, they do an excellent job leaving no carbon footprint. One could find these hygienic blocks wrapped in paper or nothing at all which means there's absolutely nothing to throw away once the soap has been completely used. These bars can be found at any grocery store or at the nearest Ross for $3.99 or less depending on how organic the ingredients are.
Say "No" To Napkins and Plastic Cutlery
Nobody needs all of those napkins fast food chains supply customers with when they are taking food to-go. Most of the time that mini pile is discarded in the trash unused along with the plastic forks, spoons, and knives also supplied. That's why it is best to tell the employees to hold the napkins and forks because nine times out of ten you already have some at home. Yes, they would keep you from having to do the dishes but they do more harm then good when being driven to the local waste station.
Substitute Your Buff Puff For A Wash Cloth
Buff Puff's are nice because they are a kind of dual action shower tool; they both clean and exfoliate the body. However, at some point in time they must be thrown away after such vigorous use. Wash clothes on the other hand can be reused again and again because they are machine washable.
Start Using Silicone Place Mats Instead of Aluminum Foil and Parchment Paper
Silicone place mats are the newest replacement for aluminum foil and parchment paper used in ovens. These shiny, flat, non stick rectangles can be reused for years after continuous use and fits the pan perfectly. There's no need to throw them away after baking which keeps customers from having to buy more; they also come in a variety of fun colors.
Swap Coffee Cups For Travel Mugs
Thermos's or travel mugs are great for keeping your beverage hot or cold without having to worry about your hands feeling the temperature. Like glass water bottles, they are also reusable and easy to carry around in a backpack.
Use Cloth Towels Rather Than Paper Towels
Kitchen towels are meant to last long unlike their paper counterparts who get thrown out after one use. They are easy to watch and can decorate the kitchen in a fun colorful way. These dandy accessories can also be used to clean other parts of the house making them a multi-purpose tool that can last a long time.
Change Menstrual Pads For A Menstrual Cup
Approximately 12 billion pads and seven million tampons end up in U.S. landfills per year, according to menstruation.com.au. With the menstruation cup a.k.a "diva cup" women are able to use this multiple times before having to throw it away if ever at all due to its ability to be manually sanitized during and after each cycle.
Exchange Plastic Wrap For Wax Paper
Wax paper is a great zero waste alternative that can be used to cover up leftovers time and time again without having to be thrown away as soon as the food has been eaten. Unlike plastic wrap, the wax makes it easy to unfold back to its original form and ready for use again.
Try Using A Chico Bag
ChicoBag's are compactible reusable bags that can easily be hooked to a wallet and backpack. They are practically weightless and keep you from having to set a reminder to bring one of those big bulky reusable bags like those found at your local H-E-B. ChicoBag's also hold up to three reusables without weighing you down.
Carry A Utensil Kit
Carrying your own utensils is an easy way to cut down on plastic waste. Not only are they yours, so you'll take better care of them, but they won't have to be thrown at after a single use. These kits can be found online or in stores in sets of three(fork, knife, and spoon) or a spork(spoon and fork) combo.
Replace Plastic Produce Bags For Mesh Ones
Plastic bags are pointless because if you're anything like me, you end up ripping them open right when you get home to start unpacking the vegetables and you throw the rest away. Mesh bags on the other hand, allow the produce to breathe for as long as you want without having to worry about unpacking them right away. These knitted bags also don't have to be thrown out every time you use it and come in a variety of shapes and sizes; perfect for different types of food.
Compost Your Trash
The majority of trash cans are filled with rotting uneaten food that can be made into soil for plants. Composting is an awesome way to avoid having to take out the trash so often but also can serve as an inhibitor to start a garden. Those basil leaves, strawberries, and carrot stems can be used to regrow vegetables right on your balcony or at your nearest community garden.
Avoid Buying Plastic Wrapped Or Canned Goods
Glass jars can be perfect for storing large or small amounts of spices, liquids, and any other kind of market based product. They are even good for storing hand made liquid soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. These containers are easily washed and can be reused multiple times for years.
Shop at Farmer's Markets
Local farmer's markets often sell their produce bare of any sort of wrapping and it's encouraged to bring your own bags to carry the produce home.
Wash Your Hair with Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Shampoo and conditioner are not only sold in liquid for but also in bars, just like soap. In fact, some people melt them down with boiling water in glass jars and keep it in its liquid form. Either way, both options contribute to a zero waste lifestyle.
Drink Loose Leaf Tea
While tea bags don't carry a lot of waste, there's still that bag containing the tea leaves which isn't going to decompose like tea leaves will. Using a tea leave strainer rather than buying those individual bags is more sustainable and helps reduce waste.
Freeze Your Leftovers
Freezing your leftovers rather than keeping them in the main refrigerator part will guarantee a longer lasting food life. This cuts down on food waste if you aren't ready to compost and saves a delicious meal for weeks later.
If you don't want to do anything I've suggested above then at least do the bare minimum and recycle whenever you can. Separating cans, paper products, etc is the simplest thing you can do, especially if you live in Austin where there are tons of places that take these products for recycling.
It's time to see significant contributions against global warming that's causing our summer's to get hotter and keeps our sea levels rising. Living a zero-waste lifestyle seems extreme at first, but is so beneficial to the planet and to yourself in the long run.