20 Simple Tips towards Living More Sustainably

20 Simple Tips towards Living More Sustainably

Effortless and affordable ways to reduce waste from your every day lifestyle.

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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

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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

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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

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While soap bars may seem outdated with everyone using bottled body wash, they do an excellent job leaving no carbon footprint.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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Recycle More

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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.

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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An Open Letter To PETA CEO Ingrid Newkirk

For an organization whose sole purpose is to ensure the ethical treatment of animals, I have many questions.

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Dear Ms. Newkirk,

I, like you, am a firm believer in the right to compassion for all living beings around the world. Ever since converting to veganism from the omnivorous lifestyle I was raised to lead nearly six years ago, I have heavily relied on PETA.com and its affiliates for information, facts and statistics, recipe ideas, cruelty-free lifestyle selections, and activism opportunities on almost a daily basis so that I may further grow my knowledge and support for this permanent lifestyle change. When I search for new beauty or household products, clothing, shoes, and more, it is always comforting to see the "PETA-Approved Vegan" logo on the box, and I am confident in the purchases that I am making.

It was only recently that a new stream of data was brought to my attention that has altered my viewpoint of your organization and what it truly stands for, and I request that you provide the public your reasoning or justification for such acts, and any reparations that need to be made. Another lifelong vegan friend of mine recently pointed out to me a website called petakillsanimals.com where there is sizable physical legal evidence of immense animal cruelty, suffering, and murder at the hands of PETA over the last fifteen of years. Seeing as you have been the CEO of the organization for over 25 years, I figured it would be best to address you directly, seeking a response to this evidence of cruelty from the globally renowned organization that does all that it can to fight cruelty in every form.

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, from 1998 to 2017, 85.2% of all dogs and cats transferred to your facility for shelter were euthanized within 24 hours of being brought to your facility. Despite your reasoning that you painlessly end the suffering of animals who would have otherwise been left to suffer anyway, the arguments and justifications that you are making mirror the arguments of the meat, dairy, poultry, and fish industries (whom you dedicate your life to combating) all too identically. Just as PETA fights to end society's blasé attitude toward animal cruelty and murder, your attempt at claiming that the way you euthanize the animals in your facility is "better", renders one of PETA's greatest catchphrases, essentially, worthless: "There is no such thing as humane murder".

Similarly, after wrongfully luring a family pet off its porch in 2014, PETA took the pet from its owner's property and euthanized it, bringing the dog's owners to file a lawsuit with your organization that was just settled in 2017, where PETA was forced to pay the family nearly $50,000 dollars in damages. Finally, terror is not ever a justifiable option to invoke change, so why are you personally and professionally so aligned with the Animal Liberation Front, a terrorist organization responsible for arson, extensive property damage, and assault? Why have you donated nearly $80,000 to groups that promote harming life in order to save a life?

Ridding the world of violence with more violence has never, does not, and will never work, so if I can request only one thing from you in this letter, even if you refuse to answer my other questions, it is this: please take the funds that are allocated towards extensive euthanasia drugs and services used by and in your facility, and put them toward building either another building to house more animals if physical space is a concern, for providing food and more extensive adoption services for these animals, or donate them to a true no-kill animal-rights organization like Best Friends Animal Society, Underdog Rescue, or any others provided on this list.

In this letter, my intention was neither to attack nor provoke you in an inflammatory manner, but rather to merely seek truth from an organization that I once so dearly respected and wish to one day respect again in the same manner. I thank you for your time, and for all of the lives that you have saved in between.

Sincerely,

An Animal Lover & Ally

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