The last thing you want to worry about between bills, work, and holding it together on a daily basis is your direct impact on the environment.
Picture this; it’s grocery day and you’re using reusable grocery bags like the good little eco-conscious person that you are. But, when you stop to put away those groceries, you realize that nearly everything you brought into your home is packaged in some sort of plastic or unrecyclable material.
Your heart sinks and you feel like a garbage human.
Hold up… Deep breaths.
Green living is HARD. I mean, really hard.
Especially if you live a busy life and rely on convenience to get you by. (No judgment, we all do it.)
So, how do you go about getting started with green living without completely losing your shit?
Here are a few tidbits to get you started:
If you’re anything like me, you’re doing your damndest to recycle, reduce, and reuse just like you were taught. But, it never feels like enough and you never quite realize how much waste you unconsciously bring into your home everyday.
Recently, I’ve realized that I’m incredibly wasteful, despite my best efforts. From buying bananas just to let them die on the counter to letting the water run when I wash dishes.
My wastefulness began to keep me up at night.
So, before I dive into my Mission: Zero-Waste 2021, I’m going to break down a few of the things that I’ve learned already and give you a basic roadmap to start your own journey.
4 Simple Steps to Kick Your Green Living Lifestyle into Gear
Step 1: Assess Your Household Impact
Now that you’ve got a grip on the basics, it’s time to take a look at your household impact and determine where you should trim down and where to start.
I find it easiest to chunk your home into basic categories like rooms or functions and tackle all of the green living elements contained within that room or function. There may be some crossover, but overall you should have a good idea of where to start your green mission.
Your household may be chunked into different categories than mine, especially if you have kids, but here are some basic categories to start with:
The Kitchen Conundrum – Take a look at what type of food packaging you’re buying and how you’re storing it. Are you bringing lots of single-use plastic into your home or are there areas where you could really make reusable containers work for you?
Basic Bathroom Etiquette – Personal care products are by far one of the most plastic-saturated industries out there, and unfortunately, that isn’t going to end anytime soon. But, you can consider whether you’re using product in plastic bottles or aerosol cans, Q-tips with plastic shafts, or even toilet paper that comes in single-use plastic packaging.
Home Office Operations – While many businesses are going digital these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going paperless. Take a look at how much and what kind of printing paper you’re using, whether your bills are set to paperless or are stacking up in a shoebox, and whether you’re using up traditional Bic pens and tossing them when the ink is gone.
Green Pet Care – Eco-friendly pet care doesn’t begin and end with what goes in and comes out of their tummies. Think about their water bowls, the containers their food comes in, what their toys are made out of.
On a pet care sidenote, these are my little monsters checking out what’s in my fridge. Yes, I know there’s a ton of shit in there in plastic containers…that’s what this mission is about!
Step 2: Start Slow… Don’t Rush Green-ness
Not only is going green hard af, it’s also a pretty long process…especially if you don’t have a ton of money to blow on cool new sustainable goodies.
So, start slow.
Make changes one at a time, and in an order that makes the most sense for you and your current situation.
Do what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to going green, you have to think about the things that are most important to you.
Step 3: Don’t Get Rid of Every Plastic Item In Your House
Do. Not. Do. That.
I repeat. Don’t do that shit.
We’ve all purchased something made of plastic without stopping to consider the ramifications, because we needed that item. But, chances are good, most of those items are long-term household items that are designed to last years.
I personally have tons of long-term plastic in my house, from my beloved Contigo water bottles to a mile-high stack of bento box containers. While I hate that these items have created a negative impact on the environment, I am not going to simply purge and replace them with something more sustainable.
Because that behavior perpetuates the cycle of waste!
Keep it and continue using plastic items until they have outlived their usefulness. Then, either recycle or give to charity.
Step 4: Pay Attention to What You’re Buying
Admittedly, paying attention to what you’re bringing into your life should probably green living rule number one, but here we are.
No matter where you live or what your current lifestyle situation, the allure of convenience can be overwhelming. But, the best and easiest way to reduce your impact on the environment is to stop buying harmful products.
While there are certain things that are NOT easy to replace (garbage bags & Windex), the following items will give you a general guide to think about on your next shopping trip:
Key Things to Avoid
Single-Use Plastics – This includes everything wrapped in plastic or in a plastic container. Unfortunately, Ziploc baggies fall into this category. Garbage bags also fall into this category, but finding a suitable replacement in this category is far from easy.
Volatile Chemicals – We all love bleach, and it comes in handy in every corner of the house. But, harsh chemicals not only wreak havoc on the water tables, they also typically come in plastic packaging that can’t always be recycled.
Key Things to Buy
Bulk Produce and Dry Goods – This one is actually pretty easy if you can remember to bring your reusable containers. I personally love Ball jars for beans, grains, and flours and mesh produce bags for fruits and veggies.
Bar Soap – I personally love shower gel, it makes things so stinking easy. But, in addition to coming in a plastic bottle, shower gel usually requires a brightly colored shower scrubby, which is also made of plastic.
Glass Containers – If you have to buy something that comes in a container, make it a glass one. Glass is infinitely more recyclable than any other element and most glass jars are easily repurposed as a cheap Ball jar replacement.
The list could go on, but this is a solid place to start. If you consciously consider each new purchase with these rules in mind, you’ll be in a great company.
Where Do You Go From Here?
In the coming weeks, I’m going to completely (and publicly) rip my own lifestyle wide open and highlight exactly where I personally need to improve my household to promote green living.
If you’re serious (or even curious) about learning how to be more eco-friendly in your daily life, follow along to find out what works for me, get insight into some surprising places to find sustainable alternatives, and to watch me blunder through greenifying my home while running a business out of that home.
As a bonus, I’m going to be focusing on locally sourced options for those of us who are local to Northern Michigan and believe in shopping local. This will include highlighting top-notch businesses who are either kicking ass at making their business more sustainable or are offering clean, sustainable products for purchase.
If that sounds like something you’re into, smash this button to make sure you never miss me doing green things: