Ever since purging most of my belongings, living in a van, and now living in Spain, I’ve found myself trying to live simpler and simpler. That means wanting to reduce waste and avoid plastic, recycle everything, and try to buy everything ‘used’ as much as possible.
Actually, at the time of this writing, it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve had to empty the garbage-garbage, the stuff that ends up in a landfill. The rest of the ‘garbage’ is sorted into recycling and compost, and I’m willing to bet if you were to come visit me, you definitely wouldn’t call me a hippy.
Easiest ways to save the planet, reduce waste and avoid plastic
Reusable shopping bags. They’ve become so normal and so commonplace that absolutely no one will give you a second look just for carrying some reusable bags. Plastic is the devil.
Cook more. Not only does this help the planet, but you’ll look and feel better too. Buying, cooking, and eating fresh ingredients reduces packaging waste and can give you sweet abs by reducing the amount of processed food you eat.
Recycle. Ok, this doesn’t reduce the amount of waste you create, per say, but it reduces the amount of waste that goes into a landfill, theoretically. I say theoretically because some reports claim that large percentages of “recyclable material” still ends up in a landfill. I say, “better safe than sorry,” and literally takes no more effort on your part.
Better buying decisions. First, I know that price is always a thing when making purchasing decisions. So if you’re on an extremely tight budget, this might not be an option. But, if you can spare a few bucks more sometimes, consider these examples and then apply them to all purchasing decisions:
- Buy biodegradable garbage bags instead of plastic
- If you need to buy a new kitchen utensil, is there a wooden or metal option?
- If you’re buying food, is one option wrapped in plastic and the other in a glass jar or tin can?
- Instead of paying $2 for 3 plastic toothbrushes, could you pay $2 for 1 bamboo toothbrush?
- Instead of buying plastic tupperware, buy pyrex tupperware (which also doesn’t cause cancer, unlike chemicals from the plastics leaching into your food).
Buy different soap and detergents. Again, this one comes with a little extra cost. If you can afford it, consider switching to natural, organic soaps and detergents. It doesn’t reduce waste, but it does reduce the amount of chemicals that eventually end up back in the earth (either directly or as post-treatment waste).
A little more hippy
Buy in bulk. No, not at Costco or Sam’s Club, but from the bulk food section in your grocery store, if it has one. If it doesn’t have one, can you find one that does?
Bring your own containers. Now that you’re buying more fresh food and bulk food, there’s no need use the plastic bags at the store. Bring in your own reusable produce bags, tupperwares, or jars and have them weigh them while they’re empty. Then fill ’em up and check out as usual.
Shower less. Ha! No really. I’m not talking full-out, stinky hippy, dreadlocks “less showering,” just, less. I’m not suggesting you go the gym and not shower for a week, but for example, if you’re not doing anything overly stinky or working up a rigorous sweat every single day, do you really need to shower everyday? I mean, if you’re just sitting at an office cubicle and then come home and watch TV, does that really warrant a shower? Just think about it…
Buy secondhand. The only reason this isn’t listed above is that there is still a stigma about buying secondhand, like you’re not “rich enough” to buy something brand new….and that’s apparently a bad thing. I know that it can take some time to get over that stigma and take your first steps into a Goodwill or Salvation Army. But if you think about it, do you really need a brand new spatula or could you buy one for pennies that’s just slightly used? It’s not like I’m suggesting you buy someone’s used underwear. Gross.
Take public transportation as much as possible. Just that.
Full disclosure, I don’t even do all of these things yet. I’m on the verge. I’m close. But for one reason another, just not quite. But if you want to do them….DO THEM!
Make your own hygiene products. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and toothpaste can easily be made at home. Just Google it and you’ll be amazed.
Compost. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city or town that already has a compost collection service, I don’t know why you’re not taking advantage of it yet. If you don’t, you can still compost at home. If you have a garden or houseplants, you can add the completed compost to your garden and/or pots. Even if you DON’T, you can either give it away to someone that does or just take it outside and dump it on the ground. Which brings me to my next point…
Grow some food. Even if it’s just potted herbs or potted plants, it’ll cut down on how much you have to buy and make your place smell better. If you actually have a yard, feel free to dig up the entire thing and grow as much food as humanly possible. Then preserve, sell, or giveaway your extras.
Shower even less. When I lived in my van (which I may realistically do again someday if I leave Spain), you’d be surprised how long you can go without showering and not be completely disgusting. “Sponge baths” with a damp wash cloth and dry shampoo (corn starch!) can get you at least 10 days or 2 weeks, and that includes rock climbing, mountain biking, and sweating profusely. In the summer, you can drag it out even longer if you skinny dip in a lake or river.
Don’t stop there
Quite obviously, this is not a fully encompassing list. As a human race, I don’t think we have the attention spans for all of that, and short of writing an actual book, I don’t think I have the time for it. However, I do plan to write more about these things in the future in bite-sized format like this.
While the things I presented here are specific examples of what you can do to start right now, it should also be mentioned that you can take these principles and then look for ways to apply them to more things in your life.
Get started today!
For things like reducing your water consumption or buying a food product in a glass jar vs. a plastic container, you can do those today or the next time you go shopping. They don’t require any additional things or equipment. They’re simply behavioral choices.
But for other things, like reusable grocery and produce bags, composting kits, toothbrushes, etc. you can check out these items I have picked out for you on Amazon, or just use them as ideas to buy locally (which also cuts down on shipping waste and CO2 gases from transportation).