Updated: Sep 26, 2019
1. Stop buying plastic baggies. I am looking at you ZIPLOC. Are they convenient? YES. Are they one-time use plastic? YES. Do they make your food kinda taste weird? I swear the blue ones do.
Instead- switch to glass storage containers for leftovers, these awesome reusable bags for freezer meals and little to-go cups for kids snacks. But how will I pack my kids lunch?? There are a million options for bento boxes for kids now. Cuts down on waste and compartmentalizes all the items to make them more likely to eat vs. ignore that bag of carrot sticks.
2. Trade out body wash for bar soap. Bar soap is awesome. It's often only packaged in cardboard and if you are super fancy, you can get the handmade cut soaps at whole foods or wegmans that aren't packaged at all-- they are little more pricey, but smell amazing! and don't forget your soap saver. This thing is so great- it keeps the soap from making that little puddle and dissolving itself. Great eco-friendly Christmas gifts (but that's another post).
3. Meal Plan. Ok, I am sometimes awesome at this and sometimes terrible. BUT, if you know what you are going to make and buy for it- you will have a higher chance of using it vs. buying the random head of cauliflower and buy 1 get 1 free strawberries that you are sure you are going to use but end up getting moldy in the back of the fridge. (BUT, if you compost- you can at least feel better about those strawberries becoming nutrient rich soil!)
4. Just stop buying paper towels or start by setting limits (like 1 roll per 2 weeks). If you don't have them- you won't use them and if you have a limit, you will be more likely to conserve. At my house we could use a roll in a matter of days with 2 dogs and 2 kids. Use sponges, cloths and dish rags. Keep a bin under the kitchen sink where you can toss dirty, used cloths and then throw them in with the laundry.
5. Skip individual wrapping. I am talking about all those individually wrapped snack bags of nuts, trail mix, crackers, chips- oh, but the convenience- thanks Costco. BUT, it's only 2 steps more to grab a handful out of the bigger bag (that you can still get at Costco) and stick it in your reusable container. Same goes with individual containers of yogurt- buy big. The fact that we can even buy pre-packaged cut apple slices is insane. Just get an apple.
6. Reusable Water Bottle- There is basically no reason to buy bottled water on the regular. If you have a bottle, you can fill it at your house before you leave, at shops/cafes/restaurants, and the airport. Obviously, there are always times you need to grab a bottle on the go- but it's a really great habit to have your reusable bottle in your bag or car. Plus- it's WAY easier than having your to-go coffee cup (which I have yet to get down as a habit!)
7. Borrow or Buy Used- Don't feel the need to buy something anytime you need it. Borrow! Ask around- join a community share board. Pass kids clothes around between friends (My girlfriend and I are on "kid 4" together of passing back and forth things like fleece pjs, pants and outerwear, some t-shirts that survive toddlerhood and halloween costumes- AND some of those things were already second hand to me!). Try websites like renttherunway.com to rent a dress or outfit for a one-time wear to an event (though we shouldn't feel pressure for one- time wear fashion regardless- but that's also another post!). Go to the library or pass around between your circle of friends- and of course audiobooks (though they totally aren't the same)! Need a tool or camping equipment? Unless you are an avid craftsman or outdoorsy type who needs to own- there are lots of companies and stores that rent both. As for buying used, I love community boards on facebook- someone is always selling kids items, household goods that are lightly used and the prices are almost always really low- reducing your carbon footprint and saving money!
These are all just suggestions- nothing to make anyone feel guilty, we are all in this together! Personally, I am trying to be better about my mass amount of beauty products- I switched to bar soap years ago and am planning to transition to shampoo/conditioner bars as well- but there is just SO. MUCH. STUFF (makeup, lotions, facial cleaning products, toothpaste - the list goes on and is daunting). As for food waste, I am trying - every week is a new week.... but just today, I composted the aforementioned strawberries and tossed the leftovers in the trash that just didn't get eaten. I am making it a family goal to cut back on paper towels and our individually packaged snacks are pretty much limited to cheesesticks and granola bars. Every single action helps. Hopefully this list inspires a few of you to pick up a new habit, buy a reusable water bottle, borrow that cake stand instead of ordering from amazon prime and check yourself on how often you reach for a ziploc bag.