Nearly two years ago, my partner and I began to cut back on many single-use items that we used in our daily lives. Many items I didn’t even clue into being wasteful. I was relying heavily on the third ‘R’ (which means recycling) and not starting with reducing and reusing first. This was an important ah-ha moment for us.
Daily, I began to have ah-ha moments as I started to pay attention to the world around me and my waste produced as a consumer. Paper towel and napkins – are these necessary? Disposable coffee cups – why don’t I use one of the five re-usable swag tumblers in my cupboard? Once I became aware of my consumption, I began to implement a handful of small changes until those changes formed into new habits.
Below are four of my personal tips that you can start today to reduce your environmental footprint at home.
Beeswax wraps absolutely changed my life. For years, I would say that I generally avoided using cling wrap better than most – but some items were awkward sizes and would end up in large storage containers that took up valuable space in my fridge. My leftovers would eventually get lost in the chaos and would usually have to be disposed of. So by trying to be proactive, I ended up contributing to another problem – food waste.
Then one day I discovered beeswax wraps at the Sun Peaks Market Days. The beauty of beeswax wrap is that they are durable, lightweight, and come in funky patterns while raising awareness about the importance of bees and the fragility of our ecosystems.
The wraps are sturdy and can easily hold a sandwich or sliced veggies. They also make great coverings for casseroles or salads. To start your new habit, I recommend purchasing a pack of three in different sizes and to try them out on products that typically last for a while in the fridge. There is nothing worse than when you over-commit to a project and it falls flat. Start small and get into the habit.
When I gave my mom this advice – I told her to start with perishable items that were a little more forgiving. Peppers, onion, and cheese blocks were what I recommended for her to start with.
Once you have used beeswax wraps for a few months – a new habit will have been formed. I have happily been using six beeswax wraps in high-rotation for almost one year now at home.
By forming this new habit, I estimate I have reduced over 250 pieces of unnecessary plastic from ending up in a landfill. #winning.
**Beeswax wrap pro tip: warm the wraps up by massaging them in your hands to help activate the clinginess.**
Reusable Produce Bags
The hardest part about implementing produce bags and reusable bags is remembering to bring them with you. Often I would be at a grocery store and facepalm, I forgot my bags. I had the best intentions but my execution was lacking. Not only that, I started to amass a huge pile of unused reusable bags at home. So how do you get into the habit of using reusable produce bags?
Start like this. Store one reusable shopping bag with a reusable produce bag inside of it in your vehicle, at work, at home, and in your backpack or purse. By keeping these items in close proximity, you will already have the bags in your possession after temporarily panicking that you forgot them.
After about 3-5 months, I eventually almost completely cut-out using single-use plastic bags from grocery stores and had my bags in handy locations.
If you use an average of four produce bags per week, you personally will remove over 200 single-use plastic bags from landfills.
Cloth napkins are an absolute no-brainer that can also be chic and stylish, while elevating your dinner party game (or your nachos on the couch game). Napkins are a high-use item that you can easily substitute with a reusable counterpart. While vacationing in Palm Springs, CA, we found an adorable set of 8 cloth napkins at a thrift store for under $10.00. We still use those napkins today.
If there are two of you that eat together regularly, I would recommend purchasing 10 cloth napkins to start (or making them yourself). This will get you through the standard workweek or five meals per week at home. After each meal, simply toss them into the laundry hamper and wash them with your towels and linens during your regular laundry cycle. If you were to reduce using 10 napkins per week throughout the year, you will personally have removed over 500 napkins from landfills.
The best part about napkins is that you can start a mini-curated napkin collection.
Check out your local thrift store first for upcycled napkins. Online NewLife Thread creates some beautiful upcycled napkins on Etsy. They are also a great DIY project.
Turn the temperature down 2 degrees
It’s amazing how socks, slippers and a warm sweater can make you feel super cozy and can drastically lower your energy bill. You can literally walk over to the thermostat right now and turn down the thermostat 2 degrees.
I have always been a chilly human being and I fought this transition in the name of comfortable living. I liked being in my shorts and a t-shirt while meandering around the house in December. THAT WASN’T OK. I eventually realized just because I could do this, doesn’t mean I should do this.
I inherited a cozy pair of slippers from my grandpa, a warm blanket from another friend and purchased some new sweaters and cardigans at my local thrift store. The easiest part about turning this transition into a reality was probably the savings from our energy bill.
If you have electric heat, lowering your thermostat by two degrees can save you 5% on your heating bill. Lowering it five degrees could save you 10% (BC Hydro).
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but by implementing the four tips above you can save nearly 1000 pieces of unnecessary garbage from landfills throughout the calendar year. Crazy, right?
Each choice we make has an impact and it takes time to form new habits – but keep trying, you will eventually get there. The snowball effect will eventually stick and you and your household will undoubtedly become savvier – some things will work, some won’t, but you will continuously improve and finetune methods that suit your lifestyle.
Even today, after many months of practice my partner and I are not 100% waste-free, but we are working towards that goal. We take time to research our methods and make an effort to reduce and reuse before recycling. We are now much more mindful when shopping and diligently do our part to help keep our natural surroundings thriving.
Do you have any ideas you can share with me?
I would LOVE to hear more about the small changes you have made in your daily life to alleviate waste from landfills. Leave me your tips and tricks in the comments that I can begin to implement into my life.