My daughter is an Earth child at heart. When she was 14 or 15 years old, she mailed a small donation to the World Wildlife Fund and they sent her polar bear stickers to stick to every light switch around the house with messages such as “turn off the lights, save a life.”
It’s not surprising that she happened to be born a day before Earth Day.
In the last few years, we’ve been having more and more conversations about ways to do our part to lead more sustainable lives. It’s not always easy, specially in our industry, but we’re always looking for ways to make changes that get us closer to that goal.
So, with Earth Day just around the corner, what better time to reflect upon our habits and identify things that we can do better for the sake of our Earth and those who will inherit it after us? To get the conversation started, we’ve put together a list of 6 practical and meaningful ways to celebrate Earth Day this year. Our hope is that you read this and share it with those around you. Even if everyone reading this does only one of these things, and shares it with other people who also do only one of these, think of all the positive impact and education we’d be spreading together!
6 ways to Celebrate Earth Day 2019
1| Refuse and reduce before recycling
Do you know what happens with your recycling after it leaves your home? Companies that collect recyclables do so to sell them to other companies that buy them to use in various ways. These companies are not necessarily driven by a desire to save the Earth from ever-increasing landfills, but rather for the profit they can make from the sale of our recyclable materials. The problem is that some of the major buyers of USA recyclables are no longer buying from us. So what happens then? A lot of the recyclables we proudly put in the correct bin end up in landfills anyway. For more detailed information on this topic, check out this article from The Week.
This is not to say that we should stop recycling! But rather that recycling is not the solution. The solution is to reduce the amount of waste we create in the first place. A great way to do this is to become conscious consumers and be mindful about the products we bring into our lives. For example, we could try to reduce the amount of single use plastics we use or purchase products that have a longer lifespan and won’t have to be replaced as often. More on this in the tips below!
2| Brush up on your town’s recycling guidelines
Once we become more conscious consumers, we’ll see a decrease in garbage and recyclables in our home, but we’re likely to still be left with some products that need to be recycled. It is our job to make sure we are disposing of those appropriately. Cities have different guidelines for what they accept in curbside recycling and what needs to be recycled in special ways. For those of you in the Madison area, here are our recycling guidelines. Some of those things that can’t be recycled in your curbside bin are electronics, but cities have special locations where you can drop those off. You can find that information for the Madison area here.
Another great recycling resource is Terracycle, an organization that partners with a variety of companies to recycle odd products that would otherwise end in a landfill. You can order a box from them and keep it handy until it’s full with those odd products and then send it over to them for proper recycling. Learn more about them here.
3| Join the BYO movement!
BYO—bring your own. This ties back to the ideas of refusing and reducing single use items whenever possible. Invest in a durable travel mug (here’s my husband’s absolute favorite travel mug that keeps things hot/cold for hours and doesn’t leak) and ask to be served in it when you stop by your favorite coffee shop for your morning cup. Even better? Make it at home! Same goes for water bottles, straws, and grocery bags, to name a few.
4| Consider starting a compost pile (it’s easier than you think!)
I used to think that a compost pile would stink up my yard, drive my dog crazy, and take lots of time and effort to maintain. The truth is that if you’re super serious about it, yes, you can spend a lot of time being strategic about what you put in there and turning it often, etc. But if you’re not in a hurry to obtain your compost final product, you can just put it all (almost all) in there and let it do it’s thing.
Here are some useful composting guides if you…
… have backyard space - Your Guide to Backyard Composting
… live in an apartment - Composting for Apartments
And if you’re looking for a composting bin, make sure to check out Facebook Marketplace, Buy/Sell groups, or Nextdoor!
5| Try simple swaps around your home
You always want to use up what you already have, but once you’re done with certain items around your home, think about how you can tweak your product choices to make more sustainable decisions. Here are some examples:
Use biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes that you can compost instead of plastic toothbrushes
Use a stainless steel safety razor that will last you years instead of a disposable plastic razor
Use reusable/washable makeup rounds instead of disposable cotton pads or balls
Use a biodegradable bamboo dishwashing wand, scrubber, and pot scraper instead of plastic ones
Choose laundry and dishwasher detergents in bulk or biodegradable containers instead of plastic tubs
6| Thrift shop whenever possible
If you need to buy stuff, why not give a second life to things that people are done using? Before going to Amazon or the mall, see if you can find things you need at garage sales, Facebook Marketplace or Buy/Sell groups, Nextdoor, or stores such as Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or Plato’s Closet. By purchasing second hand products, you’re preventing them from ending in landfills when they’re still perfectly functional.
7| Bonus tip: Buy the lonely banana!
Did you know that those single bananas at the grocery store likely end in the trash at the end of the day, simply because they got separated from the group? Next time you go grocery shopping, look for the lonely bananas and save them from the landfill!
We hope you enjoyed our suggestions for how to celebrate Earth Day 2019 in ways that will make a positive impact. Until we live in a circular economy, instead of a linear one, we will never be able to achieve zero-waste perfection, but every little choice we make does make a difference. Do you have any tips of your own or favorite sustainable products? Let us know in the comments!