I remember a time REALLY recently in my life when I was alone, and beyond broke. I couldn’t afford organic anything–I could barely afford conventional groceries, and not a lot of them–and I spent a lot of time wanting to change my lifestyle and make a difference, but feeling lost as to HOW. What could I do, being broke, not having a lot of free time, and living in the city, to make a difference?
I had a couple of ideas that I thought I’d share with y’all. And maybe they’re perfectly obvious to everyone, but just in case they’re not, here you go.
Reuse those plastic containers. We get a lot of them–yogurt, sour cream, salsa, all sorts of things come in them. They’re a great substitute for Tupperware or any of the other plastic food storage containers out there. No, they are not especially pretty. They’re not a nice matched set (well, unless you buy all the same products in them). But, they are basically free–they come with the food you buy.
Okay, in my opinion, reducing plastic production and use would be a better alternative than reusing. BUT, I have yet to find a source of sour cream that doesn’t come in a plastic container, and I haven’t learned how to make my own yet, so there it is. This is the best solution I can come up with. And this way, if the hubster takes his lunch in one of my hippie tupperware containers and doesn’t bring it home? Oh well. At least it got reused a couple of times before it hit the trash can. That’s better than one use.
I had trouble finding reliable figures on what percentage of the landfill plastic takes up. Seems like it’s somewhere between 15 and 25% . . . it depends on how you measure it–by weight or by volume, before or after compaction, etc. In either case, plastics are a big part of the waste stream–and one that causes considerable damage to wildlife, and doesn’t biodegrade readily. There’s a lot of debate on just how dangerous the substances in plastic are, too, so you can do the research yourself. But if we all reduced the amount of plastic we consume, and reused the plastic that we can’t avoid, and recycled what we have to get rid of, we’d be reducing the waste stream by 16 to 25%. And we would save the energy used in manufacture, transportation, disposal and recycling of plastics.
And dudes–it will save you money. And at least in my house, when we bought plastic food storage containers they always ended up disappearing in a few months, never to be seen again.
Second: use cloth grocery bags. Cloth grocery bags aren’t free, but they can be purchased VERY inexpensively. Most grocery store chains now carry them (at least here in Oregon), for a dollar or two. And I have several that I found at yard sales for 25 cents each. Resale shops probably also have cloth bags that you could purchase for a very small amount of coin.
In addition to saving trees or reducing plastic use, cloth grocery bags are actually made of awesome. You can fit a lot more groceries in a cloth bag and not have to worry that it will rip if you over load it. A lot of them can be slung over your shoulder, making for easier carrying if you are walking or taking a bus (as I discovered when I lived in the city and had no car for six months). And they’re just more pleasant and aesthetically pleasing than plastic bags–in my opinion.
Third: buy used whenever possible. Buying second hand makes sense from an economic standpoint as well as from an environmental one. When my food processor bit the dust, I was thrilled to find almost exactly the same model at Goodwill for seven dollars. A new one of the same variety was about $50, and trust me, it is NOT a fancy, high end machine. But more importantly, when you buy secondhand you are keeping perfectly good items from entering a landfill where they take up space and pollute. Furthermore, a lot of resale shops are run to finance charitable organizations that help people with disabilities, low income families, and other needy members of society.
Obviously these three actions aren’t going to save the world on their own. But overhauling the way we live on the planet involves making conscious choices every day, and all of us taking action at whatever level we can. Even small actions create ripples of change.
So y’all, how about some more ideas? How do you save the world?
P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Earth Day contest to win a free reading or healing session.