There’s no time like the present to start being more mindful about the positive and negative impact our lifestyles can have on the planet. What we do matters! And we have more power to reverse climate change than many of us realize.
Ready to wield that power for good but don’t know where to start? There’s something for everyone to do regardless of where you live, how much money you make, how busy you are, or what your lifestyle or capacity looks like. Scroll down for seven ideas to make a difference on Earth Day and everyday, and you’ll soon find that the opportunities are endless!
Realizing you don’t know much about climate change, low waste living, intersectional environmentalism, or regenerative ecology and want to get a more thorough understanding? Educating yourself is a great place to start your journey to minimize harm to the environment. Stay on top of current issues and continue to brush up on which solutions can create the most positive impact. Here are some recommendations:
- Our Climate Change 101 blog series:
- 7 Reasons to (Seriously) Consider a Low Waste Lifestyle by yours truly!
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report - Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
- Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken
- All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson
- Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken OR visit Project Drawdown’s website to check out their table of Climate Solutions. (We summarized a lot of their research in our Most Impactful Sustainable Solutions post!)
- Planting a Seed: 3 Simple Steps to Sustainable Living by Kate Gaertner
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
- The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas
One super simple and straightforward way to reduce waste from plastic or other disposable items is to find reusable and plastic-free alternatives. Start with one thing you use on a regular basis. When you run out of your current supply, swap it out. Add other swaps little by little.
- Cotton Balls or Rounds → Reusable Cloth Facial Rounds
- Plastic Wrap → Food Huggers or Beeswax Wraps
- Paper Towels → Unpaper Towels
- Plastic Produce Bags → Reusable Mesh Produce Bags
- Plastic Netted Shower Loofah → Soap Bags or Washcloths
- Plastic Freezer, Snack, or Sandwich Bags → Reusable Silicone Bags
- Paper Coffee Filters → Reusable Cloth Coffee Filters
- Dryer Sheets or Fabric Softener → Wool Dryer Balls
- Plastic Razors → Stainless Steel Safety Razor
- Cotton Swabs → Reusable Bamboo Swabs
- Toothpaste Tubes → Toothpaste Tabs
- Dish Soap → Dishwashing Block
- Liquid Hand or Body Wash → Bar Soap
- Plastic Floss → Biodegradable Floss
The options go on and on – check out our Reusables, Plastic-Free, Backyard Compostable, Made to Last, Multi-Purpose, or Upcycled collections for swap ideas galore! And don’t forget to look for alternatives you already have or can buy secondhand – like old t-shirts or towels you can use as rags or mismatched utensils you can take on-the-go – before you buy new!
Food & Drink
- Grocery shopping – Learn how to minimize plastic and other packaging while you’re grocery shopping by shopping primarily the produce and bulk sections, opting for paper, glass, and metal packaging over plastic, and bringing reusable bags and containers! Check out our Low Waste Shopper’s Guide for tips and our Package-Free Groceries Resolution Kit makes it easy to start today!
- Minimize meat and animal product consumption – Animal agriculture is one of the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, which means reducing all of our consumption of meat and animal products, especially beef, can go a long way. Plus, there are other ethical reasons you may want to avoid supporting factory farming or the exploitation of animals. Read our Case for Eating Less Meat to learn more.
- Clean up your coffee or tea routine – Whatcha drinkin? Coffee? Tea? Beer? Kombucha? Sparkling seltzers? Water? Think of what waste you accumulate from the beverages you drink and learn ways to avoid disposables! There are a variety of ways to avoid waste from reusable coffee and tea filters to French presses, growler refills for beer and cider at the grocery store, charcoal water filter sticks, and more! Check out our Eat/Drink collection for options that fit your beverages of choice!
- BYO to Avoid Single-Use Plastics and Takeout Packaging – Start keeping a kit of reusable utensils, containers, and napkins with you to avoid single-use plastic and other disposables when you go out to eat. And don’t forget to ask for no utensils, napkins, bags, etc when you’re ordering! Our Less Single-Use Waste Resolution Kit has it all!
- Keep food waste to a minimum – If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Food waste produces methane as it decomposes, which is a gas many times more potent than carbon. Do your part by avoiding buying or serving more food than you can eat, learning how to properly store produce, and composting your scraps. Read our How to Prevent Food Waste blog to learn more and shop our Less Food Waste Resolution Kit for products that help you keep food fresher for longer.
Avoid the waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions that result from producing new products by consuming less altogether and buying new only as a last resort. Look for secondhand options before buying new. Borrow, rent, or swap when possible. Avoid impulse purchases. Make a commitment to minimizing unnecessary shopping and resisting the culture of overconsumption. Learn 3 Tips for Buying Less & Buying Better on our blog or shop our Make Clothes Last Resolution Kit if you want to focus on taking better care of your clothes so they last longer.
Be an Ingredient Nerd
A lot of the ingredients found in everyday personal care, cleaning products, furniture, and other things we use every day are contributing to global warming and adding toxins to our bodies and environment. Make a point to learn about key ingredients to avoid for the health of your body, your family’s, and the planet. Some areas to focus:
- Opt for organic whenever possible – in food, personal care ingredients, and textiles.
- Avoid palm oil unless it’s sustainably sourced.
- Conventional cleaning products are some of the most toxic products in many of our homes. Opt for products with simple ingredients or make your own! Check out our Cleaning collection for a head start!
- Personal care products are another great opportunity because we absorb all of the ingredients as we use them on our skin, in our mouths, or on our hair. Get in the habit of double checking ingredients before you buy products using EWG’s Skin Deep database.
A Lifestyle of Conservation
One way you can minimize your carbon output (and likely save money!) is by being really intentional about your consumption of energy, water, and fossil fuels.
- Transportation is a huge area of opportunity because how we get from point A to point B often involves the burning of gasoline, which is a fossil fuel with majorly harmful environmental impacts at every step of its lifecycle. Minimize your carbon footprint by taking public transportation, riding your bike, walking instead of driving, taking the train instead of flying, going electric, or carbon offsetting your travel as much as possible. Also, keep in mind that whatever you buy has a carbon footprint from transportation because it has to get to you so buy local as much as possible!
- Be mindful of the energy you expend while you’re at home or work by turning off lights when not in use, keeping appliances and electronics unplugged, using cold water and/or energy efficient settings on your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. Hang or air dry when you can!
- Did you know that you also have a digital carbon footprint? Check out our blog for 12 Easy Ways to Keep Your Digital Footprint to a Minimum. Some of the solutions are as simple as deleting unwanted emails and other files and turning off your devices when not in use.
- Water is a resource that many of us take for granted. Start to be more aware of the ways water may be wasted around your home and learn 50 Ways to Waste Less Water on our blog.
- Keep deforestation of some of our most precious and valuable resources to a minimum by committing to minimize use of paper products! Avoid paper towels, napkins, paper, and TP made from trees by opting for reusable alternatives or buying from brands that use bamboo, recycled, or FSC certified paper instead. (Our favorite is Reel!)
Support a Non-Profit Working on a Key Climate Issue
Something we find really encouraging is how many non-profit organizations are already working hard to address many of the most pressing climate issues. They just need our support to have their intended impact!
- Conservation – Don’t sleep on conservation! Protecting and regenerating ocean and land-based ecosystems like rainforests, boreal forests, kelp forests, tidal salt marshes, mangroves, and sea grasses are critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, storing carbon, and providing habitat for critical plant and animal species. Examples: Conservation International, National Forest Foundation, Wild Earth Allies, Oceana, Rainforest Trust, or The Wetlands Initiative
- Climate Research and Innovation – Help support the entrepreneurs and innovators working on ways to solve some of our trickiest climate challenges like reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, minimizing waste outputs, and cleaning our water and air. Our favorite organizations in this category include VertueLab and Project Drawdown.
- Environmental Advocacy – Advocacy organizations help address a wide variety of environmental issues through law and policy, research, and/or direct action. Examples: National Resource Defense Council, 350.org, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and Union of Concerned Scientists
- Environmental Justice – These are organizations that focus on ensuring that all people have access to a safe and healthy environment and address disparities, often in marginalized communities. Examples: Environmental Working Group, Dream Corps - Green for All, We Act for Environmental Justice, and Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Choose an international or national organization to donate to on a regular basis, or keep it local! Many larger organizations have local chapters where you can volunteer or donate to support issues that affect your community directly. If you live in Oregon, Earth Day Oregon is a great resource to find environmental nonprofits in all of the above categories!
Let us know the ways you’re challenging yourself to make a difference in the comments below or tag us (@wayofbeing.co) in your posts on Instagram so your actions can help inspire others!