Easy Eco-Friendly Choices You Can Make (Save the Planet Without Trying)

Living ae eco-friendly lifestyle is becoming more and more important as we realize the magnitude of the damage mankind has already done to earth as well as the scope of how this damage will impact our future.

You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an offshore zone between Hawaii and California, which is where a majority of the world’s trash accumulates. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands found that the Great Patch has now grown to three times the size of France—or twice the size of Texas—and is STILL growing each day.

Still not shocked? America produces approximately 50 billion water bottles each year, and less than 25% of those 50 billion end up getting recycled. Need a more shocking number? America uses over 180 billion plastic straws—that’s only in one year, and only in one country! Additionally, Starbucks sells about 4 billion coffee cups each year, and since the inside of the cups is lined with plastic, they cannot be recycled.

The average plastic soda bottle takes at least 450-500 years to biodegrade on land. To put that into perspective, if Leonardo Da Vinci had thrown a plastic water bottle into the ocean, it would still  exist today. More horrifyingly, plastic can never biodegrade completely—after a long enough time, it breaks down into a microplastic—pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm, which is still immensely detrimental to land and marine life.

With how advanced our world has become, it’s inexcusable for us to keep making this much trash without taking responsibility for it. The plastic we are throwing away now will still exist when our great-grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive, so why aren’t we doing more about it?

Saving the planet doesn’t mean that everybody has to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle overnight, or that you can’t get Starbucks for the rest of your life— there are a plethora of things that each of us can do as individuals that will have huge benefits for the planet, without forcing us to drastically change our lifestyles or break our wallets. In fact, most things that you can do to start being more environmentally conscious would hardly affect your life at all.

Switch from Plastic and Paper to Cloth Items

This is the first and most popular step that people take when they start becoming more environmentally conscious. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans use around 380 billion plastic bags each year, and that number expands to as many as 1 trillion worldwide. What’s worse, only about 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

By switching to a reusable cloth bag, you can make a big impact with minimal effort. Cloth tote bags can be bought online, or you can even look up tutorials online and learn how to make them yourself. Keep them in your car, your purse, or your backpack, so you’re always prepared in case of an emergency shopping trip on your way home from work or class.

Additionally, using cloth napkins instead of paper towels helps reduce the amount of waste you throw away each week, and it will save you tons of money over the years, too. Many participating stores of grocery chains such as Target, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Food offer discounts for each reusable bag you bring to bag your groceries.

Start Using Steel Straws

It’s clear that plastic straws are one of the biggest contributors to ocean waste. In the United States alone, over 500 million plastic straws are used each day. Steel straws are an incredibly cheap alternative that pack huge punches when you’re trying to crack down on the amount of waste you’re producing. Most steel straws come in packs, so you can keep one at home and one in your backpack or purse, so wherever you are, you can always rest assured that no plastic straws will be used.

Shop at Thrift Stores

Clothing is often kicked under the rug when we talk about waste management. However, fast fashion—clothing that copies current trends and is usually out of style within a few years—is a huge contributor to landfills. According to a report by the EPA, the US produced 15.1 million pounds of textile waste in 2013 with roughly 85% of it ending up in landfills.

Each year, we buy expensive clothing that follows the current trends. And more often than not, we end up getting rid of it a year or two later because the thin fabric has become ripped or torn, or the style has gone out of fashion. Thrift shopping is a great way to help reduce clothing waste, and also save your wallet from the misery of your crazy online shopping habits.  

After all, who would want to pay $50 for a trendy sweater when you can thrift it for $10, and  help the planet at the same time? To help contribute to sustainable fashion, please donate your old clothes to your local Salvation Army or other thrift stores rather than throwing clothes away when you don’t wear them anymore.

Change Your Method of Transportation

While those who live in rural areas might struggle the most with this adjustment, those who live in large cities or urban areas should have no problem changing their methods of transportation. Transportation has a huge impact on the environment, from the resources required to produce and use vehicles to harmful air pollution emissions (96 pounds of CO2 are emitted per mile in a private vehicle).

Switching to carpooling or taking public transit, such as the bus or subway, will significantly decrease the amount of CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere every day by private vehicles. Better yet, if you live close enough to where you go to school or work, walking or biking is the most earth-friendly option, because no emissions are being released at all.

Exchange What’s in Your Bathroom Cabinets

Nearly all of our hygiene products are made to be thrown away after a certain number of uses: most razors are plastic and come with disposable heads, dentists recommend that toothbrushes be replaced every four months, and let’s not even talk about how much trash we make when we consider all the floss, Q-tips, and empty deodorant and shaving cream bottles we go through each year.

To combat this, invest in a stainless-steel safety razor, which can be used and thrown away as many times as you need, since stainless steel is recyclable. Safety razors give a better shave than disposable razors. Safety blade razors can be used for up to two months, and only the blades need to be recycled—the body of the razor will last you your entire lifetime!

Consider also investing in bamboo or wooden toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and cutlery. These are especially sustainable because if you need to throw them out for whatever reason, there’s no problem putting them into landfills because they are already natural, earth-made materials that will biodegrade back into the earth.

If you’re someone who enjoys a challenge and loves making things yourself, there are hundreds of recipes online for DIY all-natural, zero-waste deodorants, shampoos, toothpaste, and makeup. My favorite blog is Going Zero Waste, which gives tons of zero waste lifestyle tips, recipes for zero waste products, ranging from beauty products, hygiene products, and food recipes.  

Changing to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Adopting a completely zero-waste lifestyle is hard for people with busy lifestyles, and that’s okay. You don’t have to approach the concept of being more eco-friendly with the idea of “go big or go home.” Going slow with these changes is the easiest and best way to make sure that you’re doing everything right.

Adopting more eco-friendly choices into your lifestyle is a constant learning process, and regardless of how extreme you decide to alter your life, whether it’s just buying cloth tote bags and switching out your toothbrush, or challenging yourself to go completely zero waste, any eco-friendly choice you make will ultimately have a much larger beneficial impact on the earth than you can imagine.

If money is a concern, don’t fret! Just because you’ve decided to go zero-waste doesn’t mean you need to throw out every single plastic item in your house right this instant. Continue using your plastic items until they are ready to be replaced. This way, you’re not spending hundreds of dollars and hours of your time buying materials to make new zero-waste deodorants or beauty products.

Instead, you can spend around $20 a month over a year or so to slowly replace things throughout your home. $10 here to buy wooden cutlery, $5 there for a pack of steel straws…if you approach the zero-waste lifestyle as a journey that will take time to achieve, you’ll be able to approach it much better than replacing everything at once.

Even still, you can help the environment without tapping into your wallet. Make the point to recycle all the plastic and paper bags in your household every week or month, and try your best to prevent bringing more plastic into your home as you start your zero waste journey. If you have a yard, starting a compost pile is a great way to start recycling all your natural food items.

While you start your zero-waste journey, undoubtedly the MOST important thing you can do for the environment is using your voice to spread word of the cause you’ve now become so passionate about. Talk to your family members and friends about how plastic harms the environment, and encourage them to begin adopting zero-waste practices into their own lives.

The only way to help save the environment and change the way plastic is viewed and used in society is to unite our voices and collaborate with each other in order to spread awareness about the importance of environmentalism. After all, the things we do on earth now will still be impacting earth hundreds of years from now, and it’s our duty to make sure that those impacts of beneficial, not harmful.

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I am a student at the University of Michigan studying International Studies and English Literature. My passions lie in environmentalism, travel, language learning, writing, and a good book is never too far out of reach.

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Easy Eco-Friendly Choices You Can Make (Save the Planet Without Trying)

Living ae eco-friendly lifestyle is becoming more and more important as we realize the magnitude of the damage mankind has already done to earth as well as the scope of how this damage will impact our future.

You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an offshore zone between Hawaii and California, which is where a majority of the world’s trash accumulates. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands found that the Great Patch has now grown to three times the size of France—or twice the size of Texas—and is STILL growing each day.

Still not shocked? America produces approximately 50 billion water bottles each year, and less than 25% of those 50 billion end up getting recycled. Need a more shocking number? America uses over 180 billion plastic straws—that’s only in one year, and only in one country! Additionally, Starbucks sells about 4 billion coffee cups each year, and since the inside of the cups is lined with plastic, they cannot be recycled.

The average plastic soda bottle takes at least 450-500 years to biodegrade on land. To put that into perspective, if Leonardo Da Vinci had thrown a plastic water bottle into the ocean, it would still  exist today. More horrifyingly, plastic can never biodegrade completely—after a long enough time, it breaks down into a microplastic—pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm, which is still immensely detrimental to land and marine life.

With how advanced our world has become, it’s inexcusable for us to keep making this much trash without taking responsibility for it. The plastic we are throwing away now will still exist when our great-grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive, so why aren’t we doing more about it?

Saving the planet doesn’t mean that everybody has to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle overnight, or that you can’t get Starbucks for the rest of your life— there are a plethora of things that each of us can do as individuals that will have huge benefits for the planet, without forcing us to drastically change our lifestyles or break our wallets. In fact, most things that you can do to start being more environmentally conscious would hardly affect your life at all.

Switch from Plastic and Paper to Cloth Items

This is the first and most popular step that people take when they start becoming more environmentally conscious. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans use around 380 billion plastic bags each year, and that number expands to as many as 1 trillion worldwide. What’s worse, only about 5% of plastic bags are recycled.

By switching to a reusable cloth bag, you can make a big impact with minimal effort. Cloth tote bags can be bought online, or you can even look up tutorials online and learn how to make them yourself. Keep them in your car, your purse, or your backpack, so you’re always prepared in case of an emergency shopping trip on your way home from work or class.

Additionally, using cloth napkins instead of paper towels helps reduce the amount of waste you throw away each week, and it will save you tons of money over the years, too. Many participating stores of grocery chains such as Target, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Food offer discounts for each reusable bag you bring to bag your groceries.

Start Using Steel Straws

It’s clear that plastic straws are one of the biggest contributors to ocean waste. In the United States alone, over 500 million plastic straws are used each day. Steel straws are an incredibly cheap alternative that pack huge punches when you’re trying to crack down on the amount of waste you’re producing. Most steel straws come in packs, so you can keep one at home and one in your backpack or purse, so wherever you are, you can always rest assured that no plastic straws will be used.

Shop at Thrift Stores

Clothing is often kicked under the rug when we talk about waste management. However, fast fashion—clothing that copies current trends and is usually out of style within a few years—is a huge contributor to landfills. According to a report by the EPA, the US produced 15.1 million pounds of textile waste in 2013 with roughly 85% of it ending up in landfills.

Each year, we buy expensive clothing that follows the current trends. And more often than not, we end up getting rid of it a year or two later because the thin fabric has become ripped or torn, or the style has gone out of fashion. Thrift shopping is a great way to help reduce clothing waste, and also save your wallet from the misery of your crazy online shopping habits.  

After all, who would want to pay $50 for a trendy sweater when you can thrift it for $10, and  help the planet at the same time? To help contribute to sustainable fashion, please donate your old clothes to your local Salvation Army or other thrift stores rather than throwing clothes away when you don’t wear them anymore.

Change Your Method of Transportation

While those who live in rural areas might struggle the most with this adjustment, those who live in large cities or urban areas should have no problem changing their methods of transportation. Transportation has a huge impact on the environment, from the resources required to produce and use vehicles to harmful air pollution emissions (96 pounds of CO2 are emitted per mile in a private vehicle).

Switching to carpooling or taking public transit, such as the bus or subway, will significantly decrease the amount of CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere every day by private vehicles. Better yet, if you live close enough to where you go to school or work, walking or biking is the most earth-friendly option, because no emissions are being released at all.

Exchange What’s in Your Bathroom Cabinets

Nearly all of our hygiene products are made to be thrown away after a certain number of uses: most razors are plastic and come with disposable heads, dentists recommend that toothbrushes be replaced every four months, and let’s not even talk about how much trash we make when we consider all the floss, Q-tips, and empty deodorant and shaving cream bottles we go through each year.

To combat this, invest in a stainless-steel safety razor, which can be used and thrown away as many times as you need, since stainless steel is recyclable. Safety razors give a better shave than disposable razors. Safety blade razors can be used for up to two months, and only the blades need to be recycled—the body of the razor will last you your entire lifetime!

Consider also investing in bamboo or wooden toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and cutlery. These are especially sustainable because if you need to throw them out for whatever reason, there’s no problem putting them into landfills because they are already natural, earth-made materials that will biodegrade back into the earth.

If you’re someone who enjoys a challenge and loves making things yourself, there are hundreds of recipes online for DIY all-natural, zero-waste deodorants, shampoos, toothpaste, and makeup. My favorite blog is Going Zero Waste, which gives tons of zero waste lifestyle tips, recipes for zero waste products, ranging from beauty products, hygiene products, and food recipes.  

Changing to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Adopting a completely zero-waste lifestyle is hard for people with busy lifestyles, and that’s okay. You don’t have to approach the concept of being more eco-friendly with the idea of “go big or go home.” Going slow with these changes is the easiest and best way to make sure that you’re doing everything right.

Adopting more eco-friendly choices into your lifestyle is a constant learning process, and regardless of how extreme you decide to alter your life, whether it’s just buying cloth tote bags and switching out your toothbrush, or challenging yourself to go completely zero waste, any eco-friendly choice you make will ultimately have a much larger beneficial impact on the earth than you can imagine.

If money is a concern, don’t fret! Just because you’ve decided to go zero-waste doesn’t mean you need to throw out every single plastic item in your house right this instant. Continue using your plastic items until they are ready to be replaced. This way, you’re not spending hundreds of dollars and hours of your time buying materials to make new zero-waste deodorants or beauty products.

Instead, you can spend around $20 a month over a year or so to slowly replace things throughout your home. $10 here to buy wooden cutlery, $5 there for a pack of steel straws…if you approach the zero-waste lifestyle as a journey that will take time to achieve, you’ll be able to approach it much better than replacing everything at once.

Even still, you can help the environment without tapping into your wallet. Make the point to recycle all the plastic and paper bags in your household every week or month, and try your best to prevent bringing more plastic into your home as you start your zero waste journey. If you have a yard, starting a compost pile is a great way to start recycling all your natural food items.

While you start your zero-waste journey, undoubtedly the MOST important thing you can do for the environment is using your voice to spread word of the cause you’ve now become so passionate about. Talk to your family members and friends about how plastic harms the environment, and encourage them to begin adopting zero-waste practices into their own lives.

The only way to help save the environment and change the way plastic is viewed and used in society is to unite our voices and collaborate with each other in order to spread awareness about the importance of environmentalism. After all, the things we do on earth now will still be impacting earth hundreds of years from now, and it’s our duty to make sure that those impacts of beneficial, not harmful.

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