Plastic waste | Adobe stock photo
By Koly McBride
The following is a gathering of lessons I learned hands-on while working in the junk removal and clutter organizing field for the past four years. It’s also an accumulation of things I’ve learned from being guilty of buying too much, keeping too much, saving too much and using too many non-sustainable items.
We have to remain teachable because what worked five years ago isn’t going to work today, and what works today may not work five years from now. It is my mission in the coming year to make changes within my own life and household and business and I invite you to do the same. Or at least try.
Disclaimer: Obviously, no one is perfect and what I’ve listed are just things I’m going to aspire to do and I believe that if I just try, I’ll be able to accomplish a good portion. In the end, we can only take care of our own corner of the world and add our good and positive intention to the intention of the Universe.
Also, please know that I know that this all sucks. The things I’m about to suggest are unfair and unfun. They require shopping less and sometimes spending a little more. There will be self-restraint, self-deprivation and self-control. You will need commitment and follow through. You have to make a choice to make a difference. And you must resolutely stick to that choice.
But the environment is the only thing that matters. Without clean air, clean water and clean soil, we are dead. Our children are dead. Our children’s children are dead. Life as we know it is dead.
We can slow it down. It does make a difference if you start making every action pro-environment. And it’s not difficult.
Another disclaimer: I’m not perfect. But I keep trying. And that’s the key. Things I’ve listed here are goals and suggestions that I’ve discovered or have been passed to me.
Here are my 10 Suggested Resolutions for the Environment:
1. Stop shopping as a hobby.
Mindlessly strolling or scrolling online or through the store collecting things into your cart is not ok. You’re no longer stimulating the economy, you’re lining some CEO’s pockets and creating demand for cheap labor most likely off the backs of a poor community. And creating clutter and work for yourself — or more trash for the world to absorb.
2. Stop buying plastic.
Of any kind. Phase out plastic wraps, containers, Ziplocs, plastic utensils, straws, kids’ dishes, plastic water bottles. Plastic is no longer recyclable. For a while, the United States had a deal with China to absorb our recyclables but it became too much for China to handle, so barges and barges of recyclable materials are on their way back across our oceans. Plastic breaks down into micro bits which flood the environment and clog every ecosystem. Everything that is made with plastic can be found in sustainable wood and paper (like bamboo), metal, hemp, cotton, sustainable paper or a better, more replenishable product.
3. Give up paper towels and napkins.
Go with reusable napkins and use cotton dish towels to wipe up spills. Who Gives A Crap? is a really admirable company that creates really strong yet soft toilet paper and absorbent paper towels out of bamboo. Bamboo grows up to 3 feet per day! This company also brings water to the poorest communities in other countries so your dollars are being invested in a clean future for others as well.
4. Replace necessary purchases with better sustainable choices.
Refuse to purchase anything that won’t decompose in under a year or less. We have to buy food; that’s a given, but bringing your own vegetable sacks to purchase unpackaged vegetables, shopping at the farmers’ market , and purchasing only things packaged in post-consumer waste or in no packages at all will make a huge difference.
5. Buy only what you need and buy used.
Everything in the world can be found secondhand. Clothes, dishes, bedding, household items and decor. Everything. Get over the “ick” factor. Everything can be washed and cleaned and sterilized and reused.
6. Stop buying fast-fashion clothing.
One of the biggest and most recent threats to our landfill is acrylic clothing. Anything “poly blend” won’t decompose. Millions of pounds are taking up landfill space every year. If there is less demand, there is less production. Bonus … less demand for cheap means less slave labor. Make clothing purchases deliberate and support environmentally responsible companies. Also, reach out and let the companies you support know exactly why you are supporting them. Activate change with your dollar. It only takes a second to find your favorite brand that is attempting to be eco-positive on social media and shoot them a thank you.
7. Refuse bags, to-go containers, straws and styrofoam, and purchase food items in environmentally responsible containers.
Carry your own containers for restaurant leftovers … or finish your food. Or carry mesh bags with you.
8. Eliminate food waste.
Shop with a list, and pack your lunch. Get in the habit of a “leftover night” once or twice a week where you eat all of the opened or left over food in your fridge. Food in the landfill is a rapidly increasing problem.
If you can, get chickens. They are like mini garbage disposals, gobbling up most leftovers (check online for chicken no-no’s, like feeding them onions and avocados) and making great compost.
9. Pay attention to the ingredients in your cleaning, gardening and beauty supplies.
When in doubt, Google “safe cleaning” and choose your products from there. Vinegar, bleach in small amounts, baking soda, 50 percent alcohol, ammonia in small amounts are what we strive for in my house (obviously this is a work in progress). Some of the newest green laundry soaps have worked well for us. We are going to give container-free laundry soap a try this month and it will hopefully eliminate all of the plastic laundry soap bottles. Those bottles not only clog up our own garbage and recycling bins, but also the landfill.
Remove pesticides from your life. You don’t need them to have a weed-free life and we need bees in our world far more than we need perfectly manicured lawns. Pesticides will kill bees. If you must get rid of weeds, pouring boiling water onto them usually helps and I find it extremely cathartic to hand pull weeds, especially after a rainy day. (Also, the grown kids in my household know they can get a quick 15 bucks to weed a small area.)
Be responsible with your cosmetic use, the containers they come in and the ingredients. Be especially wary of anything that says “microdermabrasion” and make sure that whatever is exfoliating you is an organic material and not made of plastic. Again, a simple Google search can steer you in the right direction for greener products as there are far too many to list here.
10. Stop buying any beverage in a plastic bottle.
Buy only glass or aluminum, which can still be recycled. This is a hard one. In our house we have a water filter from the fridge but I realize a lot of people don’t have that. I don’t necessarily suggest that you get a plastic Brita filter but it’s certainly better than buying cases and cases of plastic bottled water. Before we had the refrigerator dispenser, we had a filter attached directly to our kitchen tap which was relatively inexpensive and made the water taste so much better.
My theater business unfortunately spent many years serving water in bottles and we recently switched to canned still water, which we will implement in the new year.
Any soda that you enjoy can be found in an aluminum can or glass bottle.
- Speak up. When individuals (no matter how young) speak up in defense of our environment they are often met with anger, hatred, and hostility. We have to speak up against that hatred and support what others are doing to make our world better.
- Know that if the most you can accomplish is simply asking yourself “Is this item truly recyclable?” you are doing something huge. Every time you see a need for something, for some item in your life, and you search for it used first, you are doing something huge.
- Lead by example. I believe that real change comes from action, not vocalization. Sharing your experience instead of telling people what to do is far more effective.
All these things are goals for me — and I have done my best to compile this list based on research and experience. That being said, I am absolutely certain there are ways to improve on these things and I am happy to have you direct-message me questions or comments.
The world is on fire. Let’s not waste any more time quibbling about the color of the hose.