Earth Day

I am a major appreciator of the Earth. I love appreciating it from a global perspective, because no matter where I go it is always the same Earth under my feet. It’s amazing to think that no matter how different the landscape is, it’s all on the same planet. No matter how different the people are, we all belong to the same Earth. We all dance under the same stars, we all wake up to the same sun and sleep under the same moon. I think that is beautiful. I think the Earth we share is beautiful.

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We all share this Earth. It is solid, ever-changing, and incredible. It is not an expendable resource that we own, it is an intricate system that we are a part of.

Today I’m celebrating Earth Day by not making any trash.

Let the Earth know how much you love it. Hug some trees, pick up some trash, maybe even promise to eliminate some needless everyday waste like plastic straws. Every day is Earth Day when you respect our amazing planet!

 

Everything is Beautiful, Let’s Keep it that Way

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The sun is shining, the birds are singing. Today seemed like a good day to go to the park, climb into a creek, pick up some trash, and get laughed at by an old man. All in the name of nature.

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But honestly, everything is so beautiful. The flowers are coming up and the trees are blooming. Why wouldn’t I climb into a creek to pick up aluminum cans and Styrofoam cups? God gave us such a lovely world. I want to make sure we can actually enjoy it.

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Am I tired of climbing under bridges to pick up other peoples’ garbage? Yes. Am I tired of getting weird looks from passersby as I shimmy between trees to get a rogue plastic bag? Yeah. Does it seem futile? Sometimes.  But it is somehow worth it in the end, when I walk away with my cloth bag full of trash, knowing that I have done something to help the plants, animals, and people.

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It would be easier if everyone stopped leaving their trash in nature, that is what the bins are for. Or even better, recycle! It’s actually so so easy.

Let’s keep everything as beautiful as possible.

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My Zero Waste Necessities

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Let me start by saying that I am not completely “zero waste.” I do, however, try to live as closely to this lifestyle as possible. Also I despise plastic and what it is doing to our lovely earth, so I do everything in my power to keep it at arm’s length. For me, this meant making a few simple switches in my day-to-day. Keeping plastic at bay means never leaving home without a few essentials.

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1. THE CANVAS BAG. If you’ve been around the idea of zero waste for any amount of time, you’ve most likely heard of The Trusty Canvas Bag. Seriously, everyone is raving about them. It may seem a little laughable at first, but this guy can be a no-plastic-please life saver. It is truly an all-purpose bag. Purse, groceries, thrift store, whatever. I usually take this one (which cam from the Colosseum in Rome) to either the library or the book store, when I need something more durable to carry all my heavy books around.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         20170119_160500

2. REUSABLE BAGS. I truly never leave home without my little reusable bags. I have two: the white one, which is smaller; and the one folded into a pouch that has Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring on it (and folds out to be huuge.) They both fold down into pouches that make them pocket-sized, so super easy to take places. They are always in my bag/backpack, even if I’m not planning on shopping. I never want to be caught in a situation and have to resort to plastic. It’s happened to me a couple of times in the passed few months. I just had to say “no plastic bag” and carry my items out, luckily I was only in for some cough drops (unfortunately packed in plastic ugh). Having it at the ready helps remind the cashier that I don’t want or need a plastic bag. Sometimes they don’t even ask and put the item in the bag anyway, and when I remind them I have my own they throw it away. Ultimate frustration. Quitting plastic bags is a must, because as I’ve mentioned before, plastic bags are one of the biggest pollution culprits.

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3. STAINLESS STEEL WATER BOTTLE. I drink a ton of water, and my Klean Kanteen and I are basically inseparable. What was life before we met? A desert full of plastic water bottles, probably. Any reusable water bottle will do of course, but I love my Kanteen because there is no plastic involved at all. Just stainless steel and sustainably sourced bamboo. No more desert, no more disposable plastic water bottles.

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4. STAINLESS STEEL STRAW, COTTON SQUARES. I always keep a stainless steel straw and some little cotton squares (yes I knitted them myself) on me in a little pouch. The straw is handy when I stop somewhere to get a drink or eat so I can successfully refuse a plastic one. Usually just saying “no straw” won’t get you anywhere, as the waiter/waitress can easily forget and put one in your drink along with everyone else’s. When you say “not straw please, I have my own” whilst waving it around, they are more likely to remember. It may also spark a dialogue about the plastic straw problem. The little cotton squares are multi-purpose. Spills, coaster, napkin alternative. You name it. While at home, I have several others that I use as a cotton ball alternative.

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5. MASON JAR. I don’t always carry one with me, because then wait and space would become an issue. But, if I’m going out to eat I will either take a jar or Tupperware with me for my leftovers so I can avoid Styrofoam and other non-recyclable take away containers. But honestly wow, what a multipurpose tool. I use and reuse jars of varying shapes and sizes for everything. Tea, bathroom products, canned goods, leftovers, take away lunches, candles, bulk buying, plants, money, smoothies. The best part is, it can be washed out and used again and again and again, until it shatters. And even then, glass can be recycled infinitely without deteriorating. What can’t you do with a good ol’ jar?

 

It’s not about being perfect, it’s just about reducing my waste where I can. These few items prevent me from using one-time, disposable things that will later pollute our land and water. They keep my conscience and the earth clean.

Kicking Plastic to the Curb with My Christmas Wishlist

To bo honest, I’m always a little late to the Christmas wishlist making party (and most other parties, but that’s usually a personal choice.) I just never seem to be properly prepared. By the time the 15th rolls around I’ve usually gotten my act together. I’ve never been into the consumerism side of the Holiday Season (it actually makes me really angry) so my list is always pretty different than my friends’ and families’. This year I’m a bit more decisive in the types of gifts I want to be giving and getting: meaningful ones that will mean something or make a difference  (or both.)

Anyway, here are some “zero waste” alternatives on my Christmas list! I’m hoping to eliminate all those pesky single-use plastics I still have in my life in this New Year. The things on this list will greatly assist me in my quest, plus they may spark curiosities and conversations with my friends and family about the Plastic Problem.

  1. Stainless Steel Water Bottle. I have a reusable water bottle already, but it is very inconvenient to clean and it has been through quite a lot in it’s life. Stainless steel is so much easier to clean, and more hygienic. Not to mention metal can be recycled an infinite amount of times while keeping it’s durability. A much more sustainable option than even a reusable plastic one, like I have now.
  2. Stainless Steel Straws. Oh, plastic straws. Why were you even invented in the first place? I stopped using single-use straws a while back. They’re just another one of those pesky, but all-too-common, and yet seemingly harmless little devils that will end up polluting the oceans. Mostly all I drink is water from my water bottle, but when I have smoothies and other stuff I want a straw sometimes. And maybe having one to carry to restaurants with me will help the waiter remember that no really, I do not want a straw. 
  3. Biodegradable Toothbrush. Again, why? Made of plastic, with plastic bristles, wrapped and packaged in plastic. And it can’t even be recycled when you’re done with it. Needless to say, a biodegradable option is much much more sustainable. Most are made of bamboo, which I love. Sadly, from what I’ve seen most brands have not yet discovered a solution to the plastic bristles.
  4. Tote Bags. Plastic bags are always a no. I love the little reusable bag I have now. It is always with me, wherever I go. It can fold down to pocket size, so it is very convenient. I do, however, want some in varying sizes and designs. Ones that I can switch out every now and then, but still fit in my bag for when I’m popping over to the store or on-the-go.

As always, I am constantly working and growing to become more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Plastic Bags are Trash (literally)

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this bag is green.

So what’s the deal with plastic bags anyway? It’s quite simple, really.

The Stats

It is estimated that approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used per shopper, per year. Americans alone throw away 100 billion. 

Just think about that number for a minute. 5 billion bags per shopper, per year. You heard me right, that’s a five with nine zeroes after it. Insane right? Almost impossible to think about. Here’s another crazy thing:

They do not biodegrade. It takes 1,000 years for them to disintegrate.

Plastic never breaks down entirely. So imagine all the 5 billion plastic bags for each person who shopped this year. Now imagine that number multiplied by ten years. Now imagine that number multiplied by 30-40 years (plastic bags began to pop up in most stores in the late 1970s.)

Almost 2 trillion

And yeah most of those, if not all, are still hanging around today. Or swimming in our oceans. They’re there, you’ve seen them. You may have stopped noticing them because you see them so often, but they are always there – swept down the road by the wind, caught in the trees flapping in the breeze. In fact, 8 million tons of general plastic litter enters our oceans per year. Isn’t that fun to think about?

The Effects

  • While floating in the oceans, they choke and strangle the marine life
  • They flow into spots in the oceans called gyres (basically massive collecting points of mingled plastic debris, the earth has 5)
  • Land animals also often mistake the lovely plastic bag for food, blocking their digestive tracks and eventually killing them
  • They clog up our land fills and remain there for hundreds of years
  • They end up everywhere and anywhere throughout nature and they do not biodegrade

The Solutions

The easiest and most effective solution, of course, would be to just refuse plastic bags straight away. Invest in good-quality reusable (cloth) bags and bring them every time you go to the grocery store. My favourite is the one pictured above, which we picked up at a Spar in Vienna. You don’t have to spend money on new ones if you don’t want to. You can reuse the odd old bag lying around the house or make your own if you are so inclined. Ours are always either in the trunk of our car or on the door knob so we don’t forget them. I keep a small one in my bag at all times, just in case the need arises. It can fold down to a small enough size to fit in my pocket and it has served me very well.

If you are buying only one or two items, you can just say “I don’t need a bag” at checkout. If you have to choose between a plastic bag and a paper one at checkout, request paper. It’s not as great as bringing your own, but at least you’re not using plastic. Plus, paper bags will biodegrade in a couple of months.

Unfortunately, most municipal waste management will not take your plastic bags, even if you put them curbside. Depending on where you live, you may be fortunate enough to have a store or depot that will take your plastic bags for recycling. However, the recycling of plastic bags is not efficient in any way and eventually will not address the growing list of problems mentioned above.

Always remember that each choice we make causes a chain reaction, and we choose the world of the future.

#2 | reduce, reuse, recycle

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Before I begin, I’d like to mention a few things: I’m not an expert, this is just a short essay compiling what I’ve learned; I’m not here to tell you how to live your life; this is a judgement-free zone.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the three Rs.

It’s the mantra of my second grade teacher come back to haunt me- reduce reuse recycle! As a kid I never thought much of it, beyond wishing my teachers would stop shouting it at me. I lived in Canada, which as I mentioned in my last post,  is indeed very admirably environmentally conscious. In school and at home recycling was pretty important. The several different recycling bins and rules often stumped my visiting American relatives. Beyond the everyday recycling, the three Rs took a backseat to other things I had to learn as I got older; and at some point it stopped being important.

I don’t know when it was exactly that I started caring again- it could have been when we moved to the US. At school we threw everything away- Styrofoam, plastic, paper, food- into one trash can. At home, the city only gave us one very small recycling bin. This all seemed fundamentally wrong to me. And the truth is, your grade school teachers were right. Reducing, reusing and recycling is important. Even though it probably doesn’t seem like it, what you do with your garbage matters.

Recycle

  • recycling means we need less new materials, and as a result we save natural habitats
  • we can prevent pollution that is put off during the creation of things that use new materials
  • landfills give off chemicals that are harmful to the environment, recycling reduces this pollution
  • our landfills are filling up fast, and we are needing to create more and more of them to accommodate all that we waste
  • recycling means using less energy

Reduce & Reuse

  • Reducing means using less. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. So many times we buy  things we think we need and then they just sit, or we end up throwing it away.
  • Throwing it away often means putting non-biodegradable materials into a landfill where it will sit and pollute our environment for years.
  • Before you throw something away ask yourself some questions and think about it first.
  • “Will I really never need this again?” Sometimes we throw things away too hastily, and end up needing to buy another one later (needless to say this produces unnecessary waste).
  • “Can this be recycled or given to someone else who will reuse it?” I try really really hard not to throw anything away if it is still usable. Even if you’ll never use it again, take it to a thrift store (I’m a big believer in thrift stores, more on that later) because odds are someone else is needing one.

Other Simple Ways to Be Green

You don’t have to have solar panels and a wind mill powering your house to be green (although those are both great things).

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle. Even if you diligently recycle your plastic bottles, getting a reusable bottle is a good choice. Americans go through about 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, and 38 billion of those go unrecycled. (source)
  • Donate items, especially clothes, you aren’t going to reuse instead of throwing them away. 14.3 billion tons of textiles get thrown out and wasted every year, while 50% of it could have been recycled.(source)
  • Say no to plastic bags. Take your own reusable bags to the store. More than 500 billion plastic bags end up flying through the air as litter, and about 300 million get blown into the Atlantic ocean. And it takes 100+ years for them to breakdown. (source)
  • Carpool. You’ve most likely  heard this one a million times, but that’s one time for every car I see during the day.Taking one car to work/school with three of your friends is better than three cars with no friends. In fact, not taking a car at all is even better. Walking and biking are also great ways to get around, and they don’t produce any pollutants. I know that’s not always realistic- I live in what is possibly the least pedestrian-friendly city in the world, with a grand total of three sidewalks that all start in and lead to the middle of no where- but it reduces pollutants and you get exercise.

 

There are so many ways we can work to make the world a better place, if not for us then for the future generations. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are small, simple, yet effective ways of working toward a less polluted future. What I’ve written about in this post only scratches the surface of all the ways you can work to be more green.

An earth this beautiful deserves to stay this beautiful.

#1 | intro

I’ve always been pretty environmentally conscious, living in Canada (one of the most admirably environmentally conscious places I’ve encountered) has planted that seed in my brain. Reduce, reuse, recycle guys.

For the longest time I’ve read all the labels on the backs of the food I buy and been generally pretty conscious and actively made decisions about what to put into my body. Trying really hard to stay away from artificial colours and flavours and sweeteners, and other chemicals because it’s bad for me. But then of course, I read an article… and things went down hill fast. I started realizing that even the bottle of shampoo I buy has an effect on the environment, and the chemicals in the food that I eat don’t just affect me. What other seemingly small things in life do I take for granted that put other’s lives in danger?The clothes I buy were made by someone- are they payed a living wage and work in healthy conditions?

But recently I was made very aware that what I decide to buy and where I buy it from has an impact, and even the smallest of my decisions can make a difference. I’m in no way an expert, but through a lot of research I’ve decided what things I value and what kind of things I want to support with my money- after all money makes the world go ’round. So now I’m going to write some blog posts about it, because waging war against ignorance is something of a personal mission of mine.

I’ll talk about some potentially challenging stuff. I’ll talk about what’s wrong with the food, clothing and beauty industries; and their affects on the environment. I’ll talk about our personal affects on the environment. I’ll talk about my experience with these thing and how I am working to make a difference.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Anna Lappé (sustainable food advocate) that perfectly encompasses this post series and my general thoughts on consumerism:

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for what kind of world you want.”