Happy Earth Day, one of my very favorite days of the year! If you have been a long time reader, you know that my love for the planet is a core part of who I am. Every year on Earth Day I try to take some time to examine my own habits and see what things I am doing well in regards to green living as well as identify areas that could be improved.

Over this past year my opportunities to travel to some amazing locations have only deepened my love for the beauty our earth has to offer, and make me even more passionate about doing whatever I can to preserve it. I have a few different goals I’m working on this year. First, I am making an effort to reduce my online shopping when the things I need are sold in stores in my area. I’ve been working on this for a few months and am making some progress in this area. Obviously shopping less in general is ideal, but if there are things I need to buy, it makes way more sense for me to make one trip to the mall that has the majority of the stores I would be ordering from anyway and get everything all at once. Yes, it is slightly less convenient, but overall really reduces the carbon footprint of those items I would be purchasing. For me the main reason I tend to avoid stores and the mall specifically is my aversion to crowds, and a strategy I have been using to combat this is to go to the mall 20-30 minutes before closing time on a weeknight. The place is deserted and I am able to hit 3-4 stores in rapid succession.

On a related note, one thing I am continuing to work on is finding more small sustainable/ethical/slow fashion retailers. You may have seen a social media movement this week, known as Fashion Revolution week which intentionally coincides with Earth Day. Surfing the hashtag #whomademyclothes is a great way to find companies with eco-friendly and ethical business practices. The more support this movement gains, the more big retailers will have to address the impact they have on both the environment and their workers. In the same vein, I’m trying to pay attention to items made from organic cotton and/or recycled materials since such a large amount of pesticides go into textile production. This can seem like a daunting thing to tackle but I’m convinced baby steps are the answer. I have started following a handful of ethical fashion blogs and they have been very inspiring in all of these matters. Check out Life+Style+Justice and Dress Well Do Good for some inspiration! And of course, I continue in my venture to make at least some of mine and my kids’ clothes with my own knitting and sewing abilities.

Lastly, I’m paying attention to the decline of bees and other pollinators. Hopefully most people have heard of this issue as it has been gaining publicity in the last few years. This is a hugely important issue that cannot be stressed enough. For a good overview, see this page. I’m looking into various ways to support this cause. My main support will likely be monetary but if anyone has other good suggestions for ways to help save the bees, I would love to hear them.

Finally, here’s my running list of things I already do to provide additional inspiration.

  • Use reusable grocery bags (and don’t forget reusable produce bags as well!)  No need for plastic. For all those who own reusable bags but forget to bring them to the store, put them back into your car IMMEDIATELY after you unpack the groceries.  Then you’ll never be without them.
  • Recycle as much as possible.
  • Buy local, eat local.  Supporting local farms and food providers benefits you, them, and the entire local economy. (Check this site to find farmers markets near you!)
  • Find local markets and support them rather than big box supermarkets. In Indy, Wildwood Market, Goose the Market, and Moody Meats are just a few great options that offer all sorts of local goods.
  • Cook at home instead of going out to eat. So many benefits – saves money, fuel, reduces waste and packaging, and it’s better for your health!
  • When you do eat out, support local restaurants instead of huge chain entities. In particular, seek out eateries that focus on serving local and seasonal fare. It tastes WAY better, and supports the local economy. Win-win!
  • On a related note, bring your lunch to school or work instead of buying food.  It wastes less packaging, tastes better, and is usually healthier. (My Let’s Do Lunch series was created for this purpose.)
  • Make school lunches for your kids. Same idea as above! Follow me on Instagram and check out my hashtag #anniesschoollunches for inspiration.
  • Give up paper towels, napkins, and disposable dishes or utensils.  Stock up on reusable alternatives – they’ll last you a long time and save money in the long run.
  • Don’t use plastic water bottles.  Buy a reusable bottle and refill it instead.  (And don’t drink other things that come in plastic bottles such as soda or juice – they aren’t good for you anyway.)
  • If you do end up with a plastic cup or bottle while out and about and recycling is not easily accessible, don’t just toss the item in the trash because it is convenient. Bring plastic cups, bottles, or other packaging home and recycle them! 
  • Start a garden and grow your own food.  So fun and rewarding! My friend Tara has great gardening info on her blog.
  • Can and preserve your own foods so you can buy less processed food and its associated packaging.
  • Give up your daily coffee shop trips and brew your own treats at home. (Here are a few things I make at home to avoid the coffee shop.)
  • Make your own yogurt and fruit mix-ins to avoid the waste of all those individual yogurt containers.
  • Cut down on junk mail by opting out of catalog and coupon mailings. Visit websites of the offending companies and have your address removed from their mailing list. Much better than recycling junk mail is not having the waste created in the first place!

How about some giveaways to celebrate? I think so!

All US Residents: 

Indy residents only:

  • Natalie Webster

    Annie! I’m so excited to hear you are interested in helping save pollinators! My dad is a beekeeper here in Houston and we love the bees :) First of all, Diane Rehm has done at least one show on bees in the last year, so that is worth a listen if you haven’t. Second, my Dad has swarm boxes that he puts in yards around here. Unlike a hive that you would likely need HOA/neighbor approval for, a swarm box isn’t a permeate fixture. It’s just there to catch a swarm. We had one in our yard last spring and we live in a pretty standard neighborhood. I’m sure there is a beekeeper in your area who would give you a swarm box. Lastly, look for a wildflower mix specifically for your area that you could plant a section of in your yard or garden. It will attract the pollinators and give them lots of good things to eat!!

  • Annie

    Thank you for the info! I appreciate it!

  • Fab post Annie, happy Earth Day!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about many of these things this year too, and I’ve bought some wildflower seeds to plant to help the bees which you could try. I’m also leaving part of my garden wild (not mowed/tidied) to attract bees and other wildlife.

    Also, I’m guessing you probably have it covered but I noticed you didn’t mention household/cleaning products – I recently converted everything in my house to green products which I wrote about here – http://kerrycooks.com/are-your-cleaning-products-harming-the-planet/

  • I’ve never thought of the carbon footprint when it comes to online shopping. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  • Anne

    Thanks, Annie! Lots of great ideas.

    I live in the suburbs, so it’s like there’s a competition for the best lawn :) Although the yards look nice, the chemicals that sustain these lush landscapes are not good for the environment in general, and bad for the bees in particular. This year, we’re embracing our dandelions :) To keep the neighbors from hating us, we’re cutting our lawn more frequently so that we can reduce the number that go to seed and spread.

    Happy Earth Day!

  • Heather M.

    I absolutely love your Earth Day posts! I was so excited to check out your blog this morning to see what you posted. :) Thank you for taking the time to post these tips and motivating me to be more aware and thinking about changes my family can make!

  • Cara

    I love how you continue to use this platform to promote worthwhile causes. It is one of the main reasons I’m such a loyal reader and point people to your page. It gets very discouraging one bloggers veer from their roots and choose to post things for profit. Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration in so many different avenues of fun, worthwhile ventures!

  • Beth ‘Larkin’ Carroll

    Love this! Thanks for the Dress Well, Do Good shout out – we are so glad you have found it a helpful resource. Happy Earth Day!

  • Dawn

    I always love your Earth Day posts and really commend you for many of the things you do to help protect our planet! In my opinion, one of the most important things we can all do is to try to buy less new stuff in general. While perhaps greener than online shopping, malls are pretty much the epitome of consumerism, waste, and car-driven culture. The fashion industry (which some label the second largest polluter in the world) is largely responsible for this. They want us to buy more, so they tell us that grass green or cropped jeans or whatever are the new things to have, and we listen to them and keep consuming so they can keep producing and making money. Especially since you already have a nice wardrobe and amazing sewing ability, I challenge you not to buy anything else new before next Earth Day, or to perhaps limit yourself to one or two pieces per family member. If you really need something new (and kids always do!), check out thrift stores, resale shops for vintage fabric, neighborhood clothing swaps, etc. I by 90% of my family’s clothes at the Salvation Army or local thrift store, and my daughter is always decked out in top-end kid fashion. :) I think we can make a huge impact just by being content with what we already have and taking care of it by washing infrequently, mending rather than pitching, getting creative with our outfits to keep them up-to-date, etc.

  • Angela

    I love how intentional you are in (from what I read) all areas of your life. This area in particular is especially inspirational to me. The online shopping portion has stuck with me. I had not thought of that at all, though it seems completely obvious now that I am. I have been going to Goodwill a lot more this year for dressing my four children, my husband, and myself. They do not always have what we need, but I committed to shop second hand first. I need to wean myself off online shopping. A new goal for the new(isn) year.

    I’ve been intrigued by http://fairclothsupply.com. Some of their items are not to my taste or to my budget’s ability, but the founder pays for girls’ school tuition with each purchase and the articles are fair trade. As far as Earth day related, I know she uses a lot of linen, which is an earth friendly source. i think those are wonderful goals and I love the company’s commitment. I’m eager to look at those recommend sites in this post further.

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate how you take a large concept and break in into smaller steps that are not only encouraging, but are also do able. You’re rad.

  • Celine

    Agreed! Malls’ stores are fueled by enormous carbon emissions from factories overseas (not to mention by thousands of underpaid workers). And even environmentally-friendly new items cannot beat buying secondhand, though it’s certainly a good step when it’s necessary to buy something specific. This extends beyond clothing and into electronics, with new iPhones being released annually. All of this is something I’m working on as it can be challenging to force myself to hunt for good used items when there’s the temptation of going the easier route of new items from the mall. But awareness is the first step!

    Annie, I’d be curious–what sort of cars do your family drive? And does Indy have accessible public transport? I’d love to know if you have any tips about driving less because I know that’s a big part of my footprint. Great post!

  • I do most of what you said you do (not using disposables, reusable shopping bags, recycling, packing meals, eating local, etc.) but definitely could be better about internet shopping (I do A LOT of that) and paying more attention to fair trade. My big thing lately has been throwing away less. It’s mostly packaging so trying to figure out how to minimize that!

  • Annie

    Definitely true, and I’m well aware of that. Working to consume less in general is an overarching goal. However, when I need items that are sold at the mall, I’ll buy them there rather than having them shipped. Unfortunately our living situation and the location of our jobs don’t allow for use of public transport.

  • Elizabeth

    Love all your pictures in this post, and thank you for bringing awareness annually to Earth Day! You’re awesome, Annie.

  • Molly Leverenz

    Thank you for these posts, Annie! I enjoy them every year and they are inspiring. This year I want to bring my water bottle with me every where so I don’t use plastic water cups at restaurants, start recycling my beauty product containers, and buy 75% of my groceries in the summer and fall from our local farmer’s market. If you haven’t heard of them before, I suggest you check out Nisolo shoes. They partner with artisans in Peru. For me they also have the bonus of being local (Nashville) so I don’t have to have them shipped and support my local economy.

  • Chrysti

    Check out https://williamshoneyfarm.com/shop/ regarding bees! They sell “seed bombs” to plant flowers that attract pollinators as well as solitary bee kits! Both would be great activities to do with kids.

  • Hana

    Wow Annie you’re such an inspiration! There’s an environmental charity here in the UK that distributes wildflower seeds for people to plant in their gardens to attract bees – I don’t know if you have a US equivalent but it’s something you could look into.

  • Dawn

    Can you bike where you are, Celine? We’re living in a small town for grad school now. Right now we mainly take the bus, but since my daughter will be at a new elementary school next year that isn’t on the bus line, I’m trying to gear myself up to bike daily rather than driving. I wish public transportation were more widespread everywhere! Before moving here, I went without a car for two years and it was totally doable (especially with options like Zipcar) but that was in Chicago.

  • Allison C

    Excellent suggestions!

  • Rob

    Yes! All good! I do many of the things you mentioned and always come home from Costco with my purse stuffed full of the little sample cups and spoons. :D My husb and I have ripped out our front lawn this year and are putting in a wildflower lawn instead. This is a double whammy of needing much less water and being an unlimited buffet for bees and butterflies. I’m excited!

  • Rob

    Yes! Yes! Bayer Corp does that here. I sign up for a pack of seeds every year.

  • Rob

    Good one about buying less. Along those same lines, we repair stuff or replace parts whenever we can. I just put a new handle on my water pik, my husb put a new cord on my vacuum, etc.

  • Erin

    Hi Annie, I’m new to your blog but what a wonderful post as an introduction! I’m not sure if anyone has shared this, but a young entrepreneur is doing her part to save the honey bees. Check her out: http://meandthebees.com/

  • Shyanne Shuck

    Hi Annie!

    Have you considered going vegetarian or vegan for environmental and sustainability purposes?

    Also, have you had the chance to read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell? Would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Annie

    It’s unlikely that I will ever go completely vegetarian and I wouldn’t go vegan, but we do eat meatless the majority of the time. The poultry and eggs we eat and much of our milk and cheese is local, and red meat is a rarity for us.

  • Annie

    Thank you!

  • Great tips, Annie!
    For all the junk mail that I receive, I’ve been using an app called Paper Karma. You take a picture of the envelope or mail panel using the app, then click “unsubscribe me!” and it takes you off of the company’s mailing list. I love how quick and convenient it is!

  • Annie

    Thank you! Getting it right now!