Happy (belated) Earth Day, friends. If you’re a longtime reader, then you are no stranger to my affinity for this particular holiday. This is the time of year when I like to consider my eco-resolutions, i.e. what things I can do and what behaviors I can modify to better care for our planet. I was raised by a dad who was constantly reminding me to be mindful about things like waste, unnecessary packaging, reusing, recycling, composting and more. As a result, I have a number of lifelong habits that are steps in the right direction. Even so, there is always more we can do and if we all continue to make small changes, it will have an enormous positive impact. My friend Anna shared a quote this week that has been on my mind constantly, and also sums up the way I have been feeling as I contemplate the state of our planet over the past year. It comes from Wendell Berry and it reads, “Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
Over the past year, I have made major changes in regards to kicking fast fashion to the curb. The breakneck pace of fast fashion trends and the increasingly common view of clothing as disposable leads to some disastrous environmental consequences. While I have made a lot of progress in this regard (read more about this here and here), there is still more work to do. I continue to make more clothing by hand, am more intentional about which pieces I choose to make, and which materials I use to make them (considering synthetic versus natural fiber content, dyeing process, etc.) I’m really excited about my progression in this area, both in skills but also in being more conscious and thoughtful with each make.
I have also recently curbed washing and machine drying of clothing as well, and will continue to reduce this. Washing a garment after every single wear is for the most part unnecessary (workout clothing excluded in my case). When I do wash, I have been letting more and more things air dry. Not only does this preserve the garment due to less wear in the washing and drying process, it also saves energy of the machines when in use. From a broader standpoint, I’m really trying to make the clothes I already have last longer, both with care and mending, and refashioning in some cases.
The point is, there are a wealth of ways in which how we choose to clothe our bodies and care for those clothes have an environmental impact and we all need to be mindful of this in our consumption, both where and how much. (Here is a sampling of scholarly articles on the topic of fast fashion as it relates to the environment.)
The other thing I am really tackling hard this year is continuing to reduce and eliminate my use of plastic, particularly single use plastics. I have been pleased to see many restaurants in my area doing away with the automatic use of plastic straws in beverages, and some transitioning to more eco-friendly biodegradable packaging options for carry out and leftovers. (I’m sure this is already better in some regions, but I live in the midwest and we have much work to do.) I’ve also had some discussions with favorite restaurants about their plans for reducing their environmental impact, and I think this is useful. It’s no secret that reducing waste, particularly single use plastics is vital, and voicing your concerns to businesses you frequent is sure to reinforce the point.
One of my personal goals in this realm is to drastically reduce the number of single use/non-bio-degradable items I accept from businesses, both by remembering to specifically indicate “No straw, please” when I order a drink, and also to keep food storage containers in my car so I have my own way to transport leftovers home. I have been avoiding disposable utensils more and more and am hoping to do away with this entirely. (I’m hoping to share a related craft project very soon to assist with this specifically!)
I also recently took my own containers to my butcher shop when stocking up on poultry and fish to avoid the plastic sheet they usually wrap my items in. I was pleased they were willing to accommodate this request and recommend trying it if your butcher shop uses plastic often (I’m betting they do.)
One thing I am thrilled to have made great progress on is not using new plastic bags. I’m not going to lie, plastic baggies were one of the hardest habits to kick as a busy parent, but now I honestly can’t remember the last time I used one. Unfortunately many store-bought items still come in plastic bags. I avoid them as much as I can but I also need to feed my family so whenever possible, I reuse them. I particularly have loved saving larger plastic bags for homemade bread and buns, and reusing them as much as possible. Even if they initially had something with natural moisture inside (generally produce items in my case), I turn the bag inside out to let it air dry before saving it to use again later.
I do still use plastic wrap rarely and haven’t found any good alternative that works in all the situations I would normally use plastic wrap for. Beeswrap and similar products work in some cases, but I need someone to gift me an enormous amount or something because it just doesn’t cut it some of the time. If you have any great suggestions, I would love to hear them!
So, there you have my rambling thoughts for this Earth Day. I have chosen not to include giveaways this year because I donate the bulk of my income from this site to racial justice initiatives and purchasing giveaway prizes will hinder that. However, I am including a list of some of the products that have helped me live a more eco-friendly life. Remember, only buy a thing if you actually need a thing! Reducing consumption is one of the best things you can do for the planet.
Reusable grocery bags – It is 2019, no one should be taking plastic bags from the store anymore, seriously! My Rume bags have held up exceedingly well. I finally had to mend a minor hole in one of them but considering that I’ve had them for nearly 10 years and use them every week, they have been a great investment.
Glass water bottle – I like this one and this one best.
Produce bags – The set I own are great, but they are made of a synthetic mesh. These are an even more eco-friendly option since they are made of natural fiber.
Wax paper bags – My refrigerator always has many varieties of partially used cheese so these bags are a great alternative to plastic. I reuse them over and over basically until they fall apart completely so one box lasts me a really long time.
Glass food storage containers – I love this set. I’ve had mine for a few years at least and I use them every single day.
Reuseable straws – I have this set and use them constantly but also recently invested in a glass set. I don’t trust the kids with the glass kind yet. Either way, both are better options than the disposable kind!