I have always loved the idea of “doing my part” to “save the earth” and prevent further waste. But sometimes the problem just seems so big and all-encompassing it’s been hard for me to find a small foothold where I can start. When I first heard of Zero Waste, the idea of producing no waste at all (or such a small amount it could fit in a mason jar) I was really intimidated. There was no way all of Lily’s Diapers nor my wine bottles could fit in a mason jar lol. But I finally realized that there is no “right” place to start. For me, it was all about finding a small part in my routine that I could add an environmentally friendly solution to. After years of wanting to try composting and never getting around to it, I finally got a compost container in our backyard. Every time I throw our kitchen scraps into the compost I feel like I've won a gold star. I can’t help but think of the rich beautiful soil that will come out of all these scraps (scraps that would be wasted and never decompose in a landfill due to the lack of aeration).
It's a small part of my day gathering scraps and emptying them in the backyard, but it always feels like a grand rescue to catch an eggshell into the scrap container instead of the trash bin. And the best part is it gives me more of a reason to go outside, even for just a short while. I’ve also recently started cooking more. Cooking at home saves money and it’s better for the environment as it doesn’t require all the extra packaging and bags of delivery, nor the gas mileage. While cooking at home, I’ve learned to be more creative with my dishes by re-using herbs like mint or sage in another recipe or extending the life of my butternut squash in a new dish. I’ve had to become more thoughtful about my approach as to how I won’t let my fresh produce, and other perishable food items, go to waste. And each time I save an apple, celery, the last of the pepper jack cheese, or even the bacon, it feels like a huge victory and sometimes requires a lot of creative problem solving (*cough* yes maybe some of that celery was blended into our spaghetti sauce but hey #savetheearth!).
Another small decision I’ve made to lower my carbon footprint is finding products made by sustainable brands with sustainable ingredients and packaging. What’s interesting is the more you research companies and products the more you learn about hidden ingredients and chemicals that can be harmful to your body and the environment. It’s always fun and a little nerve-wracking to google one of the chemicals in a product only to find that it was used in Egyptian embalming or the fragrance comes from a beaver's butt (LOVE that for me). I am extremely sensitive to products but I never realized how much switching my cleaning products and bath products would affect me. I found this new shampoo company called DAE a year ago and I’ve never felt my hair become so soft and at the same time felt so much more peace knowing that there were no harmful chemicals being washed into my hair. It could be these companies just give the consumer a buyer-friendly conscience, like planting a tree with each laundry detergent sold or promising sustainable packaging, but to me, it’s worth it to know that my purchase may have a larger ripple effect and yes, I get some awesome smelling shampoo while I’m at it.
What’s interesting is becoming more eco-conscious has led me to make a lot of creative decisions I wouldn’t have thought of or made otherwise. My husband and I now have a mentality of re-using or re-purposing instead of trashing everything and labeling it as broken. That doesn’t mean we do zero waste 100%! We try to be zero waste as much as we can be, but sometimes there are things like an old washer and dryer that have to go to a landfill… or there’s a certain tiny roommate who goes through BOXES of diapers. But that’s where we’ve had to choose certain lifestyle decisions. I personally cannot cloth-diaper or compost-diaper at this time in my life, and yes there are even tree-planting diapers but the idea of having a small forest of poop diaper trees in my backyard sounds like something I’d much rather avoid. But, I can buy all of my daughter’s clothes second-hand!
Going to a thrift store reminds me of walking through the wardrobe in Narnia, you have no idea what you’ll find on the other side! And that mystery, the thrill of the hunt if you will, brings my seven-heart the MOST excitement! The last time I went thrifting I found this cute basket I could use to store Lily’s toys. Later my sister found the same basket on the West Elm website, I couldn’t believe my luck! It’s crazy the treasures you’ll find. I’m also super grateful for the second-hand baby store down the road. I love knowing that Lily’s clothes are second-hand, it’s one small thing I can do to reduce our carbon footprint and save money (you’ll find going green is a lot cheaper than not!). Baby clothes are so expensive and they grow so fast! It’s such a relief that Lily’s clothes are amazing quality at a fraction of the cost, and after a few months they’ll end up back on the shelves for another little girl or boy to wear.
The biggest thing I realized by “going green” is how much there is to know and learn! Remember when “saving the turtles” meant not using drinking straws? How many of us were shamed at Starbucks (*slowly raises hand*)? The environmentally friendly movement has a stigma of shaming those who are not eco-friendly, which makes it feel like a bullying culture. But the truth is, we don’t need everyone doing zero waste perfectly, we need everyone to do what they can, however they can, to save the earth. Trust me, I will not have a mason jar at the end of this year, I will have a year’s worth of garbage just like I did every year before, but this time I’ll have all my food scraps in my backyard.
This leads me back to the straws and the sea turtles, I recently watched the documentary Seaspiracy which leads me to find that the real threat to our sea life is not straws or garbage in the ocean (which are not good either). Plastic straws currently contribute 0.03% of plastic entering the ocean, compared to 70% of plastic in the ocean coming from fishing gear waste. This is part of a bigger issue that doesn't get as much attention but is the most harmful thing happening to the ocean, which happens to be overfishing. Not only does this lead to plastic pollution in the ocean but when you overfish you cause certain groups of fish to become extinct while others overpopulate, which sends shock waves throughout the ocean’s ecosystem. If anything, the biggest thing we could do to help the ocean would be to stop eating fish. There is a lot more that could be said about this topic but it just goes to show that in our efforts to help the planet we need to be continually learning and stay open-minded.
Needless to say, I like to think of myself as “environmentally creative” and I think the cool thing about it is anyone can be environmentally creative. It just takes one extra thought before throwing the eggshells away, packing reusable grocery bags, or shopping Facebook marketplace instead of Target. Let’s all do what we can to “save the earth” while also being slow to shame others. It’s important to keep learning! A lot of what we know to be true about going green can be counter-intuitive, keep an open mind. And if you need a straw at Starbucks, I’m not judging you, in fact, I have ten in my car #goinggreen.