I am a proponent of never underestimating the effects of our small efforts to live sustainably and lightly on our planet.
The tiniest actions, even if they feel invisible, go a long way in building momentum and offering inspiration to others. Considering the scope of the planetary crisis, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of our insignificance as individuals and then decide not to do anything at all.
For me to go the long haul in my journey towards less waste and a smaller carbon footprint, I need to make less dramatic leaps and run from all despairing criticism. These halt my efforts before I’ve even started.
Slow, steady, and seemingly insignificant movement towards change is what brings about the most satisfying, long-lasting, and genuine results.
My challenge for you: see if you can make your next step in sustainable living as uncomplicated as possible. (By the way, I’d love to help you with this! One of my passions is helping you figure out how to get started (and/or continue on) your less waste journey through my coaching practice. You can sign up for a time slot here.)
Here is a list of 10 of the easiest actions I’ve been trying to engage in for the last couple of years.
1. Prepare food and snacks ahead of time before an outing or a road trip.
It takes a bit of planning, but I try to remember to bring along a stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some sliced fruit, and trail mix whenever we leave home.
It goes a long in keeping everyone filled up and we end up needing to buy fewer convenience items along the way.
2. Bring reusable grocery bags to the store.
I keep all my reusable shopping bags and empty jars (those needing a refill) tucked in my laundry room.
The night before my grocery day (Monday) I make sure to put everything I need out on the counter. I also keep a few bags stowed in the trunk of my car too.
3. Find and support my local food coop, refill shops, and farmers.
It only takes Google and a few minutes of research to find out where these are located in your area.
Then, decide which are closest and figure out how to make them part of your weekly routine.
4. Bring my own refillable jars and cotton bags to the store.
If you’ve never refilled or shopped in bulk before, start by gathering some large glass jars and pick a few items you could buy in bulk. You can find my free bulk bin grocery shopping list here. Keep practicing and you’ll become more and more comfortable with it.
Also, use your own cotton mesh produce bags for all your veggies and fruit.
5. Try to find alternatives to the food and products I use regularly that come wrapped in plastic packaging and containers.
The best advice I’ve heard on this is to do a trash audit. What are you consistently throwing away each week? What plastic items are filling up your recycle bins? Milk cartons, plastic clamshells for fruit, yogurt containers, and salad bags are few common ones. With a bit of thinking you can usually eliminate at least some plastic in your life.
(Remember, most of them do not actually get recycled and reused.)
6. Make a habit of visiting and supporting the local farmer’s market in my city, even if I don’t always make a purchase.
Put it in the calendar. Make it a part of your weekly or bi-weekly routine. Wander around for an hour. Meet some of the farmers!
7. Compost our family’s food waste.
We live in a city that collects our food and yard waste every two weeks.
We keep a small compost bucket under the sink. I buy compostable bags to line it. We throw all of our food waste, dryer lint, coffee grinds, and any compostable packaging in there and transfer it to the bigger bin as it fills.
In a few minutes of research, you can learn what you can compost and how to start your own composting bin in your backyard.
8. Make a habit of checking if and how an item can be recycled before tossing in the trash or throwing it in the recycling bin or better yet, think about this factor before I make the purchase.
Again, a quick google search is all it takes to track down a place in your local community/county to recycle items such as clothes, electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, or household goods.
Research your city’s recycling center and be sure you know what they accept.
I use the pickup service of Ridwell for all my soft plastic bags (and other common items) and Terracycle boxes for the odd snack packaging and my husband’s coffee bags.
9. Read books and articles on climate change, low-waste living, sustainability, and our relationship to the natural world.
Here are 3 to check out for a start:
A Field Guide To Climate Anxiety: How To Keep Your Cool On A Warming Planet by Sarah Jaquette Ray
Zero Waste Living The 80/20 Way: The Busy Person’s Guide To A Lighter Footprint by Stephanie J. Miller
The Book Of Hope: A Survival Guide For Trying Times by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of The Earth
Or check out the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer and Joanna Macy.
10. Practice generative thinking.
Simply put this means consistently considering how my actions now will impact my children and future generations.
And a bonus!
11. Start a Garden.
Make it as big or small as you like!
Grow herbs in your kitchen window. Take care of house plants. Throw some strawberries in a pot on your back porch. Sow some easy-to-grow veggies like carrots, radishes, kale, or peas this summer! Plant flowers like zinnias, dahlias, bachelor buttons, cosmos, or poppies. Check out one of my favorite encouraging gardeners for small spaces: Bailey Van Tassel.
“This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden – so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.” Robin Wall Kimmerer
What 1 or 2 joyous and easy actions can you incorporate into your life? Use some from my list or make up your own!