HAPPY EARTH DAY!
Earth Day has long been one of my favorite holidays, because I have long been a planet-loving tree-hugging kind of girl. I still fondly remember working for my middle school newspaper and volunteering to do an article on Earth Day…
… and submitting essentially an entire zine about Earth Day. (Weirdly enough, it wasn’t put in the paper…)
This year’s Earth Day actually marks the 50th anniversary of the holiday: the first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970 and marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
We all know by now that, thanks to decades of ongoing hurt inflicted upon our home, we have to be active about trying to nurse it back to health, for our own sake and for the sake of the generations to come after us. I felt really inspired attending September’s Global Climate Strike, where I saw so many young people fighting so hard to preserve our planet.
Part of me felt disappointed with myself for not having made as much of an impact myself with regards to the climate movement, especially when I compare my fervor now to when I was these students’ age. But I am trying to remember that I have made a lot of eco-friendly changes in my life that counts!
And remember that corporate spending and wasting matters a lot more to the planet than whether a coffeeshop offers plastic straws or not, but millions of people using fewer plastic straws doesn’t hurt!
Here are a few things I’ve changed/added to my life in my efforts to lessen my negative impact on the Earth:
Stopped recycling wrong. This was kind of a big one and a hard one to learn/unlearn, but did you know that if you put something that can’t be recycled into your recycling bin, it renders everything in that (and whatever batch is being recycled) contaminated? It’s easier at the processing facility to just toss the whole thing in the garbage rather than try to get rid of the contaminant. This includes things like paper coated in plastic/wax (like candy wrappers) and a lot of shipping packaging, particularly those kind of plastic-ish bags, and plastic grocery bags, which have a tendency to get caught in the machinery.
Recycle grocery bags in the store. Since they’re not able to be recycled with most residential services (although one of my old neighborhoods did add it), many grocery stores actually accept plastic bags for recycling near the entrance. Many of us keep a giant bag of bags already, so it’s just a matter of remembering to bring it with us and tossing it the recycling receptacle.
Composting in my home kitchen. Having lived in apartment buildings for several years now, composting seemed like it wasn’t very realistic what with me being unable to create a compost pile. However, I learned that I’m allowed to take my home compost to my office building, which participates in commercial composting, so I have a little bin I keep in the freezer for my organic waste and bring it to work. Is it a little weird bringing a literal trash can to work with me every now and then? Sure, but I think it’s worth it. It’s also easier than schlepping my compost to one of the drop-off points in the city, since work is very much on the way to work.
Switched to reusable cotton rounds. My skincare routine doesn’t really require too much cotton round usage, but on my lazy days, I like using micellar water and that still works best for me when I swipe gunk off my face with a round. It’s a really small step, considering how few I was using already, but every drop in the bucket counts.
Using cleansing oil or a microfiber cloth to remove makeup. Again, since I rarely wear makeup, the number of cotton rounds or wipes I was using to remove it before was pretty small. But it felt like it was adding up, especially when I had to run out to buy more. I also feel like I’m not stripping my skin as much when I use cleansing oils/balms or my microfiber cloth to try to Mulan my makeup off.
Switched to a silicon menstrual cup. I am usually not this open about my reproductive health on this blog but I wanted to mention this one because it felt like one of the biggest changes when I undertook it. I was a pads user because inserting tampons made me feel a bit uncomfortable, so I was extremely hesitant about menstrual cups. Now that I’m using one, I don’t want to go back, because not only am I not generating so much garbage every month, I feel a lot more secure and confident about not having leaks.
Remembering to bring reusable shopping bags to the store (sometimes). This is one I am still getting better about, but I have gotten better the past few years about remembering to bring the plethora of reusable bags I have when I go grocery shopping. The key was giving myself a fighting chance by putting them in the car (the trunk wasn’t as handy pre-shopping as the passenger seat was) or literally in front of the door.
Using reusable straws at home. I don’t do a lot of straw-drinking at home, but I recently have happened upon some metal straws that make it a bit more fun when I have dalgona coffee or homemade bubble tea. (I say “happen upon” because I was given one free metal straw at work during a sustainability seminar and got to take home 2 from a local bubble tea shop that gives you a discount if you bring back your reusable straw.)
Weaned my husband off disposable water bottles. I’m not sure what the breaking point was for him, but he was previously fairly ambivalent about buying bottled water at the store. We had a water filter and reusable bottles at home but the convenience was too good to be beat. Maybe sometime between carrying the 24-packs of water bottles up to our apartment or carrying out the many, many, many empty bottles to be recycled, he realized how pointless the entire thing was.
Reduced paper towel usage. After being introduced to microfiber clothes several years ago, I am a big, big fan of using these for wiping things down around the home. They’ve become so affordable that I have a little stash, and they’re very easy to clean as well.
URBAN BONUS: It has been ages since my husband or I have driven or even ridden in a car after moving to the city.
These are just a few examples of things I have made progress on in the past few years, and I’m really proud of myself for doing so. I may not be the radical treehugger I was when I was 12, but I think I am on a good path to being a better friend to Mother Earth.
What are some steps you’ve taken to be more environmentally-friendly?
What are some things you will be incorporating into your life soon? I will be trying to take advantage of more TerraCycle recycling programs so that I can recycle things that I can’t easily recycle in my apartment. For example, now that I have started wearing single-use contacts for cosplay and photoshoots, I can eventually drop off the packaging at participating locations for recycling. Have you used them before?