Clean Principles to be More Environmentally Conscious
This season, and this year, people are thinking about what they can rid themselves of or live without. Many are trying to pare down and be more mindful about what they have or bring into their house. Whether you are driven by religious reasons, like Lent, or aesthetic, a la Marie Kondo, incorporating better choices is easier to keep front of mind with these clean, environmentally conscious principles:
Buy Used First
So many things that we purchase are only needed for a season of life or the year. Children grow out of winter jackets, babies age out of toys, and even our sense of style evolves over the years. Many of these items are in perfectly good condition and can be passed on to a friend or neighbor who benefits by the cost savings in addition to helping the environment. Rev it up further by hosting swap gatherings with friends and shopping consignment first. From children’s books and toys, to high fashion, we have found joy following this principle personally.
At the end of the day, recycling and repurposing only get us so far. Many items can only be upcycled or downcycled a few times and things like plastic, never truly decompose. The best solution is to simply use less of as many things as possible. Do you need to purchase that new pair of shoes or that toy for your child from the store? Or could you go without it?
Pick Better Materials
Regardless, there are many things that we need and want to buy. When we do so, we can often have choices of purchasing the same item, just made of different materials. Sometimes there is a premium to this, but more and more so, there is a better choice item on the same store shelf for nearly the same price. Consider the materials, how they are made, and what their environmental lifespan is when you do need to purchase something.
Consider Geographic Origin
There are many reasons to give thought to the country of origin of the products you buy. Some countries are notorious polluters (not to mention that they treat their employees inhumanely). But moreover, when an item is produced thousands of miles away, it requires a huge amount of carbon emissions to get it to you from the ship, to the freight, to the last mile delivery.
Explore the Barter Economy
The barter economy has had a resurgence in the past several years and it is becoming more common for people to suggest trades when they need something. This can take the form of a skill (prune someone’s overgrown tree, file their taxes for them, or do some computer troubleshooting, for example) or it can be in trading household products like baked goods, furniture, or fruit from your tree.
Let Businesses Do Some of the Work
The more we patronize companies that make efforts to be environmentally conscious, the more companies that will make efforts to be environmentally conscious in order to attract our business. Similarly, it is completely reasonable to contact companies that you enjoy and ask them to make better decisions. When brands hear from consumers about an issue, such as using less plastic in their packaging for example, the more likely they are to address it and do some of the work for you!
Swap Disposable to Reusables
Using disposable items in your day-to-day life is an easy habit to establish in your household. They’re convenient, lessen the workload, and can often encourage children to get involved in chores like washing dishes without the risk of breaking things. Over the course of a year, or worse, a lifetime, our disposable consumption can be quite significant. Swapping even just one of those items (sandwich baggies, plastic cups, plastic silverware, etc.…) to reusable items regularly can make a significant difference. Similarly, patronizing companies that offer reusable items does too.
In other countries, most kitchens have one small trashcan that is the equivalent of what many Americans use as a large bathroom trashcan. This is because they use more of the products they have in their house, find secondary purposes for things when they are finished, and share unused portions with neighbors and family. By putting less in the landfill, wasting less helps the entire cycle of consumption.
Replace What we Take
Regardless of how environmentally conscious our decisions may be, we are inevitably going to be taking from the earth. One last thing to keep in mind is how we might be able to replace a bit of what we take. This could look like carbon offsets after a trip or planting a tree or some greens after a particularly indulgent grocery trip.