Burning rainforests. Flooded rivers. Oceanic plastic patches. Melting snow caps. Endangered species. There are enough worldly worries to make your head spin—you want to help make a difference but choosing where to start can seem impossible. The best policy is to control what you can by starting small and working your way up: make changes to your personal care regimen, act as a role model, and these acts of service for your community and planet will soon become part of your day-to-day routine.
Read on for a couple of simple changes you can make to kick-start your journey to living a more eco-friendly life.
Hygiene and skincare swaps for the (environmental) win
From charcoal cleansers to celery creams, there are countless green beauty alternatives you can get at health and wellness shops, online retailers, or even your local drugstore—but for those wary of greenwashing and unsure of where to start, it is best to begin with the basics: your daily toothbrushing routine. Opt for sustainably-farmed bamboo brushes instead of disposable plastics. Look for powdered toothpaste packaged in metal canisters. Choose biodegradable floss in refillable containers. And, of course, don’t leave the faucet running as you brush.
For taking that next step further, look towards switching to skin and hair-care products that are crafted with sustainable, and earth-friendly ingredients (bonus, they’re usually the friendliest for your body as well). When possible, it is best to avoid bad-for-you-and-the-planet culprits like microbeads, parabens, silicones, oxybenzone, and octinoxate. Before buying, research the brand (including its parent company), and become familiar with their environmental and social responsibility policies. And, as far as packaging goes, beyond looking for glass and recycled plastic containers, do some Googling to see if there’s a refillery in your area where you can stock up on high-quality, eco-friendly soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. Some brands also offer trade-in programs that promise to recycle and/or reuse your empty containers, while others even offer items like lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, bronzer, foundation and powder in refillable packaging.
Bicycling and carpooling for a healthy body, happy mind, and greener planet
There’s no better way to show your body and your planet some love than hopping on your bike. This commuting method may seem daunting if you live in a hectic city or far from work, but fix yourself up with the right safety gear, familiarize yourself with local road rules and hand signals, and you’ll be a road racer (or a cycling snail—we don’t judge) in no time. Sure, it may take some route and outfit planning (be sure to pack that extra t-shirt in July) but it’s an emission-free, affordable travel option that also counts toward your daily exercise quota.
Lightweight or folding bikes are a great idea if you take a train or bus part way, and bikes with electronic motor attachments can save you some physical strife if your route is just a tad too long or hilly.
Alternatively, if your commute is not at all bike-friendly, look into carpooling and rideshare programs in your area. If none exist, don’t be afraid to ask around in your neighbourhood or office about organizing one—you may be surprised by the community interest!
Meal planning, food swaps, and packaging ideas to reduce waste
The first simple food switch: avoid processed and prepared foods as much as possible. Your heart health will thank you, and you’ll avoid the unnecessary trash. But packaging is tricky to avoid entirely, so, when possible, try to find a way to reuse it. Jam jars make excellent spice containers, rinsed milk bags are the perfect size to fit your lunch sandwich, salsa jars are great to wash and refill with peanuts or oats at your local bulk food store, and meal delivery kit mini-bottles are perfect for travel toiletries and single-serve dressings (not to mention bags of any kind are always good for pet owners tasked with the daily stoop-and-scoop).
Meal planning can also help reduce waste and the temptation of all things processed and packaged. No, that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with 12 plastic containers of precisely measured chicken, broccoli and rice—but even a rough grocery plan is the easiest way to avoid reverting to bad snacking habits and grabbing frozen pizza. Look up what’s in season and plan a few meals based on your favourite fresh ingredients. This means you’ll be buying more locally produced whole foods. You can even take it to the next level and buy free range eggs, grass-fed beef and locally farmed chicken. And when it comes to fish, be sure look for certified ethical fish options, whether you’re shopping for frozen or fresh.
There is an seemingly infinite number of eco-friend swaps out there you can make in your life. Try swapping your coffee for tea (tea can be grown in regions closer to home and uses less water throughout production). Opt for natural essential oil diffusers instead of plasticky plug-ins. Swap the paper towel roll for reusable dish towels. The list goes on and on.
When making eco-friend changes in your life, it is important to remember this—even though it may feel like a drop in the proverbial bucket, sticking with these swaps over time will decrease your footprint and start to set a sustainability standard for those around you. So, don’t give up or get discouraged, every little change counts!
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