Every year I get a little better at greening my routine. As I read more about the impact we have on our environment and the little but important changes we can make to our lifestyles to leave a greener footprint, I become inspired to live in better harmony with nature. Surprisingly, as I've gotten greener over the years, I've found that it hasn't just improved the planet, but my overall sense of well-being. I use less. I buy less. I enjoy what I have more. My home is clutter-free, as is my mind.
More and more, I cannot escape the intrinsic link between the planet's health and my own. Where once I was stressed or anxious, I found healing in de-cluttering my life and simplifying my needs. I unplugged from what mainstream society says will make me happy (buy more, do more, move faster, burn hotter) and found, in creating space to connect with myself and nature, that my happiness comes from slowing down, doing less, and enjoying life's simple pleasures.
The changes I've made have been radical in their own small way, from giving up conventional makeup, which was causing severe skin irritation, to using only the organic kind, and now, beginning the adventure of making all my own products. I've switched from conventional groceries and the traditional food pyramid of health to organic, local produce and a whole foods diet. I've even terminated one-use items like paper towels and plastic wrap in favor of reusable mason jars for storage and old towels for rags to reduce waste.
Each step to a sustainable lifestyle was challenging at first, but then became a delicious expression of a balanced life. Now I could never, ever imagine eating fast food or buying drugstore mascara. What's more, the transition to a better-quality lifestyle was easier than I thought it would be once I got past the mental block of thinking that going green was difficult, expensive, or labor intensive. The eco-friendlier I get, the more addictive it is. I am healthier, happier, and more in balance with myself and the world around me. Want to feel these good vibes too? Check out these easy ways to green your routine.
1. Say goodbye to junk mail. Not only is it a nuisance, but it wastes so many trees, not to mention huge amounts of water and energy to produce what essentially goes directly into our trash cans, or if we are more conscious, our recycling bins or compost. Luckily, opting out of junk mail is easier than you think. Simply sign up for a free account at DMAChoice.org to stop receiving catalogs, credit card offers, and other miscellanea. Not only will this one small change make a huge difference in the environment, but it will also make sorting your mail easier. Want to know more about the environmental impact of junk mail? Check out what Sustainable Baby Steps has to say.
2. Reduce plastic use. Part of moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle is saying goodbye to one-use items like plastic bags, wrap, and other conveniences like bottled water. The energy, water, and materials it takes to produce these items are nothing compared to the resources it takes to actually recycle them...when they can be recycled. Too often these disposable items can't be reused or recycled because they are made of the cheapest (and most chemical-laden) forms of plastics that have no life beyond covering your leftovers. Even worse, these items end up in the ocean, destroying marine habitats and harming sea life. Check out the Earth Resource Foundation to learn more about how harmful plastics are to the environment.
The good news is that reduced plastic use is WAY easier--and addictive!--than I thought it would be. First and foremost, I eliminated bottled water, including my favorite, sparkling water (I got a fizzy water maker instead and love it! It lets me get my bubble fix, is more cost-effective than buying bottled water, and easier to store). I also don't buy plastic bags or saran wrap anymore. I admit, it was hard to give up the convenient plastic bags at first, since I used them for so many things. Now, though, I could never go back to using them. I use what I have (I won't buy more wasteful products) and then get creative about how I store my food....hello mason jars! Turns out, they are just as convenient as plastic (and bonus, more aesthetically pleasing!). I still haven't gotten rid of my Tupperware, but I'm not buying more of it either. I'll use what I've got, then invest in glass and silicon storage containers when the time comes. The funny thing is that thought doesn't seem so intimidating as it once did before I gave up plastic bags and bottled water.
3. ...and paper towels. I just use old cotton dishtowels that no longer look pretty in place of paper towels as rags. I love never having to remember to buy paper towels. I keep a set of old towels as bathroom and house cleaning rags and another set of towels strictly for kitchen use. If part of living a green life is reducing what we consume, then giving new life to old items is a smart way to limit the production of unnecessary disposable goods. Did you know you could also compost towels made from natural fibers like cotton, silk, and hemp?
4. Recycle your clothes. Every few years, I clean out my closet and donate anything I haven't worn in the past year. That's recycling in its most basic form: passing along usable items to someone who needs them. But what about those wardrobe staples you've worn to death? For a long time, I never knew what to do with these items and often threw them away, for lack of better options. Now I give those items to Goodwill or your local Thrift Town because I learned from Earth 911 and some strategic web searches that these places collect unusable textiles and sell them out to other companies to recycle or reuse them. To make it easy on them, I keep my wearable clothes and well-used ones in separate containers.
5. Conserve water. This is another simple yet important part of green living. Most of the water we use day to day is actually wasted--the time people leave the faucet running on high while washing dishes, for example, or taking a super-long shower. Take shorter showers (and if/when you are shaving your legs, turn the water off!). Same goes for tooth brushing and dish washing: clean first, then, rinse, keeping the faucet on low. Sustainable Baby Steps has even more ways to reduce water use that are easy enough to incorporate into your everyday routine.
Bottom line: with a little extra care and a few tweaks to our lifestyle, we can make substantial positive changes to our environment and improve our overall quality of life.
Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.