Today is Earth Day. It has always been important, but now more than ever is the time to reflect on how your daily rituals are negatively impacting our world.
Being “environmentally friendly” is more than making sure to recycle and throw your trash in the proper receptacles. There are many little things that can add up to a large negative impact on the environment you never realize; but on the flip side, this also means that by being conscious of these little habits, you can make changes to your routine that are easy on you and effective for making Austin a bit greener.
10 easy ways to be more environmentally friendly:
Stop using straws
Like we promised–easy yet impactful! You may not think about straws because they’re so small, but consider this: Straws are one of the top ten items littered into our oceans. In the last 25 years, over six million straws and stirrers were removed from beaches during annual cleaning events (One Green Planet).
While Austin may not touch any oceans, consider this same effect relevant for our beloved lake, greenbelt and other areas. Straws are literally made to only be used once, and do they really make much of a difference when it comes to enjoying your drink or not?
Pick up your garage sale, lost pet, for sale, etc. signs
It’s great to repurpose your old clothing and furniture–one man’s trash is another’s treasure. But one man’s garage sale signs are simply trash if they’re still sitting out weeks later.
Next time you’re driving through a neighborhood, try to notice all of the old garage sales signs, lost pet signs and other notices that people once put up only to be forgotten when the sale has ended or lost pet has been found.
Don’t forget to take down your signs after your garage sale is over. Besides, do you really want confused groups of people to continue showing up on your doorstep at 8 a.m. every Saturday for the foreseeable future?
Exfoliate without microbeads
This is a perfect example of how something tiny can make a large impact. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic commonly used in facial exfoliating scrubs, age-defying makeups and other beauty products. What happens after you use a face wash with microbeads and the microbeads are washed down the drain?
You could end up eating them in your dinner. These microbeads absorb other toxins in the water when they are then eaten by fish or other marine creatures. You just got more than you bargained for at your sushi restaurant. According to StoryOfStuff.org, a single microbead can be up to a million times more toxic than the water surrounding it.
These microbeads are now banned in the U.S. but there are still hundreds of products on the shelves with microbeads created before this law was passed–buyer beware.
Kitty litter IS litter
We admit this one will take a bit more work on your part–but in the end changing your cat litter to a greener brand is better for the earth, you AND your furry friend.
Some cat litter brands contain a variety of questionable materials that may make them easy for scooping but can be harmful. Many major brands contain large amounts of silica dust, which have been linked to causing upper respiratory issues in both cats and humans (Scientific American). Additionally, the clays used in cat litters are commonly derived from strip mining.
Strip mining involves scraping away earth and rocks, sometimes even blowing up the land, to get to coal buried underneath. It destroys landscapes and the plant and wildlife that reside there, which leads to soil erosion that ruins agricultural land. After the rain washes away the now loosened top soil, the soil pollutes waterways and can further damage more plant and animal life residing in these waterways. Furthermore, strip mining causes dust pollution and an increased risk of contamination of ground water (Greenpeace).
Luckily, there are now many options on the market for environmentally friendly cat litter. These may have a higher price point than traditional clay-based litters, but considering the multitude of negative effects you can avoid by purchasing these types of litters, it seems well worth the extra cost.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)
By bringing your own cup to the coffee shop each morning, you’re saving the usage of a disposable cup, lid and warming sleeve–look at you go! Plus, many coffee shops will give you a discount on your coffee for being so environmentally conscious.
Use cloth diapers
Using cloth diapers is not only friendly to the earth but also friendly to your wallet. According to Parents.com, the cost of buying and laundering cloth diapers over three years will be between $800 and $1,100–and you would spend twice this amount on disposable diapers.
It’s also much easier and cleaner to launder these cloth diapers than you may be imagining. Simply dedicate a plastic bag-lined bin for old diapers, dump the bin into the washer and you’re all set.
There are even nonprofit organizations, such as Giving Diapers Giving Hope, that provide cloth diapers at no cost to low-income families so they can spend their money on other essentials.
Paperless billing saves trees
This one also saves you peace of mind! By setting up your utility, phone and internet bills to automatically charge your credit card each month, you not only save paper but won’t ever forget to pay a bill on time again.
Use cloth for cleaning your home
Instead of using half a roll of paper towels to clean up a huge spill, put those old t-shirts and towels to work.
Buy local products
Buying local means you’re not paying for the gas for items to make it into your hands and helps support our vibrant, talented community. This can range from visiting farmers markets to choosing local products at H-E-B.
Make one big trip instead of lots of little trips
Like many of the other tips, this tip serves more than one purpose. Plan to run all of your errands at once to save on gas and you’ll additionally save some sanity by spending less time in Austin traffic than if you made lots of little trips throughout the week.