28 Ways To Be More Sustainable: pt. 3

28 Ways To Be More Sustainable: pt. 3

continued from part 2.

21. waste free coffee & tea

Okay, who invented the Keurig machine and someone tell me why it’s a thing? Because I cannot wrap my head around how this ever became popular. It’s the definition of WASTEFUL AF. While some of the ‘pods’ can be recycled, guarantee the majority of Keurig users are not recycling those pods since billions are ending up in the landfills each year. And why have a single-use plastic ‘pod’ to brew coffee and tea, when you can do this just as easily without? 

I brew my coffee in a glass, Bodum french press; this is my plastic-free, zero-waste approach and absolutely love it. There are other waste free methods like pour overs with reusable filters & percolators (both stovetop & electric). I find everyone has their preference but I encourage finding one that produces the least amount of waste as possible :) Even the ones with paper filters, are more waste at the end of the day. If you do prefer to stick with a coffee maker with filters, choose unbleached paper! No sense in brewing your coffee through paper that’s been bleached, right? 

As for tea, I enjoy some brands that come in tea bags, like Traditional Medicinals, but I much prefer bulk, loose leaf tea. When purchasing tea that comes in bags, opt for ones wrapped in paper, so you can recycle the packages. And if you are able to compost, toss the bags in the compost. There are so many tea companies to purchase in bulk from… check out your local natural food store, co-op, tea and/or herbal shop. And be sure to bring your own bag/jar!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, when getting coffee on the go, bring your own mug, coffee thermos or mason jar! Single use coffee cups have got to go. 

22. compost

Composting food scraps is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint; it enriches soil, sequesters carbon, helps retain moisture, reduces any “need” for chemical fertilizers (hint: there is never a need for chemical fertilizers), reduces methane emissions from landfills, and in turn produces some of the most nutrient rich, natural fertilizer (aka humus). 

According to the EPA, organic waste that ends up in landfills contributes to 18% of US produced methane gas emissions. We have the ability to reduce a lot of unnecessary greenhouse gases by simply keeping our food waste out of our garbage. 

And the great thing is composting isn’t just limited to people who live rural! There are many ways you can compost on a smaller scale, even while living in cramped quarters in a city. The year I lived in Pittsburgh, I saved all my food scraps in the freezer and dropped them off at local community gardens once a week. I produce a lot of compostable food waste, and so even when it wasn’t “convenient”, I made it work to keep it out of the landfill. I simply could not justify putting food in the trash when it belongs back in the earth where it came from! Not saying everyone in small apartments in the cities (or the like) should use this approach; what I’m saying is if there is a will, there is a way. There are plenty of urban settings that have curbside composting or local organizations that will pick up your compost. I highly encourage you do a quick google search and see what is happening local to you. One of your best resources is connecting with local farmers; trust me they will find a way to get your food scraps back into the earth! Guaranteed there is some initiative and passionate folk who will help keep food waste out of the landfill! 

If you have a backyard, or access to outdoor space, consider putting in a compost tumbler, constructing your own from a garbage bin, wood pallets/slates, or any other material that creates a barrier, like chicken wiring. The structure can really be so, so simplistic, as long as it has proper air flow and is structurally sound to keep rodents out. 

There are a few rules to proper composting however, that you’ll want to ensure you pay attention to:

🍂You need to maintain the proper ratio of C:N ⇢ NITROGEN: green matter such as green leaves, coffee grounds, veg & fruit scraps; CARBON: brown material including dried leaves, grass, hay, shredded paper/cardboard or sawdust. 

🌿Turn the pile every couple weeks to oxygenate it. Many of the bacteria breaking down your matter are aerobic digesters! :) Keep ‘em alive to keep your compost at the optimal temperature to do it’s work! 

🍂 NEVER add animal products! (minus eggshells). This will attract unwanted animals and harmful bacteria. 

Questions!? ASK! 

Another option is composting with worms and anyone can do this right in their house. Vermicomposting is one way to generate some of the richest fertilizer, ever! Often called black gold, worm poop is like compost on steroids. When done right, there is absolutely no odor. One limitation to this approach is you can’t feed them all your waste because they wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. But it’s a great start and/or addition to having another composting system. 

23. rethink your wardrobe

FAST FASHION. Have you heard this term? It’s the reproduction of highly fashionable clothes at high speed & low cost. If you shop at Forever 21, H&M, Target, Gap, American Apparel, Old Navy, Charlotte Russe, ZARA, Esprit, and Walmart (to name a few of the many)… you are directly contributing to fast fashion. The demand for such cheap “fashionable” clothing comes with the cost of horrific garment factory (sweatshop) conditions in other countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and Indonesia. Workers producing our fast fashion apparel are exposed to bottom of the barrel working conditions, are exposed to horrible health & safety risks, are severely underpaid and child labor is definitely a real thing. Bangladesh is particularly known for its cheap labor; there are nearly 4 million garment production workers, 85% of them are women, in over 5,000 factories. I remember in 2013 when I heard about the Bangladesh factory (known as the Rana Plaza) that collapsed in April of that year; the structure of this five story factory failed resulting in the death of 1,134 people & injuring nearly 2,500. My heart sank and I had no words for what is still considered the deadliest garment accident in history. 

Have you seen the documentary “The True Cost”? If not, this is a MUST! Please, WATCH IT. This documentary illuminates not only this horrific Bangladesh factory collapse, but it really shows you how destructive our culture’s obsession with new clothing and fashion is. 

In addition to the thousands upon thousands of lives we are subjecting to the worst living & working conditions around the globe so we can boost our egos by dressing well, we are also taxing our environment. Fast fashion is a major source of water pollution, relies heavily on toxic chemicals and produces an atrocious amount of of textile waste. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water GLOBALLY, second to agriculture. 

Polyester, the most popular fabric used for fashion sheds microfibers that are so minute, when washed, pass right through sewage & wastewater treatment plants, eventually making their way to the ocean.

So what to do? Simplify your wardrobe. Rethink about what you really “need”. Buy second hand. Shop consignment & thrift stores. Host & participate in clothing swaps with your friends. Purchase new items from companies who are stewards of the environment, who are committed to the health and well-being of their employees, and who have a mission statement behind their product. There are plenty of ethical and conscious fashion brands nowadays. 

Visit WWW.THEGOODTRADE.COM & discover how many amazing ethical companies you can purchase new clothing from, without sacrificing fashion, and know you aren’t inflicting harm on the our planet & thousands of innocent lives. The company I absolutely love for their environmental & social responsibility dedication is Patagonia. This company is ON IT!

24. toilet paper

Toilet paper is yet another common household item that raises concerns. You may be thinking by tip #24 this is all overwhelming. But I wouldn’t be addressing things that need our attention and that don’t have simple enough alternatives we can all institute. 

Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of TP per year, requiring 15 million virgin trees, more than 470 BILLION GALLONS of water & just over 250,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching. We chop down LIVING TREES to wipe our bums… when you take the time to really think this one through, it is ridiculous. 

To make matters worse, manufacturers dose our TP in chlorine bleach to whiten it. Chlorine bleach is horrible for the body & environment; even small levels of exposure have been linked to hormone disruption, immunity suppression, reduced fertility & reproductive problems. Chlorine bleach reacts with wood & other fibers to create toxic byproducts, including dioxin, which is one of the most toxic human-made chemicals. Conventional TP also contains BPA & formaldehyde (a WIDELY KNOWN carcinogen).

My advice? DITCH THE CONVENTIONAL PAPER. That “pillowy softness” is doing your bum no justice. Brands like Charmin, Ultra, Cottonelle, Angel Soft, & Quilted Northern are just a few that are quite literally on the shit list 💩 

ALTERNATIVES: 

• Non-Bleached

• TCF (Totally Chlorine-Free) which is non-recycled paper that has been bleached with oxygen, ozone or hydrogen

• PCF (Processed Chlorine-Free)is recycled paper processed without chlorine but original fiber may have been bleached. Examples of PCF are Seventh Generation, 365 Whole Foods, Planet, Green Forest, and Earth First.   

Even more enticing (to me) are the non-paper alternatives. One being the bidet, which is more common in European and other foreign countries… it’s more sanitary, produces less waste, requires no paper and is gentler on the body. My preferred method however is reusable cloth, commonly referred to as “family cloths”. Some of you may read this and think that sounds gross but why? This practice is actually more common than one may otherwise think and it’s SO MUCH MORE SUSTAINABLE. My philosophy is do whatever you can do to help reduce deforestation, lessen exposure to chemicals and decrease the long list of raw materials used in production. 

25. sunscreens

It’s estimated up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in coral reef habitats each year. Up to 10% of the world’s coral reefs may be threatened by certain chemicals found in most sunscreens. And up to 90% of the coral reefs in the Caribbean have already disappeared since 1980. 

Four common sunscreen ingredients kill coral reef at even extremely low concentrations (equivalent to one drop in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools!):

✧ Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3): causes coral reef bleaching, damages coral DNA & disrupts reproduction. This one alone is found in over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide.

✧ Butylparaben: preservative shown to cause bleaching

✧ Octinoxate: also causes coral bleaching

✧ 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) - another ingredient linked to coral bleaching (surprisingly banned in the US & Japan, allowed in Europe & Canada). 

There is an even lengthier list of ingredients found in sunscreens and other body care products that are linked to harming coral and other marine life including (but not limited to) microplastic beads, nano-sized particles (less than 35 nanometers) of zinc oxide or titanium oxide, any form of parabens, triclosan, & PABA. Avoid, avoid, avoid these!!

Reef Safe or Reef Friendly sunscreens are your best bet! Not only are they better for your skin and body, they are healthier for our ocean’s health, too. Biodegradable sunscreens are also helpful to ensure they breakdown in marine environments. However, the term biodegradable isn’t regulated so ensure the company you are sourcing from can provide documentation of that testing :) 

Great natural brand is Badger, Alba, and Green Garden. Other criteria to look for when choosing your sunscreen is one with zinc or titanium oxide particulates to be larger than 150 nanometers in size. Use a cream or lotion instead of spray (and avoid aerosol cans altogether!), as the sprays tend to end up on sand more than your skin, and ends up contaminating the ocean when washed in with high tide, rain runoff or even though wind. 

So, next time you trek to the beach, make sure you only use products that helps preserve our beautiful waters!

26. birth control

I have two no’s when it comes to birth control: hormonal birth control or IUD. I refuse to expose my body to synthetic hormones that will control my natural functions or have a “permanent” foreign object hanging in my uterus. My body is still healing and finding balance after going off birth control EIGHT years ago; this has been one hell of a journey & I would never, ever do that again. Please ladies, get off hormonal birth control!

My next hang up is condoms. They are wasteful & while latex or lambskin based ones are biodegradable, there really hasn’t been any significant research done to know how long they take to break down once in the landfill. And with 10 billion condoms purchased each year, that’s a heck of a lot of condoms in our landfills! Not to mention the condom wrapping too… And I just have to mention that nothing about a condom is recyclable so don’t even try (apparently this is a thing, people trying to recycle condoms).

In addition to the sheer waste factor, conventional condoms are made with hormone-disrupting ingredients & chemicals that are known carcinogens. The words chemicals, carcinogens, hormone-distruptors + sex don’t sound good together, right?! A common ingredient is nonoynol-9 (N-9), used for a lubricant & to prevent STDs, however N-9 can’t distinguish what’s good & bad & may also be damaging any cell walls of skin it comes in contact with. This in turn actually increases the risk for STDs & UTIs. And we’re all familiar with parabens, a common preservative found in thousands of personal care products. These are KNOWN estrogen disruptors! Our body does not want them! Another noteworthy common ingredient is nitrosamines, a well known carcinogen, the same one that is found in cured meats. No thanks to all that! 

Safe sex is an incredibly important thing however, so I am NOT encouraging the complete ban of condoms. If you choose to use condoms as your primary method of birth control, seek out ones without the ingredients stated above, are ethically manufactured (unfair labor is a thing even in the condom industry!) & are produced using environmentally sound practices. 

Some brands that I recommend are GLYDE, Kimono, L., Sir Richard’s, and Sustain. If you are vegan & want to ensure you aren’t using condoms with casein, GLYDE, Kimono and Sustain are all vegan-friendly, too. 

And OF COURSE there are other approaches to birth control! You can use the approach myself & many other women I know use, that being FAM or Fertility Awareness Method; which is essentially tracking your temperature to gauge when you are most fertile. There is more to it than taking your temperature each morning, however, so please be so mindful about this form of birth control! Make sure you consult with a fertility coach and/or read reliable literature on this such as the book “Taking Charge Of Your Fertility”. I use a mercury-free BBT thermometer for optimal accuracy & track this + a few other things to help access what is going on :) I know plenty of women who use the LampComp and Daisy fertility trackers, which are more expensive, but tell you exactly when you are ovulating. The reasons I prefer this method are it cuts down on waste, it has amplified my level of self-awareness and ladies, it’s freaking empowering! GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY! It’s a beautiful thing and the more we are in tune with ourselves, the more in tune we are with everything else!

27. indoor pollutants

Having a clean home that smells fresh & inviting really just makes me feel good, who else? However, what we use to make our homes smell good is important to avoid as many harsh chemicals as possible.

Common air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (aka VOCs), including formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, phthalates, benzene & 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4-DCB). Even at levels lower than what the industry has set as acceptable, these increase the risk of asthma in children. High concentrations of these various VOCs are linked to eye, skin & respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, memory impairment, birth defects, reproductive & developmental disorders, as well as cancer so ditch the Febreeze and other conventional air fresheners! 

And candles... candles are one of my favorites. However, regular-scented candles emit chemicals that are considered equally as dangerous as second-hand smoke. Traditional candles are made of paraffin wax, a petroleum waste product that is bleached & deodorized in the manufacturing process. Burning paraffin-based candles creates highly toxic benzene and toluene (both known carcinogens). And did you know… toxins released from paraffin candles are the SAME as diesel fuel fumes? Surely we don’t want those toxins in our home! 

So, natural home freshener options! Beeswax or soy-based candles, natural incense, flowers/plants and quality essential oils. Beeswax and soy candles are widely available now; choose ones with only natural fragrance or non-scented. Beeswax on it’s own is a very gentle, cleansing smell & releases negative ions that help purify the air. When choosing incense, many on the market are artificially fragranced & made with accelerants to burn more evenly, yet in turn produce too much smoke & are a guaranteed major headache. I personally love burning palo santo, sage, Nepali rope incense, and other incense that are gentle & produced with natural components. Some of my favorite incense are from Shoyeido, nag champ by Satya Sai Baba, Teomati Sacred Copal, Juniper Ridge, and Maroma. 

If you can’t find any local to you, Shaman’s Market & Incense Warehouse are excellent online retailers. 

As for essential oils, I apply the same philosophy that I do to food: prioritize small-scale, organic farms/growers & avoid large agricultural as much as possible  

And PLANTS! Plants not only cleanse your air but will add some natural fragrance to your space. Hang some eucalyptus around your shower head, grow some rosemary, lavender, mint or other herbs wherever you have plenty of sun, and flowers!… get yourself some locally grown flowers & put them all over your house like I do. The more plants, the better for all senses. 

28. plant more seeds

I purposely am not discussing diet as a means of living more sustainably because there are way too many factors that contribute to ones diet. Of course, eating lower on the food chain & sourcing more local is always the best option, but there are so many personal needs, cultural traditions & financial considerations that need to be addressed when discussing diet that I don't find here & now to be appropriate to dive into that. 

One thing MOST everyone can do however is plant more seeds. Whether you are able to grow herbs on your porch or in a windowsill, you claim a spot in a community garden or you're lucky enough to have a yard or piece of land. Planting more seeds = more homegrown food = less food you are buying from the grocery store. And not to say all food from the grocery store is bad, not at all! But the less food miles you are consuming, the better! I'll say that with certainty.

So often people aren't fully aware of where their food even comes from; going to the store has become such a mindless act that we just put whatever we desire in our cart. We are a culture of convenience and it's throwing our relationships to our bodies, seasons, regions and the planet out of whack. There is so much more to that food's story than simply shelf to kitchen. It was grown somewhere and given the state of our country's food system, it was more likely thousands of miles away from you. 

So go plant more seeds! If you've never done so, be sure to purchase open sourced, organic, or through local seed saving initiatives.