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Try to buy food that is in season to improve not only the taste and nutritional value, but also to reduce transportation, storage, and other chemically environmental externalities of importing foods.
When it comes to sustainability, there are countless ways to reduce your consumption and reuse items, right at home or for no-to-low cost! This blog post covers a variety of sustainability tips, ranging from food waste to cleaning supplies.
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The first and perhaps most obvious is recycling! You may have heard that recycling is actually not making much of a difference, and this is true, because of the huge flow of waste that is produced across the world. There are also issues with energy efficiency of recycling (especially for glass and plastic) and need for technology improvements. However, reusing and recycling as much as you can, especially paper products, is beneficial, as it saves on carbon dioxide emissions and keeps trash out of the landfill and out of our oceans. But this does not mean just throwing everything in the recycling bin and hoping for the best. Make sure to properly clean the recyclables to ensure that the contamination rate is as low as it can be. For example, a pizza box full of grease or a peanut butter jar that is not thoroughly washed is unrecyclable. And if you’re ever unsure on what can and can’t be recycled, check, don’t guess! Also keep in mind that what can be recycled may vary based on where you live, so check your local trash-pick up website for more information!
In addition to recycling packaging, composting your food will help reduce methane emissions from landfills and contributes to healthy soil and carbon sequestration. There are many resources showing how to compost at home and what can and can’t be composted. For those living on a campus, check out if there are compost bins around that you can bring a little bin of compost every few days!
When it comes to food, there are many ways to make it more sustainable. Replanting your green onions, lettuce, and/or celery in a glass of water, or your potatoes, ginger and/or garlic in a pot of dirt will save you some money and decorate your kitchen! Next, try to buy food that is in season to improve not only the taste and nutritional value, but also to reduce transportation, storage, and other chemically environmental externalities of importing foods. Another tip would be to freeze your fresh berries, greens, bread, etc. to save on food waste. Finally, reuse your food scraps, such as vegetable scraps for broth, coffee grounds as fertilizer (or compost them!), and soft or old veggies for soup!
The first tip we have for shopping sustainably would be to avoid fast fashion and go thrifting! However, it still helps to be mindful, even when thrifting, and not play into the problem of overconsumption. Also, be wary of what communities in need may require from thrift stores! For example, it may be worthwhile to avoid thrifting a winter jacket if you can afford to do so. If you need to thrift online, check out stores such as Depop, Poshmark, Mercari, and ThredUp rather than fast fashion sites such as Shein and AliExpress. Additionally, try to remember to bring your own bags to reduce plastic and paper bag consumption.
When it comes to reducing your plastic consumption, some items to think about would be replacing your disposable toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo one, buy floss and toothpaste refills, and switch over to bar soap, which you can find at many different stores like Target or Public Goods. Another tip would be to either reuse your plastic Ziploc bags by simply washing them inside out with soap and water, or investing in reusable food bags which can easily be found in many stores. And of course, bring your reusable straw and cup wherever you go!
If you are the creative type, there are some great sustainable activities that may be for you! One idea would be to make your own lip balm to reduce plastic consumption. You can do this using a base of vaseline or coconut oil, and customize it to suit your needs! Additionally, making your own meat and milk substitutes is a fun and cost-effective way to reduce plastic usage. This way you can also customize your recipes to fit your taste buds! Other creative ways to be sustainable in your own home would be to find a use for any plastic bags and containers that you end up with. For example, use any excess plastic bags to hold your trash or compost (double bag!). Try reusing old candle wax to make your own candles using a wick, essential oils, and a plastic container. You can even boil the old candle jars to get rid of the wax and use it as a pot or to hold small items!
The last section is cleaning! First tip would be to use an old cloth, perhaps from cropping your shirt, to clean. Afterwards, you can just throw it in the wash! This is a great alternative because classic cleaning sponges can be very harmful to the environment and release microplastics. Additionally, paper towels are less durable and more are required to clean, which adds up pretty quickly! Next tip would be to check out what cleaning products you are using. Many classic cleaning supplies are actually very damaging to the environment, especially our oceans. There are a variety of eco-friendly brands, though you can also make your own cleaning products with ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, or rubbing alcohol! Finally, run your dishwasher at night to save on energy bills and your laundry on cold to reduce energy consumption!
Cora Gertejanssen is an FFAC Intern and Liana Krasnoff is an FFAC Mentee.