5 Small Changes to Help the Environment

Happy Earth Day, Friends! Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mother Nature and our beautiful planet. I grew up in Hawaii and I was taught from a young age that we need to appreciate and protect the planet at all costs. Our school field trips were usually going to the beach to do clean ups, farms to learn about agriculture and our natural resources, or hikes to appreciate and understand the formations of the island I grew up on. It was ingrained into us to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but when I came to New York I was suddenly put into an environment with a lot of pollution where the population did not seem to be very educated or engaged in protecting the planet.

Throughout college I lost a lot of the drive that I had grown up with in Hawaii to do everything in my power to make the earth cleaner and stronger. To give you a sense if you don’t live in NYC, there aren’t many recycling bins readily available, so most people will throw their recyclables in the public trash if they’re out and about, assuming that someone will come to collect the bottles to turn in for coins. Beyond that, urban environments in general produce over 1 billion tons of trash each year.

This year, I made a broad New Year’s goal to be more conscious of the environment. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research and have come up with five things I’m going to continue to work on to do my part for the environment:

  1. Say “No” to Plastic Straws: I’m sure we’ve all seen that awful video of the sea turtle dying because it couldn’t breath after being strangled by plastic straws. I hadn’t given a second thought to straws; in my head they were small minuscule pieces of plastic. But, those small pieces make such a big impact on the environment! I bought a set of 5 stainless steel straws at the beginning of the year in an effort to reduce the amount of straws I use. And, it’s worked! I keep one in my bag, one at my work desk, and one at work. I’ve gone from taking a plastic straw about once a day to almost never.

  2. Reuse “Single Use” Plastics: I’ve taken out almost all single-use plastics from my home. From ziplocks, to vegetable containers, we’ve completely cleared out. We’ve replaced plastic tupperware with Pyrex, and ziplock bags with silicon food bags. I’ve also tried to order out less in order to receive fewer plastic take out containers. However, when I do receive or buy single use plastics, I will reuse them as much as possible by using them for lunches, leftovers, or storage.

  3. Shop Local and Seasonal: I read an article about how there is an incredible amount of greenhouse gas emitted from transporting food around the world. By shopping locally we can reduce transportation waste, and by eating seasonally we can reduce emissions from growing produce in greenhouses. I’ve done my best to do shop locally and seasonally this year, but sometimes it can be difficult if I can’t make it to the farmers market or if there are no options at the grocery store. In those cases, I try to buy produce that is grown seasonally from where ever it is from. For example, if I were to buy strawberries during the winter, it’s better to buy them from a place in South America rather than North America because the largest waste would be from transportation.

  4. Take No Bags: The amount of plastic bags I cleared out from my cupboards this past year was absolutely ridiculous. I decided this year to never take plastic bags from the grocery store! This has honestly been the easiest thing to do. I just keep a reusable shopping bags in my purse to use if I’m out shopping. I recently also bought reusable produce bags so I also wouldn’t have to take the plastic bags from the grocery store. I feel like there is absolutely no excuse not to do this for me now; it’s just too easy!

  5. Shop Less + Donate More: One of my biggest goals this year was to shop less. I found myself online shopping if I was bored, but really only wearing the same things over and over again. So, my biggest goal this year was to shop less. And, I’ve stuck to it! It makes me feel so much better that I’ve reduced my carbon footprint significantly just by shopping less, and has made me really appreciate what I have. I did put a few rules around this goal though:

    • If I want a product, I need to finish what I have first (unless I have a negative reaction to it)

    • If I need something, I’ll buy it

    • If it’s a gift, I’ll keep it

    • If I really want something - and still want it after a few weeks, I’ll buy it

I’m not perfect, but I believe that we can all do our part to help the environment. Making small changes over time will make a difference! It can make a huge impact for generations to come.