Last year, Starbucks announced a global elimination of its classic green straws in an effort to reduce plastic waste. Headlines lit up everywhere. The coffee giant has 28,000 stores worldwide, and the venture will keep more than 1 billion straws per year out of our oceans and landfills.
As a consumer, it’s hard to comprehend numbers that big. Your one straw, in your one iced coffee, seems too insignificant to matter. But that’s why initiatives like this one are so important: they show how small changes, when added up on a big scale, can monumentally benefit the environment.
This Earth Day, make a pact to skip the straws, as well as find other everyday ways to make eco-friendly choices. Here are 10 to get you started:
- Use canvas bags instead of plastic.
Storing your reusable grocery bags in your car’s trunk or glove box is an easy way to ensure you’ll always use them. But grocery stores aren’t the only place they can come in handy. Bring them to the hardware store, pharmacy or clothing stores. And keep them fresh by trying these tips for cleaning reusable bags.
- Buy eco-friendly products.
Look for products sold in recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging. Or simply choose products with minimal packaging. If you have the storage space, buying in bulk is a great way to cut down on waste, as there’s less packaging to throw away.
- Invest in a drinking bottle.
According to a study, 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will end up in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. A lot of that plastic waste is bottles. Buying your own reusable bottle, for your morning coffee or all-day water, is an easy way to help our planet.
- Eat organic, and keep it local.
According to the USDA, organic food is “produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.” By choosing local organic food, you’re reducing the environmental impact of long-distance shipping and delivery.
- Reinvent takeout.
Restaurant takeout can lead to lots of waste. Start a revolution by bringing your own to-go container — or reusing the ones they give you. Always decline the plastic utensils, and opt for restaurants that use food that’s sourced locally.
- Streamline your mailbox.
Tired of sorting your mail? So is the environment. Save some trees by calling those pesky companies who send you ad mailers. For the necessary items, like water bills or mortgage statements, most companies have a paperless, online option.
- Bring recycling to the next level.
Why should bottles and cans have all the fun? Many other items, such as batteries, old phones, broken appliances and even mattresses, can also be recycled. Some companies offer discounts or freebies if you bring them your used products to recycle. And for items that can’t be recycled, find ways to reuse them in your home.
- Use your dishes.
Washing dishes helps cut back on disposable products. At home, use cloth napkins along with real plates, bowls and utensils. The way you wash dishes can be eco-conscious, too. Look for dishwashing tools made from bamboo or recycled materials — rather than plastic — and choose eco-friendly soaps and cleaners that are tough, yet kind to the environment (and you!).
- Make household tweaks.
Big change starts small, so begin with your home. Use light bulbs that conserve energy; use glass jars and containers to store bulk pantry items or leftovers; invest in a water-conserving shower head; and buy rechargeable batteries. And if all else fails, train your family to turn off the faucet while they brush their teeth.
- Grow a garden.
Imagine eating a salad you grew yourself. Tasty, nutritious, free of packaging and you didn’t use your car to get it. Plus, gardening does wonders for your mental health: It’s calming, it reminds us to live in the moment, and it connects us with the environment we’re all working so hard to preserve.