Wrap it Up

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There are many components to wrapping a gift and each one contributes to your carbon footprint. Each roll of tape comes in a plastic dispenser, each gift tag sticker comes on a silicon liner, each roll of wrapping paper comes with a plastic wrap, and each bow comes in a plastic container. This holiday season, I challenge you to think creative and upcycle your paper waste to wrap presents. As you spend endless amounts of money on gifts, don’t spend a single dime on the packaging.

Wrapping Paper: When it comes to wrapping gifts, a newspaper can be used just the same as wrapping paper. You may get newspapers delivered to your home, or maybe you have a friend or relative who does. If you have someone in your life who cannot give up the newspaper, make it your mission to reuse it when they are done. If you want to make it look more festive, add some drawings or cut out shapes to the outside.

Bags: If you have an awkward shaped gift, it can be difficult to wrap. Many people resort to a plastic coated holiday bag but there is a better answer. First, you could make the bag part of the gift. Get them a backpack or reusable shopping bag that they can use over and over. Maybe they will use your bag when shopping and you will have made a difference in their carbon footprint as well as your own. Secondly, you could use a makeshift bag out of any cloth you have lying around. Pillow cases, curtains, clothing, sheets, anything! Just wrap it around the present and tie a bow to make it look nice.

Clothing Boxes: Those pressboard boxes should never be purchased. Over the course of a year, you must have access to similar boxes that can be saved and reused for gifts. Any cardboard box will do, as long as it fits the gift you are trying to wrap. If you work in an office or have an office at home, manila folders come in the same style box as those gift boxes, so those may be ideal. Either way, use something you have already rather than purchasing new materials.

Tape: First, channel your inner origamist and try to live without it. It may not look as pretty and clean, but that’s not the point. Start wrapping your gift, when you would normally use a piece of tape, cut a slit in the wrapping paper to tuck the loose end inside. Secondly, if tape is necessary in your life, get the tape with the least plastic waste. There are many paper tapes and rolls that do not use a plastic dispenser. Be a little more mindful at the store because one small change will always make a difference.

Tags: Gift tags can be made from many upcycled materials. Scrap papers, folders, snack boxes, etc. All you need to do is cut out your desired shape, punch a whole, and tie it on the gift. Never buy a “to: from:” sticker again. Also, if you keep your tags well, they can be used over and over again as you likely buy presents for the same people each year.

Bows/Ribbons: First, many bows are made of plastic and completely unnecessary. Try to avoid the added bows on top and save yourself some money. However, when trying to wrap presents tape free, it is convenient to have some ribbon handy. Keep your ribbon simple to make the environmentally friendly choice. My favorite choice is sewing thread. Each spool comes with many feet of string so it last a while, making the spool on the inside almost worth it. Many decorative ribbons have toxic glitter, are coated in plastic, and only come with a few feet of ribbon per package.

Also, if you receive a gift in a plastic coated bag, or in a pressboard clothing box, or with a plastic bow on top, or with fancy ribbons tied all around, save it. Although avoiding the plastic is the goal, once something is purchased, it should be used to its fullest before it is throw away. Be mindful of the gifts you give and the gifts you receive. Limiting your footprint is easy when there is so much room to improve.

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Bake Responsibly

Food creates waste in many ways. There is the energy and resources used in the production, the gases released in transportation, the packaging used in the stores, and then the uneaten food that ends up in the trash. Food is crucial to all life but taking responsibility for your food waste can make a big difference. Making all food at home is the only way to control your waste and environmental impact but making it at home is only half the battle. Here are a few ways to limit your footprint while baking at home.

  1. Avoid paper liners. With muffins and cupcakes, those paper liners are completely unnecessary. A little bit of your favorite oil will do the trick. Just remember to look for a reusable, recyclable glass jar when shopping for that oil. An aerosol can of oil is arguably just as bad.
  2. Eliminate parchment paper. When it comes to baking, parchment paper is usually unnecessary as well. A lot of times, the parchment paper is used to protect the pan to make cleaning simpler in the end. Spending a little extra time and a little extra water to wash the dishes is a better alternative to parchment paper waste. If you find yourself really needing a parchment paper replacement, you’re in luck because there is a reusable alternative. They are advertised as reusable cookies sheet and are fairly inexpensive.
  3. Use residual heat. Turn the oven off a few minutes before the bake time is officially over. The time in which the oven remains at your desired temperature will depend on the oven and the temperate. For me, I turn the oven off about 15 minutes early and have not noticed a difference in the results. To test your oven, try turning it off at the beginning of your bake, after a few minutes, turn it back on to see if it takes time to preheat. Continue this process until you notice the oven does not preheat instantaneously. Then you will now about how long it takes your oven to begin cooling down. Using residual heat will minimize baking time and use less energy to heat the oven.
  4. Bake less often. Using the oven uses a lot of energy. If you can minimize your usage, you will limit your footprint.
    1. The first thing to do is to look for recipes that do not use the oven. For dinner, think raw vegetables. Having a vegetable based meal is sustainable for many reasons. Not having to use the oven makes it even better. For desserts, there are many different recipes for “no bake” cookies and treats.
    2. Secondly, since most people cannot eliminate the oven completely, you can
    3. bake many things at one time. Ovens typically have a few different racks so make sure you are using them. Rather than turning the oven on every night, prepare your meals at the beginning of the week and use the microwave or toaster oven to warm them up. Baking many things at one time saves time and energy.

Challenge yourself to bake responsibly and limit your footprint each and every day!

Clean Your Teeth But Save Your Earth

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Brushing your teeth is something that should not be eliminated or even cut back from your daily routine. However, there are a few things we could do to minimize environmental costs, specifically the plastic waste.

In the United States alone, over 85 million toothbrushes are discarded into landfills each year. (thecharcoaltoothbrush.com) Toothbrushes use plastic and rubber in the handle, nylon in the bristols, and a combination of plastic and cardboard for the packaging. At this point, none of these materials are biodegradable. (ecoplanetbamboo.com) Recently, there have been many companies advertising for bamboo toothbrushes. These toothbrushes are becoming popular because of their environmentally friendly characteristics. There are many different options but many of them are sold with the same intentions. The main feature on these brushes is the bamboo handle. Bamboo is a an environmentally friendly product from the day it is planted, and it is shocking to see the small roll it plays in our lives. Bamboo can be grown in a wide variety of environments and it acts as an inhibitor to soil erosion, therefore enhancing the soil for other plants. While it matures in just 3-5 years, it can be harvested and will regrow much more frequently than a traditional tree. It also produces more oxygen and removes more carbon dioxide than an equivalent stand of trees. (econation.com) Then, when your bamboo products have been used to their full potential, bamboo will biodegrade in a landfill and will not damage the surrounding land. So, with a bamboo handle on you toothbrush you will support a sustainable resource and reduce your plastic waste. Biodegradable packaging is another common feature for these bamboo toothbrushes. The companies selling them are usually created on an environmentalist foundation so they are working with you to limit your footprint. Many times the package is made from a combination of recycled paper, cardboard, and bamboo pulp, which will biodegrade in a landfill. Although the bristols are still made of nylon in most cases, and I have yet to find a toothbrush with a superior alternative, a toothbrush with a bamboo handle and a biodegradable package is one large step in the right direction.

Alongside those 85 million toothbrushes sits 400 million tubes of toothpaste. To make it worse, these tubes cannot be recycled because they are made of a mixture of materials that cannot be separated. (blog.stpub.com) The only way to eliminate those toothpaste tubes is to make your own. I have yet to find a plastic free, store bought alternative and toothpaste is something that you just should not get rid of. After using my homemade toothpaste my teeth feel just as smooth and clean as they did with store bought toothpaste. The recipe I use is half coconut oil, half baking soda, and a little bit of peppermint essential oil, to taste. Honestly, it doesn’t have a great taste no matter how much peppermint essential oil you use but I got used to it very quickly. I have only been using it for about two weeks and the taste does not bother as much as it did the very first day. If it is better for our environment, then it is worth it to me and hope it is to you as well.

Floss is another important part of cleaning your teeth and there are much better options than the floss that comes in a plastic disposable container. This seems like such a small part of people lives that many don’t think twice about the plastic waste. If you are more mindful, you can make a difference over a lifetime. The first thing to look for is a plastic free floss. There are a few different option for silk, bamboo, coconut, and more. The material does affect the flavor so find out which will work best for you. The second thing to look for is a sustainable packaging. There are companies that advertise for a plastic free floss yet it comes in a disposable plastic container. This kind of defeats the purpose. Make sure your package is refillable, recyclable, or biodegradable.

The waste created from your dental hygiene habits doesn’t seem to be substantial but over a lifetime, it is. Make a switch to change your waste and limit your footprint.

Works Cited

The Charcoal Toothbrush. “Plastic Waste Statistics.” The Charcoal Toothbrush, 10 May 2017, thecharcoaltoothbrush.com/blogs/news/plastic-waste-statistics.

“The Environmental Impact of Toothbrushes.” EcoPlanet Bamboo, 3 Aug. 2015, www.ecoplanetbamboo.com/news/the-environmental-impact-of-toothbrushes.

Dunne, Jane. “Brushing Off Wasteful Packaging.” Specialty Technical Publishers, 1 Apr. 2015, blog.stpub.com/bid/204975/Brushing-Off-Wasteful-Packaging.

“Bamboo, Bamboo Uses and Benefits, Bamboo Sustainability.” Econation, econation.co.nz/bamboo/.

Do Your Part

Pick Up

There are so many very easy and very simple ways to make a difference and one of these is to properly dispose of waste.

The very first baby step would be to throw away your own trash. Making an effort to not litter is probably the most advertised and most practiced way to care for your planet. In Disney, you can find a trash can every 30 feet. This is because after observing patrons and realizing how many steps people are willing to take before throwing their trash on the ground, Walt Disney decided that 30 feet was the max. Do you have a max number of steps before you throw your trash on the ground? Challenge yourself to remove that limit and always carry your trash with you.

Taking it one step further would be to pick up not only after yourself but after your neighbors. If you have an hour or two to spare, maybe you could get outside and pick up trash around your town instead of binge watching another series. Picking up litter can also be done without going out of your way. Next time you leave for an outdoor adventure, bring an extra bag for litter and you will be surprised at how much you may find. Whether you are walking your dog in the neighborhood, taking a trip to the beach, going on a camping weekend, hiking a mountain, or so much more, there will be litter that you can help remove.

The next step is to sort it. Make sure you are recycling and reusing your trash before it is going into a landfill. Sorting out recyclable materials can dramatically reduce your trash and it will make a big difference in saving our planet. It will prevent the materials from sitting in the environment and it will help reduce the footprint of the product it is recycled into. However, before you recycle, think about what you can reuse. If you have a habit of purchasing glass jars to hold different products or decorations, think about the amount of glass jars you throw away and how each of them can be used again. Don’t become a junk collector but if you are going to use it, save it.

Many people don’t make an effort because they feel like they are one in over seven billion and they cannot make a difference but this is certainly not the case. While you are only one person, you are on this planet for a lifetime and you will make an impact on the environment each and every day. It is up to you to make it a positive one. Limit you footprint by taking a small action each and every day.

Give Thanks to Your Planet

Thanksgiving is around the corner and so is the endless buffet of food. As you are preparing your recipes for the holiday, think about the waste and how you can limit your food waste on a day focused on food.

40% of food in America goes uneaten. This means that 40% of the time, land, energy, money, and so much more used to produce food is wasted. Eliminating your food waste is easy but it requires a conscious effort. Here is how yo

u can make a difference this holiday season.

In the grocery store: Think carefully about the number of people you are cooking for. Leftovers are okay but try not to over do it. Preparing a nice family style dinner does not require large quantities. The holiday can be celebrated with a reasonable amount of food yet it seems to be a tradition to buy enough to feed the neighborhood. One easy way to control your shopping is to make a detailed list at home and stick to it at the store. This works for everyday shopping, not just thanksgiving, and it is a good way to control your food waste and your budget. Also, if your guests are bringing food, make sure you know about it and plan accordingly.

Food preparation: Do not waste food scraps. Many people actually cut off edible parts of fruits and vegetables just out of habit. Each time you start chopping off both ends of a fruit or vegetable, ask yourself why. If you don’t know why, then don’t do it. These pieces are likely safe to eat and taste just the same as the rest. One of the most common unnecessary vegetable scraps is from broccoli or cauliflower. The stalk is perfectly fine to eat, it just yields a different texture than the florets. Part two of utilizing the produce as much as possible is to save the scraps for a soup. You don’t have to use them the same day but you can collect scraps in the freezer and use them once you have enough. Make sure you are using as much of the product as possible before you label it as scraps. Then, if you absolutely cannot find a use for a piece of produce, maybe it is rotten or moldy, compost it. Starting a pile in your yard is easy and you don’t need a garden to put it in.

Leftovers: Even if you planned your shopping and tried not to over do it, you will have leftovers. Make sure you are saving those and utilizing every last bit. If you really out did yourself and there are too many leftovers to handle, give them away to friends, family, or a needy person in your town. Whatever you do, don’t let them land in the trash.

Limit your footprint by preventing food waste during the holidays and in your everyday life.

Colder and Shorter

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As we are approaching the colder months, maybe you have the urge to linger in a steaming hot shower for a little bit longer than normal. But hopefully with a little more knowledge on the environmental impacts, you will be more cautious.

The statistics for water and energy consumption in the shower vary widely depending on the shower head you have. There are some made to save a little water but there are some that are made for high pressure and release more water than average. If you have the ability to replace your shower head, consider looking into the water usage and finding an environmentally friendly one. Newer showerheads are regulated to have a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute but if you have an older showerhead, your flow rate could be closer to 5 gallons per minute. (slate.com) Showerheads are relatively inexpensive so you should consider replacing yours.

But, no matter what shower head you have, you can limit your footprint in many ways:

  1. The first would be the most obvious, cut back on overall shower time. A few minutes off each shower at the regulated 2.5 gallons of water per minute can add up over a lifetime.
  2. Don’t let any water go to waste. Avoid turning the shower on until you are absolutely ready to get in it. Also, if your shower takes a minute or two to reach your desired temperature, challenge yourself to step in and start when it is still cold.
  3. Make your whole shower a little colder. This can be a little challenging on a chilly winter day but in the summer time or after a sweaty workout, maybe the cold water will feel just as good, if not better than the warm.
  4. Avoid shaving or brushing your teeth in the shower. This may seem like an obvious change but as shaving in the shower becomes normal, it is a good time to reflect on your water usage. I recently shared another post titled Shave by Save and in there you will find more about shaving.
  5. The final way to save the most water is to take a “military shower” as some call it. This is when the water is only turned on briefly at the beginning and end of your shower to rinse and it is kept off while you apply soap and/or shampoo.

Also, aside from the environmental impacts, sometimes sacrificing what you were given is a way of humbling yourself to connect with those less fortunate. My people around the world, starting in our own country, do not have access to hot water or even running water. If we can remind ourselves that many people can thrive without it, the sacrifice won’t seem as large.

Now, some of these changes might seem a little extreme or out of your reach, but remember that no change is too small and every change makes a difference. You can start by changing just one shower a week and see how you can adapt. Hot water makes our lives comfortable but it is certainly not a necessity. Take a step back to limit your footprint.

Works Cited

Rastogi, Nina Shen. “Exactly How Bad Should I Feel about Taking Hot Showers?” Slate Magazine, Slate, 27 Oct. 2009, slate.com/technology/2009/10/exactly-how-bad-should-i-feel-about-taking-hot-showers.html.

Shave But Save

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Technically speaking, shaving is completely optional. However, most of us would not agree. So, how can you limit your footprint without limiting your shaving?

The best option is to invest in an electric shaver. As a stereotype, these are designed for men and their facial hair but they are just as efficient for women and their legs. An electric razor has an upfront cost but over your lifetime, it will be much cheaper than buying disposable razors. Besides the obvious elimination of plastic waste, an electric razor will use less water and it will not require shaving cream or gel. Also, when shopping for an electric razor, look for a solar charger or an eco boost. This will limit your footprint even more.

The second, and possibly the most obvious way is to get a reusable razor. Disposable razors are not recyclable and according to the EPA, about 2 billion razors are thrown away each year. (groundswell.org) A reusable razor will almost inevitably have a disposable blade so the plastic waste is not eliminated but it is drastically reduced. Over just 1 year, imagine turning 2 billion disposable razors in only disposable blades. This option is not the best because it will use the same amount of water, products, and packaging as disposable razors, only the waste from the actual razor is saved.

If you just cannot trade in your plastic razor for an electric one, there are other ways to improve your shaving routine:

  1. Shaving Cream: Shaving cream has a lot of negative effects on the environment and it is very easily replaced. Shaving cream is an aerosol which most people realize is bad for the ozone and the air quality of the earth. It also come in a can that can be recycled if it is done properly but most people don’t. To effectively lubricate and desensitize your skin, a simple bar of soap will do the trick. Bar soap is a waste free product than can be found at many local shops and will likely contain more natural ingredients than shaving cream. If you are using disposable blades, you can also find some with added lotion and this should be sufficient for those of you that cannot give up the cream.
  2. Water Usage: Shave without an electric razor uses water. There is no way around it. However, if you are more mindful of your shaving habits, maybe you could limit your water usage. Instead of using running water to rinse your blade, fill the sink and dip the blade in there. Instead of rinsing periodically, wait ‘til the end and only rinse your body once. Next time you shave, be aware of your usage and make a small change.
  3. Shave Less: If you have not noticed already, less is always more in this blog. If you cannot cut something out of your life, you can always lessen it. Everything has some environmental impact but the less you consume the less you contribute. If you are unable to make a switch, cutting back is always a good place to start.

Eliminating shaving may not be in the question but changing your products can seriously help you limit your footprint.

Works Cited

Rabbitt, Emily, et al. “2 Billion Tossed Per Year: What’s The Most Wasteful Bathroom Product?” Groundswell, groundswell.org/2-billion-tossed-per-year-whats-the-most-wasteful-bathroom-product/.