I don't know if you've noticed lately, but we're in the midst of a huge shift. The world is noticing just how much waste we've accumulated, how much of it won't disintegrate, and that it's in our best efforts to cut back a little, if not a lot (here's hoping!).
In times like this it can be easy to centre your focus individualistically. If you've ever thought, "Me? My actions wouldn't change anything even if I tried! It's the big guys who make change, they have all the power and money in the world." Sure, big conglomerate companies have a lot of money and power, but a lot of them are starting to see that their actions can make a difference. And what influences their actions? I'd like to dream about their motivation being drawn from a good hard look into the future based on the current state of our planet and thinking, 'How can I stop the madness?!?!?'. But let's face it, that's probably not true. Instead, what is helping to change minds is the little guy with a big voice.
Think about movements like Meatless Mondays and Earth Hour. Now think about companies like A&W who are banning plastic straws and cities like Victoria, BC who have banned plastic bags. And now, think about how quickly all of this has happened. We know our world is far imbalanced and that simply refusing to sell or use plastic straws won't solve all its problems. But it's a step in the right direction.
Besides, the real effector of change is you. Your decisions have impact and every time you choose to buy something from someone it's telling that someone what you want more of, so they keep making it. Well, the same thing happens when you choose not to buy that thing from that someone anymore. They notice, because chances are your money's going into someone else's pocket and not theirs. And when it comes to things like saving the planet, you're not the only one changing your decisions. It's a movement, a shift in energy, focus, and determination, and because you change your ways others will take note and do the same. The domino effect is in action. Let's ride the wave.
This is something I think about constantly. How can I make better decisions today about what I use, purchase, and waste? It's become a really important focus of my life and really hit home yesterday when I visited Shoppers Drug Mart to buy bandaids and realized I haven't been to a Shoppers Drug Mart in months, let alone more than a handful of times within the year, most of which were to visit the built-in Canada Post office. I've really changed the way I shop and including where I shop and what I buy.
Just two years ago I was starting to live minimally. When I chose to leave Toronto and move back to Vancouver, I donated 6 bags of clothes and accessories. I was shocked that I'd accumulated so much! It really hit home that I can learn to make better decisions not only for myself, but for the planet. What I don't need I don't need to buy. And if I really need it, I can take the time to do my research to find a suitable source. Now, I look for products that are made of certain materials and that have longevity and flexibility, so I can use them in more ways than one while ensuring I don't get bored of them too easily.
I've come a long way in just a couple of years, but I'm still finding ways I can create less waste. Below are just a few I'm trying these days.
CUTTING BACK ON WATER
I don't have a dishwasher, so that saves a lot already. I only have one sink, so I don't fill it with soapy water for washing. I think I'm saving a lot, but I still run the water while doing dishes. Why?
What I've started doing is noticing, in the moment, whether I need to turn on the water in the first place and if I don't, I don't. It's that easy. My method is simple, and it's one I'm practicing every day:
1. Wet a washcloth.
2. Add soap to the washcloth.
3. Quickly rinse dishes with warm water.
4. Hand wash the dishes while the water's off.
5. Rinse dishes altogether once clean.
Turning off the water while washing dishes saves SO MUCH WATER! It's unbelievable.
HINT: The same method applies in the shower.
REUSING PLASTIC BAGS
Over the past few months, I've been recycling all plastic bags, wrapping, and packaging I can. However, that doesn't change the fact that I buy a lot of it in the first place. Aside from already trying not to purchase items that come in plastic, another way I've thought of is to reuse plastic bags I buy bulk food in at the grocery store. I love buying in bulk, but the plastic waste I accumulate is insane. Now it's wash, rinse and repeat for me!
There's a second step to this, and that's that I've been using glass containers for everything possible, including:
homemade drinks and liquids (juice, milk, soup, dressings)
change for laundry
bulk products from a local zero-waste grocery store (yeah!!)
and the list goes on
I've also been saving and reusing spray bottles, small jars, and any glass containers I've purchased that originally had food or beauty products in them.
HINT: Don't take your recycling out for a month and see how much waste you've accumulated! It'll make you think twice the next time you're at the store.
DECREASING DISPOSABLE FEMININE PRODUCTS
No, I'm not going for the Diva cup. Plastic's plastic to me. Basically, I'm pretty much done with sticking inanimate objects inside of me (get your mind out of the gutter, I'm only talking about tampons!). I'm ready to give pads and liners my full support and the best way to do that is to use reusable pads! I've had one for two and a half years and haven't used it yet. What on earth am I waiting for? Probably more so I have backup, but they're out there...waiting to be purchased and used...by me.
TIP: If you're going to get on board with this one, you're going to have to get used to a bit of a messier period!
MAKING HOMEMADE CLEANING PRODUCTS
I'll admit, this is one of the last things I've taken on over the years. Laundry detergent and cleaning spray are two things I still purchase packaged and since I continue to dispose of the packaging material, I'd really like to eliminate that.
I know what you're thinking...I still waste the packaging material that contains all the individual ingredients. That may be true, but I already have half the components at home or in my kitchen (for which I'll reuse their containers), and the other ones I can buy in bulk and bring my own packaging (we have a couple zero-waste grocery stores in town now!). There's always a way to save!
TIP: When questioning whether to make something homemade instead of buying it pre-made, think about whether it's cost efficient for you, and how many ingredients you'll need to buy new and whether you can reuse their packaging.
As you can see, I'm not perfect, but I don't aim to be either. I just want to continue to evolve following what drives me - healthier, happier soil, plants, people, and animals living and thriving symbiotically.
I'm nowhere close to where I'd like to be in the future, but I've trained myself to look for ways to cut down on creating waste and I know that even one small change can and will make a difference. If you still think you're only one person and your actions don't make a difference, I'm here to tell you they do! If anything, myself and a lot of other people like me thank you for cutting back where you can.