Earth Day 2021 Sustainable Swaps to Reduce Our Impact on the Planet

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The other night I heard the first spring peepers in our backyard. For me, that’s the sign that we’ve made it through winter – these tiny frogs that have decided it’s time to brave the elements and come out of hibernation. That’s my cue to come out of hibernation too.  It got me thinking about how I can make more sustainable swaps to reduce our impact on the planet.

With spring finally here, the thoughts of cleanups – inside and out – are running wild. I’ve been working to make more environmentally friendly choices and changes over the past few years. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that given that both my parents were environmental educators and I work in the environmental policy field. But it’s a reminder that habits run deep and can be hard to change!

My motto is “imperfect is okay” for sustainable swaps

My motto is “imperfect is okay” so I don’t get too down on myself or discouraged by comparing my journey with what others are already doing. I’ve gathered up some of the changes and swaps that I’ve found helpful here. Maybe some of these give you ideas about what shifts you can make too. I recommend NOT trying them all at once but instead picking one or two at a time to phase in so the changes aren’t overwhelming and become easier to weave into your routines and habits.

1. Go (back) to the bar

Whether it’s shampoo, conditioner, regular body wash, or dish soap, using bars instead of bottles is great for a number of reasons. The two big ones for me are reducing plastic waste and not adding emissions by shipping extra water around in those bottles. I switched shampoo first when my bottled supply was about to run out. Next up was the conditioner and we’ve also moved on to dish soap. It took a little adjusting (and some grumbling from my husband about the dish soap), but now it’s a habit. Plus, when we can travel again, no more messing around with travel sized bottles, just grab the bars and go!

2. Make dirt

Whether you’re ready to tackle your own or have someone else do the work, composting is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and keep food waste from taking up valuable space in the landfills. I’ve tried on my own and just don’t seem to have the right touch (or perhaps patience?). We do Mr. Fox compost pick up, but many communities now compost drop off at their recycling centers (Dover and Exeter recently added it for example). Composting has also helped us cut back on the number of trash bags we use each week and eliminated instances where critters break into our trash bags while waiting for pick up. Plus it reduces municipal waste disposal costs by diverting heavy (aka expensive) food waste from the waste stream headed to the landfill.

3. Hang me out to dry

As warmer and sunnier weather arrives, have you thought about hanging some laundry out to dry?  Sheets and towels are as far as I’ve tried, but it certainly reduces the drying time for the rest of our clothes. On rainy days, I just hang them over the railings inside for the same effect. I also use wool dryer balls in place of dryer sheets. And perhaps my favorite benefit of air drying sheets is that they no longer get all tangled up in the dryer leaving a bundle of wet clothes in the middle!

4. The unmentionables

Bamboo toilet paper, cloth pads, and a diva cup. There, I said it! I finally took the plunge two years ago and bought a menstrual cup. It sat on my shelf for about three months while I got up the nerve to actually use it. Now that I have, I’ll never go back. So much less trash and no extra trips to the bathroom to change tampons or pads. I change it in the morning and before bed and otherwise forget about it!

5. And perhaps my favorite sustainable swap, biodegradable glitter!  

I recently found this company that makes cosmetic glitter with something called “bioglitter” and I’m almost embarrassed how excited I was. I am a huge fan of sparkly things but had sworn off glitter for the kids because it contributes to microplastic pollution. We’ve used this for art projects in addition to face painting. I’m so glad to have glitter back in my activity arsenal.

While these are all individual changes, I also feel strongly that it is also incumbent on businesses and government to help facilitate these shifts to a more sustainable future. Voting with our dollars is one way to make our views known, but we also need to keep speaking up to make sure our representatives know how important sustainability is too us all. It’s incumbent on all sectors to work together towards a sustainable future where we work to meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Don’t stop here! Learn more about sustainable swaps and resources

I think we’re better off with many people making imperfect attempts at living lighter than comparing ourselves to those around us and worrying that we’re not doing enough. Sure we could always do more, but let’s all commit to those small changes that start us on a better path.

What are your favorite sustainable swaps and perfectly imperfect tips to reduce our impact on the planet?

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