If you’ve been reading my blog this month, you’ve probably been a little inundated by my posts about organ donation. And while that is a cause near and dear to my heart, it’s not the only one being celebrated this month. April is also Earth Month, and I am fortunate enough to work in an industry where my team and I help businesses do their part to protect the planet every day through waste diversion.
Mac and I have long been believers in doing our part to reduce our environmental impact, but since the beginning of 2019 we’ve really recommitted to our goals in a new way. I’m not sure what exactly invoked this reignited passion, but our drive to both know better and do better when it comes to our environmental footprint is heightening every day.
We are so far from perfect, that I want to be clear in sharing this post – I am absolutely not preaching from a pedestal here. We have not come close to achieving the goals we’d like to, and we could without question be doing more. However, I also believe that by sharing the action steps we are taking, it may help my readers to consider the habits they might also be able to change to make a small difference today.
With that being said, here are the little things that we are currently focused on, to try and reduce our environmental footprint. I’d encourage you to consider if one of these might be a habit you’re able to undertake this Earth Month (and beyond!)! And I’d love to hear what you and your household are doing to pitch-in as well.
1. Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!
I am admittedly a caffeine addict, and Mac shares my vice. For a very long time, we let our coffee dependency be the area we ‘slipped up’ and didn’t do very well on when it came to disposables. However, as the landfill space in our province (and yours too!) becomes increasingly limited, we realized we needed to make a change. Now, Mac and I carry travel mugs with us 100% of the time. We have learned which of the major chains will accept them, and which won’t, and we do our very best to hit those ones or local shops whenever we can. It is not effective 100% of the time. We both travel a lot for work, and sometimes the disposable cup just happens. But, it’s become very rare, as we’ve come to realize how incredibly easy it truly is to carry our own mugs with us on a daily basis. Now, we look back on the way we used to always ‘forget’ our mugs, and cringe, knowing how easy of a habit this ended up being to implement.
2. Loose Produce
Almost all of the produce we buy, we now buy loose. We have reusable mesh produce bags we bring to the grocery store (and a lot of veggies don’t need bags at all)! Again, this is a habit that once implemented, made us feel silly for putting off for so long. It’s so easy, and the bonus is way less garbage piling up in our bin from non recyclable plastics and other packaging used in most grocery stores.
3. Less Meat Consumption
Did you know that the Dairy and Beef Industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change? It’s staggering when you start to look into the statistics and provides a great opportunity for each of us to consider how our meat intake might be impacting the planet.
I don’t eat a huge amount of dairy (most of the dairy I eat comes by the way of inadvertent milk ingredients in store-bought goods, baked goods, etc.), however I do really love cheese and butter. My digestive system on the other hand, does not. I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce my dairy intake as much as possible.
Meat has been an easier reduction for me. We eat out a lot because we travel for work and I find it very easy to choose vegetarian or vegan menu options, as most restaurants have at least one. When I’m home, I tend to go more for the vegetarian than vegan (as I still do eat eggs) and even pescatarian with a serving or two of fish per week. While I still do eat chicken every week or two, I haven’t ate ham, pork, or beef in a few months. I’m not holding myself to this as a hard-and-fast rule, because I want to give myself flexibility in this transitional period. However, I’m consciously reducing my intake for the time being and I’m hoping this gradual approach will lead me to longer-term success to a more plant-focused diet.
4. Litter Clean-Ups
Mac and I both completed the Butt Blitz with A Greener Future this April, each collecting more than 1000 cigarette butts that had been littered here in Cobourg. We are also participating in the Mayors’ Challenge here in Northumberland County later this week to collect litter in our neighbourhood with our co-workers. Later this spring, we are hoping to participate in the Love Your Lake litter clean-up with A Greener Future to clean up the shore at Cobourg Beach.
Each of these initiatives gives us the opportunity to make a tangible difference. While it may be small, there is a cumulative effect when we all do our part. We definitely don’t litter ourselves, but I believe that if those of us who care can make the effort to go above-and-beyond to clean-up after others and take care of our earth, we really can be the leaders of change.
Participating in these litter clean-ups also highlights just how much garbage there really is littering our sidewalks and piling up in our ditches. It’s an absolute tragedy and something we should all become more aware of. This has motivated me to carry a garbage bag with me when I go out for walks so that I can pick-up litter I come across on a daily basis and keep our planet clean.
5. Learning To Love Bulk Barn
We love snacks. Especially me! I’m very much a ‘grazer’ when it comes to my eating habits, but so many of the snacks I love are often sold in wasteful packaging at the grocery store. In the past couple of months we’ve transitioned to doing more of our shopping at the Bulk Barn using our own reusable containers and reusable mesh bags. This has minimized the waste we are producing, and provides new variety to our grocery shopping experience!
6. Minimizing Food Waste
The single most effective way to minimize food-waste for us has been to really focus on meal planning, and buying our groceries accordingly. I usually prep our meals on Sunday afternoon for the week and we end up with minimal food waste by the time Friday rolls around.
Whatever food-waste we do generate, we have chosen to compost. This means we have chosen to see our food-waste not as garbage, but as a valuable resource. We also compost our coffee grinds and filters, which I’d encourage you to do as well (say goodbye to those pesky K-Cups!).
Food-Waste that is sent to landfill will stay there for a very long time (a head of lettuce can take 25 years to decompose in landfill!). In the meantime, it rots and releases methane gas into our environment that contributes directly to climate change. This is one initiative that Mac is particularly passionate about and has really led us to making a difference in our own home.
Each of these steps have been so much easier to implement than I could have ever expected. It really is about building the habit and holding yourself accountable. For us this meant that if we arrived at the grocery store and realized we forgot our reusable bags, we either had to go home and get them, or we had to carry our groceries out in our arms with no bags at all.
We’ve made these habits ‘non-negotiable’ for ourselves on a daily basis, while still giving ourselves flexibility for imperfection. “Zero-Waste” is an aspirational lifestyle, and the truth is we will always generate some garbage. But by focusing on small steps we can each take every day, we do have the power to make a difference!