This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth day and during this quarantine when it's hard to tell what day it is, everyday might as well be Earth Day! Reducing your carbon footprint doesn't always have to be arduous. I try for simple swaps that can help put less strain on the earth while not requiring huge sacrifice. Life is all about balance, do what you can when you can; do more when you can and less when you can't. It's all about effort and intention and trying to do better whenever possible. Here are some minor adjustments I've made to my family's habits to help reduce our waste and environmental impact.
Use Biodegradeable Soap, Detergent and Shampoo
I read an article years ago detailing how non biodegradable soap can last in the water supply and landfills for something like 10 years. It used to be hard to find biodegradable shower gel, dish soap etc. with only a few brands to choose from and carried only at health food stores. Now they are mainstream and readily available. I like Mrs. Meyer's that has 98% naturally derived ingredients, does not contain ammonia, chlorine or phosphates. Essential oils are used for fragrance. Other good ones are Method and Dr. Bronner. For shampoo Garnier Früctis makes shampoos and conditioners that are up to 97% biodegradable as well as Love Beauty and Planet. I love their Tea Tree and Vetiver fragrance. They also make a shampoo and conditioner bar that I'm curious to try. If there is a larger refill size available for any soap or cleaning product, I always choose that because then you can eliminate some packaging waste.
Save Electricity and Skip the Dryer
I used to dry everything in the dryer and didn't think anything of it until I happened to meet a fabric expert who specializes in high end textiles etc. and we got to talking about how to care for bed linens etc. I had recently splurged on some high end LA made linens that had started to fray and unravel at an alarmingly fast rate. She explained to me that washing sheets in hot water and subsequently drying them with scalding hot air in the dryer burns the threads and breaks them down faster leading to holes and fraying edges and hems. I started line drying my sheets and clothes and have been doing it ever since. I switched from hot to warm water for whites, for all else I use cold and that also helps to reduce electricity usage.
Another way to save electricity is to let your hair air dry and skip the heat styling tools. It's better for your hair and the environment! I use a microfiber towel to dry my hair and I'll take a few paper towels and squeeze my hair to absorb the moisture. I have thick long hair that can take all day to dry and it helps to reduce on drying time. I only wash my hair about 2 times a week so that helps to cut down on water usage. On non shampoo days, my shower is approximately 3 minutes long- I'm in and out! A tip to extend the time between between washes is to spray dry shampoo on your roots before bedtime. I find that the bulk of the oil buildup occurs while you're sleeping, Spending 8 or so hours in bed, that's a lot of time for oil and sweat to accumulate.
Share a Car and Carpool Whenever Possible
For the past year my husband and I shared a car which is no easy feat in LA. We both work from home and our son's school is nearby so we found that with a little planning it was totally doable. Sharing a car changed my perspective on driving, which as any LA resident can attest can be a love-hate relationship. I began to appreciate driving so much more when I did, something I had totally taken for granted before. Sitting in traffic while still occasionally annoying, didn't really bother me that much. To be able to sit in my own car and go from point A to point B completely at my own behest seems the ultimate in luxury and indulgence. I also try to carpool whenever I can, it's more fun that way and helps to reduce traffic and pollution.
Walk/bike For Any Errands 1 Mile or Under
With only one car, we found ourselves walking and biking more. It's a good way to fit in those 10,000 steps a day. I decided instead of driving to a place to work out, I would just try to incorporate more exercise into my day by doing the bulk of my errands by foot or bike. It made my life a lot more local, which is a nice change since growing up in the South Bay and going to school on the Westside and Hancock Park in LA, I spent a lot of time in the car commuting. We walk our son to school in the morning, I walk to the post office or ups to drop off packages, I walk to the grocery store and library. I walk to pick up prescriptions and to go to happy hour or to get my hair highlighted or my weekly meditation group. This is easy where I live because my city is very walkable and I live within a mile of most places. It takes longer than hopping in the car and it might not work for every errand but just try to swap some time in the car for time outside and you'll feel so much better for it.
Use Your Local Library
I read a lot ( I average a book about a book a week) and I just don't have room to store all those books. Besides, I almost never re-read. So I try whenever possible to borrow from my local library and when I do purchase a book, I'll lend it to friends or either donate it to the library or a local lending library when I'm done. Much like everything, my public library is closed temporarily but they have online resources to borrow ebooks through Amazon for the same length you would a library book. I much prefer to read on printed page but it's a good alternative.
Other Sundry Tips
It's already feeling like summer here in LA, with temperatures reaching 96. We try to open opposing windows to get good airflow and circulation, often eliminating the need for air conditioning. I try not to use air conditioning unless absolutely needed. Neither my husband or I really like using it. I find the air so drying and just seems stale. But there are times I'm definitely glad to have it. We try to use it sparingly and clean our filters regularly to make sure it's working properly.
Use re-usable water containers, and put a filter on the tap so you can drink tap water. No plastic waste of single use bottles or someone driving to your house to drop off and pick up water bottles. We also always make our coffee at home using a Bodum pour over carafe, It has a metal filter that can be reused and eliminates the waste of paper filters and since we're at home, we use our own mugs so no paper cups!
Reduce unnecessary food spoilage by using activated charcoal pods in your refrigerator produce drawer. I discovered these years ago at Bed Bath and Beyond and found they actually work. I hate throwing out perfectly good food because I haven't eaten it fast enough. These BluApples absorb ethylene gas from the fruits and vegetables that cause them to over-ripen too quickly. They're about $13 for 2 and last for months which will also save you money on groceries.
WIth the quarantine and trying to reduce our grocery visits we dusted off our old Aero Garden and set it up again to grow herbs and tomatoes. We have always enjoyed the fresh herbs that we grew with the hydroponic garden but we live in a small space and didn't have room for it for a while after our son was born. What's great about it is that plants grow five times faster in water than in soil (I don't know about you but every time I have tried to grow basil in dirt over the past year it has started off robustly and then died . Same with chives, etc. It's very hard to grow from seeds in dirt. At least for me with my window box. These pods grow easily and have no herbicides, pesticides and non gmo seeds. We grew tomatoes with it and found they were a little sour for our taste but we're going to give it another try. The herbs were great and the lettuce was amazing. You've never tried lettuce until you've had a fresh grown piece, it's so soft and tender - nothing like the hard store bought stuff. Hey these are the things you try again in quarantine!
How do you reduce your carbon footprint? Tell me below in the comments!