The On Adulting Sustainability Guide: How to be Green in your Everyday
I get it - being "sustainable" feels overwhelming. It seems like you're one tiny person and the issues facing our Earth are massive - so massive that there's nothing you could do about it.
Well, let's get one thing straight: these issues are massive and they are not going away. By ignoring instead of taking action (even very small ones that I will tell you about soon!), we are making the lives of humans on this very planet right now even worse. Being sustainable isn't just coming out of the goodness of our hearts - these issues will impact us in our lifetime.
The purpose of this guide is not to be scary + gloomy. We don't have time for that friends! I am going to provide a realistic, optimistic way for all of us to take tiny steps each and every day to sustain our Earth's natural beauty + resources.
Because, did you know that the amount of trash produced in the U.S. alone every single day equals the weight of the Empire State Building? Or that air pollution (literally...breathing) causes 1 in 10 human deaths (animals are exponentially higher) per year? OR that nearly half of all lakes in the U.S. are so polluted you can't swim in them?
I know. It's mind-boggling when you think of it that way. BUT the point of this is not to be overwhelmed. It is to remember that there are so many small ways that we could contribute to lifting our Earth out of crisis. And, it's not just by sorting your trash (though that is helpful!).
Here are some of my favorite tips, products and organizations that are doing awesome work in the way of environmental sustainability.
Have any that you'd like to add to the list? Send me and email and we'll get them on there!
Tips to test
BYOU: This stands for Bring Your Own Utensils. Seriously. Did you know that Americans use 500 MILLION plastic straws per day?! Literally - swapping your iced coffee straw for a reusable one for one week could do so much.
- Unplug: When you're not using your chargers, unplug 'em! One killowatt hour (W) of energy burned = one pound of Co2 in the air. Your phone charger emits about 130W per month - when it's not charging. Think about all the plugged in chargers around the world...and if we just took 'em out.
- Eat your veggies: Approx. 1/3 of food produced for humans each year is wasted (that's 1.3 BILLION tonnes). So, do a refrigerator reset. Take stock of everything you've got, and make sure you use it all before you buy anything new. Notice that you've bought kale 3 times and never ate it? Be honest with yourself and only buy what you'll eat. Also, there are tons of awesome orgs like Imperfect Produce that can provide lots of great tips about how to food shop mindfully.
- Live with less: The fashion industry is actually the second largest polluting industry (next to oil - insane). Think next time you're shopping at H&M for a new going out dress on Friday. What do you already have? How can you be more creative?
- reuse reuse reuse: building off the last point - how can you reuse what you've got? next time you're about to throw out that kimchi jar, think twice. can you use it for storage? a smoothie? maybe even to hold some flowers? this goes for everything - from the food we eat (what are you doing with your lemon rinds?) to the clothes we wear.
- Use your $$ power: Support businesses that are making the right environmental + social choices. Really get into it. Read their reports. Get to know which ones align with your values. One of our biggest sources of power as consumers is our $$. So, put yo' money where yo' mouth is and buy only what you believe in.
Products to swap
- Patagonia (athletic): duh. They have been my favorite company for SO long - besides their strong commitment to using sustainable materials and leading the industry in a positive direction, their founder is a badass. Check out his book, Let My People Go Surfing.
- Girlfriend Collective (athletic): Um, when a company makes their (comfy-ass) leggings out of recycled water bottles...and they look good - one can become obsessed. I'm a little late to the game, but I just learned about Girlfriend Collective and can't get enough.
- Levi's (classic): you wouldn't know it from their marketing, but that's exactly why I love them. Levi's is hardcore about sustainability...behind the scenes. They want to level the playing field for all fashion brands to be more sustainable - so they fund smaller brands do up their sustainability game, and open-source all their connects in the field. P.S. They just came out with Water<Less denim (water usage reduced by 96% in some cases!) and are in the process of expanding to all products. Yay!
- Everlane (classic): Okay, we're all obsessed with Everlane because they're the newest, shiniest J.Crew-esque brand. But, they're also freakin' awesome when it comes to transparency + partnering with factories that are rocking it, but they're still working on their environmental game. More to come on that soon...
- Callina (classic): This brand is small but mighty. They are a TRUE sustainable fashion company that doesn't sacrifice environmental sustainability for luxury. All of their products are handmade in Peru and every single material is sustainably sourced. Oh, and it's run by a badass lady. Get it girl!
- Reformation (trendy): This LA-based brand has tours of their factory where every single product is made. Everything from the building to the materials in each piece is given an environmental rating (the Refscale) - and you're told the exact environmental cost of each clothing. Oh, and because the only way to be completely sustainable is if you're naked, Reformation offsets their production with carbon offsets. And, they're so cool.
- Allbirds (shoes): The "world's most comfortable shoe" that makes you feel like you're walking on air (literally). A certified B-corp that breathes sustainability from their packaging, to their shoes no wonder why everyone is obsessed.
- Naja (undergarments): Who even thought that their underwear/bra could be sustainably sourced? Naja reduces their water impact to nearly 0 - and has a social empowerment ethos, too. Oh, and their products are b-e-a-utiful.
- Daughter of the Land: One of my favorite brands (check out their founder, Ashley, on Challenging the Collective!). DotL has moisturizing body + facial oils with only a handful of organic + fair trade ingredients. And, their packaging is not only beautiful - but completely recycled.
- Lola: It's crazy to even think that we don't know what ingredients are in our tampons, but with Lola you know - 100% organic cotton. If you're really going for sustainability, you might use a menstrual cup like Lunette, but if you're still on the tampon train - go for Lola.
- Kjaer Weiss: This female-founded company is all about sustainability - from the materials they use to the way they think about repurchasing (hint: you can actually refill your mascara tube instead of throwing it out). And, their makeup is beautiful.
- Tata Harper: This skincare line is otherwise called "farm to face" - as all of their products are created + filled on the family farm in Vermont. This is truly end-to-end sustainability; they literally scrub out potential toxins by hand. P.S. This stuff is killler good.
- Seed Phytonutrients: This is another farm-fresh product for your hair and body. From their packaging to their products - every detail is thought through (think: no plastic, and organic farming).
- David's toothpaste: this is the real deal. david's was created with one purpose in mind: make brushing your teeth (a twice daily activity!) healthy for humans and sustainable for our world. david's gone done it - everything from the organically-farmed mint to using suppliers with 100% wind energy production - this is it.
- wowe Toothbrush: charcoal-infused bristles (make your teeth whither!). natural bamboo. bpa free. it's literally my favorite toothbrush ever and it only costs $3.
- Avocado Green Mattress: who knew that our mattresses emitted toxins in the middle of the night?! not i. but avocado green mattress has went ahead and solved that issue for us - sustainably sourcing all of their products and making it the most comfy night's sleep you've ever had (trust me).
- Stasher bags: My savior on Earth. I had been using so many plastic bags because I LOVE ORGANIZING and if we're saving food instead of wasting it - what else is a girl to do? Enter Stasher. These silicon bags come in all sizes and are even dishwasher-friendly.
- Method / Seventh Generation / Mrs. Meyers: I use all of these products for cleaning + home, because they are made from sustainable sources and non-toxic. I'm listing all of them here because I buy things like paper towels from from Seventh Generation, and cleaning sprays from Mrs. Meyers.
- If you're really into it, you can mix apple cider vinegar and lemon/orange rinds for a truly sustainable cleaning product!
- S'Well / BKR / Fresskko: all of these water bottles are awesome and sustainable. main thing: bring your own!! Whether it's a glass mason jar or a $40 water bottle - reduce the plastic + the waste.
- *I am kind of obsessed with these tumblers though. I'm always looking for iced coffee holders from S'well that keep that shit chill and here's my solution!
- yourstraw: this spoon-fork-straw set made of bamboo is exactly what you need for true sustainability. reduce your plastic waste consumption and bring this with you for everything from picnics to a work party (those plastic forks always break anyway!).
Organizations to support
- Good on you: this isn't necessarily a nonprofit, but it's SUCH a cool organization that i needed to add it in here. essentially, it's an app that rates organizations based on their ethics and sustainability efforts. if you're deciding to put your $$ where your mouth is, and back companies that align with your values - check here first.
- Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (ny) / food shift (sf) / waste no food (anywhere): as you already know, we waste billions of pounds of food per year in the u.s. alone. these are some of my favorite organizations that are fighting the food waste issue. donate your time, money or resources to organizations like these who are making a difference on the ground.
- terrapass: ever hear of carbon offsets? essentially, businesses who are environmentally conscious can purchase "carbon offsets" or basically fund a program in a different part of the world that is helping our world's environment, rather than hurt it (think: solar energy plants, water restoration). that's because we can only do so much to offset the environmental actions we're taking in the moment. this purchase makes up for the rest of what we can't do in that moment. now, as an individual, you can purchase carbon offsets for yourself! terrapass allows you to choose the project you want to fund + the amount of carbon you want to offset. pretty cool.