Small Changes, Big Change

I'm not sure if it's just the fact that I've been in California for a year (A YEAR...can you believe?) or if it's just a general trend, but I'm seeing all kinds of people become more conscious of consumerism and waste lately, myself included.

One thing that's made me think about this is the Bay Area's plastic bag ban. If you don't bring your own bag to a store, you can pay 10ยข for a paper or multi-use plastic one. It takes a little bit to get used to (we've amassed quite a collection of reusable bags now!), but I can't imagine how much plastic we've saved in one short year.

Along the same lines, I'm trying to find small ways to make changes that aren't inconvenient but can lead to a big impact over time. When you stop and think about how much waste each individual generates, even doing the smallest things feel like they're making a big change. Here are some of the super simple, super small things I've been doing to reduce my own consumption of disposable goods:

Reusable straws: Unfortunately I found these straws right after buying a value pack of plastic ones, so I'm not quite sure what to do. However, instead of grabbing a straw when I go to the Starbucks on my block, I use these instead! I don't love the stainless steel (I've hit my teeth more times than I can count), but I chose these because they're dishwasher safe and will hopefully last longer than a similar silicon version.

E-cloth: My mom told me about the e-cloth when I last visited, and I just had to try it! Not only do I use fewer paper towels and fewer chemicals, but it cleans so well that our glass dining room table actually looks clean sometimes. I still have a value-pack of Swiffer pads to work through, but I plan on buying their mop head when those are through, too.

Secondhand furniture: This definitely isn't a practical strategy everywhere, but because Craigslist is so huge in this part of the world I've been fortunate to find some great deals. Some things you just want to get new (like rugs), but I try to shop secondhand when possible. Manufacturing is a big part of the world's carbon footprint, so I like to think that every little bit helps.

Reusable water bottles: I've been on the reusable water bottle trend for ages, mainly because it's a prime way to save money. I've loved (and lost) many a Nalgene and Camelbak, and my S'Well bottle is still one of my favorite gifts I've received. I also worked at a grocery store in high school and have seen how warm the disposable water bottles get on the stock trucks โ€” which can lead to really scary things like chemicals releasing into the bottle. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Buying in bulk: This is partially only possible because of my Instant Pot, but it has made a big difference. By buying things like beans and rice in bulk and cooking them myself, I'm saving money and waste from the single-serve packaging. Not everything is practical to buy in bulk, but by choosing bulk sizes and freezing unused portions or divvying up items into single servings yourself instead of buying convenience packs, there's a lot of packaging material that can be reduced this way.

Reusable cups: I'm not great about this yet, but I'm making it my next goal. Whenever I go somewhere for a to-go beverage (i.e. the Starbucks on my block), I plan to start bringing my own cup instead of using one โ€” so far, remembering has been hard, but I'll get there! 

These are just the small ways I've been implementing waste reduction in my day-to-day life โ€” and these tips are simple enough that they honestly haven't felt like they've impacted me at all. But I know that my impact on the environment is big through these small changes, which is exciting to think about! Do you have any other simple tips for reducing waste?