Ten Simple Steps to Save the Planet
By Erika Holland, MSc. Candidate. Biology Department, Acadia University
Everyday we’re inundated with further proof of mounting anthropogenic stressors on the natural environment, from harmful man-made oceanic debris to plastic microfibers in our tap water. If you’re like me you want to help reduce these pressures on the environment, but are not sure where to start. Below I’ve compiled ten easy steps to reducing the amount of single-use throwaway plastics your household produces, while supporting local businesses, and saving money in the process!
- Switch from environmentally harmful Keurig-type coffee pods to making your own coffee. This will not only save you money, as per pound Keurig coffee is about $40, but you also can use the leftover grounds to make your own ecologically-friendly body scrub (just don’t forget to put a filter over your drain to prevent clogging). You can purchase organic fair trade coffee in many of Wolfville’s coffee shops.
- Bring your own mug if you choose to buy coffee, tea, or any other drink at a local café. Not only does this reduce the number of single-use cups entering landfills, many stores offer a discount to customers providing their own mug. This habit can be broadened to include carrying a reusable water bottle, your own container and reusable utensils for takeaway foods, and your own reusable straw (options include ones made of metal, glass, or bamboo).
- Buy as much food as you can from farmers markets. In-season crops are often cheaper direct from the market, and are not wrapped in needless plastic. Bring your own grocery and produce bags to further reduce waste. For baking supplies and spices try to purchase in bulk. Many bulk stores allow you to bring your own reusable container, subtracting its weight from that of the final product, ensuring that you don’t pay extra. Bulk Barn in New Minas offers a reusable container program, and locally, Eos Natural Foods offers a wide range of bulk items.
- Try to purchase your alcohol from establishments that offer refillable bottles (think Paddy’s and Annapolis Valley Cider) to produce almost no packaging waste. Non-reusable bottles (such as wine bottles) can be recycled for up to 20¢ back per bottle. Try to purchase wine with natural cork stoppers to further reduce waste.
- Switch from plastic bottle-contained body washes to good old-fashioned bar soap (and perhaps a shampoo bar). Bar soap is often much cheaper (think $0.50-$7 a bar), and can be bought from local artisans at farmers markets and craft fairs. Bar soaps can be used in the shower and placed by your sink for hand washing, and, if wrapped, come in minimal paper packaging.
- Buy secondhand clothes to support local consignment and smaller thrift stores, while saving money (bonus points for purchasing as many pieces made from natural fibers as you can, think cotton and wool instead of polyester and acrylic). Don’t forget to donate your unwanted items! Consignment stores like Jane’s Again will give you a portion of the proceeds from their sale.
- Consider giving experiences or handmade gifts (locally bought or made yourself), instead of purchasing pre-made items. This not only reduces the clutter of “garbage” gifts, but also gives a meaningful experience to the person receiving. Consider taking them to dinner or buying them tickets to an event they’ve been eyeing.
- Make your dental hygiene plastic free! Buy a bamboo toothbrush and silk dental floss (available at Eos or online) packaged in a non-plastic housing. Make sure your new bamboo toothbrush doesn’t have nylon bristles, and compost these products when done.
- Make the switch to shaving with a safety razor. Although your initial investment will likely set you back $30-50, safety razors last a lifetime and replacement blades cost only about 10¢ a blade. Both men and women can use safety razors, and the blades are fully recyclable, just make sure to check your local municipality’s protocol for sharps before recycling your blade.
- If you menstruate, consider purchasing a menstrual cup. There are a variety of options available online and in stores, with some companies donating a cup to a girl in need with every purchase made. You can also purchase (or make) reusable pads.
If you implement these ten easy changes you’ll not only be supporting local businesses, but also supporting the planet.