Many people today are concerned about our environment but mistakenly think their single efforts will have little impact on global sustainability. Fortunately, this notion is simply not true. No matter how busy we are or how little effort we are able to put in, little decisions we make on a daily basis in just running a home add up to big results. Small things we can do that require little effort at home and while shopping that can make a major difference. One impact we can make is in our choice of products we buy.
We have become a disposable society. We have chosen momentary convenience over the long-term health of our planet. Available to willing consumers are disposable razors, diapers, cameras, pens, utensils, plates, paper towels, even, believe it or not, clothing designed for travelers to "just wear it once and toss" to eliminate having to pack soiled clothing back into a suitcase. The list of disposables goes on. One might argue "but my one disposable razor won't hurt anything". True, but if you multiply that one razor by all the ones in your neighborhood and city and state, that's a lot of razors that end up in our landfills or worse yet, in our waterways affecting the animal inhabitants. As if the environmental impact of disposables wasn't enough, let's consider the personal economic costs. If we could go back in a time machine and suggest to our great grandparents that they go to a store and buy a camera that they could use only once and then just throw away and then have to pay again for another camera the next time they wanted to take photos, the expressions on their faces would tell the whole story. They would think we were insane to suggest they literally throw their money away. The solution to the madness? A few suggestions:
1) Buy an old fashioned refillable fountain pen, they're fun to use and add an elegant, artistic flair to your handwriting
2) Buy a new or vintage razor in which you just change the blades when needed
3) Use cloth diapers or join a diaperless baby group such as: Diaper Free Baby at http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/
4) Buy a new or inexpensive thrift store set of lightweight dinnerware and utensils for use at picnics and barbeques. Wash as you would your regular dishes.
5) Instead of paper towels, start an old fashioned "rag bag". When a T-Shirt or other soft absorbent item of clothing is no longer wearable and not in good enough shape to donate to a thrift store, cut it up, toss it in a rag bag, and when there's a spill, simply use it to mop up the mess. Launder when dirty. We all have enough clothes we discard so as to never run out of a clean cloth to mop up with and we will never again have to pay for and then throw out a paper towel.
6) Our grandmothers used crumpled up newspaper to dry their windows. They swore the ink on the paper made the windows shine. Spray or wipe on cleaner with your rag bag cloth and then dry with old newspapers. No more wasted paper towels or money.
7) For trash disposal, buy tall heavy duty paper yard bags at any home center and use these instead of the ubiquitous green plastic ones that line our streets every trash day. The biodegradable paper ones can be used on clear dry days and the plastic ones reserved only for when rain is expected. Better yet, buy a trash can, don't line it with plastic and simply hose it out after the trash is collected.
Excess and non-biodegradeable packaging is another assault to our environment. We have the power to reduce this unnecessary packaging waste. A few smarterer shopping choices:
1) When buying eggs, opt for the cardboard egg cartons over the Styrofoam ones. The cardboard ones decompose easily and can be recycled or used as seedling starter cups when gardening. The Styrofoam choice will sit forever in a landfill
2) When buying milk, opt for the waxed paper cartons over the plastic jugs
3) Get cheese and luncheon meats sliced at the deli section instead of buying "convenient" individually wrapped slices
4) Buy snack foods, such as yogurt, in larger containers and then divide into individual servings in smaller reusable containers. Anything labeled "individual servings" should be translated instead as "excess packaging".
The above ideas are just a very small sampling of ways to reduce our use of disposable and excessively packaged products. Let's look around with a fresh eye at the products we use that get thrown away and think of more environmentally and financially responsible alternatives.
An excellent web video that will further stimulate your imagination and resolve is the Story of Stuff, which exposes the connections between the stuff we use and a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.