These fires raging through CA have my mind drifting harder than ever into how to reduce waste.
As someone who meets with 10+ new people a week in interviews, consultations, doula prep sessions, postpartum visits, meetings with colleagues, networking events, etc., I realize I’m in a special position to make suggestions that might make a difference. Even if every person I meet with doesn’t make some sustainable switches, or if they don’t go full in on making a change, I am not an all-or-nothing person. When you look at the real numbers, having even just a few folks at a time convert aspects of their life to more environmentally friendly options can make a difference over a lifetime. Those people, too, now can help others make meaningful changes by showing how it can be done. That kind of organic ripple effect really excites me and encourages me to keep going.
Here is my list of a few simple, but impactful ways we can make greener choices in our lives.
1. Reusable menstrual products
One of the biggest ways we can start to effect change is by moving away from disposable period products. The average person who bleeds will go through nearly 300 pounds of period products in their lifetime. That’s not even including the amount of resources and energy used to make these products and properly dispose of them.
There are loads of good options here :
Soft menstrual cups
Many of the companies that make these items are also woman owned, progressive, local, environmentally conscious, world conscious organizations, too, which can’t be said about most of the larger companies that make most menstrual products.
If nothing else, switching to organic cotton menstrual items is better for the environment and your health.
2. Ditch the wet wipes
The wipe industry has expanded beyond baby wipes into everyday / every flush items for adults. It’s boomed in the past five years into a $2.1 billion dollar industry. Many of them are made by companies with horrific environmental records, making up some of the worst pollutant offenders around.
Though many wet wipes are now made out of wood pulp instead of plastic, that’s not a universal practice. And that’s mostly for wipes labeled “flushable” and marketed to adults, not babies. In addition to the wipes going down the poop pipe, baby wipes and disposable diapers generate 7.6 billion pounds of trash annually, making them the 3rd largest consumer product in landfills and 30% of all non-biodegradable waste.
If you really need to get a cleaner booty, you might want to look into some of the more accessible bidets available now. These little gadgets often pop right on to your toilet and don’t need elaborate pipes and setups like traditional bidets. You could even consider using these to move away from toilet tissue and wipes altogether!
3. Adios, paper cups
This might seem like a no-brainer at this point, but we still have a massive problem with to-go waste. According to Carry Your Cup, American’s are the leading consumers of coffee globally and toss out 25 billion non-recyclable styrofoam coffee cups per year and 5000 paper cups PER DAY! According to one study of Portland alone, roughly 50 million paper cups are used in just that one metro area alone per year.
I had a pal who would bring her own glass or steel containers to restaurants if she wanted to take things to go. This might not be where we all are quite yet (wouldn’t it be cool if we all thought this far in advance and were this environmentally thoughtful?), but we seem to mostly be jumping on the reusable cup wagon, so let’s keep going!
If you stop into a local coffee shop and aren’t taking your cuppa out in the world, make sure you ask for a mug. It’s amazing to me how many places still put everything in a paper cup, even if you are staying in. If you are heading out with you java, make sure you pack your reusable cup with you when you head out the door. Ideally, you’re not using plastic containers, especially not for hot drinks (Who wants to put all that plastic directly into their mouths?). Stainless steel coffee cups are ubiquitous at this point and it’s worth having a few of them for your hot and cold drinks to go. Best to make sure you’re ditching the plastic caps in favor of full stainless steel, too — they last longer, are better for the environment, can withstand high heat cleaning, and won’t seep horrible chemicals into your body when the hot liquid passes through them. Ew.
4. Stop Amazoning everything
Sorry friends, but stop. Or, at least cool it so we can cool the planet down a bit.
This is a multi-layered issue worth looking into :
Transportation took over from power plants in leading the way in pollutants
Much of the items on Amazon are made and shipped from China, where production pollution is the highest
Much of what you are buying online is made of thin, poor quality plastic, which leeches toxins easily and has a short life overall
Diverting money away from major corporations that cause much more damage than any individual is the most crucial step in slowing global climate change. When you shop on Amazon, you are moving money away from local shops, even local box stores, which provide more hours and benefits to its employees (minus WalMart, which is a major offender on both fronts)
Amazon is a major contributor to rising package waste with one-item-at-a-time shipping
The design of online marketplaces is geared towards buying more in general, generating more shipping and more waste
I find this issue to be especially important to communicate to the new parents I work with. It’s incredible how much they purchase when they’re sitting on their phones with new babies in their arms. Especially for exhausted and stressed families, they are so vulnerable to purchases that promise to help ease them through a rough patch, but many of the gadgets and gizmos of infancy targeting new parents range from senseless to unsafe, so it’s best for your wallet and the environment to not get sucked in.
I know I’m being a total buzz-kill on this issue and that few, if anyone will listen, but as Amazon becomes the place where more and more we are buying everything from birthday gifts to our weekly groceries, it’s worth looking into how big of an impact all this shipping and packaging and one-click plastic consumption is having as we are LITERALLY ON FIRE all across California
5. Eat less meat AND less soy and almonds
I’m likely not going to say much that’s new here about the environmental impact of meat production and consumption so I’m not going to even bother. It’s a huge issue and we need to all be more aware.
I do want to note that the meat alternatives also have a huge impact on the environment that we need to also pay attention to. Almond production is huge here in CA and is a massive consumer of water and other resources. Switching from meat to very processed alternatives like almonds and soy (much of which is grown commercially without good environmental considerations) is not necessarily the best option.
I also feel the need to note the hormonal issues around eating a lot of commercially produced meats and soy products. It’s an issue in water sources, as well, with agricultural waste runoff dumping loads of xenoestrogens and other harmful chemicals causing infertility and early periods directly into our waterways. An overload of soy can also alter hormone levels.
One option is to remove meat from a few meals a week to whole plant meals. That means not replacing the meat dish with a processed alternative, but simply a meal with all proteins made from the whole plant. This will cut down on processing resource usage AND packaging, hitting the environmental issue from many angles.
If you are continuing to eat meat, more local, organic, and grass-fed is the best way to go here, for sure.
I know what a stick in the mud this post can be, but it is important for us to start making some serious changes in our daily lives. The impacts of our waste are not long in the future, they are right here at our front doors.
I am happy to bring an environmental focus to any consultations I am apart of, and would like to recommend my friend and collaborator, Friday Apaliski aka The Sustainability Concierge, who will come and do an environmental walk-through of your home and help make some big time changes that could save you money and help reduce your carbon footprint.
You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go live in a tiny home in the woods to make a difference! Small steps, done in community, will help make lasting change.
Here are some shops to check out instead of Amazon:
Preserved here in Oakland
@moonundies for handmade period underwear made in San Francisco
tonlé a low-waste, handmade shop in San Francisco