Care about the Earth? Then you should learn to sew.
I got an email from Old Navy with “$6 leggings” in the subject line and it made me grateful that I know how to sew. Cheap clothes come with hidden costs. So if you care about the planet, you should grab your needle & thread (& sewing machine, if you have one) and learn to sew. All you need is a few basic sewing skills to be a better steward for the planet. How’s that, you ask? Let me explain.
5 reasons you should learn to sew if you care about the planet:
Lets you repair things & keep them in use longer. We’ve got to move away from our disposable lifestyle and start caring for items for longer. If not, we’ll be drowning in trash soon. Keep your jacket, your backpack, your grocery bags and more in use longer. Learn to sew tears & add patches to extend the life of your stuff.
2. Helps you appreciate the time it takes to make things. Try sewing your own pants and you’ll probably take good care of those pants. When you appreciate the labor involved in making textiles, you’re more likely to take good care & keep it out of the landfill.
3. Helps you avoid the emissions from shipping all those online purchases to your house. When you can make it yourself or fix what you have, you don’t need to order things online (shameless plug: No Trace shipping is carbon offset by Etsy! So feel less guilty about ordering from me 😉).
Lets you express your creativity. This isn’t a direct benefit to the planet, but it’s a pretty great benefit that I can’t ignore. Learning to sew lets you express your individuality. You’ll get into a flow state as you work on your projects. And you’ll create one of a kind pieces for yourself and as gifts for your loved ones! That’s invaluable.
Perhaps the number one reason you should learn to sew if you care about the Earth, though, is this:
Makes you question the price of cheap clothes. It’ll make you wonder how a company makes a profit on $6 leggings. Someone, somewhere pays the true price for those $6 leggings, and it’s probably the person who made them for you. That employee may work in unsafe working conditions, and/or work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, and may live with environmental pollution from the factories in their local water and air.
CleanClothes.org breaks down the costs of garments (on average) and how much goes to the employee. It’s about 0.6%. The person who made those $6 leggings was probably paid less than 4 cents for their work. The rest of that $6 goes to material costs, factory owner profit, brand profit, transportation & factory overhead, and the majority (about 60%) goes to the retailer (when it’s sold in person) or back to the brand (for online sales). Many factory workers don’t receive a living wage, as you can imagine at 4 cents per shirt. As more of us understand this, we’ll start to make better choices with our purchases. We can seek out the ethical companies who are treating their employees well. And we can pay a fair price for the textiles in our life.
There you have it – 5 reasons you should learn to sew if you care about the planet. So get out there and start sewing! It’ll change your life, and may even change the planet for the better.
If you’re not sure where to start, head to my YouTube channel for video tutorials – I’ve got a whole series including this one – Learn to sew – to get you started.
Need a little help with a repair job? Watch this one on stuffed animal repair & this one on mask repair. They both go over basic skills that’ll apply to other repair jobs.
And check out this playlist for all of my zero waste sewing tutorials.
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the planet.
What to do with old socks – 8 ways to keep them out of the landfill
I read somewhere that women’s socks are made too small, which is why we’re always getting holes in our socks (sexist sock industry???).
Just the other day I had a hole in my sock that I thought was small. As soon as I put them on, the hole stretched and the entire bottom of my foot was naked. I finally stopped wearing those and had to figure out what to do with old socks. There’s a bunch of things, as it turns out!
So thought I’d share with you what to do with old socks – specifically, 8 ways to keep them out of the landfill.
1. Mend it.
Some socks are worth repairing, and have a manageable hole that you can fix (as opposed to leaving the whole bottom of your foot naked). You can’t just stitch it closed on a machine, though. You need to sew it in a way called darning. Darning involves a needle, thread/yarn, and something round like a tennis ball, racquetball, or a darning egg or mushroom. You essentially weave the thread over the hole in a way to create a new piece of fabric where the hole was. It’s not that hard, just takes a little time, and there are tons of tutorials online for the process.
2. Make a tawashi scrubber.
These are super easy to make. Cut the old sock along the length so you end up with a bunch of small circles of fabric. Then you weave them together on a small loom. If you don’t have a little loom, you can improvise one with laundry clips or binder clips clipped around a square container. The end result is a handy scrubber for dishes or house cleaning. If you search “tawashi scrubber”, you’ll find easy tutorials online.
3. Use it as a dusting cloth or rag.
Easy. Put your hand inside there and get cleaning! You might want to mark it with a permanent marker in a way so you know it’s a rag sock now. My in-laws put a black X on their socks/etc.-turned rags. If it’s too holey for your hand, you can cut it so it lays flat.
4. Make a heating pad.
We have an old stretchy sock full of brown rice that my daughter likes to microwave at bedtime and cozy up with in her bed. I’ve used it on my lower back when I’m having back issues – it feels amazing after a couple of minutes in the microwave. Just make sure to sew up any holes before filling it with rice. You can sew these holes with a simple straight stitch on you sewing machine since it doesn’t need to fit around a foot.
5. Get crafty with it.
If the sock is in decent condition, there are loads of DIY tutorials online for making a sock puppet or doll or a little Olaf. Or you could turn it into a cup cozy or a wrist bands or leg and ankle warmers. Get creative!
6. Recycle it!
There are several companies that’ll recycle your socks. Terracycle.com has fabric recycling boxes you can purchase, in case you’ve got loads of textiles to recycle. Terracycle recycles lots of hard to recycle materials and turns them into new products. Luxuryandlayla.com has a recycling program for socks, as well as undies, bras, tights & leggings! They ship them to Green Tree, an east coast company that recycles clothing. Bonus – if you send 10 or more undies, bras, tights, and leggings (not socks), they’ll send you a free pair of underwear! I guess socks are too plentiful to qualify for the special offer, but they will recycle them for you. Drop it off at anH&Mnear you. They’ve partnered with a textile recycler who sorts everything into categories of rewear (donated to be worn again), reuse (repurposed into another product) or recycle (turned into insulation). It’s not clear if all H&Ms actually participate, but their website claims this as a service. Mail it to Zkano.com. They recycle socks (just socks) into new fibers.
7. Donate it to a wildlife rescue.
You can send your gently used socks to Wild Souls Wildlife Rescue. It’ll become a tiny bed for a tiny rescued animal like a baby squirrel. How cute would that be? Hearts melted! Check with the wildlife rescue near you to see if they need socks as well.
8. Compost it.
This only works if your sock is made of an all natural fiber like cotton or wool. If it’s got synthetic fibers, you can’t compost it. The easiest way to test what type of fabric your socks are made of is with a burn test. All natural materials will smell more organic when they burn and burn more like paper or dry leaves. Synthetic materials will smell more like plastic when they burn and have a more melty look than natural fibers.
There you have it! What to do with old socks instead of throwing them away. Do you have any to add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for our planet!
Did you know there are at least 14 different ways to use your vegan wax wrap??
Check these out – some of these ways to use a vegan wax wrap will surprise you :).
Oh, and if you have a beeswax wrap, you can use it these ways too!
How to use a vegan wax wrap – 14 different ways!
1. Cover a jar.
You know how jar lids get rusty over time? Or you lose one? A small sized vegan wax wrap makes a PERFECT replacement for that lid. Just use a little pressure to seal it onto your jar – voila!
2. Cover a plate of food.
Sometimes your kids can’t quite finish their dinner but you don’t want to toss it out. Just cover the plate with a vegan wax wrap! And other times you want to send a loved one a dinner plate so they can taste your masterpiece. A vegan wax wrap will keep everything in place.
3. Cover a bowl.
One of my favorite ways to clean up quickly after dinner is to put a vegan wax wrap on top of the bowls of whatever we were eating and put them straight into the fridge. This keeps the food fresh and speeds up the clean-up. No need to transfer leftovers into a special container. So easy.
4. Cover half a fruit or veggie.
If we only use half an onion with a meal, I love wrapping it up in a vegan wax wrap and tossing it back into the fridge to stay fresh and keep those onion odors contained! A small vegan wax wrap works great for half an avocado, half an apple, some carrot sticks, or even covering the end of a cucumber or squash.
5. Wrap fresh herbs or greens.
A vegan wax wrap helps keep fresh basil, cilantro, and other herbs fresh. It’s also great for lettuce and sturdy greens. You can wrap them up gently – no need to squish down too hard. The water barrier of the wax wrap will help keep them fresh.
6. Open a stubborn jar.
I didn’t even know about this until just recently when my friend told me she uses my wraps to open tough jar lids! Just wrap a vegan wax wrap on top of the jar and twist! It comes off so much easier!
7. Wrap flowers.
Picture what a sweet gift this would be for a loved one. Homegrown flowers in a cute, reusable vegan wax wrap. They help them stay fresh too! Two gifts in one :).
8. Cover a casserole dish.
I’ve got a size in my shop that’s just perfect for your average 9 x 13 casserole dish. It works great for other sizes too. When we make vegan enchiladas, we use a large wrap to cover the leftovers. A vegan wax wrap also works great if you’re bringing over a dish in a casserole pan. Just remember to remove it before you reheat your leftovers!
9. Wrap a sandwich.
Classic wax wrap role. Just wrap up your lunch and pop it in your lunch bag or backpack or purse. Bonus – when you’re done, you don’t have a large container to carry around. It folds up neatly.
10. Carry your granola or nuts.
My mom loves using her wax wrap this way. She keeps a little stash in her purse of nuts and raisins. The wax wrap keeps it fresh.
11. Use it as a placemat.
If you’re picnicking on the go, it’s a great little placemat to keep a protected or germ-free spot for your stuff. Also works great at home for your kiddos. It even keeps the plate from moving around too much!
12. Preserve vegan cheese.
If you buy vegan cheese at the store, you’ve probably noticed that the packaging doesn’t really stand up to multiple uses. A vegan wax wrap will keep that cheese fresh though!
13. Use it under your cutting board.
If you don’t want your cutting board to move around while you work, a large vegan wax wrap will help it stay put.
14. Preserve your bread.
If you make your own bread or get it in paper bags, a wax wrap will help it stay super fresh. It works for freezing the bread or keeping it in the cupboard.
There you go – 14 different ways to use your vegan wax wrap. If you want to make your own vegan wax wraps, i’ve got blend bars for sale on my site. If you’d like to buy your own, i’ve got those too on the site in 3 different sizes.
How are you using your vegan wax wraps? Do you have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below – I always love hearing from you :).
Read this to find out how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways.
Climate change is coming, people. But we can fight back and minimize the impacts on our communities & planet.
There are TONS of small ways to fight climate change. I wrote about 50 of them here.
But in the bigger picture, the more life-threatening picture, there are 4 key actions we need to take to fight climate change. Here are the 4 most important ways to fight climate change.
4. Fight disinformation
Disinformation is a huge threat to climate change action. And hunting down this disinformation is a big project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Big oil companies fund disinformation in several ways. One of their sneaky ways is to create fake scientific information with made-up research results, and by only publishing certain findings (as opposed to all the results), and by using flawed methodologies.
Another way that corporations create disinformation is by intimidating scientists who publish information that goes against their financial interests. They also create clever campaigns to create doubt in scientific findings. For example, they’ve created “grassroots” organizations in states like California to oppose legislation that targets carbon emissions. Big oil companies also use their wealth to buy influence among universities and government officials in the name of their particular agendas.
So how do we fight this disinformation?
Use your voice to call out these corporations for their misinformation. You can call them out on your platforms (Twitter, FB, IG, etc) and you can also send letters through the Union of Concerned Scientists. ExxonMobil, for example, has known about climate change for decades and buried the facts in favor of profit. ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron & ConocoPhillips have paid billions to hide climate change facts. You can read it about here. Call them out for their misinformation.
3. Demand a tax on carbon emissions
“Carbon pricing” puts a monetary cost on carbon emissions. It’s a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it can be put into action at a local, state, or federal level.
The idea is that corporations have to pay for emitting carbon and that cost will get passed on to the consumer. This puts pressure on the market to find more cost-effective approaches to doing business that creates less carbon emissions.
Carbon pricing is already in place in California and other states, as well as in other countries, but we need to do more. National carbon pricing bills have been introduced but none have passed to date. Reach out to your Congressperson & senator and tell them to support carbon pricing legislation. Head to senate.gov and house.gov to find your representatives and contact them.
2. Demand that the US sign the Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is a landmark international agreement among global leaders to fight climate change. It’s super important to tackle climate change on a global level, and this legislation accomplishes that.
Of course, Trump began the process to withdraw us from this groundbreaking agreement which would go into effect this November 2020. His reasons? He cited false information (see above), he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he takes millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry to fund his campaigns and inauguration. I guess if you take millions of dollars from an industry you’re expected to offer something in return??
So what can we do about this poor decision on Trump’s part? Reach out to your representatives & tell them how important it is that the US rejoin the Paris Agreement. Write to Trump asking him to rejoin the agreement. And tell all your friends and family to do the same!
If anyone in your social circle is uncertain of the value of this agreement, the NRDC has a great piece on how to talk to them about it here.
This is the absolute most important thing you can do. Vote for local, state, and most importantly federal representatives who will fight climate change and vote on legislation. Look at candidates’ positions on climate change before you go to vote. You should be able to find their stance on climate change on their website. And if they don’t mention it, well, there’s your answer about their position (not good).
Research local and state initiatives on energy & power plants, transportation, vehicles, agriculture. Join your local climate action network to stay in the loop on important topics. Head to usclimatenetwork.org to find one near you.
This November 2020, make sure you stand up for climate change at the ballots and vote for action.
There you have it -how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways. I hope something in here inspires you towards action.
Do you have any to add to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
In today’s environment, there are many ways homeowners can reduce their waste and energy use. Whether it be from planting a garden, composting, or reusing items that were previously recycled, the opportunities are endless. And, if you live in a hot climate that receives a considerable amount of sunlight – like Phoenix, Arizona or Miami, Florida – maybe switching to solar power might be the right option for you. We asked experts from across the country to share their tips on how homeowners can reduce their carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life.
Avoid cleaning products with harmful chemicals
Consider using EPA Safer Choice certified green cleaning products that are biodegradable and non-toxic. These products will not only deep clean your laundry but they will also remove residue you didn’t know was there. This will help you create a healthier home by reducing airborne chemicals and keeping your washing machine clean to keep it running long into the future! – Charlie’s Soap
Reduce the amount of food you throw away
We throw away about 40 percent of our food in the US – food that was grown with water, fossil fuels, money, and labor – and this food waste turns into a major greenhouse gas in landfills, known as methane. To help preserve the environment and reduce food waste, store your food properly, keep your fridge clutter-free, freeze excess food, and compost food scraps. – No Trace
Opt for green products
Green products are surprisingly powerful and can yield the same results as traditional harmful products if used properly. Not using products properly is by far the biggest mistake people make when using green products, so be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Homeowners love using them as a way to protect themselves, their children, and their pets from health risks that are associated with prolonged exposure to traditional harmful products. – Modern Maids
Invest in solar energy for your home
Installing a solar system on your home allows you to harness the power of the sun and produce your own clean energy, moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels and reducing electric cost at the same time. – REP Solar
The Earth’s atmosphere is exponentially increasing in carbon dioxide levels, so now may be the best time ever to invest in renewable solar energy. Going solar has been proven to reduce your carbon footprint, and is an investment that will pay itself back over time. Now is the perfect opportunity for everyone to make an impact by saving our planet. – Altair Solar
Repurpose containers you would otherwise toss out
Instead of tossing food containers – which may not actually end up being recycled – keep a small collection that can be repurposed. For example, a jar of spaghetti sauce can be used to hold pens or small tools, as drinking glasses, to store leftovers, or to keep hair ties. Even if you have a small space, find a shelf where you can store containers in a (reused) cardboard box and grab one the next time instead of purchasing a new container. – Bev Goes Green
Make small changes in the kitchen and bathroom
Keeping a waste-free home can be difficult, but a few simple, low-cost changes can lessen your home’s environmental impact dramatically. Consider the two most wasteful rooms in your home, the kitchen and the bathroom. Try swapping plastic straws for reusable straws in the kitchen, and why not invest in a safety razor for your bathroom. – Jungle Straws
Grow your own food in your backyard
Having a backyard garden can reduce your carbon footprint substantially. When you grow your own food it takes less resources to grow and to make its way to your table. But one of the ways we have reduced our resource use even further is by installing a rainwater barrel to water our garden. It was super simple to install ourselves in an afternoon and now we save 200 or more gallons of water every month. – Sustainably Shelbi
Discover new ways to live a sustainable lifestyle
Separating and composting your food scraps can be the first step into a world of sustainability. When you begin to separate your waste into three categories–compost, recycling, and landfill, you become more mindful about what is in all three categories. Then you can go about discovering what you’re actually wasting and how you could shop or eat differently to reduce. Reduce, reuse, recycle-it’s a hierarchy! – Collective Resource
Make fertilizers for your garden
Limit your food waste by creating nutrient-rich fertilizers that your indoor and outdoor garden will love. Bananas are full of potassium, coffee grinds are full of nitrogen, and fish bones (if processed properly) are chock full of phosphorus. – Food Cycle Science
Design an edible landscape
Homeowners can help preserve the environment by implementing edible landscapes into their property. Work with a landscape designer to create a landscape with plants that offer both aesthetic and sustainable nutrition, like a lemon tree for example. – Prana Nutrition
Use a solid-state hard drive
Consider upgrading your older laptop or computer instead of buying a new one by replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive. You will notice your laptop running much faster, adding years to its life. – High Tech Recycling
Wash your clothes in cold water rather than hot water
Homeowners can easily reduce their demand for energy by changing their laundry practices. For example, consider washing all your laundry with cold water. GE Appliances estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all the energy your washer uses goes to warming up the water. By switching to cooler water less energy is used and this can result in a lower bill for you! It’s a win, win for the homeowner and the planet. –The Honest Consumer
Introduce more vegetables into your home
Homeowners can help preserve the environment by trying to lead a more conscious lifestyle, ditching things they don’t really need to make more space for the things that make them happier and healthier. One practical way to apply this is to decrease your meat consumption and eat more vegetables, which will help you feel better, live longer, and reduce your amount of greenhouse gas emissions. –Simple Vegan
Eat more veggies! The vegan lifestyle has the smallest footprint on the environment, as far as land use, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, your health will benefit from it, too. – Better Vegan
Add a solar awning if your roof is too small
Is your roof is too small to get enough electric power from solar? Try adding a purpose-built solar awning facing south underneath your roof eave all along the side of your house. This would also give a little shade and shelter from the rain as you enter your door. – Harvest Sun Solar
Incorporate automation to reduce your carbon footprint
Installing automation technology provides an easy way for homeowners to monitor their device usage, which can save you money and wasted energy, and also reduce your carbon footprint. We’re working on a system that can anticipate people’s needs based on how they interact with their home’s devices and take actions proactively to help before you realize you need assistance. –Josh.ai
There you have it! 17 ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home. Do you have any to share? Leave a comment below!
11 tips to fight plastic pollution during a pandemic.
We used to bring home just one or two plastic-packaged groceries home from the store. Now, with stores closing bulk bins due to COVID-19, it feels like almost half of our groceries are in plastic. Plastic is our clogging our waterways, polluting our planet, killing wildlife, and ending up in our bodies. Even though our world feels upside-down during the pandemic, there are still ways to fight plastic pollution.
Instead of giving up altogether, I’ve put together 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. If your tap water is safe, drink it instead of bottled water.
Avoid the packaging and cut down on the amount of microplastics that you eat at the same time! According to a 2018 study, bottled water has twice as many microplastics as tap water. If your tap water is safe (i.e., you don’t live in Flint, MI or one of many other communities where contamination has occurred), it’s better for you and the planet than bottled water. See where your communities stands here: https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/
2. Store your food without plastic.
Certain plastic containers may leach harmful chemicals into foods, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Save your old plastic containers for non-food stuff, like organizing your kids art supplies or pebble collection. Use plastic-free containers instead for your food like glass jars, pyrex, stainless steel, and wax wraps. You can get plastic-free containers at LifeWithoutPlastic.com and wax wraps from yours truly at https://notraceshop.com/beeswaxwraps/
3. Choose to cook at home most of the time.
I admit, this one is kinda tough for me. I mean, cooking &/or washing dishes everyday and night gets old, amiright? But we try to limit our take out to once a week. One of our local pizza shops delivers vegan pizza (no plastic box topper!) so we’ll enjoy it and then compost the box. And we’re trying to support our favorite restaurants during the pandemic. Normally we’d dine in. But we’ve opted for takeout in plastic, just sparingly.
I’ve got a few posts on easy, low waste, vegan dinner ideas hereand here and here.
4. Keep microplastics out of our water.
Put your synthetic fabrics into a Guppyfriend bag or toss a Cora ball into your wash to catch the microfibers released by your fabrics. You can get a Guppyfriend bag at Ethos in Capitola (shop online here) and a Cora ball from Earthhero.com. Microplastics are polluting our water and ending up in our bodies. Stopping them at the source is key.
At the store:
5. Buy larger quantities.
If you can’t shop into your own containers, like we can’t right now, opt for the largest portion you can find that won’t spoil. Pantry staples like beans and grains are a safe bet, as well as flour, sugar, salt, and other baking supplies.
6. Look for paper over plastic packaging.
Since bulk foods aren’t available in bulk right now, we’ve been searching for paper-packaged versions instead. We’ve been able to find paper alternatives for pasta, sugar, salt, pinto beans, lentils, rice, & flour. We recycle the paper packaging if it’s clean, and compost it if it’s not.
We’re also looking for glass and metal options over plastic – e.g., certain peanut butter and olive oil brands come in large plastic-free packaging.
7. Rethink certain ingredients.
Can you substitute something in plastic for something not? Can you find a lower waste alternative? Opt for unpackaged fruits & veggies in the produce aisle. Now’s the time to show your flexibility with food. In our house, rather than buy green lentils in plastic, e.g., we’re eating mostly red lentils that we were able to buy in a huge paper bag.
8. If you can’t bring your own bags, skip the bag altogether.
Lots of stores will let you put your groceries into your cart, then use your own bags at your bike or car or on the curb. We’ll place loose produce in our cart and then bag it at home in our own cloth bags. You can shop for cloth bags made by No Trace here.
In your community…
9. Write a letter to your local paper
10. Write to your favorite local business thanking them for positive steps and asking for more.
Tell them that we need to return to/move towards reusable options in our shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Wondering if your own containers are safe during COVID-19? The short answer is YES!
More than 100 scientists have signed a statement that “reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene”. As long as we follow basic hygiene recommendations, there’s no reason to think that reusable containers are riskier than disposable containers. In fact, the virus lives longer on plastic than on cloth, glass, and paper (
. Also, although washing your hands and not touching your face is still important, the spread of COVID-19 is happening through aerosolized droplets, not from germs that remain behind on surfaces. Spread the word!
In the global community…
11. Reach out to the biggest plastic polluters and demand action.
, the 3 biggest polluters in 2019 include Coca Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo. Break Free From Plastic demands that corporations “reveal their plastic footprint, reduce the plastic they produce, and reinvent their packaging to be reusable”. Reach out to them through social media or their websites. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Take & share pictures of their plastic litter. Demand that corporations take responsibility for their plastic pollution.
There you have it – my top 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during apandemic. Do you have any to add? Share in the comments below!
Are you wondering if organic cotton is worth the cost?
Or worried about the effects of conventional cotton on you, your family, your home, and the planet?
Cotton can be a super polluting crop. But organic cotton benefits the fields, nearby streams and rivers, local ecosystems, farmers, farm workers, fabric manufacturers, you, and your family.
(BTW, recycled cotton is also a sustainable option when you have it!)
First – let’s define organic cotton.
What’s organic cotton?
Organic cotton is different from conventional cotton in 4 key ways.
1. Organic cotton is cotton that’s grown in a way that has minimal negative effects on the environment. This means:
-soils are protected and replenished.
-toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are avoided
-crops are grown in a way that supports bio-diversity of crops
2. Organic cotton is grown without genetically engineered seeds.
3. Organic cotton is grown in a way that complies with the United Nations’ guidelines for human rights. That means from fields to manufacturing plants, no child labor, no slave labor, and no forced labor is used.
4. Organic cotton is certified by a third-party organization. That oversight means farmers have to comply with the standards set by third-party organizations.
Sounds great, right? It is!
Now that we understand what organic cotton is, here’s the top 10 reasons to buy organic cotton instead of conventional cotton.
1. Less exposure to toxins
Organic farmers and farmer workers are exposed to fewer toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Conventional cotton uses millions of pounds of pesticides per year in the U.S. alone. These include known and probable carcinogens (OTA website). Yikes.
2.Clean rivers & streams
Organic cotton doesn’t pollute local rivers and streams. Water treatment is mandatory in the process of dying and manufacturing organic cotton (GOTS standard), but not so for conventional cotton. You’ve probably seen the damage done from the fast fashion industry to local waterways. Remember pink rivers, anyone??
3. Protects human rights
Organic cotton has strict labor standards whereas conventional cotton still uses child labor and other forced labor in certain areas (EJF report).
4. Less conflict over water
Conventional cotton can lead to competition and conflict over water in different regions of the world (EJF report).
5. Preservation of water resources
Conventional cotton has led to the depletion of a sea – the Aral Sea – and the loss of local habitats and species (EJF Report). The unsustainable approach of non-organic cotton allows for this type of destruction to happen. Without standards in place, the worst is possible.
6. Protection of local eco-systems
Cheap, unsustainably produced cotton is destroying local eco-systems (EJF Report). In the case of the Aral Sea, its ecosystem was destroyed in order to grow non-organic cotton. Locals who depended on that ecosystem for their livelihood lost that as well. Organic cotton can only be grown in a way that avoids these types of consequences.
7. Fewer medical bills & lower food costs
Organic farmers save on medical bills and food costs (Soil Association Report). This allows them to save money and invest in their own futures.
More benefits have been found when looking at the life cycle impacts of organic cotton. A life cycle assessment (LCA) is a study of the environmental impact of a product across all the stages of its life: from raw material, manufacturing, distribution, use, and end of its usable life (recycling or disposal). The cycle of life. Get it?
8. Fewer greenhouse gases
According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces the global warming impact of growing cotton by 46% through fewer greenhouse gas emissions (Textile Exchange LCA).
9. Less soil erosion
According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces soil erosion by 26% (Textile Exchange LCA). Soil erosion leads to less productive fields and water pollution from the sediment run-off. That water pollution can impact water life and ecosystems. The loss of soil also leads to worse flooding. We have to protect our topsoil like the precious resource that it is.
10. Lower energy demand
According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces energy demand by 62% (Textile Exchange LCA). Fewer fossil fuels are used to grow organic vs non-organic cotton.
And here’s a big fat bonus reason that organic cotton is better than conventional cotton:
11. Income stability for farmers
Organic cotton farmers in India (where much of it is grown) have more stable income than conventional cotton farmers. It’s because they grow their crops in a more diverse environment, with other crops, in line with organic farming practices (Soil Association report).
Before you leave, let’s talk about some claims AGAINST the use of organic cotton.
Claims that organic cotton has problems too
Organic cotton crops produce less cotton
Compared to their genetically modified cousin (i.e., conventional cotton), organic cotton has been found to produce less per hectare (an area of measurement in farming). This means it requires more land and resources to grow the same amount of cotton than conventional crops.
Here’s the thing about this claim: It’s a tricky point to prove. There are SO many variables that go into a particular crop of cotton (country, soil qualities, crop rotation, amount of fertilizer, etc). Comparing the amount grown, or yield, for organic vs. conventional cotton isn’t easy. It’s varied in different published, peer-reviewed scientific studies (see Seufert & Ramankutty, 2017, for a review).
Scientists have conducted review studies on this topic to try to get a grip on this. A review study is when lots of different published studies are combined to make broad conclusions across a subject. In general, review studies have found that organic crops, like corn, wheat, soy, and cotton, have smaller yields than non-organic crops. The difference can be anywhere from a few percent less to half the non-organic amount (Seufert & Ramankutty, 2017).
There aren’t a ton of studies that look at organic vs. conventional cotton yields. The most recent review on the topic included four studies (Seufert, Ramankutty, & Foley, 2012). These scientists found that in 2 of the 4 studies, organic cotton yielded 8% and 11% MORE than conventional cotton. And two of the studies found that conventional cotton yielded 35% and 19% more than organic cotton. If you’d like a few more numbers, that averages to 91% yield of organic to conventional cotton. AKA a 9% difference in favor of conventional.
But that’s just four studies. And the average yield difference of 9% seems kinda of small when you think of all the other benefits of organically grown cotton.
Organic cotton requires more water than conventional cotton.
Here’s the thing about this claim: according to a report by the Textile Exchange, 80% of organically grown cotton in the world is rainfed. This means its grown without irrigation or diverting water from rivers etc. (Textile Exchange report). In fact, the Textile Exchange report found that organic cotton uses 91% LESS water than conventional. That’s because 1. it’s rainfed and 2. the soil is better able to hold onto water.
So actually, this is ANOTHER benefit of organic cotton. Make this a top 12 list!
If you’re not buying GOTS certified organic cotton, do you really know the impact of the cotton you’re buying?
Do you know where it’s from?
Do you know who picked it?
Buy organic cotton whenever you can.
And recycled or upcycled cotton when you can – that’s a sustainable option.
And avoid generic, conventional, new cotton whenever possible.
No Trace uses only organic cotton and, in a few select products, recycled cotton (which is sustainable and eco-friendly).
Our wraps cost a little more than the conventional cotton wraps you might find online. It’s because we use only 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Because organic is worth it.
What are your thoughts on organic vs conventional cotton? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading.
P.S. – If you’d like to look at my original sources, check them out here:
Despite being considered “eco-friendly,” bioplastics might be causing more problems than they solve. Below are 10 reasons to avoid bioplastics. Each one based on scientific research. But first let’s get to know these materials, shall we?
Bioplastics are plastics made from plants instead of fossil fuels. The two most common and general types of bioplastics are PLAs (which are made from sugars) and PHAs (which are made from microorganisms that are fed plant-based oils).
Bioplastics are often described by manufacturers as “compostable”. Compostable means it’ll breakdown in a compost at the same rate as other organic material (i.e., food scraps) without any special conditions. And compostable means they won’t leave any toxins behind. Sometimes bioplastics are described as “biodegradable”. Biodegradable means something will breakdown eventually in the right conditions, but not necessarily in a traditional compost system.
Compared to regular plastic, having an alternative like bioplastics that won’t biodegrade into toxins is a huge improvement. Having an alternative that’s not made from fossil fuels is also a big improvement! The potential to compost food scraps and it’s packaging in the same bin could help cut tons of waste. And the potential to make bioplastics from organic waste (rather than crops) is also an amazing promise that some companies are working on.
With all this good news, lots of businesses have jumped on the bioplastics bandwagon. Globally, the bioplastics market was worth $17 billion dollars in 2017 and produced over 2 million tons of bioplastic (see this report for details). Bioplastics are showing up in grocery store aisles, as cups, straws, forks, product packaging, doggie bags, mailers, and more!
But the potential of bioplastics to solve our trash problem isn’t happening. Right now, bioplastics are creating a slew of problems instead of solving them.
Here are 10 reasons that bioplastics are not a solution to plastic pollution.
Not always made from plants
To be called a bioplastic, it only needs to contain a minimum of 20% renewable material (i.e, plant-based). So this means that some could have as much as 80% petroleum-based materials. That means they won’t compost as promised and they create the same plastic pollution problems as regular plastic. If these bioplastics end up in composts, they have the potential to contaminate organic material.
2. Their production is more polluting
One2010 studyfound that the production of bioplastics results in more pollution than the production of traditional plastics. This increased pollution comes from the agricultural processes to grow the crops that become bioplastics. Creating bioplastics also led to more ozone depletion and required more land to create than traditional plastics.
3. Some have carcinogens
Although they don’t contain BPA (a chemical found in regular plastics that may cause health problems for humans), some bioplastics are associated with increased carcinogens. The same 2010 studyfound that bioplastics made with fossil fuels (these are called B-PET plastics) had the highest impact on “carcinogenic health hazards” across its life cycle.
4. They increase pressure on our lands
In order to produce most bioplastics, crops have to be grown. This creates more demand for farmland. In order to feed the planet without destroying it, we’ll have to take a hard look at how we use our land. Using land to create packaging instead of food probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.
5. Won’t compost at home
They won’t compost in your yard or worm bin. Home composting is a super green way to cut waste on lots of levels. You can turn those organics back into soil. You don’t need any transportation to move them from your house to a facility. It’s cheap (or even free) to do at home. But bioplastics won’t compost at home. They have to be sent away and processed like all other trash.
6. Hard to compost anywhere
Very few cities have facilities to compost bioplastics – i.e., industrial composting facilities. An industrial composting facility allows “materials to reach 140 degrees F for 10 consecutive days”, according to this report. Although the exact number of facilities that can achieve these conditions isn’t easy to know, there aren’t many.
And even among those facilities that do exist, many of them don’t want any bioplastics because they take longer to breakdown than other materials. This slows down composting and costs facilities more money. Fastcompany.com reports that less than 90 cities in the US accept compostable packaging.
7. They can contaminate recycling.
Folks get confused about what to do with their bioplastics, and so they often end up in the recycle bin. Then they get mixed in with traditional plastics at the recycling plant since they’re hard to tell apart. As a result, our cities can accidentally send loads of traditional plastic that are contaminated with bioplastics to plastic recyclers. When plastic recyclers see the contamination, they start to reject our entire plastic loads. This puts a major strain on our ability to recycle any plastic. And it’s already become a challenge to recycle traditional plastics across the US.
8. They release methane
When bioplastics end up in landfills, which is where most of them end up, they release methane. Methane is a super powerful greenhouse gas.
9. They won’t biodegrade on their own
When bioplastics like PLA end up in the ocean or forests or meadows or streams, they won’t biodegrade. Instead, they become another source of litter, just like traditional plastics.
10. Still single-use
Here’s the biggest problem of all: they promote a single-use mentality. Folks see bioplastics as an eco-friendly single-use option. The problem is that there’s no such thing as eco-friendly single-use. To create anything that will only get used once and then discarded is wasteful. Of course, in some situations single-use is the only option or the best option, like medical settings. But single-use plastics should be an exception for certain situations, rather than the norm for everything we consume and use.
We need to switch from a single-use mentality to a reusable mentality. We need to recognize that the world has finite resources. All of these resources should be conserved and protected as much as possible.
This isn’t to say that bioplastics are worthless. If we had better systems in place for capturing and composting bioplastics, and more efficient, less polluting ways of creating bioplastics, that would be awesome. Bioplastics have the potential to fill an important need in plastics with renewable resources.
But at this point in time, with our current resources, bioplastics don’t solve all our problems. And they have lots of issues that need to be addressed.
The main problem for us to solve is to reduce our dependence on single-use plastic as much as possible. Bioplastics don’t get us any closer.
Do you have thoughts on bioplastics? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the planet,
P.S. Want more nitty-gritty info on bioplastics? Check out my sources:
You care about climate change because you’re a decent human being. Climate change affects you, me, every person on earth, all living organisms, and future generations. It can be overwhelming and terrifying to think of where we’re headed over the next 50+ years. But here’s the good news. There are TONS of ways to fight climate change as an individual. And if everyone did even a few of these, it would really add up.
So here’s my list of 50 small ways to fight climate change!
Transportation is our number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. And pollution from passenger flights across the US and globe is a HUGE contributor to climate change. Flights result in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. It’s much worse than trains and even long distance car rides, especially if there’s more than one of you per car.
You might have family across the country, or places to see on your bucket list. I have those too. But if you cut your flights down even a little, the climate will thank you. Try to combine trips if you need to fly somewhere. Or limit air travel to one really important trip per year.
2. Drive less
Non-electric cars are another MASSIVE source of greenhouse gases. Try driving less and only when you really need to. Combine your driving trips. Go to the store a little less often and buy more when you’re there. Or try finding stores and businesses that are closer to your house to make your driving trips shorter.
3. Bike more
Yes to biking! Biking more means less time in your car, which means you aren’t polluting. And you’re getting to move your body. AND the more bikes on the road, the safer the roads become for bikes. PLUS the more bikes on the road, the more communities have to pay attention to bikes and create better solutions for bike riders. Imagine safer bike lanes, bike paths/trails, and protected bike ways. Yes, please!
And if biking doesn’t come easy to you, consider getting an electric bike. They take all the sweat out of the ride!
4. Ride the bus
I heard an interview with Alan Alda, former actor on M*A*S*H, on how he takes the bus in L.A. as part of his fight against climate change. If Alan Alda can do it, so can you! Lots of buses will let you take your bike on the bus too, if the bus doesn’t quite get you all the way there. In Santa Cruz, we also have some great bike lockers downtown. These let you bike to the bus stop and then lock up your bike in a super secure box.
The more people you get in your car, the more cars you get off the road. And the more efficient your car is in terms of gas per person per mile. If you can set up some kid carpools, it might also save you some time a couple days a week. (Bonus: maybe you can finish your morning coffee before work!). Plus, you can ride in the carpool lane if your freeways have those.
6. Take the train
Trains are a more efficient form of travel, regardless of the fuel they use. So if you can take the extra time to ride by train, DO IT! And as a bonus, you might get to see some awesome scenery along the way. On the west coast we’ve got Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train ride with AMAZING views of the coast. It’s on my bucket list to ride that train.
7. Get an electric vehicle
Have you done it yet? DO IT!!! Electric vehicles are the future of individual transportation. No more wars over fossil fuels to fuel our cars. EVs can be charged at home with renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Get one! Now! Ditch fossil fuels at the pump and never stop for gas again! Also, Tesla has now released their Model 3 which is as affordable as any other new mid-size car. With a Tesla, you can drive pretty much anywhere in the US and stop to charge about as often as you would stop to pee and get gas. DO IT!
8. Install solar panels
Installing solar panels on your house can power your home and put any extra energy into the grid. It can even earn you money! If you don’t want to purchase and pay for your own solar panels, tons of companies will come and install their own solar panels for you for very little cost. They’re basically renting out your roof space from you to put solar energy into the grid. This saves you money and puts renewable energy into the grid, although you won’t earn as much money as installing your own panels.
9. Switch to renewable energy with your energy company
In our community, our electricity company (PG&E) has an account option to use renewable energy to power your home. You can opt in to purchase your household’s energy from renewable power plants. There’s a small fee for using this in our community. But it’s worth it! Imagine if we all opt-in to renewable energy at home.
10. Switch to LEDs
LEDs, in case you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, are super efficient lightbulbs. There’s an LED for pretty much every lightbulb in your house. Recycle those old ones and get on the LED bandwagon!
11. Line dry your laundry
Dryers use a TON of energy. Even the more energy efficient ones. Lucky for us, there’s this awesome thing called sunlight and fresh air that will do the work of your dryer. For free. Without any electricity! We even line dry in the wet winters here in Santa Cruz. Just wait for a day with no rain in the forecast and get your laundry outside! There are also small racks that you can set up in a small space in your home to dry indoors. Smaller racks usually fold up to fit behind a door or under a bed. That lets you dry smaller loads even in the winter. We’ve been without a dryer for 6 years now! Two grown-ups, two kids, two dogs, and lots of house guests!
12. Conserve your heating
Be scrimpy when it comes to your heating. Put on a sweater and warm socks before you crank up the heat. When my kiddos ask us to turn on the heater on a cool fall or winter morning, and all they’re wearing is a tank top, we remind them to put on a sweater! Do easy, no energy steps before turning up the heat in the winter. An ideal temperature for conserving energy is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
13. Conserve your air conditioning
Same goes for air conditioning. Do what you can personally to get comfortable before turning up the AC. And maybe try feeling a little warmth of the summer air, rather than keeping your space overly cooled. Aim for 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (or hotter) to conserve energy.
14. Turn off the juice when not in use
You probably already know this but one of the easiest ways to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint is this: Turn off appliances when they aren’t being used. Put your computer to sleep. Turn off your printer. Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Some older appliances even suck energy when they’re turned off, so you might want to unplug it from the wall. We have an old microwave that sucks energy even when it’s not being used, so we have it plugged into a power strip that we turn off when we’re not using it.
15. Buy efficient appliances.
If you need a new appliance, lots of times it’s worthwhile to buy a new, energy efficient version than to search around for a used one. And when you’re picking out the new one, get one that’s energy efficient (do your research online to find the best one!). Buying new, energy efficient is especially important with refrigerators, which are major energy sucks in your home.
16. Switch to electric vs gas appliances.
If you’re ready to replace your stove or heater or water heater, consider switching to an electric version if you currently have a gas version. We add more renewable energy sources to the grid every year to power electric appliances. Over time, our electricity has the potential to be completely renewable, but natural gas doesn’t.
17. Tighten up your home.
Our homes are major energy sucks when we’re heating or cooling. Laying insulation in your attic and crawl space and sealing up openings can help cut your energy use for heating and cooling and also save you money. Upgrade to double-paned windows when you can afford it.
18. Conserve water.
You may not know this but using water at home and in the office uses up energy. Water gets moved across California and other states by giant pumps. In fact, 12% of California’s statewide electricity use is from pumping and treating water. When we have power shortages, we’re also asked to conserve water. So why not do it all year? Water itself is a precious resources and costs money.
19. Go vegetarian
Here’s the thing about the meat industry – it is a MAJOR contributor to greenhouse gases and a MAJOR consumer of energy, water, and other resources. Not only do cows and other farm raised animals emit methane (insert cow fart joke here 😉 ), a greenhouse gas, but the process of farming itself contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. It also requires lots of land. That means deforestation of natural habitats so that you can eat a burger. Is it worth it? Did you know there’s even vegetarian dog food? Our pups like it just fine.
20. Eat vegetarian sometimes
I know, not everyone wants to go 100% veg. And that doesn’t always work for everyones’ health needs. So, if that describes you, consider cutting down your meat consumption. Maybe make it more of a special occasion food. Or try meatless Mondays. Or one meal a day. Get creative! Reducing your meat eating just a little benefits the climate.
21. Go vegan
The environmental problems that come from the meat industry are the same for the dairy industry. Lots of greenhouse gas emissions and lots of resources are used to make that cheese or yogurt or milk! Eating vegan is even more sustainable the vegetarian.
22. Eat vegan sometimes
Of course, eating vegan isn’t for everyone! You might have dietary restrictions that make this hard. Or maybe you don’t live somewhere that easily supports a vegan diet. Or maybe you’re just not ready to make that change. That’s okay! Try eating vegan sometimes. In my house, most of our dinners are vegan. But we might have some eggs at breakfast, or cheese at lunch. If you’re nowhere near being vegan, you might consider adding one vegan meal to your diet per week just to start. Go on, you can do it! Give it a try! One of the all time easiest vegan lunches? PB & J sandwich! Did you know Michelle Obama ate one for breakfast everyday growing up? I LOVE that!
23. Don’t waste food.
Did you know that the US wastes about 40% of our food on average? Lots of greenhouse gas emissions were released to make that food. Plus money and time and water. So don’t throw it out! Try eating most of what’s in your fridge before cooking or buying more food. Serve smaller portions and get seconds if needed, rather than serving up more than you and your family can finish. Serve your guests (especially those pint-sized guests) small portions and let them know there’s lots more of everything if they want more.
24. Compost non-edible foods.
Once and a while we discover something forgotten in the dark corners of the fridge. If you have food that’s spoiled, compost it. Compost peels/seeds/pits and other non-edible food scraps. Food scraps release methane if they end up in the landfill where they can’t breakdown properly. So compost it at home! If you don’t have a yard, consider a worm bin, which fits in small spaces. There’re also composting services in some cities – curbside pick up with your trash or other compost companies. And sometimes farmers at the farmers market will take your scraps for their compost. Ask around your community and I’ll bet you’ll find some options if you can’t do it on your own. Santa Cruz has an awesome bike-powered compost collection service called Hard Core Compost.
25. Compost other organic material.
Things like wet or food-stained paper, pizza boxes, tissues, all natural fibers like cotton and linen, paper towels, paper napkins, and anything else that’s 100% natural material can be composted. These will also release methane in the landfill if left there. Be careful about packaging that’s a mixed material. For example, a to-go box with a thin plastic lining. Chinese take-out boxes. Or a paper drinking cup with a waxy coating. Those materials are generally NOT compostable. The water-resistant material is usually plastic based or a petroleum-wax based material. So leave the mixed materials out of your compost.
Also, all those “compostable” plastics WON’T breakdown in your home compost, only in an industrial facility. Don’t add them to your compost! Chances are you have to send them to the landfill unless your city has something set up to collect those bioplastics. I hate the problems those have created, BTW. But I’ll save that rant for another day.
26. Use a reusable water bottle
Plastic comes from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and takes energy to produce. Plastic is getting harder and harder to recycle (which also takes energy). And when it ends up in the wild, it becomes a pollutant and a hazard to animals. Even in the landfill it can pollute our waterways and ecosystems. So bring your own water bottle!
27. Use a reusable coffee cup
Those paper cups and plastic lids take ENERGY and RESOURCES to produce. And those cups release greenhouse gases when they breakdown. And plastic lids – well, you know the problems with those at the end of their life!
28. Bring your cloth grocery bags to the store
Don’t forget your bags! Switch to reusables to conserve the energy and materials that go into making single use bags. And if you don’t have a large stash of cloth grocery bags yet, reuse the paper and plastic bags that you have on hand as many times as you can! But be careful of washing the plastic bags – the more friction and heat they are exposed to, the more potential for releasing microplastics into the waterways.
29. Switch to cloth bags for your fruits, veggies, and bulk goods
Those plastic bags are free at the store, but we’re paying the price once you leave. Shameless plug here – we’ve got lots of veggie bags for sale at No Trace that are made with 100% cotton and all natural materials. That means you can compost them at home in your own compost when they reach the end of their life. Check them out here.
30. Switch to cloth napkins
We’ve been using cloth napkins since we had our first child in 2008. We have some that have lasted us that long. We don’t wash them with every use, just once a week (or sooner if they are super soiled). Go for 100% cotton or linen or hemp napkins that won’t release microfibers when you wash them. Plus cotton and linen and hemp can be composted at home when they reach the end of their life.
31. Use a hankie instead of a tissue
It takes a TON of water and energy to produce a box of tissues and ship it to you. Use handkerchiefs instead! I sell cute ones here but you can also just cut up an old t-shirt!
32. Use a dish towel or rag instead of a paper towel
Sorry, this probably feels repetitive to you by now, but there are just SO MANY PLACES in your home where you can ditch single use products for reusable, sustainable products! Dish towels are a great place to start. And you probably have plenty of rag material in your home already. In our house, we turn stained clothes and household goods into rags. With 2 kids in the house and lots of playdates and sleepovers, plus 2 dogs, we go through about 1 to 2 rags per day! Plus a few dish towels a week. We toss these in with our regular laundry – no special treatment needed!
33. Use a beeswax or vegan wax wrap instead of plastic wrap.
Okay, another shameless plug for No Trace products, available here. Wax wraps are more expensive up front than plastic wrap because you’re investing in the planet, not in pollution.
Remember that cheaper isn’t always better. Wax wraps can be used again and again to wrap your food, cover a bowl or jar, or cover a plate of leftovers. Once they’re worn out, you can either compost them or add them to a fire. Even if a wax wrap escapes into nature or the ocean, it’s not going to leave behind a trail of pollution. It’ll breakdown on its own in just a few months.
34. Buy less stuff
All of our STUFF contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Furniture. Clothes. Kitchenware. Tools. Outdoor gear. It takes energy and resources to make and ship stuff to stores near us and to our homes. Consider borrowing or renting things that you don’t need that often. And loan out your own stuff too!
35. Buy used stuff instead of new stuff
If you really need something on the regular, try to find it at a second hand store. We’ve got a few different options in Santa Cruz – Grey Bears, Caroline’s, Thrift Center, Salvation Army, and Goodwill. Goodwill is my go-to for most kitchen needs or No Trace equipment like pots or table-top display bins or fabric for my veggie bags. They have a HUGE homewares section. I also buy used clothes whenever I can. There’s no shame in second-hand! It’s the green choice! Wear thrift store clothes with pride! Listen to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis if you need more inspiration ;). Check out ThredUp.com if don’t have great thrift stores near you or prefer to shop online!
36. Write to the president
You can call, email, or write to the White House at whitehouse.gov. The chance of your letter actually making it to the president is slim, but staff do generally keep counts of opinions that come in. Make sure to be respectful, succinct, and use facts! Conservation.org has a great list of 11 facts on climate change. Maybe pick just a couple to include in your letter, and why you care about this issue, and what you hope the White House would do. The Union of Concerned Scientists also has great information on what our climate change priorities should be. Check them out here. And the simplest point to make in any communication with the White House is to remind the president of the importance of SCIENCE!
37. Contact your governor
Your state can take action without the federal government’s leadership. California is a major leader in the fight against climate change by turning towards clean energy, clean energy jobs, electric vehicles, and more. See how your state stacks up at the Union of Concerned Scientist. Look for targets to suggest to your governor, and let them know you appreciate any steps they’ve taken! To find your governor’s address, go to https://www.usa.gov/state-governor.
38. Write to your senator and congress member
Senators and congress members can introduce and support important climate change legislation. So contact them and let them know that climate change legislation matters to you! The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions monitors legislation on climate change. So check them out for up-to-date information. One of the most important pieces of legislation that the US needs is a carbon tax. But there are lots of other steps that Congress can take as well. You can find your representative’s contact info here and your senator’s info here.
39. Support candidates that care about the climate
When election time comes around, support those candidates who care about the climate with DONATIONS and SPREADING THE WORD! Nothing shows support like actual money. But if you can’t spare any, share that candidate’s info with your community and encourage others to VOTE.
40. Support your local climate action organization
41. Tell your friends and family to support climate legislation
Are your friends taking action? Tell them what you’re doing and make it easy for them to do the same! Give them one simple step and show them how you did it!
42. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper
The message you’re sharing with your friends and family, and the concerns you’re raising with your representatives and governor, and the president – share these with the media! Write a letter to your local paper and spread the word. Climate action now!
43. Support climate science
Science itself is under attack these days. One way to fight climate change is to support the science that’s happening behind it. That means staying educated and getting your science news from reputable news sources.
44. March for the climate
Santa Cruz marched September 27, 2019, but marches will keep happening all over the US. When there’s a march, show up! Show your support! You don’t even need a sign. Just go and be a part of the movement.
45. Join organizations that lobby for the environment.
Take the time to organize events with friends and family to rally them around climate action. It could be as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck and getting folks excited to eat more plants. Or maybe you want to invite folks into your home and share how you work towards energy efficiency at your house. Or give a talk at your church or at your kid’s school on climate change. Get creative!
47. Organize a school-wide bike-to-school day.
Santa Cruz has awesome bike-to-work and school events. But anyone can organize this! Just invite other families to bike with you to school some days. If the school can sponsor the event, even better!
48. Participate in Bike-to-Work Day
If you’re not part of a school community, participate in bike-to-work day. Even if you can’t do the actual biking part, volunteer your time or donate to the event! Volunteers run the event so get in there! In Santa Cruz, these days are organized by Ecology Action.
49. Write to big businesses
Companies like Tesla changed in our options for the better as consumers. Tesla made electric vehicles cool. Reach out to other companies and let them know that you care about the environment. Write letters and also show your support with your dollars for companies that are addressing climate change and working for the environment.
50. Plant a tree (and other plants)
Plants help absorb greenhouse gases, so add some green to your life! Keep in mind that planting trees is not the best way to fight climate change, though. There was a paper published recently that used its findings to conclude that planting trees is the best way to fight climate change. The authors have since back-pedaled on the conclusions, describing them as the “theoretical potential” for reforestation, rather than suggestions for action. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the MOST important way to fight climate change, rather than planting trees to absorb those emissions. But plant trees too! The world could use a little more green.
There you have it. 50 small ways to fight climate change. Which ones are you already doing? Which one will you try next? What would you add to this list of 50? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the
It might feel really overwhelming to get a year of your trash into a mason jar – and might be impossible, depending on where you live and what you can recycle.
But there are actually TONS of easy ways to cut down your waste.
Think beyond the mason jar!
Here’s a roundup of 75 ways small ways to cut your waste.
1. Bike more
Did you know that transportation (i.e., cars) is one of the top sources of pollution and contributors to global warming? Driving less is an amazing way to reduce your waste and have a positive impact on the planet. Check out local bike resources for bike paths and bike-friendly routes near you. In Santa Cruz we’ve got www.bikesantacruzcounty.org for loads of awesome resources on biking safely in our community. And don’t forget to wear a helmet!
2. Fly less
Each flight you take is a major resource drain. Just like cars, planes are a major source of greenhouse gases. Try some local travel and explore your own part of the country. Or, if you have to fly, offset your flights with carbon credits. And try to limit flights to those that you really want or need to take. If you live in California, we have so many amazing state parks that you can drive to. Check them out here.
3. Eat vegetarian
This is a MASSIVE way to reduce your waste WAY beyond the mason jar. The meat industry is a MAJOR source of pollution. Even if you can’t do this all the time, try swapping out a couple meals a week for vegetarian. Good for you, good for the planet! And there are so many great resources out there. I love Minimalist Baker for vegetarian recipes.
4. Eat vegan
Going vegan has even more benefits for the planet than vegetarian. All those animal products really have a negative impact on the climate – especially the dairy industry. Try swapping some vegan meals or vegan substitutes when you can. Or go all the way! Join the millions of others in the world who do it every day. My favorite vegan blog is by my friend and favorite yoga teacher, Amey. Check it out here!
5. Compost at home
This is also a GREAT way to cut down your waste. All those fruit peels, veggie skins, egg shells, and more can go into your compost. No yard? No problem! Try a worm bin that fits under your sink. And if you live locally, check out the Santa Cruz Compost service, which collects your compost by bike! They are here.
6. Line dry your laundry
Dryers use loads of electricity (pun – ha!). You can line dry all year too – some racks are easy to set up in even the smallest space and then fold up to be tucked away behind a door or under a bed. We’ve been dryer free for about 4 years and it’s still working great for our family of four. If we can do it, so can you! We even were mostly dryer free during the cloth diapering days!
7. Use hankies
Tissues be damned! Switch to reusable hankies. I say buy mine here or make your own or look for some in the thrift store. When all of ours are in the wash, I start in on our rag stash for hankies – hey, they’re clean! Any ol’ rag will do.
8. Use dishtowels instead of paper towels
Paper towels can be composted, but why not preserve those resources for more essential goods? We have a stack of about 20 dish towels. We use each dish towel until it gets soiled and then we toss it in the wash. I make some here, you could make your own, or look for them at the thrift store! Try finding all natural fibers – much better for the earth.
9. Use your own coffee mug
Those disposable coffee cups are the worst! Some super progressive coffee shops have even stopped handing them out because they are such massive polluters. Bring your own! Buy one from a locally owned business to support the locals. I got mine from Wild Roots in Felton. Love that shop. And you can buy No Trace goods there (another shameless plug!!).
10. Keep a napkin in your purse.
How many times have you needed a napkin when you are out and about? This still happens to me sometimes but I almost always have a little napkin in my purse. I make really cute ones here but make your own or find one in a thrift store super easily.
11. Bring a water bottle.
You are already doing this, I’m sure. We’ve got to get rid of plastic water bottles! Even though often times you can recycle those, our recycling days might be numbered and these are ending up in the landfill more and more often. Just bring your own. I got mine at Jones and Bones in Capitola. I love supporting local business.
12. Shop in bulk.
Look for what you need in the bulk section of your grocery store. I’ve got a whole post about zero waste grocery shopping that you can see here. Also, i make these gorgeous bulk bags here. Made from recycled cotton. If you can’t get something in a bulk bin, try getting something with as little packaging as possible or in the largest amount possible that won’t also spoil.
13. Shop at the farmers market.
Again, check my post here for resources to find farmers markets near you. You can often buy loose produce here that come without those pesky stickers.
14. Stop buying those prepackaged treats.
I know they are super convenient. You can do it, though! Just say no. Fruit, anyone?
15. Try making it yourself.
Is there something you really miss? Crackers? Granola bars? Hummus? Pesto? Pick a few of those prepackaged treats and try making your own. Read about my favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks here and you can start having snacks on hand whenever you need them!
16. Get your beer in a growler or just enjoy a pint in person.
You might not want to pay micro-brewery prices, but you can treat yourself and the planet once a while with something fresh and local. Although you can recycle glass and cans almost everywhere, recycling is not the solution to our problems – reuse is way better.
17. Get your wine from a local winery.
They might let you bring your own container for refills. Some wineries even have harvest or tapping parties where you can fill up loads of bottles to get you through the year. Or at least the week ;).
18. Buy your clothes from a local thrift store.
Fast fashion is a MAJOR polluter. Think twice before buying new and see if you can find it used.
19. Get your shoes repaired at a shoe shop.
Do you have a cobbler or shoe repair person in your town? Buy shoes that are built to last and be repaired.
20. Go to a repair cafe to mend your worn clothes or small appliances or other household items.
If you live in Santa Cruz, reach out about repair cafes in town! No Trace has hosted this!
21. Grow your own food.
Even if all you have is a sunny window, you can grow fresh herbs like basil from home. If you have more space than that, consider planting some trees and growing what you can. In northern California, we can grow some veggies all year like kale, chard and lettuce.
22. Compost worn out, all natural textiles
These are good for the soil! Fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen can be composted at home. I wrote a post about keeping fabric out of the landfill here, so check it out for more tips.
23. Recycle synthetic, worn fibers
If something is beyond repair, not useful as a rag, and not compostable, find a fabric recycler. Some cities have curbside fabric recycling (San Francisco! I’m so jealous).
24. Try sashiko stitching
If something has a small stain or tear, don’t toss it – mend it with sashiko stitching. This is a beautiful way to fix something. I get loads of inspiration from Miniature Rhino. Check her out here.
25. Try canning your own food.
Zero waste chef has loads of great resources on this topic. When tomatoes are in season, you can stock up and then make some awesome canned tomatoes for all your cooking needs during the year. Or make some fresh fruit preserves. Yum yum. Read her amazing blog here for loads of home canning and preserving tips.
26. Make your own Kombucha.
Another zero waste chef specialty. Eliminate all those bottles you might recycle and make your own. Save money, too! Check her out here.
27. Think about the household goods and furnishings you buy
Try to avoid synthetic fibers and toxic resins in the furnishings that surround you. Buy high quality pieces that can be repaired rather than tossed out. I wrote a piece about building a simple bench at home that you can read here. It’s important that we think about the full life cycle of what we bring into our homes.
28. Don’t print it!
Might be obvious, but try getting comfy with your laptop rather than a print out whenever you can. All those papers can be recycled, of course, but why not preserve those resources for things we really need? Need a break from the desk? Move your laptop around and try reading in a different spot before thinking you have to print something.
29. Give experiences, not things
I love this one for kids. We try to avoid “filler” gifts – little things just for the sake of giving something – unless it’s meaningful and sustainable.
Be prepared and bring a kit to help you avoid trash on your travels. Read my post here about that here.
32. Plan for a zero waste Christmas.
We give lots of gifts, but we avoid plastic. We also wrap in fabric that we can reuse, rather than in paper. I make these adorable furoshiki wraps here but any old fabric will do.
33. Host zero waste birthday parties
Keep the food and drinks simple and you can avoid all that trash!
34. Loan utensils, plates, cups, napkins to friends for their parties or borrow some for your own.
Some communities have lending libraries for big events. Ask around to see if yours does.
35. Bring your own utensils, plate, cup, napkin
If you’re going to a party and you’re not sure what they’ll serve on, bring your own stuff.
Also, don’t leave it in the car and forget to bring it into the party like I sometimes do!
36. Recycle broken, unrepairable electronics
We’ve got awesome Grey Bears in town for this amazing service but check your local waste management agency for ideas.
37. Make your own deodorant.
I use the recipe by Trash is for Tossers, but you can find loads of free resources online.
38. Swap out some beauty products for what you can find in bulk.
For example, you might try some light body oils or even lotions in bulk. Sunscreen even if you’re lucky enough to have it in your town!
39. Make your own household cleaning products
Lots of folks make citrus vinegars with citrus peels and use this for cleaning instead of packaged cleaning products. And isn’t it nice to know what’s in your cleaning products?
40. Buy sustainable art and school supplies for you and/or your kiddos
Can you swap in some colored pencils and all natural crayons? Use recycled paper? Get your school supplies at the thrift store? A little effort can help cut down on trash from school.
41. Recycle old markers with TerraCycle.
At The Art Factory in Aptos you can drop your worn out markers off to get recycled! Hooray! Check around for TerraCycle options near you.
42. Make your own cough drops!
Okay, I found a pin for this on Pinterest and admit – I haven’t tried it yet – but I’m sooo excited to try it out. It’s on my board here.
43. Get a pressure cooker
No more canned beans. Seriously. We don’t buy these any more. Hip hip hooray! Save yourself time and money by making these at home. You really can cook beans in a flash with one of these. Works great for rice, artichokes, and other food that can take a little time.
44. Try meal planning.
If you can prep out some meals and snacks on Sunday afternoon, it’ll make the week go more smoothly. I love doing a bunch of salads in a mason jar, or making a pot of beans, rice, and some roasted veggies to last for a few days. And I try to plan for quick snacks to have on hand for after school and other busy times.
45. Get a safety razor
No more disposable razors! The Zero Shop SC sells them – check them out here. And there are loads of resources online for how to shave with a safety razor too, so get some help and make it easy for yourself.
46. Buy shampoo and soap in bulk.
We bring our own containers and refill them at our local bulk store – Staff of Life in Santa Cruz. We weigh the jars, but some stores will ask how many ounces your container holds, so it’s good to know that too. Also, you might be able to find unpackaged bars of shampoo, conditioner, and soap in your town. Lush offers these too.
47. Switch to reusable menstrual products.
I found reusable pads on Etsy that I love. There are loads of others on the market now too. Reusable menstrual cups are also available in lots of natural food and bulk stores – maybe in your local pharmacy too. I found mine at CVS!
48. Recycle your toothpaste tubes
In Santa Cruz, New Leaf Market on 41st Avenue has a TerraCycle box for recycling Tom’s packaging! Yay! You can call around to see if there is some place near you as well – schools sometimes have TerraCycle boxes.
49. Use compostable floss
I haven’t found the perfect solution for compostable floss yet, but Dental Lace will breakdown in your home compost. Unfortunately, it does come in a plant-based plastic bag, which may or may not breakdown in your home compost. But it does create less waste than a big plastic box full of plastic floss.
50. Use a bamboo toothbrush
Easy peasy! Usually you’ll have to pull out the nylon bristles before you can compost it, but it beats throwing out a whole plastic toothbrush!
51. Make your own mouthwash
Seriously, this is so easy and will save you loads of money, too! I make mine with 1 cup water, 4 tsp baking soda, and a few drops of essential oils (4 of tea tree and 4 of peppermint).
52. Make your sunscreen or find it in a reusable container.
I’ve got a recipe from PareDownhome.com that is super easy to make, although the ingredients might be hard to find, especially not in plastic. I’ve also found sunscreen in reusable, plastic-free containers from Raw Love and Elevated Sun. I personally preferred Raw Love to Elevated Sun – I found the latter a little gritty when putting it on. But I LOVE what they are doing.
53. Make your own lotion.
Have you made your own body cream before? It’s an awesome chance to make something just the way you like it – adding in whatever scents you’re drawn to. Check out my Pinterest boards for recipes!
54. Make your own shaving cream.
Or just use conditioner! One less packaged thing to buy.
55. Buy zero waste makeup or make your own.
I found this shop on Etsy and LOVE the lipstick we bought. Highly recommend for vegan, zero waste, all natural make up.
56. Switch to metal and fabric hair accessories.
Another area of your life to cut down on plastics and trash. But use up what you have first! Kooshoo makes biodegradable hair ties, but have shipped in plastic bags in the past.
57. Use a wooden hair brush.
When it’s time for a new brush, trying getting one that’s plastic free.
58. Compost your hair!
Yes, sounds gross, but it composts! Nails do too. Is that TMI? Sorry not sorry ;).
59. Shop less.
You don’t have to be a minimalist, but the less stuff you have, the less waste you’ll make. This is so true for kiddos. So many of their things – especially those freebies and party favors – end up as trash.
60. Buy the bruised veggies and fruits at the store.
If you know you’ll eat them soon, you can save them from the landfill! Lots of stores will toss out old looking produce, even if it’s still edible.
61. Finish the old before buying new.
I’m talking about the food in your fridge – you can toss less food out if you just put in a little more effort to finish what’s there first. Bonus – save yourself $$$.
62. Eat old before new food.
Same idea as above – if you do need to shop before your fridge is empty, try getting through the old food first.
63. Give the uneatable to your animals.
Have you had kids or friends over, and one of them doesn’t finish the food on their plate? If your dogs or chickens tolerate human food, pass the leftovers on to them. I’ll finish my own kids’ food or ask them to at another time, but I’m not going to eat outside the family. I’m sorry, that’s just not my style.
64. Compost that pizza box.
Yes, we still order pizza sometimes in a pinch or when we are just too pooped to cook or go out. But you generally can’t recycle a pizza box because of food contamination. So tear it up and add it to your compost.
65. Bring a container for leftovers whenever you eat out.
Have you ever ordered a little too much, and then been torn about tossing the food vs getting a to-go container? Try packing a jar or tupperware in your bag so you can pop those leftovers in your own container.
66. Get take out in your own container.
Ask your favorite place if they are open to this – you might be surprised. Our favorite Thai restaurant in Soquel (Sawasdee’s) let’s us bring our own containers. Let them know on the phone and then get there early enough so they can put it right into your bins after they cook it.
67. Remind folks – NO STRAW! – when you eat out.
If you have a reusable straw, put it on the table to remind you to say No Thanks to the straw.
68. Have a low water lawn.
Water is a precious resource too, and if you care about reducing your waste, you care about preserving water. Succulents are gorgeous little water savers and I love this website for loads of good succulent info – sunshineandsucculents.com. But there are tons of other awesome low water lawn ideas out there in the world.
69. Drive a low emission car.
Tesla? Yes, please. I’d love one of those. But for the average person, a Nissan Leaf is great electric car. Seat warmers! Back up camera! That quiet, quiet engine. I highly recommend one – it doesn’t go long distances, but works for closer ranges.
70. Conserve energy in your house.
Energy can be a massive polluter as well, depending on the source. We try to be mindful of our energy use in lots of ways – using LED lightbulbs, wearing layers in the winter to reduce our heating requirements, turning off lights when we leave a room and the home, and having energy efficient appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and microwaves.
71. Try to follow recommended energy conservation hours in your town.
For most places in the U.S. (and elsewhere) energy requirements are greatest during the day, when we’re all up and about and doing stuff. So daytime hours put the greatest strain on our power plants, and certain peak hours require the use of some of our less efficient, more polluting power plants to keep up with energy demand. So, to help out, we run the dishwasher late at night and try to run the washing machine early in the morning, outside of these peak energy use hours.
72. Order it plastic free.
Online shopping is so convenient, right? Especially when you’ve got a job, a family, and all those other life obligations. So when you order online, always ask them ship your order without plastic packaging.
73. When businesses mess up, let them know.
On the same note, if you are trying to order plastic free and the business doesn’t follow-through, write to them and encourage them to cut down on packaging. Try tagging them in social media or commenting on their own posts. A little encouragement can go a long way.
74. Say no to freebies.
Free sample in a plastic cup? Free packet of energy goop at the store? Free bag of crackers? Just say no. You don’t need it. The more we all say No Thanks, the more businesses will think twice about these practices.
75. Get your kids or partner or roomies involved.
You can ready my post all about getting kids into zero waste here.
There you have it – 75 small ways to cut your waste. What’s easiest for you? Which is the most challenging? Share in the comments below!