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!
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!
You might be hearing this phrase a lot lately – zero waste.
But what is zero waste?
I’m going to give you a quick and easy overview of zero waste. So let’s go!
In simplest terms, zero waste is about not sending anything to the landfill or creating any trash.
On a deeper level, zero waste is the idea of keeping our resources in circulation and in use; reducing or eliminating the need for landfills, and is one result of a circular economy (an economy where products are designed to stay within a cycle of use and reuse). In a circular economy, each phase of a product’s life is connected to another, and disposal in a landfill is avoided. So zero waste is actually a key piece of a new way of thinking about the resources that we use to sustain ourselves.
We all know that there are a limited number of resources to support us humans and other creatures and plants on Earth. Zero waste and the circular economy are connected ideas of truly valuing those resources and planning for the use and reuse of those resources. Zero waste is a concept that applies to all the things we interact with our lives, from our roads and buildings to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In a perfect world, zero waste would look like this: any product that is created (and a product includes everything from the walls of your house to your breakfast cereal) starts with sustainable and renewable raw and/or recycled materials. The manufacturing of that product results in no waste. The product is delivered without waste (e.g., transportation powered by renewable energy). The product is used and is either completely used up (e.g., breakfast cereal is completely eaten without any waste) or is used until it needs to be repaired, in which case it is repaired. Or, the product is used completely and can no longer be used again, in which case it’s collected and remanufactured back into that product, or into another valuable product, that enters this process and stays in the circular economy.
Here’s a way to visualize a circular economy with zero waste.
Zero waste in practice doesn’t look like that, because we don’t have a circular economy. So in practice, as a individual, zero waste is about making the best choices possible to minimize waste and support sustainable practices. As an individual, zero waste looks like this:
As an individual, we can take steps to do our best to reduce waste and live more sustainably. The first step is to refuse – say no to those things that you don’t truly need. For some zero wasters, this includes refusing all gifts and freebies. In theory, refusing will result in much less waste and can be applied most broadly to all areas of your life.
The second step is to reduce what you consume. This goes for all areas of your life – the size of your home, clothing, beauty products, etc. It also applies to things like air and car travel – these also have huge impacts on the planet. The less we consume in general, the less waste we create. Some zero wasters strive for a minimalist lifestyle. Living closer to minimalism reduces the things you bring into your home and life and, as a result, the trash that you create.
The third step is to reuse. How can you reuse things in your life? Rather than tossing something, repurpose it. For example, clothes that can’t be mended could be turned into rags. A broken shelf is repurposed into something else functional. A jar that held your jam is reused to hold leftovers.
The fourth step is to recycle. This should apply to fewer things in your life because recycling is not a great solution to reducing waste. In fact, much of what we send to our local recycling plants doesn’t actually get recycled. In a circular economy, recycling would be even more effective. But as things stand today in 2018, recycling is a smaller piece of living sustainably, relative to refusing, reducing, and reusing.
The last step is to allow things to rot. Anything that is compostable should be composted once it reaches the end of its life, but again this should happen only after refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling. Although compost is important for healthy soils, it’s more important to preserve our resources and keep them in use, rather than dispose of them as compost.
If you are new to composting, search around for tips and resources. Anyone with a space for a small bin can start to compost, even without an outdoor space. Local cities and communities might have compost pick-up available. And anything that is made of 100% natural materials and has not been heavily processed in a way to change its composition can be composted at home. Things like bioplastics and bamboo rayon come from plants but have been heavily processed – they cannot be composted at home but there may be recycling options near you. Other things like cotton fabric, paper plates, food scraps, wood scraps, etc. can be composted at home.
To summarize, going for zero waste as an individual means:
So there you have it – an introduction to zero waste at both the large scale and individual level. Where are you at on your zero waste journey? And what’s been hardest for you? Share in the comments below!