Just in time for Earth Day, here are simple ways to incorporate changes into your routine to make sustainable choices without getting overwhelmed.
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our habits and green up those areas of our life that could use a bit of sprucing. If you’re vegan you’ve already made a huge step towards reducing your impact on the environment in terms of water, land, and energy usage, but as we all know, there’s always more we can do. So here’s six tips to go green, the vegan way, for Earth Day.
1. Skip the plastic straw in your beverage when eating out. At this point it seems like just about all of us have seen the heartbreaking video of scientists pulling a plastic straw out of a sea turtle’s nose as a result of plastic pollution, but the good news is you can help fight against that, starting with the straw in your drink. Americans alone use about 500 million straws every day, all of which are single-use. A Santa Cruz-based nonprofit called The Last Plastic Straw advocates for customers to ask for no straw in their drink at a restaurant, and encourages food establishments to only offer straws upon request. If you still prefer sipping through a straw, buy a reusable glass or stainless steel one which can be carried with you in a case.
2. Plant something! Even if you live in an apartment or shared living space, you can plant herbs in everything from a steel pasta strainer to upcycled plastic totes. Growing your own food is not only rewarding, but eating locally limits the distance our food has to travel and thus cuts down on air pollution. If you can’t grow food in your living space, try getting involved with a community garden—they are popping up just about everywhere. Not only does this help support food access in your community, but it also gives you the chance to test out your green thumb.
3. Green up your beauty routine by choosing vegan and eco-friendly beauty products. While it’s not something we often think about—or something the cosmetic industry encourages us to think about—beauty products have a huge impact on the environment. Environmentally harmful chemicals found in the majority of makeup, such as titanium dioxide, parabens, and triclosan, have been shown to have harmful consequences for freshwater organisms and sea life, as well as damaging effects on coral reefs. Fortunately, there are many companies that have committed to using eco-friendly ingredients in their cosmetics such as Lush, Ecco Bella, and 100% Pure—all of which offer vegan beauty products.
4. Ditch the harmful cleaning sprays and solvents, and make your own homemade cleaning products—no special ingredients required. Most of us already have the basic ingredients needed to make our own cleaning solutions such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. Not only does DIY-ing your cleaning routine avoid harmful, environmentally-damaging chemicals, it also cuts down on the packaging and manufacturing required to produce them—all of which have an impact on soil, water, and air quality.
5. Let thrift shops become your best friend and avoid falling victim to fast fashion. We buy and throw away clothes at an alarming rate—our landfills currently have over 26 billion pounds of textiles in them. Chain clothing stores sell cheap clothing, which has resulted in people buying more clothes than they ever have before—most of which get worn once, a few times, or never at all, only to be thrown away. Instead of buying new clothing, check out your local thrift stores—or the closest Crossroads Trading Co. or Buffalo Exchange—to find unique quality clothing, with a smaller environmental impact. When you have to buy something new, choose companies that incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business models such as Patagonia, The North Face, and VAUTE Couture.
6. Invest in a reusable coffee mug. One million disposable cups end up in landfills every minute—many of which are styrofoam and paper coffee cups. Styrofoam cups are primarily made up of polystyrene, which is derived from petroleum, thus it never fully breaks down and releases methane gas as it sits in the landfill. Invest in a coffee mug to have your local coffee shop fill instead of a single-use cup. You can even purchase one with a cute vegan logo to help spread the vegan message.