6 Simple Tips to Reduce Waste So Every Day Is Earth Day
Earth Day 2018 is focused on the all-important theme of reducing plastic litter and pollution. Of course, we shouldn't just reduce our plastic footprint, we should try to reduce waste in all shapes, sizes and forms. It's said that the average American generates a staggering 4 pounds of trash every day—but you don't have to be part of that statistic.
Here are six entirely manageable tips and tricks to help you cut waste.
1. BYO (Bring Your Own)
We all know we should bring our own bag to the grocery store, but what about bringing your own straw or takeaway container to restaurants? I now make it a habit of toting a "Zero-Waste Kit" with me everywhere so I don't make trash when I'm on the go. As you can see below, it contains essentials like canvas bags, utensils, beverage holders and cloth napkins. Reusable items are staples for a trash-free lifestyle.
From left to right. Large canvas bag; a 'tall' size mason jar with sipping lid; water bottle; cloth napkin; glass container with lid; utensils; metal straw; smaller canvas bags for loose items and/or produce.
2. The "Three Rs" of the environment isn't just a rule, it's a tier
The hierarchy of the eco-refrain "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is key. For instance, switching to a reusable water bottle will help you stop buying single-use plastic ones. Almost all drink bottles are made from virgin, petroleum-based plastic, not recycled material. The vast majority end up in landfills, oceans or other bodies of water, where they never actually degrade, but break down into tinier and tinier pieces, potentially causing harm to the natural environment and wildlife.
However, recycling that disposable bottle isn't the best answer either. Recycling itself is an energy-intensive process and has emissions associated with it, too. And, in case you haven't heard, China is no longer accepting the world's recyclables, leaving recycling centers with ever-growing mountains of trash. Simply, we have to find ways to buy less and use less.
I'd like to add two more Rs to the list:
- Refuse. This R is probably more crucial than "Reduce." For instance, you don't need that paper or plastic bag at check-out; tell your servers "no straw"; refuse to buy things that come in wasteful packaging.
- Repair. When your clothing gets a tear or your electronics aren't working, try fixing it instead of buying new. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke…
If I had to recommend one "must-have" tool for the home, it would be a high-speed blender. I use it to whip up smoothies, nut milks, soups, sauces, dips and flours. Sure, homemade food is often healthier and cheaper, but it also means I don't have to buy these individual items from the store, cutting down on unnecessary packaging.
Many everyday products and cosmetics can be made at home. Check out prominent zero-waste influencer Lauren Singer's "Trash is For Tossers" blog and YouTube channel. Singer—who can remarkably fit four years of trash into a single mason jar—teaches you how to make your own toothpaste, lotion, deodorant and more. (Actually, follow some of these other amazing zero-wasters such as Anne-Marie Bonneau, Celia Ristow and Jonathan Levy, who give great ideas and advice on litter-free living.)
Is there something you consume a lot of that you can make at home instead? I love kombucha, so instead of paying $4 a bottle at the store, I make my own. I also grow simple foods such as leafy greens and herbs. I know, I know, you don't always have the time or effort to DIY. But if anything, it's a big money saver.
Some easy-to-grow greens and herbs, homemade kombucha in the back.
4. Look for multipurpose, long-lasting, giant-sized items
Buy in bulk for things you always need, such as non-perishable foods, laundry detergent, olive oil, toilet paper, etc. Also, the best products have multiple uses, like castile soap. Just a few drops can go a long way in making soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even fruit wash. I like to buy the biggest version, which lasts for months. And check out this awesome list for 30+ uses for apple cider vinegar.
5. Think local
Is there a farmers market near you? Or a CSA program you can join? Not only are you supporting community farmers, the food travels fewer miles and often comes without, or in much less, packaging. For instance, the onions and potatoes from my weekly CSA box never come in the unnecessary netting you often find at the supermarket.
6. Catalogue your waste footprint
The most important step, really, is to take an honest look at what you throw away. Have you been tossing out a lot of food lately? Try making stock from veggie scraps or start a compost. Does your car guzzle a lot of gasoline? Consider taking public transport if it's available, or investing in an electric bike for shorter distances. Do you go through a lot of clothing? Try second-hand or raid someone else's closet. The point is, there's almost always a more environmentally friendly option.
Keep in mind that cutting your waste might not happen overnight, but it's important to make the effort. The planet will thank you for it.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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