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10 Unexpected Sustainable Living Tips

April 27, 2020

10 Unexpected Sustainable Living Tips

 

Happy Earth Day everyone!


I thought it would be nice to do a blog post about sustainable living tips or ways we can reduce waste easily and help save the planet. These are all things that are super easy, and inexpensive to do and will actually save you money in the long run.


I think it can get really overwhelming when we're thinking about all the things that are going on in the environment right now. It can feel hopeless to even try to do anything. But there are actually a lot of really easy things we can do today that will make us feel better about helping out the environment and reducing our carbon footprint. 

1. Reusable Bags

When you're at the grocery store and going grocery shopping you can cut down on a lot of single use plastics. One thing I started doing was using reusable produce bags. They can be made of cotton or burlap, mine are cute woven cotton nets. You could probably just make some your own and sew some up from an old sheet or t-shirts or some other fabric laying around.


These fabric reusable produce bags are a great alternative to using the single use plastic bags that most grocery stores have. What I like to do is I like to leave them in my car or in my purse so I'd never forget them. And then I'm like, oh yeah, I'm in the produce aisle and here are my bags. 


If I forget my bags, I use the brown paper bags usually around in the produce section or maybe ask a sales clerk at your store where they are. That way you don't have to use the single use plastic because there's nothing I hate more and single use plastic.

 

2. Support Sustainable Packaging


So on the topic of grocery shopping, I tend to gravitate towards products that are made without plastic. So a lot of like cardboard packaging and glass even is better.  Because f*ck plastic. For example there's some yogurts that come in glass. If it’s in plastic, maybe think if this is something that you could make on your own from scratch or find a better low waste equivalent? 


For example, I started making tortillas because I noticed I would buy a lot of single use plastic wrapped tortillas. And I realized, what if I can just make tortillas by hand with plain masa flour? And it was really a lot more delicious, probably a lot more healthy. So it's an opportunity to get creative with your food and break out of your comfort zone. 


Single use plastic, and actually a lot of plastic is not recycled. it's a big problem right now as I’m sure you know I don’t need to get into it. 


If you do buy plastic containers, maybe think about way you can make the containers last a while and give them a little bit more life. For example we hold on to the yogurt containers and I use them in my studio for organizing my things and putting paints in. 

 

3. Organic & Plant Based Food

You know it's important to shop organic. Organic means safer for people but also safer for the environment. 

Farmers markets are the best! They have the freshest products and also are going to support small businesses that are operating sustainably. You will most likely be able to avoid lots of plastic and are getting the healthiest and cheapest food as well.

Did you know that the meat industry is one of the worst polluters and that meat consumption is completely unsustainable? If you're going to do meat, maybe consider cutting it down to the bare minimum, substitute a few vegan meals a week and if you do buy meat go grass fed, & free range.


I also try to get what I need from the butcher counter instead of what’s in the fridge. Usually fridge stuff is in styrofoam or heavy, thick plastic packaging. There is a little bit less packaging waste at the butcher counter. Then you can also “chew the fat” with butcher as they say.

 

4. Buy in Bulk

One thing I've been doing a lot lately is buying in bulk at the grocery store. Every good store has a good bulk section that often gets overlooked when we are shopping by sight and giving into clever packaging. But the bulk section is an opportunity to save money and also get only what you need so reducing waste. 


The grocery store that I'm nearby has annoying plastic inside the paper bags for the bulk section. I try to hunt down the plain paper bags or if I'm in a hurry and I have to use the plastic lined ones, I'll reuse them and keep them in my purse so that next time I'm at the grocery store and the number is already written on it. 


So the bulk section is not just about reducing packaging but its also getting only what you need so food doesn't go to waste. Don't forget they usually have  a lot of spices in bulk its a good idea to keep all the fancy glass spice jars and just refill them with the spice in the bulk section.

 

5. DIY Cleaning

Vinegar, essential oils and some soap goes a long way with cleaning. Buying a gallon jug of vinegar and add a few drops of essential oils can be used around the house to clean mostly anything. I like to get refillable glass spray bottles and pour it in. It is an easy and cost effective cleaner that smells amazing. There are some companies now that offer refillable cleaners if you're looking to splurge trySupernatural Cleaners.


For laundry detergent I recommendthese rad soap sheets. Lately I have been making my own detergent with some simple ingredients like bar soap, borax and washing soda.Here is the recipe.

 

6. Package Free Bath & Beauty


The bathroom is such a big offender when it comes to waste. My background is in graphic design and I used to work for a number of beauty brands back in the day. I started at Sephora and then I worked for a couple of green beauty brands. It just really bummed me out that there was just so much plastic waste in the beauty industry. And one place that there was the most waste for me was shampoo, conditioner and soap. I'm just like, I probably could fill up, I don't know, a dumpster truck of all the shampoo and conditioner bottles I have used in my life. Not to mention who knows if they were even recycled and just floating the ocean right now. 


So shampoo and conditioner was a big pain point for me because I was buying it monthly.  I tried for years to search for something that could  cut down on packaging. I tried lots of bar soap but all it would do was leave my hair greasy and filmy and made me really sad. So I just keep ending up going back to the conventional plastic shampoo. 


So then about a year ago, I found packagefreeshop.com and they do an amazingshampoo and conditioner that comes in a solid bar with no packaging. Yay finally! I'm hooked: there is no plastic, it cleans your amazingly, doesn't leave a filmy residue and smells great without heavy perfume. And honestly it's more cost saving, I would probably be spending a lot more money on conventional shampoo and conditioner. 


Bar soap for everything. Dr Bronner’s is great, any other handmade bar soap you can find is great too. Newsflash: you don't need “body wash” or the liquid hand soap in pumps. One Christmas I made everyone soap and I have a bunch leftover that I'm still using. It was really fun!  In the Bay Area, there's a store called Rainbow Grocery, and they do liquid soap in bulk. So try and find one in your area if you're a liquid soap person. 


You don't really have to sacrifice a lot of quality or cleanliness, you can still it still feels luxurious and really, really nice. 


The other thing I noticed is that there was massive amounts of plastic waste from toothpaste and toothbrushes. I feel like a lot of those plastic toothbrushes are just really gimmicky. My background is in marketing so I can see through all that BS. And you really don't need a fancy toothbrush to clean your mouth I promise.Something with a wooden handle, and biodegradable is perfect. You're not going to be using plastic and it gets the job done. For toothpaste I've been usingthe Davids brand that comes in a metal recyclable container. Most toothpaste packaging is plastic and will not be recycled. I've also seentoothpaste powder that looks interesting and comes in glass. 


There's been like a big trend right now with thesafety razor. And they looked really really scary at first but once I started using them, they were totally easy and they kind of look cool. I love that I have this vintage style metal razor now. And the refillable blades are easily recycled.

 

7. Reusable Water Bottle

Don't buy water in plastic. There's a number of reasons why you wouldn't want to do that, not only is it bad for the planet but it's also bad for your health. When I was growing up my step dad worked in a factory and he saw the water bottles being made and I'll never forget this, he said that they make the water bottles and as soon as they're done when they're piping hot off the assembly line they then fill the bottles with water. And guess what? All the plastic is leaching into the water you are drinking. Ever since then I was totally grossed out and couldn't get over the fact that I felt like I was drinking plastic. From then on, I only buy water in glass or just use a reusable water bottle made of glass or metal.


Right now we get our water delivered in glass and that's not the greenest because its shipped across country but its the best I can do before we can afford a reverse osmosis system. Clean water is important because drinking tap water which has been shown to have a lot of unsafe chemicals that cause major health issues. Tap water has also been linked to ADD in children.


My favorite reusable bottle is theBKR bottle. They come in the cutest colors that are runway inspired, so I feel very chic drinking my water. I love them so much I even have two of them. I want every single color, they're so adorable. 

 

8. Capsule Collection

So for your closet ways to reduce your carbon footprint can include phasing over to a capsule collection or pairing your closet down to the bare minimum.

I've fallen victim to buying a ton of clothes with Forever 21 coming out in my formative years. Fast fashion has a major impact on the environment but also our mental health. It's a huge burden to have too many clothes and be stuck in a constant buying cycle trying to stay “on trend.” I’ve wised up over the years and have refined my style and distilled it to super essential pieces. I finally realized that if I just spend a little bit more money on nicer things that will actually last for years and years I’ll save me more money in the long run.

Building a capsule wardrobe can feel fresh if you get creative with your styling and invest In the right pieces. 

A capsule wardrobe could look like:

  • white button down shirt
  • Jean pants 
  • wide leg pants
  • wrap dress
  • classic skirt
  • versatile jacket
  • Flat Sandal 
  • Clog Heel 
  • Leather Boot

Then mix and match and get creative, like wearing the top over the dress like a jacket or tied around your waist. Honestly just wear the same thing everyday that’s what I do! No one really remembers what you wear! ;)


Also try sending your clothes to get mended or your shoes off the the cobbler before you throw them away. Stretch your clothing as far as you can before you finally retire your pieces or even up cycle them into a pretty new rug!


I'm constantly researching brands that use natural fibers. I try and stay away from polyester as much as possible. It's hard to find natural fibers because 90% of the clothing out there right now is made with plastic or "poly" or "polyester", which is really really scary. 


Bamboo is pretty good and if you're going to go cotton or get organic cotton because conventional cotton does pollute a lot. Pact is a really great site, they do organic cotton leggings, underwear, shirts and socks. 


If you're going to do polyester, maybe you have some recycled poly swimsuits or leggings, then get a guppy friend washing bag to cut down on the micro-plastics going into the water. Every time we wash our clothes, little tiny pieces of plastic come off and get into our waterways and can be really hazardous down the line. 

 

9. Travel Light 

It's probably not realistic to go out and buy electric car right now, but you can try and cut down on your mileage probably. We live in a pretty walkable part of town, and I can walk to a few restaurants for dinner instead of driving 2 minutes away. 


Getting on a bike and biking around as much as you can you do errands is a great way to get exercise and cut down on carbon emissions too. I remember when I lived in San Francisco, we would just bike everywhere. I was also 20 pounds thinner back then! It's hard if you're in a really rural area, but if there's any way you can for some errands park on one end of town and then get on a bike to hop around to the other stores that could really add up over the years and make a difference.


One thing about air travel and cruise ships is that they are one of the worst polluters of the environment.


I think we can travel, but we have to do it responsibly. Maybe it looks like not traveling as much or taking longer trips, like taking a whole summer to wander around Europe instead of going back and forth to multiple destinations 4 times a year.


If we can’t cut down on our plane trips then consider doing a carbon offset program for airline travel that could really make a big difference. Here is a great article on carbon offsetting and how to go about it. 

 

10. Fairmined Gold


One way we can really make a difference with our shopping is investing in fairmined gold. I know I talk about this a lot, but here at Valley Rose, sustainability is really important to me. I built my brand around these principles. So I knew that the gold I used had to be mined in a way that respects people and the environment. That’s why I was so happy to find fairmined gold, as it met all my strict requirements. The gold we get is from Colombia and Peru. The miners operate out of small scale artisanal mines and they are paid a fair living wage. In fact the miners are paid market value for their gold. Women are also allowed to work in the mines and children are not allowed to work in the mining companies. Fairmined ensures really safe working conditions for all the miners as well. Fairmined also has a positive environmental legacy. So that means minimal deforestation, or not at all, And no drinking water pollution. 


There's a lot of people that use recycled gold and they call that eco friendly and sustainable. But unfortunately recycled gold could be originally mined in a way that harms the planet. Most of the gold that is on the market today has been mined very recently within the past few years. Rarely is it gold that's, from like the gold rush in the 1800s. Most gold out there is mined in modern times and then recycled. We got to stop the way gold is mined conventionally and the answer to that is fairmined gold. 


Those are my really simple tips of how you can easily cut down on your carbon footprint and live a little more sustainable lifestyle. They're really simple or easy to do and you will probably end up saving money in the end. Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your sustainable living tips! Let me know in the comments below. 


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