by Summer Collins

Woman with reusable shopping bag

In a world where instant gratification reigns supreme and mindful living gets put on the backburner, taking the time to go over your environmental impact can be crucial to our planet’s sustainability. A staggering report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shed a heavy light on the track our planet is on. The report estimates that by as early as 2040, crisis around the globe could occur regarding food shortages, wildfires, and sea life. This kind of global crisis can seem daunting to most, and you may be wondering what you can do to help. Here are six simple ways you can help change the path of our planet for the better:

1. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is good for you—as well as the environment. The most important thing about bulk is buying the staple items you know you’ll use and won’t just take up unneeded space in your pantry only to be eventually tossed out. You’ll save money and reduce food packaging and your food’s chemical exposure.

Pro tip:  Purchase cotton and hemp bags to replace the plastic bags offered by stores. They’re lightweight so you don’t have to worry about the cashier having to weigh empty containers, such as Mason jars, beforehand and deducting the weight of the container to determine the actual price of the item.

2. Composting

The idea of composting may be a little daunting, especially if you live in the city; however, there are many different websites you can utilize, like this one from the EPA that will walk you through the essentials. Compost is essentially organic goods that you save that can then be added to soil to help plants grow. Some items that are compostable include fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, and paper. If you live in the city and don’t have anywhere to use your compost, you can always drop off your compost at a local farm. The benefits of this practice are endless—including enriching soil, reducing the need for chemical-filled fertilizers, and reducing methane emissions.

Pro tip:  You may also find a service in your area that will provide you with a container to store your compost makings, pick it up from you, and deliver the resulting compost to a local community garden. Our founder recently signed up for one and finds it to be a very convenient and inexpensive way to dispose of fruit and vegetable scraps and more.

3. Bring your own

This one is pretty simple—get in the habit of bringing your own everyday items you need for shopping, eating out, stopping at a coffee shop, etc. A few items you can bring yourself include: reusable bags, containers for food, silverware, glass or metal straws, and water bottles/coffee cups. These items are often times extremely inexpensive and easy to substitute for the disposable variety—all while reducing the carbon footprint.

Pro tip:  When your server asks if they can bring you a box, offer your own container instead. You’ll avoid adding more Styrofoam to the landfill and any chemicals leaching into your food when you heat up your leftovers.

4. Learn more about local waste guidelines

Learning about what your city offers as part of their waste management is an essential step in developing your own waste reduction plan. For example, Kansas City, Mo., residents pay for weekly trash collection and weekly curbside recycling as part of their water bill and have access to scheduled leaf and brush pickup as well as yard waste and recycling drop-off centers. A simple Internet search can provide you with acceptable materials for recycling.

Pro tip:  Instead of dropping those jelly or pickle jars at a glass-recycling dumpster, why not save them to store the items you buy in bulk. Most plastic storage containers are made from petroleum products.

5. Support sustainable companies

This step speaks to the saying “put your money where your mouth is.” If you are looking for new clothing, hygiene, or household items, buying from companies who understand the importance of clean, sustainable products is always a good idea. Some clothing brands to check out include Girlfriend, Alternative Apparel, and thredUP. Switching to sustainable brands will reduce the amount of clothing discarded to landfills and stays away from the detrimental effects of agro-chemicals that occur in various fibers. Everlane, for example, has a ReNew clothing line that is made up of completely recycled bottles—in one sweatshirt 15 plastic bottles were renewed.

Pro tip:  Buying second-hand is a fantastic way to practice reuse and support some great causes while you’re at it. Check the growing list of resale shops signed up with Re.Use.Full.

6. DONATE

Now, for our favorite pro tip of all. Have you spent the pandemic cleaning up around your house? Implemented the KonMari method and aren’t sure what to do with your unwanted items? The wrong answer to these questions is to throw them away. You want to enact a mindful practice of letting go of these items, and there’s no better way to do so than to give them away to schools, organizations or churches that have a need for them. Not only will they not end up in landfills, but the items will also make someone’s life better. Utilizing our website to mindfully get rid of your items is the next step to reducing your carbon footprint while living sustainably and in-tune with our planet.

Summer Collins is a technical writer and graduate student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.