Hassle-Free Sustainability

 

“Send the asteroid, Lord.”

Austin Kleon has been saying that prayer since 2016. Between persistent racism, pointless wars and the climate crisis rapidly approaching its tipping point, I can relate to his sentiment of "Can we get this over with already??"

Even so, life moves forward. As the visionary director of our generation said in one of his masterpieces, "The world is cursed. But still, you find reasons to keep living." Beauty and meaning always break through.

So even though 70% of global emissions is caused by only 100 companies – a fact that makes me feel exceedingly powerless – it gives me a certain peace of mind when I can do my small part to care for the environment.

I've been doing my best (which is far from perfect, but that's okay) to make some minor practical changes to my daily life this year. Here are a few I wanted to pass along:


Brought my reusable boba straw with me to Boba Guys in SF! (Cups were compostable.)

Brought my reusable boba straw with me to Boba Guys in SF! (Cups were compostable.)

Straws

Reducing waste goes far beyond the oft-demonized plastic straw, but that traumatizing viral video of one lodged up a turtle's nose has certainly burned itself into our memory. So you better believe I carry a reusable straw with me now. I bought a metal set online that comes with a variety of sizes, but I also have my eye on Bopomofo's forthcoming set that includes a boba straw designed with a pointed tip for puncturing those stubborn plastic seals. For a version that fits on your keychain, try Final Straw.

Coffee shops that serve drinks in giant mugs are cozier AND better for the environment! Bonus points if they have dinosaurs.

Coffee shops that serve drinks in giant mugs are cozier AND better for the environment! Bonus points if they have dinosaurs.

Tumblers

To further reduce my single-use plastic consumption, I purchased a sturdy Igloo tumbler online for $18 and have committed to using it whenever possible. Coffee shops in Austin haven’t batted an eye and many of them offer discounts if you bring your own cup as well! If I accidentally leave it behind, I ask for a glass or mug instead.

Utensils

I can’t remember when I got it, but I've owned a compact camping utensil set for years. Lately, I've taken to carrying it with me because it comes in handy at food trucks and other settings where plastic utensils are the only available option.

Beeswax Wrap

I’ve replaced plastic wrap in my kitchen with reusable beeswax wrap. It works great and cleans up quickly in cold water. Plus it looks super cute and retro!

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Imperfect Produce

This company sends a box to my door every other week full of fruits and veggies that otherwise wouldn't make it into grocery stores due to minor defects. Here's $10 to try your first box!

Grocery Shopping

I always keep a couple reusable grocery bags in my car. It's one of the easiest ways to reduce waste. If the produce bags aren't recyclable, I often go without unless I'm worried about damaging my veggies in transit. I’ll be washing them at home, anyway. I even slapped an HEB bar code sticker on some cucumbers the other day and the cashier didn't even notice.

Hosting

I see the need for paper plates and plastic cups for easy cleanup at large gatherings, but for smaller groups it’s not that much harder to use proper place settings. We’re in the States, after all, where dishwashing machines do all the work. I personally love bringing out my nicest dishes because it instantly makes the event look fancier and people feel more at home. Why not be a little extra?

I had a few friends over for teatime the other day! We baked chewy coconut-lime sugar cookies and a magnificent mango passionfruit tart.

I had a few friends over for teatime the other day! We baked chewy coconut-lime sugar cookies and a magnificent mango passionfruit tart.

Phone Cases

I’ve seen a few different brands around, but I think Pela compostable cell phone cases are the most recognizable. I finally decided to try one out and was pleasantly surprised with the quality. It’s sturdy, soft to the touch and comes in trendy millennial pink!

My favorite sneaks snagged from Buffalo Exchange. Ugly, fun or ugly fun?

My favorite sneaks snagged from Buffalo Exchange. Ugly, fun or ugly fun?

Thrifting

We live in such a consumeristic culture. I don't know how to fix that in society or in myself, but at least with thrifting I'm reclaiming items already in existence instead of supporting fast fashion. In Austin, Buffalo Exchange is a goldmine (I feel like I always leave with a new pair of kicks), as is Uptown Cheapskate and good ‘ole Goodwill.

Sustainable Brands

When I do buy something new, I've been trying to be more conscious about the brands I support. Good On You and My Green Closet have both been useful resources for finding sustainable and ethical clothing. Of the many brands I've investigated, I've purchased the most from Pact. They have the *softest* cotton dresses in simple, flattering styles (and the comfiest undies tbh), plus they're one of the most affordable options. Sometimes I'll check the ASOS Eco Brands page for some variety from an edgier brand. For sneakers, Veja is pricey but has the yummiest retro designs and Adidas has a pretty good reputation for a large brand.

Shop Local

As much as I love the convenience of Amazon Prime, I’m trying to reduce how often I use it in order to waste less packaging materials. I also make a point to pre-order books from my local indie bookstore, Book People, because Amazon is where authors receive the smallest profit for their work. Buying local not only reduces your shipping footprint, it supports artists and small businesses who are competing against huge corporations like Amazon. One example is Christine Terrell of Adaptive Reuse, who crafts colorful jewelry out of old decorative tins. Who wouldn’t want something unique (and sustainable) like that?

Want to feel less guilty for not eating your vegetables? Try Composting™ today!

Want to feel less guilty for not eating your vegetables? Try Composting™ today!

Composting

I’m still doing my research on how to take action, but composting is one of the best ways to keep unnecessary waste out of landfills in order to reduce methane emissions. Some cities, like Austin, offer free trainings and cash rebates to help you set up your home composting system. Watch this quick video to run through your options.

Eat Less Meat

People are literally burning down the Amazon to clear land for cattle farming, which is a shocking reminder that reducing meat consumption (especially beef) is one of the most effective ways to help the environment. Like Ellen’s beautifully simple message, you don’t have to go vegan or do anything drastic. Just eat less. #BeNeatEatLessMeat

Public Transportation

With Austin's terrible infrastructure, it's often impractical and even impossible to take the bus. But when I lived more central I loved riding a few stops on the bus or even walking to work on my own two feet. If it's possible for you, please give it a try. If you're a newbie, Transit app makes it easy. Keep in mind that for people with fewer resources, opting out is a luxury. Taking the bus, like using the library, teaches us about the community we live in beyond our usual circles. And I don’t know about you, but I could always use the exercise.


I hope you find these tips as useful as they have been for me! I’ll probably update this post as I incorporate new changes. I’d love to hear your tips as well!