So often when we talk about wellness, we talk about taking care of our bodies whether it be through food, physical activity or other ways we nurture ourselves. But seldom do we acknowledge the relationship between the health of our bodies and the health of the environment those bodies are living within!
As I've traveled along on my own personal wellness journey, one area I have been paying more attention to lately is the environment and health of our Mother Earth. And trust me, I'm not perfect - I still produce far more waste than I'd like to and don't always make the most environmentally friendly choices. However, every small choice we make can make a difference and I'm proud to be at least trying to be more conscious.
So here are some simple things I've incorporated into my life to try and be more mindful about my impact on the earth. I hope you give some of them a try!
1. Make What You Can, When You Can
Buying raw ingredients in bulk (see #3) and using them to make your own versions of store bought staples is a great way to not only control the quality of what you are eating but also the amount of waste produced.
Maybe start with making your own nut milks (try this homemade coconut milk or cashew creamer) and then experiment making your own snacks with these Chocolate Caramel Coconut Bites.
2. Bring Your Own To-Go Cup
One of the easiest ways to reduce your everyday waste is to ditch the plastic and styrofoam coffee cups. Many coffee shops are very open to filling up a cup you bring in yourself and there are some great options out there. We use the EcoJarz brand of lids that fit right on top of the million mason jars we already have! Specifically we have this one and this one in case you want to get one for yourself - don't forget the metal straw with your order!
3. Buy in Bulk
Bulk bins not only help the environment but also help you save money! Make sure you bring along some reusable bags or jars so you don't need to rely on the plastic bags they provide.
If you are in the NYC area, here are some great bulk bin stores:
- Whole Foods Locations
- Fairway Locations
- Integral Yoga Natural Foods
- Fourth Street Co-Op
- Westerly Natural Market
4. Buy Local & Organic
While it's not always feasible, buying organic and local helps reduce both the amount of toxins used to produce your food but also the carbon footprint from getting it to where you live. Farmer's markets, CSA and food co-ops are great options and you can find one in your area by checking out Local Harvest.
5. Rethink Fashion
Fast fashion and the current state of our clothing manufacturing processes is doing no favors for the environment or our health. Many products are made using toxic chemicals by workers in terrible conditions and are only made to last for a short amount of time before the next "trend" comes along.
But the good news is there are so many great ways to stop the fast fashion cycle! There is an influx of bloggers and brands focused on sustainable clothing choices like Olivia from Simply Liv & Co who focuses on living a simple, ethical life and highlighting brands that share that mission.
6. Eliminate Everyday Added Waste
When I was looking for ways to reduce waste, one thing I did was to go through my daily routine and see where there were unnecessary products I was using. And then it hit me - my daily coffee habit! While my preferred brewing method of the Chemex is more low-waste than others (please say no to the K cups!), it still used a paper filter daily. For a bit I switched to using a dish towel (it actually works great) but then wound up buying these reusable coffee filters which work great.
7. Use All-Natural Cleaners & Home Products
I've spoken about this before but I really believe that all-natural cleaning and home products are better for our own health but also the health of our planet. Just think - everything that goes down the drain eventually gets into our waterways in some way or another. Shouldn't we at least try to make sure that stuff isn't toxic?
A few years back I purchased this book to find some natural home cleaning recipes and have been very pleased with the results. I also often use Wellness Mama & the Mountain Rose Herbs blog as a source for inspiration. Homemade products are not feasible for everyone though, so I encourage you to find all-natural cleaning brands that fit your needs. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) site is a great resource for learning more.
*Note: While I used my homemade laundry soap (pictured) for a bit, I found it wasn't the most effective and some online research showed me that many people experienced the same issues so I chose to switch back to this all-natural detergent (which can be refilled if available in a store near you).
8. Rethink Feminine Hygiene Products
Alright, I know this is a less than desirable topic for most but do you even realize how much waste is produced every month by feminine products? Not even to mention the amount of money we shell out monthly on tampons and pads.
A few months ago I decided to transition to a menstrual cup and I couldn't be happier with my decision (I use the Diva Cup). While it did take some time getting used to, I find it to be incredibly comfortable, easy to use and that it actually has helped regulate my monthly flow a bit (less cramps, less spotting, etc.). Not to mention I don't need to spend $15 a month on products that literally go straight into the trash.
9. Carry a Water Bottle
So, you would think this is common knowledge by now but I am always still so amazed by how many people still don't own a reusable water bottle! My favorite is my LifeFactory bottle which I've had for over 2 years and I haven't broken yet! I prefer glass water bottles as water temperature is not as important to me (I'm fine drinking room temperature water) and most metal water bottles tend to leave a funny taste to me (although I don't notice as much with the Swell bottles).
Why not extend the life of your food scraps by learning to compost (that is, if you don't use them up for soup stock and the like). Even if you live in a large city, many local organizations provide composting services where you can drop off your scraps to be composted. For those in NYC, check out Grow NYC's composting program.