Earth Day is celebrating it’s 45th anniversary this year, and it couldn’t be more exciting! As consumers have become more savvy, Earth Day really has become ‘Earth Month‘ with a focus on encouraging people to be kind to the environment and to live consciously all year long. Below are some tips to keep sustainability in mind and honor Earth Month all year long.
Focus on Ways to Reduce Waste
Reducing your waste by choosing products that have minimal, or no, packaging can be difficult – if not impossible at times. TerraCycle brigades are one great way to reduce waste from product packaging. Joining a brigade is simply, but the impact is large! For example, the Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade accepts a variety of personal care containers from all brands. Points are earned for each piece of qualifying waste sent in, and points can then be traded in to support charities, schools, and more. Volunteer participants in the Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade have kept more than 295,000 pieces of waste out of landfills since 2012. Additionally, Tom’s gives 10% of profits back to helping people and the planet.
Ditch the Plastics
Another way to reduce waste, and reduce exposure to toxins, is to choose glass or stainless steel — especially in the kitchen. Quality containers may cost a bit more than toss-away (and fall apart) plastics, but they can last a lifetime and look a whole lot nicer. It’s easy to phase out plastics when you know what you need, and where to look.
We are a family of five, and our needs may be different with yours, but these are a few of my absolute must haves!
- Wean Green: These colorful glass containers are probably the most used items in my kitchen. I store everything them, eat out of them, put sauces in the little ones, I even put DIY body care products in them. I have tried many glass containers, but I always come back to these because they offer so many shapes and sizes, making their versatility practically endless. They are also virtually indestructible — I have dropped my fair share and seen them bounced off of concrete floors unharmed!
- Planetbox: Another investment, but it’s worlds better than even the sturdy plastic containers we once used. I save a lot of money by packing lunches in these durable, reusable lunch containers, and my kids get healthy meals. We’ve had several parents ask about them and buy them for their kids too!
- Pyrex: It’s hard to imagine that leftovers are even a thing with my three hungry kids, but they are and they often require large containers. I love the size, and affordability, of these flat-bottomed Pyrex bowls.
- Bamboo Cooking Utensils: I have stainless ones too, but I reach for my simple bamboo ones far more often. They are affordable and easy to replace (though I’ve had the same set for about six years!) They won’t damage your cookware and they look nice too.
- Stainless Cookware: Non-stick is out. It’s toxic and frankly, it really doesn’t work anyway. You can cook better in stainless steel (be sure to look for ones without interior coatings!), and even make mess-free eggs without any hassle! Cast iron is another great option, but we currently have a glass cooktop and I’m holding out for nice cast iron until I can get our range switched over to gas.
- Glass & Stainless Drinkware: We use glasses (not all have survived, I’ll be honest), ceramic mugs, and (mostly) stainless steel cups and bottles for the kids. We especially love those from Zoli (our youngest is obsessed with their Dash drink bottle), Eco Vessel, and Klean Kanteen for the whole family. If you want glass, we love Life Factory (we prefer the flip drink tops).
- Plastic-Free Dishes: I can’t lie, there are some absolutely adorable plastic dish sets, but cute is where the fun ends. They don’t hold up and they leach toxins. If you’re child-free (or yours are simply amazing and never drop things) you might opt for beautiful dishes. Me? I have two sets of cheap Corelle until that day comes. It’s affordable, functional, practically unbreakable, and they offer some pretty cute designs too.
Learn What Labels Are Really Saying
Pay attention to terms like “all natural” and what they really mean (or don’t mean), and take it one step at a time. There are many great resources to help you reduce exposure to toxins in cleaning products, as well as what to look out for in personal care products. Transparency is huge when looking for safe products in this day and age and companies that care know that. They may even go above and beyond by letting you know why they use each ingredient, and maybe more!
The EWG’s Skindeep Database is a great, comprehensive resource, however I like to note that I find some of their methodology to be flawed – so it’s important to do research beyond the database to find what works for you. For example: “natural fragrance” is lumped into “fragrance” – both of which can mean a variety of things!
I happen to use several products with a label that says “natural fragrance” (which I would never trust alone) to simplify packaging or to protect proprietary blends. However, companies that care will often list full ingredients their website, and even with proprietary blends some companies, like Tom’s, will allow you to call and ask what products you need to avoid to avoid exposure to an ingredient that you allergic to (or simply want to avoid.)
Along these lines, I know many people that would trust a label that says “essential oils or extracts” but by EWG’s own statement, they are lumping natural extracts (including a large list of essential oils) into the “natural” extract group, or “fragrance”. Ideally, companies could list every single ingredient, and “natural” would mean the same thing to all brands, but that’s simply not the case. I imagine that it is because of this complexity that EWG does not take this extra information (when available) into account when rating products. It’s always important to do a little extra homework if you are unsure about a product.
Planting a Veggie Garden (even if just in containers!)
Gardening is so much more rewarding than the fruit, or veggies, at the end. It’s pretty amazing to put your hands into the soil (gloved or not) and grow something from seed. It’s grounding and peaceful in a way that few things can ever be. If you have a yard, you may be able to till up a plot of land, plant seeds, and go wild! If you life in a smaller space, or perhaps have no yard at all, you can garden beautifully in containers. Both methods can be surprisingly easy and lead to delicious, organic produce at the end of a dirty, dirty rainbow. Check out these great resources to get you started:
- The 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow from Seeds
- All of these great articles on gardening in containers! _1_, _2_, _3_, _4_, _5_
- How to capture rain water for your garden
- How to Grow Potatoes
- Composting Basics + Printable List
- This great Organic Gardening Pinterest board
This Earth Day article is a sponsored by Tom’s of Maine. As you have read, this post is full of my own opinions, experiences, and advice based on those things. I take great care, and spend a great deal of time researching, when choosing to work with companies and I am excited to be a part of the Tom’s of Maine Goodness Circle for 2015.