Julia M. Nagy, ENV SPManaging Consultant
Julia Nagy is a Senior Consultant in HMMH’s Aviation Services practice. She is a dynamic member of the HMMH team, with…
In the spirit of Earth Day 2018 and its theme to “End Plastic Pollution,” I reflected on the decades-old slogan associated with educating consumers to avoid excessive waste, the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Although the phrase has infiltrated our vernacular in the U.S., the everyday environmentalist may wonder how to best apply these principles in their day-to-day lives. Here’s a list of specific strategies and actions you can take to decrease your carbon footprint in 2018 and beyond.
For the common consumer, waste reduction tactics may seem overwhelming or out of reach because many require a conscious effort and sometimes even changes in our behavior. Drawing from my own experience as a city dweller in Washington, D.C., I laid out the simplest actions that you and your family can take to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
After all, it’s 2018; we’re living in the age of renewable jet fuel, luxury electric cars, and even a package-free shop in Brooklyn! When you embrace your inner environmentalist, some small changes can snowball into significant carbon reduction.
-Uber everywhere? Ride sharing applications are a quick and convenient option for getting from point A to point B, especially when public transit or walking are not feasible options. When doing this, make a conscious effort to choose the application’s carpooling option (e.g., UberPool, LyftLine).
-Active online shopper? When possible, opt to receive 1 package with multiple products in it, without rush delivery. Amazon offered this option to me on a recent Amazon Prime order for multiple household products. You can reach out to your favorite online retailers to advocate for reduced packaging!
-Always on the go? Pack a travel coffee mug or buy a reusable one at your favorite coffee shop and ask your barista to make your latte in that. If you plan to meet a friend or do some work at the shop, ask the barista if they have mugs for dining in and avoid the common throwaway cup!
-Frequent flier? Empty your reusable water bottle before going through security and fill it using the water bottle filling stations that are becoming more common at major airports. Save yourself money and reduce plastic waste.
-Make a conscious effort to use less paper towels and one-time use wipes in your household. Yes, they are cheap and convenient, but it is just as easy to reach for a washable cloth rag or kitchen towel to wipe down surfaces. Compost paper towels if they have no chemicals on them (i.e., cleaning sprays). Another quick tip: don’t throw your kitchen sponge out when it gets old- run it through the dishwasher once a week to remove germs and extend its life!
-Eating healthy in 2018? Don’t forget to pack your reusable grocery bags before going shopping! Better yet, keep some in your car or near your front door to grab before shopping at the mall, farmer’s market, or drug store. Sticking to a list when grocery shopping can prevent good produce becoming food waste in your fridge.
-Missed Sunday meal prep? When you eat at a fast casual restaurant, ask if they have a dine-in option to avoid takeout container waste. Make an effort to pick up from your favorite takeout restaurant to reduce delivery material waste and opt-out of plastic utensils.
-Avid reader? Share books with friends and family, better yet, make a free little library in your neighborhood to exchange books with neighbors!
-Always snacking? Make an effort to wash and reuse ziploc bags, plastic straws, and plastic utensils when possible! Reuse takeout containers as lunch containers until it’s time to recycle them.
-Spring cleaning? Donate clothes to a local charity or sell them at a consignment shop.
Recycling is the last R for a reason – it still creates waste, but there’s a right way to do it:
1. Educate yourself (and others!) about what can be recycled at your home, school, or office. Read up on your local city/county guidelines to determine current best practices.
3. When you’re out and about, make a conscious effort to seek out recycling (and compost) bins and separate out trash.
4. Ensure recyclable containers that previously held food are completely washed out.
5. E-cycle old electronics, don’t just throw them into the trash!
6. Check local city/county guidelines for your options to properly dispose of the following products: light bulbs, batteries, printer ink, paint, chemicals, and medicines.
7. Many grocery stores recycle plastic bags in bulk. Bring your bags of plastic grocery bags (we all have them) to your local store for recycling.
I hope this post has quelled your waste reduction anxieties by providing easy ideas for greening your routine one small change at a time.