17 ways I try to be a better human of the Earth, from home

Apr 23, 2020Lifestyle, Sustainable Living

Happy Earth week, humans of the world!

This year marks the 50th year since the very first Earth Day was celebrated by 20 million Americans in 1970, after an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara stirred a California senator to make a change. The history of Earth Day is actually quite fascinating, I’ve learned. You can read up on the history here

Since I’m spending a lot of time at home these days, I wanted to share how I’ve adapted different sustainability actions over the past few years to achieve an earth friendly home. It’s not perfect by any means, but my home is always going to be a work in progress, and I’m always so excited when I can make small changes at home for the greater good!


17 WAYS I DO MY PART TO SAVE THE EARTH

MY TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING IN AMERICAN SAMOA


Started a backyard compost

I had no idea what composting was until I went to university and was so confused with the color coded trash bins at UA Student Union. The green bins, I learned, were for food waste to be sent to compost centers where they would biodegrade into nutrient rich soil that could be used as natural fertilizers. Then I moved back home to American Samoa and learned about home composting, and how easy it was to start one in my backyard. I’ve got to give all the credit to my fiancé though for our compost. He was the one to set it up initially, and maintains it weekly… all I do is throw my food scraps into the compost. Oh, and he also shovels fresh dirt for me whenever I ask for new soil for the garden. Thanks babe!


Always bring reusable tote bags and produce bags when I grocery shopping

This one took some getting used to at first because I’d forget to leave bags in my car, or I’d have them in my car, but forget to bring it into the store with me, and would only realize it at checkout when I’d be too embarrassed to get my bags and hold up the line. Now, it’s second nature for me. I keep a few bags in my car at all times, in case I get groceries spontaneously, and when I plan for bigger grocery runs, I have a large tote bag hanging right by the front door filled with all my reusable tote bags and produce bags. 


Also, always bring my reusable tupperware when I’m getting takeout

This also took some getting used to. It was a little weird at first walking into a restaurant with my own tupperware. I was always nervous that people would judge me if I asked for takeout in my own to-go container. But just thinking about getting my food in styrofoam and getting grossed out over the thought of nasty chemicals leaching into my salt and pepper popcorn chicken… it’s enough to make me bold and ask (politely)) to have my takeaway placed in my tupperware. I also now bring a tote bag to hide my tupperware, unless I need it, and it prevents me from having to use a single use plastic bag to carry my food out.

Swapped nasty sponges with these natural handmade tauaga

My best friend Gabby actually introduced me to this as a sponge alternative, and I love them! Tauaga is made of natural plant fibers from the local laufao plant. They’re used as a natural strainer to hand squeeze coconut cream, as a body scrub, or as a sponge. I much prefer them because they last longer than the store-bought sponges, and they’re a lot cleaner than waterlogged sponges.

Opt for glass jars over plastic jars, so we can repurpose them as drinking glasses or storage jars

Who else’s S/O constantly breaks all the drinking glasses in the house?! Mine does for sure. Or at least he did. As you can see, we now have a shelf full of mainly glass jars as drinking glasses because of it. We opt for glass not only because it’s a more renewable material than plastic; we also prefer to repurpose rather than recycle glass because it saves on costs and resources to transport and process recycling. If your S/O doesn’t have a reputation for accidentally breaking your glassware, you can also repurpose jars for storage, like we do with ours!

Ditched plastic trash bags, and made a washable drawstring cloth bag

I sewed up a quick cloth drawstring bag from black fabric and an old rope, and have been plastic free (with my waste bin liners) for over a year now! Someone asked me what I do when my trash gets stinky? Well, all of our food scraps gets composted, and we rinse and sort our recycling in a separate bin outside, so we don’t have any liquid-y foods going into our trash can, therefore we don’t have a smelly trash! 

Learned about my local recycling programs

Another sustainable action made possible through my S/O. He happens to be the “Green Team Captain” at the National Park of American Samoa, and he’s helped me learn what recycling options we have on island, and how to be responsible with my consumption. Shockingly, he’s never watched Captain Planet, but I still sing the theme song to him because he is my Captain Planet!


Replaced paper towels with reusable/washable cloth napkins

I used to love paper towels. I thought, hey they’re made out of paper, and paper’s easily biodegradable, so that must mean they’re great, right? Wrong. Paper towels are, itself, not bad. But the sheer amount of trees cut down to produce paper towels yearly for the average American family? It’s too much. So I took a pair of scissors to my scrap fabric pile and cut out squares to be used as cloth napkins, and I’ve been using them for over a year now! I still do have some rolls of paper towels (made from bamboo) here at home just in case, but I’ve definitely cut down on throw-aways by reusing my cloth napkins.


Trying to reduce my carbon footprint

This is something I’ve more recently become aware of. Now with these shelter-in-place policies, I’ve noticed we don’t use our car nearly as much, and when we do, we’re more efficient about our driving around, reducing our footprint as a side benefit to staying safe. Things are pretty crazy with the pandemic, but I did just hear on the news that the demand for oil is so low that they have to decrease production. And skies are clearer than they’ve been in decades because there’s less gas pollution in the air. Like, that is so cool, how do we do this all year ‘round?!


Use solid soap and shampoo bars

Bars of soap just make more sense. They’re not wrapped in plastic, simple to use, and easy to pack for travels. Now shampoo bars? Hmm… when I first began making sustainable lifestyle changes, shampoo bars were the one thing I was skeptic about. I had never heard of solid shampoo bars before, but kept seeing them in all my sustainable living pinterest boards as a must. So I gave it a go. I tried the Lush Avocado Co-Wash bar because it was a conditioner and shampoo mix in a single bar, and to be honest, I didn’t love it. It got mushy in the shower, and I felt like I had to goop up a lot to get all over my hair. But then I tried a different shampoo bar from Lush (that wasn’t a co-wash) and learned how to use it by putting it all up in my hair to get a good rich lather, and I loved it! Now I’ll use pretty much any shampoo/conditioner bar I can get my hands on.


Took the leap and got a menstrual cup

Ok, this and the shampoo bars I was most skeptical about… In 2014, I swapped to oob tampons, which had minimal plastic packaging and were more comfortable to use than plastic tampon applicators. And I applauded myself for vastly reducing my plastic waste. But of course I had heard of these mysterious menstrual cups, and I was curious. I learned that these were reusable, and cleaner than pads and tampons. Then my eco-friendly curiosity led me to purchase a Saalt cup. I was definitely apprehensive of inserting a silicone cup up my vajayjay, and it took me a while to get used to the feeling of it. I watched a lot of YouTube videos, reviews, and tutorials, and took away some lessons learned. Now, more than a year later, I’m happy to report that I’m still using my Saalt cup, and I’ve probably saved so much money on period products! I’m contemplating trying period panties too, so that may be my next online purchase.


Chose to go paperless with all my bills

Yes, even in American Samoa, we can pay our bills online! And you can set up automated payments too with your bank if it’s a fixed amount monthly. It’s one of those life admin things that you probably always have on your to-do list but just haven’t gotten around to actually do yet, but once you do it, you’ll wonder what took you so long. 


Buy local

This one is a bit of a mixed bag because on the one hand, local fruits and veg is amazing, but on the other hand, buying (non-food related) “off island stuff” from a local store can get really expensive. Since we have access to USPS, online shopping is a cheaper convenient option for buying those want versus need items. I know that I can spend a little extra to offset my carbon footprint, but that doesn’t feel like the right solution to me. I’ve been more selective these days with online shopping but I’m still learning to find the right balance.

Eat less (or no) meat

Oh, here’s yet another sustainable living action I give props to my S/O for pushing us to do. What a great influence, he is. In December 2018, he made it his 2019 new year resolution to cut out red meat from his diet, mostly due to the environmental hurt it the beef industry causes, but also for health reasons. Out of solidarity, I did the same. We’ve since explored a gastric adventure of healthier meals, given our island’s limited options. 

Shop consciously

I made it my 2019 new year resolution to shop more consciously. In college, I used to shop like it was my hobby. I loved the thrill of finding a good deal. But then I learned about fast fashion, and how it the second biggest contributor to pollution… and do you know what the number one biggest contributor to pollution is? OIL!! Wow. That blew my mind. I wish I could say I quit fast fashion cold turkey, but truth is, I’m still working on it. I carefully consider my “buyerarchy of needs“, and choose low impact, ethical options as much as possible (like this amazing natural refillable bamboo makeup palette by Elate Cosmetics). Now, I mostly shop secondhand, or participate in clothing swaps with friends, but when I do buy from fast fashion brands, I make sure it’s a timeless fit that I really love and that I will wear on repeat for years to come, to slow down the cycle.


Invested in a water filter

I seriously, truly, ardently… do not understand why people rely on single use plastic water bottles still, to this day, even after experiencing a food and (bottled) water shortage on island just a few months ago. I have a Gravity Works water filter at home that I use daily and have only had to change the filter once in the two years we’ve had it. We’ve saved so much money and so much plastic waste by investing in a water filter, and I encourage everyone to get some sort of water filter. If you’re fortunate enough to have clean drinkable tap water, I am so jealous of you.


I just don’t suck

And neither should you… on plastic straws! It’s easy, because I love turtles too much. But also, why does anyone need straws at all anyway? The answer is, you don’t. They’re so unnecessary, and yet plastic straws are among the top 10 contributors to plastic marine debris across the globe. Please stop sucking.


Well there you have it!

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m an imperfect human making mistakes along the way, but trying my best anyway. The important thing is to keep it light, and make it fun. I like to think of new sustainable hacks as imaginary brownie points I award myself with whenever I’m able to adapt it into my routines and lifestyle. Or like I’ve unlocked a new level in a video game! It’s fun, and feels gratifying to be a small part of positive change. 


Every day is Earth Day! What are some of your sustainable living tips that I should try out? Please share with me because I’d love to know!


xo, human of Earth


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