20 WAYS TO LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY

Apr 28, 2018Lifestyle

Happy Earth Week!!

*Cue the birds chirping, the wind rustling through the leaves, and the sound of waves crashing*
I totally meant to post this on Earth Day (April 22nd) but I’m posting this just a little late, though still in time for Earth Week. Go outside and enjoy the sunbeams on your face, dig your toes into the earth, and think of as many things you’re thankful for that the Earth provides.
But also remember that every day is Earth Day! Which is why I wanted to share some things I’m doing as I progress toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are my 20 ways to be kinder to our environment.

1. SAY NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS

Instead, invest in a bamboo, metal or glass straw. It’s way more hip, and way better for the environment. Did you know that millions of plastic straws are used up every single day? And did you also know that they cannot be reused AT ALL! I saw that famous video of a turtle with a straw stuck in it’s nose and I cried. Now whenever I go to a store or restaurant, I have to remind myself to say “No straw, please” and use my own bamboo straw.

2. REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS

This one is a bit obvious, but say no to plastic bags. Opt for brown bags, or starch bags. I was so elated when American Samoa banned plastic bags (A.S.C.A 25.2034) for commercial use, and all shops are now required to use only bio degradable bags which decompose in about 180 days! Still I try to avoid single use bags altogether and bring my own tote bag. Which, by the way, are so functional! And so cute. Why would you want to walk out of the grocery store with an ugly plastic bag? You can make your own tote bag out of fabric scraps, or an old t-shirt!  Add your personality to it if you want, and bring it with you everywhere.

3. THRIFT/CLOTHING SWAPS

I have always been a thrift lover. Most of my favorite clothing I got from thrift stores. It always feels like a treasure hunt, finding something that fits me and knowing that I’m not taking part in fast fashion. Did you know that fast fashion as an industry is one of the major sources of pollution on the planet? I saw this quote somewhere said “If you want to see the upcoming color of the season, just check the color of the Yangtze river”. It’s horrible but so illustrative of how bad the fast fashion industry has become. Clothing swaps are so much fun too. My first clothing swap was here in American Samoa. Because it’s such a small island with limited shopping options, my group of girl friends hosted a clothing swap, and it’s genius! We all brought our gently used clothes and a bottle of wine to share and it turns into a costume party and catwalk all in one. We grab our favorites, and donate the rest to our local charity, Hope House.

4. TUPPERWARE

I’m still an amateur at cooking so not gonna lie, I eat out every so often. And because I don’t always finish my food, I end up getting takeaway. BUT ever since I learned that I could bring my own tupperware, I am so much more conscious of the waste that goes into food takeaways! We’ve invested in some glass tupperware that we take with us to restaurants (or leave them in the car just in case we need them), and pack our food if we have leftovers. This saves us from using styrofoam plates, and saves the restaurant money so they can focus on high quality food instead of spending money on takeaway boxes. Koko Bean and Double Z’s get thumbs up for never judging me when I do this lol!

5. OPT FOR GLASS

When you’re buying drinks from the store, instead of getting plastic bottles, look for glass or aluminum options. These are more readily recyclable than plastic.

6. BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH

Did you know that over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are used a year in America ALONE?? And these are almost never recycled. They take well over 500 years to decompose. I never thought about something as innocent seeming as a toothbrush could make such a huge impact on the environment. I made the switch to bamboo, and I’m never looking back! I bought this pack of 8 Juvale bamboo toothbrushes on Amazon.com for only about $16.

7. BYO- coffee cup/water bottle

Never before has coffee culture been so popular. It’s cool, it’s hipster. So why settle for the standard disposable coffee cup? Bring your own super cool mug or tumbler and show off your personality at coffee shops! Also, try your best to avoid foam cups and the plastic tops. Ask to use their mugs instead. Same goes with water. Stay cool (literally and in the style sense, duh) and stay hydrated. Fill up at any community water dispenser.

8. Zero Waste Kit

Now this is basically just carrying all your sustainable to-go items such as reusable spoon/fork and straw around with you (in your cute tote bag!) so you won’t ever need to use plastic or styrofoam. It’s made such a difference for me to have this on hand when I go out, and it’s made me realize how often I encounter single use disposable items that I can now avoid. See my zero waste kit here.

9. Water filter

If you’re like me and you live in a place where drinking water sources may be contaminated, you should invest in a water filter instead of constantly buying bottled water. I use the Gravity Works Platypus water filter. It is amazing. It uses microfiber filaments to filter out most bacterium. We’ve had ours for 2 years, just filling it with sink water (which we can’t safely drink on its own) and then filtering to fresh drinking water. We also have a LifeStraw which we’ll take when we travel.

10. Recycle glass, aluminum, plastics, and e-waste

In American Samoa, you can take your recycled beverage containers like coke cans, Vailima bottles, Dasani water bottles, etc. at GHC Reid or PPTC, and ASPA also collects glass recycleables and crushes them for their cement mixes. There are more opportunities for recycling on island than you might realize!

11. Reef friendly sunscreen

Did you know that most sunscreens contain chemicals that harmfully affect fish and coral reefs? While it’s important to protect our skin, it’s also super important to consider the ingredients in your sunscreen. With summertime around the corner, many people will head to the beach lathered in sunscreen but please remember that most sunscreens are not reef-safe. Some reef-friendly sunscreen brands include Badger, All Good, and Raw Elements.

12. Rechargeable batteries

Don’t toss out old batteries! Make sure to take them to an e-waste center (in my case, ASPA). As an alternative, rechargeable batteries are not only sooo convenient, they’re also cost effective! You’re not constantly having to purchase new batteries, you leave less impact on e-waste materials, and you can reuse them multiple times. I use the Energizer rechargeable AA and AAA batteries and Universal charger for my external camera flash which uses up batteries quickly, and it’s saved me so much money.

13. Refillable pens and pencils

We use pens and pencils every day, and billions are produced every year. Have you noticed that almost all pens you see now are plastic? These go directly into land fills, they do not biodegrade, and they can turn into microplastics that poison soil. Instead, try to opt for pens and pencils made of sustainable sources, or you can also purchase pens with refillable ink so you’re reducing waste.

14. Carpool / Public Transport / Ride Bike

There are so many pros to this. Social interaction in carpool rides, people watching in the aiga bus and public transportation. Riding your bike doubles as exercising. And of course, you’re reducing your carbon footprint!

15. Menstrual cup

The average woman uses about 240 tampons a year. Can you imagine how many applicators/pads/plastic lining waste this creates with millions of women around the world? This is something that I’m still researching and have on my wish list because I live so remotely and I don’t want to purchase something that doesn’t fit me properly. I have heard lots of great things about menstrual cups though – they save you money so you won’t need to purchase anything else, and prevents a lot of waste on other feminine period products.

16. Eat less (or no) meat

Did you know that it takes up to 2,500 gallons of water just to make 1 lb of meat? Plus think of all the greenhouse gas emissions! I am slowly adapting this to my life because not gonna lie, I love bacon. I have over the years though, been better about my meat consumption. And really even one meal a day without meat makes a huge difference.

17. Grow your own food

This one takes a bit of commitments and time, but if you love basil and peppers as much as I do, you should really grow your own! Herbs and leafy greens make your meals colorful and provide rich nutrients for your body. I make sure to stay away from harmful pesticides because I don’t want to be consuming food with poisonous pesticides. To start, you can find seeds at a local store, and if you live in American Samoa, you can stop by the Land Grant and pick up plant starters to get your mini garden going!

18. Shop local

Support your economy (and the environment) by shopping at local stores that sell local produce and handicrafts. When you shop local, you’re supporting people and jobs in your community, and at the same time cutting down on pollution from transporting things like your organic bananas from somewhere in Mexico all the way to you.

19. Care for your animals

I never used to consider myself much of an animal person, and believe it or not, I used to hate cats. I thought they were jerks. Now I have a cat and a dog that I absolutely adore! But Nerelle, how is this related to sustainable living? Well, because by caring for our animal friends, you’re showing compassion for all living creatures. Besides- they’re super cute and are the best companions!

20. Go digital.

Opt to go paper-less as much as possible, especially with bills! In American Samoa, did you know that you can opt for emails instead of paper bills on your Bluesky cable and internet bill, as well as your ASPA water and electricity bill? Pay your Bluesky bill online here, and your ASPA bill online here. And my favorite part – paychecks! Ask your employer to set up automatic direct deposits instead of receiving paper pay stubs. So you’ll automatically get your money in the bank!

BONUS TIP!

REFUSE. REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE.

And there you have it! Those are my tips for a more sustainable lifestyle.
I know that I’m not perfect and I mess up ALL THE TIME but I’m trying –
and boy does it feel good to try! I hope that this was useful to you too!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments  below.

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