In the beginning God placed the care of His creation in our hands to steward well. “Save the planet” rhetoric always felt abrasive to me so it became easy to tune it out. Over the years my love has grown for this place we call Earth as well the greater conviction to be an excellent steward of my space. The task was huge so I needed to start small.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information and obscenely long lists of what not to do, buy, support, invest, eat, or participate in. Over the years I have slowly begun to shift little by little and become more conscious of how I impact the environment around me. There is still a long way to go but I wanted to give you an inside look of the small shifts I have been making.
You will be surprised just how little waste you actually produce when you begin separating your trash. Luckily my in-laws have been doing this for much of their lives so I was able to pick up the habit quickly. You will be surprised at the number of cardboard boxes, plastic wraps, bottles, cans, and jars produced from your weekly shopping trip. Once you begin keeping these items out of the trash, the waste you produce will decrease dramatically.
Much of our trash we either burn or find a recycling location for. There are some cities that are better at providing these opportunities and incentives than others. Here in Michigan, there is a deposit that you will receive back when you recycle any bottles or cans that have been purchased. Whatever your situation, begin to pay attention to where you are throwing your trash. If you are in an area that provides different types of bins for items you purchased, take an extra 30 seconds to place them into their respective recycling receptacles.
With COVID, this has put a damper on which stores will allow you to bring your own bags into the store. Fortunately many stores have begun eliminating plastic bags as an option altogether. If you end up in a location where personal bags are not allowed inside, opt for brown paper bags instead. It is a small shift but I have actually found I can fit more in a paper bag than a plastic one anyways.
This may not always be budget friendly for everyone. But farmer’s markets are all the rage these days and for good reason. You can find the freshest local produce and support a local farmer! Not only that but I have found some amazing items at the FM that you don’t always get in the box stores. Shopping here also lends to buying just what you need since most items aren’t made to have an unnaturally long shelf life. I tend to spend less at a FM because I am not inundated with a million and a half options.
If you want to take it one step further, consider investing in a CSA. A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is exactly what it sounds like. The basic concept is that you invest or “subscribe” to a small local farm and get weekly shares of the harvest that week. I am working on making this leap myself, but I guarantee you have friends who are diving into this sort of community driven agriculture. It is an amazing way to support local and often support your friends and/or family.
This may be easier for some people than others. I have always been a bargain shopper and my heart holds a special place for thrift shops *Macklamore’s Thrift Shop begins to play*. It was always about saving money for me, but it became so much more.
As I felt my heart begin to burn for ending human trafficking, I learned just how much the clothing industry (and many other industries) aid in keeping human trafficking the most lucrative illegal businesses on the planet. That just would not do. While I certainly am not perfect, I have almost completely eliminated purchasing brand new items from companies that are not ethically sourced. If you are a sucker for those name brands, check out some of those thrifting online stores like Poshmark or ThreadUp. If you’re like me and just care about how it looks, Plato’s closet is my jam.
On a similar note to the previous, begin doing a quick Google search for companies you purchase items from. If they do not post information about how, where, and why their products are made, most likely they are not 100% operating with people or the planet in mind. This is not always the case, but a company that is trying to reduces its waste, pay fair wages to workers, keep their environment safe, and has ethically sourced materials will most likely wave that banner loud and proud. It honestly does not take that much time to checkout if that Instagram Ad you just clicked on is doing business the right way. Just hop on over to their About page. If its vague, see if there is another company producing the same items in a better and more sustainable way.
The beauty industry is a classic place for harmful products both to the consumer and the planet. This was a hard place for me to change. I have been using the same products for a long period of time and I did not want to have to pay more to get an environmentally conscious product. I know that sounds selfish, but many of us find ourselves in the same boat. We may not be at the place where we can pay $500 for a 1oz bottle from Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop shop. #amirightoramiright.
My first major change was ditching tampons for a menstral cup. Let me tell you, it took me YEARS to give this one up. Because….eww. Not to mention every design on the market gave me nightmares of walking out of the bathroom like a scene straight out of Carrie. But when Flex Cup released this design, I was sold. I gave it a try and let me tell you. It is utterly life changing. The first few cycles were a little bit of a learning curve. But to my surprise it worked 100x better than I expected, costed way less over time, and kept all that pesky plastic out of my body AND the landfills. My next investment will be period panties from SheThinx and I am really excited about it. Those two items alone will reduce a significant amount of plastic in my life and put a lot more money back into my monthly budget.
The other area was my hair, face, and makeup. I am used to having to pay a little extra having mixed hair and complexion, but I started looking for companies that used natural ingredients. The fastest way to find a good beauty company is to search for vegan beauty brands. Often times, if they are vegan, they are also environmentally conscious. Not 100% of the time, but it’s a fairly safe bet to start there. Here are my go to’s now:
Instagram is a great place to start searching away for amazing and clean beauty. Don’t forget to recycle when you finish up a product! I love repurposing the nicer bottles for various projects.
Okay, okay. I can hear your eye roll from here. Look, I never thought in a million years that I would be a zero sugar whole food plant based vegan at 30 years old. It was never a part of my plan. But here I am. And let me tell you, I love this lifestyle! Not only have I had a significant change in how I feel, I have also learned so much more about the food industry in America. I did not become a vegan because of animals (but I do love them so don’t shoot me yet). However, I have found that the way our food industry works is deplorable and that does include the treatment of animals.
If you are unable to drop animal products fully, consider greatly reducing your intake. Or, shoot back up to point 3 and find a local supplier of meat, dairy, and eggs. My husband is not plant-based like I am, but he has reduced his meat intake significantly (without me forcing him!! LOL). This point is probably the hardest to shift because it comes with an investment as well. But if you are purchasing better animal products while also reducing, you’ll find you’ll spend a lot less money than you think.
When in doubt, try to buy local.
There was a particular stereotype that existed around being environmentally conscious in my mind. While there is some truth in many stereotypes, you should not let that stop you from finding your own way to be a good steward of this planet. Some of you may take a stronger approach than others, but any step towards being kind to God’s Creation is a positive one. Make sure you take small steps. It can be easy to want to become zero-waste overnight. Realistically speaking, it takes time to learn all the information that is out there and is constantly changing. Any small step is a good one!
I hope this list is just a small diving board for you to find the ways that you are passionate about being a good steward of your own space. My drive comes from wanting to preserve the beauty of creation as well as being aware of how my dollars may affect human trafficking. Maybe your passion will come from a love of animals, cleaner and healthier products, or wanting to teach your kids how to grow their own food. There is no one way to take this journey and that is the beauty of it! Start with one item on this list or a few! I am still learning and growing but I rejoice in the small steps that God has prompted me to take over the years.
In conclusion, here are a few of my go-to searches and hashtags that have helped me find some of the companies listed above! Happy learning!