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Earth Day Checklist: Little Choices You Can Make Today

LIFESTYLE

With Earth Day approaching, it’s the best time to focus on creating a healthier environment and showing more respect to the earth. That’s wonderful, of course, but it’s also intimidating, so we’re focusing on small changes you can make today that build up to true lifestyle changes — and, ultimately, a big impact.

Eat & Drink Mindfully

It’s our job to protect the planet and leave it in good shape for future generations. One easy way to do this is to reduce food waste — especially since the USDA estimates that 30 – 40% of food supply in the U.S. goes to waste. “Before you go grocery shopping, check what leftover ingredients you have lying in the fridge or in your cupboards. Think of new, healthy recipes to take advantage of the food you already have, helping the planet and saving money in the process,” says Caleb Backe, a certified health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. Naturally, you still have to buy some groceries even if you cut down. Luckily, the “milk man” model is coming back into style with companies like Loop that refill empty food containers, reducing packaging waste.

But it’s not just about buying less. Before you throw away your food scraps, see if they can be regrown. Even if you don’t have a garden, herbs can be planted in jars or pots. Your next best option is composting. Find your nearest community collection point, freeze food scraps to minimize the smell, and put a weekly drop-off reminder in your phone.

Just like food itself, keep an eye on your food-related waste. Most of us are aware that buying bottled water is bad. But morning coffee cups add up, too. Purchase a reusable travel mug that collapses for easy storage. Another bonus? “Most cafes will give you a discount for using your own,” says eco-conscious blogger Meera Jain of the thegreenmum.net.

If you prefer coffee at home, skip wasteful plastic pods and buy a reusable pod coffee filter. Alternatively, use a French press, pour-over, or moka pot for an artisanal, low-energy way to feed your coffee habit. You can also make cold brew in a French press, which doesn’t require the energy of heating water.

When dining out, say “Thank you, no thank you” to the waiter next time you order a drink. “Straws are made of plastic and are not recyclable,” Jain reminds us. If you’re not quite ready to give up your straw habit, purchase edible straws that make a nice snack once you’re done with your meal. (Seriously — they’re edible!)

Refresh Your Beauty & Wellness Routines

“A simple change you can make to maintain a more sustainable beauty routine is to swap out your exfoliating scrubs that may contain microbeads that are really harmful for the environment and sea creatures,” says Amy Nicole, founder of Chic Studios School of Makeup. Instead, shop brands (like yours truly) that are microbead-free, or create an all-natural substitute using ingredients you may already own. “A simple combination of raw sugar and coconut oil makes a great lip and body scrub that you can use without worrying about putting harsh or harmful chemicals on your skin,” says Nicole.

Unfortunately, not all beauty products have an easy DIY alternative. For items like sunscreen, look for ingredients that are safe for the environment. Chemical sunscreens can threaten corals and other marine life, so opt for mineral sunscreens like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (the active ingredients found in our best-selling ORIGINAL Foundation).

Instead of tossing your empty beauty products, recycle them! bareMinerals has a program for Friends and Benefits members that allows you to bring your empty makeup containers to a store location in exchange for points toward your next purchase.

When it comes to personal care items, use recycled materials as often as possible. Opt for 100% recycled toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. You can also choose eco-friendly feminine products, like organic cotton tampons or reusable menstrual cups.

Shop Sustainably

When it comes to shopping for groceries (or anything, really!), always bring your own bags — you can even purchase reusable produce bags, and tuck them inside your shopping tote. To keep yourself from accidentally forgetting your bags, invest in the ones made from recycled materials that fold up and store easily in your purse.

As for food, furniture, appliances and more, “When you need something, make an effort to source it from a secondhand store,” says Jain. Resale sites are becoming more common for fashion, furniture and more. This will save you money in the long run too.

Greening your wardrobe can powerfully improve your life in several ways. “It minimizes waste and production of throw-away clothes. Also, buying clothes made from recycled materials, or with a commitment to sustainability, helps grow the industry and combat climate change,” says Annabel Hertz of Goodbuysugar.com. If you don’t luck out at a secondhand store, choose ethical brands that source recycled materials and promote clean practices. Unlike fast fashion realtors, brands like Alternative Apparel, Reformation and Outdoor Voices use sustainable materials and minimize their energy and water footprints.

Rethink Your Home Goods

Greening your home can have a big (and easy) impact. “See what you can do to save energy, from bulbs to heating settings and unplugging electronics when not in use, to replacing your standard cleaning products with green products, and recycling, composting and reducing junk mail — you will be making a difference!” says Hertz. If you can, air dry your clothes and use reusable cloths instead of paper towels.

Travel Smarter

Green your rides by replacing your drive with public transport, biking, walking or shared car service. If you work for a big company, suggest a Waze carpool, where you and coworkers can ride together (besides, driving can be a drag!).

Modern travel can be highly polluting. “Choose sustainable tourism options and carbon offsets (for flights) and carry a water bottle with a filter (so you don’t have to buy and waste plastic water bottles),” says Hertz. Plus, go by the same rules you have at home: do you really need fresh towels daily? Better yet, instead of staying in a hotel, try booking an Airbnb or tiny house, where you can control exactly how much energy and water you use throughout your stay. Not to mention the endless Instagram photo ops…

Spread the Word!

Every time you decline a straw or pull out your produce bags, explain your choice to any curious onlookers. “The more people are making these small, easy changes, the more of an impact we can have!” says Jain.