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7 tips to up your Earth-friendly game besides recycling

INSIDER logoINSIDER 4/1/2019 Ariana DiValentino
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  • Lauren Singer, founder and CEO of Package Free Shop, has been living zero-waste for seven years and told INSIDER her tips for living a sustainable lifestyle.
  • She recommends evaluating your routine to see where you can make the most impactful changes to reduce your waste.
  • Making your own products, investing in reusable items, and buying fewer things are waste-saving options that could also save you a lot of money.

Given that recycling is widespread practice - in fact, 34% of municipal solid waste was recycled as of 2015 - it might already be part of your daily routine. And if so, you might be looking for more ways to reduce the amount of waste you produce.

Lauren Singer, founder and CEO of the Package Free Shop in New York City, New York and originally known for her blog, Trash is For Tossers, knows a thing or two about being less wasteful. Singer has been living a zero-waste lifestyle since 2012, which means she composts and recycles but doesn't throw away anything to be sent to a landfill.

Singer told INSIDER that, although there's no single best thing to do, there are little steps everyone can take to make less of a negative impact on the planet.

"It's what works for you and your lifestyle," said Singer. "Look in your garbage and see what you throw away the most."

Here are seven tips to be more Earth-friendly.

Examine your habits to cut out single-use plastics

Taking a look at your current lifestyle will help you figure out the most impactful places you can make a change.

If you're someone who uses plastic bags, for example, then consider replacing them with a more sustainable option. According to Waste Management, only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling. To help combat this problem, consider bagging all your groceries together in reusable totes or investing in reusable cotton produce bags.

The same goes for single-use water bottles, which the average American purchases about 13 times per month. Consider switching to reusable water bottles and you could save as many as 156 plastic bottles annually. 

 

Make some swaps in your beauty routine

From deodorant to makeup, beauty tends to involve a lot of plastic - which is likely going to end up in a landfill or the ocean long after you're done with it.

Read more: 11 ways your beauty routine could be harming the planet

Swap out some of your regular products for ones that are sold in recyclable packaging, no packaging at all (like shampoo bars), or start making your own.

Read more: This is how LUSH makes its solid, packaging-free shampoo - which saved the use of 15 million plastic bottles in 2016

Hygiene and personal care can benefit from similar swaps

Many things you use likely have a more sustainable alternative, like bamboo toothbrushes and compostable dental floss, so seek them out for an easy swap that doesn't require any major change in habit.

One part of personal care that is especially wasteful is menstruation products.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a person who menstruates will buy more than 11,000 tampons, if used monthly, in their lifetime and chances are, many will end up in the ocean or on the beach. In fact, in 2015, the Ocean Conservancy collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators on beaches around the world in a single day.

Singer highly recommends people with a period use menstrual cups and washable menstrual pads.

"It's also just made it so much more convenient to be a bleeding person," she said. "I don't have to go to the store to buy tampons every day."

Consider composting

a close up of many different types of food © Collinanderson/Flickr/Attribution 2.0

Singer said that when she began to minimize her waste, she found that food waste was one of her biggest trash components so, she began composting.

Although it might sound intimidating, composting is rather easy to do. To get started, all you'll need is soil, twigs leaves, and other carbon-rich material, nitrogen-rich material such as food scraps, and water. Try to keep the pile in a place that will get sunlight.

Don't rely on others to make the most sustainable choice

For Singer, "it's about taking responsibility for the waste you have," which can mean taking it upon yourself to make sure that your compostables and recyclables don't end up in a landfill. You can't be certain that the average restaurant has an efficient recycling or composting program, so it's important to sometimes take matters into your own hands.

For example, Singer told INSIDER that if she ends up with a paper napkin or plastic straw when she eats out, she'll actually bring it home to dispose of it rather than leaving it on the table.

"There's nothing in life you can control but your own actions," she said. "I don't like to let things go to chance - I prefer to take control when it comes to my waste."

If you're ordering delivery, pick up the phone and make some special requests

a hand holding a cell phone: Although secrecy and evasiveness aren't usually stellar signs in a relationship, a bit of sneaking around might be an indicator that your partner is planning to propose. Wiping their search history and stepping out of the room to use their phone might look like shady behavior, but it might just be their way of keeping their proposal plans a secret. © Shutterstock Although secrecy and evasiveness aren't usually stellar signs in a relationship, a bit of sneaking around might be an indicator that your partner is planning to propose. Wiping their search history and stepping out of the room to use their phone might look like shady behavior, but it might just be their way of keeping their proposal plans a secret.

If plastic takeout containers are constantly piling up, you might be able to reduce your waste without kicking your delivery habit. Singer said she has had a lot of success in making her food orders by phone and requesting plastic-free packaging.

Inquire with your favorite spots as to whether it's possible for them to provide you with more eco-friendly packaging options, like paper or foil, when you call to make your order.

Singer also recommends choosing foods that are easier to transport without plastic, like burritos and bagels and when ordering iced coffee and other beverages, using reusable cups.

Buy less stuff

Looking for an easy way to waste less? Consider buying less.

Paring down your morning routine essentials is one of the ways that Singer emphasizes living low- or zero-waste can be money-saving in addition to being more sustainable. Singer, for example, said she buys and uses no more than two beauty products on a daily basis.

If your morning routine is already simple, consider cutting back on buying clothing. Not only is the production of clothing incredibly wasteful - it takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt - but so is the disposing of it. In a year, the average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste, which is especially alarming considering clothing can take up to 40 years to decompose.

Embracing minimalism might be a challenging change of habit, but it can make a big difference and even save you some money.

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