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Posts Tagged ‘quick tips’

reusable bags

A free reusable bag from a local store

Here’s a question: Is it morally or socially acceptable to use a product for just 20 minutes but have it linger for a thousand years in our environment? Most of us would agree: NO! However, this is the situation we face with our dependence upon single-use plastic bags.

Just how dependent are we? Across America, we toss out a hundred billion polyethylene bags EVERY YEAR. Only a very small percentage of plastic bags are recycled; the remaining bags enter our landfills or clog up our waterways and oceans, where they irreversibly alter ecosystems and marine life.

Why should you bring your own bag every time you shop? If the stats in the first paragraph were not scary enough, how about these? Renowned 5 Gyres Institute estimates that there are currently 268,000 tons of plastic floating in our oceans made up of plastic bags and single use water bottles. While many of us have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the gigantic plastic patch found between Hawaii and California), there are actually four other plastic gyres swirling in our oceans, and all are growing rapidly.

A host of states and many countries have made progressive change towards banning single-use bags. To find out more about plastic ban legislation in your state, go to Ban the Bag for current information. To get excited about the progress being made for plastic bag bans around the world, check out this cool interactive map.

Committing to reusing bags is not just a quick fix. Instead, it is indicative of a larger behavioral shift towards thinking beyond our immediate needs and being conscious of the long-term effects of our daily actions. So, how can you make this shift? Make it easy for yourself and keep a few reusable bags handy at all times: in your purse, your car (not your trunk), a backpack, or wherever fits your lifestyle. If you need to purchase reusable bags, check out your local thrift store to find reused ones, or check with your favorite local stores to see if they offer a free bag to customers. If you need to buy some bags as a gift or just need to feel fancy, Chico Bags, Eco Bags, and Project Green Bag offer great products. You can find more tips here about shopping without plastic bags.

Want to get even crazier? Take your BYOBag commitment one step further and find alternatives to other types of plastic bags too: reusable lunch bags, produce bags, and bulk bags are all available. Solutions like this are a clean, green way to reduce your plastic impact and shift your habits. Also, how cute are these lunch bags?

reusable bags for lunch

Ditch the plastic for lunch with reusable lunch bags.

reusable produce bags

Reusable produce bags are another great solution to the plastic conundrum.

If you’re like us,  you probably have a collection of plastic bags under the kitchen sink or in the pantry just waiting to be recycled, reused or… crafted? For some innovative DIY projects, check out Saved by Love Creations and Pinterest: Reuse Plastic Bags. Who knew you could do so much with plastic bags?

Snack Taxis image and mesh bag image from Flickr; reusable bag image from Kanu Hawaii

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Single-use plastic and paper pervade our life: a latte, a take-out lunch, a quick snack from the local co-op, a cocktail at a picnic. We’re all complicit in this because a few cups here and there don’t seem like a big deal, right? Wrong.

Data from the EPA show that Americans generate over 251 million tons of trash a year, with paper constituting 27% and plastics coming in at 12.7%. Most importantly, of that 12.7%, 7 million tons of plastic are from disposable cups and plates alone! The EPA successfully recovered/recycled 87 million tons of trash in 2012 (no small feat, to be sure), but because recycling is energy intensive and often pricy, it’s much more important to find ways to reduce waste at the source… which is us!

It can be a challenge to fight against our ingrained throwaway mentality, but there are lots of benefits to choosing reusable lunch boxes, mugs, and utensils as often as possible. Bringing your own containers might seem weird at first (and you might get a few looks from your coworkers). But it can be healthier, cheaper and help you drop your trashy habit of single-use food containers.

resusable mug

sip in sustainable style with a stainless steel mug for your coffee or tea.

The easiest place to start? Begin using a reusable mug for your morning beverage and a water bottle for your hydration. Whether you choose fair-trade coffee or organic tea, your personal mug will keep your beverage warmer/cooler, will show off your sparkling personality, and will easily transport on your bike or car. Find mugs and water bottles of glass or stainless steel from thrift stores or splurge on some eco-luxury brands like HydroFlask. Most cafes offer a small discount for your drink when you bring your own mug. Doesn’t seem like much, but if you drink coffee each day for a year, that’s $36 of savings.

When you’re ready to take the next step, choose a reusable container for your meals. The best option for carrying food to work and school are stainless steel or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Both glass and steel are safer than plastic, they transport safely, and don’t contain harmful chemicals like bisphenol A, styrene, vinyl chloride, and phthalates, which are all often found in plastics. If you don’t feel like splurging on new containers, simply reuse the jars and containers you already have at home until you find the ones that work best for your lunchtime solutions. You will also be feeling better too, as studies show that homemade food of any type is a healthier option than restaurant food!

resuable containers

bring lunch, snacks and more in these study and sustainable containers

This action has a small upfront cost, but offers important benefits for a healthier lifestyle and decreased waste. Carrying your own food and beverage containers around town might seem a bit wacky, but once it becomes a habit it’s hard to go back to formerly wasteful ways. You’ll also be flying your sustainability flag high, and inspiring others with your super conscious choices.

reusable mug image from Amazon; Pyrex containers image from Target

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Climate-Saving Resolutions Time to ring in the New Year with resolutions to be healthier and happier humans. We here at Oroeco can’t help you get to the gym or eat less chocolate (which we consume in copious quantities). But we DO have a few climate-saving resolutions that make it easy to save money AND save the planet this year, leading to health and happiness all around!

Did you know the average household can save over $1,000 each year while reducing climate impacts by 20%? Here are 10 easy-to-implement climate-saving resolutions that cost little to put into action but can make a big difference for the world, your wallet and your waistline. Ready to awaken your inner climate champion? Take any of the actions below and you’re on your way to a better year already!

  1. Kill the vampires: This tip is perhaps the easiest of them all and doesn’t require anything beyond a little brain power: simply unplug your electronics when not in use, or turn them fully off with a powerstrip. Most electronics suck “vampire power” — which means they use energy even when turned off! Unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is the best way to slay these vampires. Some, like the oven, might be impossible to unplug, but others, like TVs, DVRs, stereos and wireless routers should be accessible and easy to unplug or switch off with a powerstrip.
  2. BYO-Everything: Carrying a silverware set, a reusable/washable napkin, a cup and even a small container with you to parties, to the office and elsewhere might seem a little daunting at first, but it has plenty of rewards. Cutting out the need for plastic and paper supplies goes a long way to reducing your footprint and virtually eliminating your use of styrofoam and plastic to-go containers. Bring your own takeout container to restaurants to save even more.
  3. Reduce your food waste: Here’s another freebie tip: by simply reducing your food waste you can eliminate about 2,200 pounds of CO2 each year and make a ton of other impacts! All the energy used to grow, transport and chill that wasted food can be saved each time you make conscious purchasing decisions. Here’s how to reduce your food waste: plan your meals ahead to avoid overbuying, serve smaller portions (which is also good for your waistline), freeze foods if you can’t eat them soon enough, and turn less-than-perfect veggies into soups or pasta sauces.
  4. Choose transportation wisely: Bike, walk or take public transport whenever possible. Or, choose a rideshare program to get you where you need to go without having to own a car. You can save up to $10,000 each year if your forgo four wheels to support cleaner transportation!
  5. Try Meatless Monday (or every day): Reducing the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a huge difference in your daily carbon footprint, even more so than choosing all local and organic foods. Eating less meat saves money and improves your health at the same time!
  6. Make your home brighter with energy efficient bulbs: LEDs are super energy efficient light bulbs and are a great investment for your home. The initial cost will be quickly offset from immediate energy savings. How much can they save you? A typical 60 watt incandescent can be replaced with a 6 watt LED! That’s a huge decrease in energy usage, and with LEDs now costing less than $5 per bulb they pay for themselves in energy savings very quickly!
  7. Reduce your water use: Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators are easy to install and can reduce your water use immediately by half or more. This means less energy used to heat your shower and sink water, dropping your electricity bill and your water bill at the same time.
  8. Know your climate impacts: It’s said that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” but it’s easy to track the climate impacts of your spending and lifestyle choices with our fun (and FREE!) tool at Oroeco. You can improve your impacts with personalized tips, collaborate and compete with friends, win prizes, and engage your community to scale your personal actions into bigger change. Sign up here to start tracking your impacts and begin changing climate for the better this year.
  9. Clean up climate with carbon offsets: Supporting pollution reduction projects by purchasing carbon offsets is the only way to fully eliminate the climate impacts of your lifestyle. Unfortunately there’s not yet a global tax on carbon pollution, but you can start paying your carbon cost now to make a real difference for climate and communities. You can subscribe to monthly offsetting through Oroeco to make sure you’re treading on the climate as lightly as possible. Your offset purchases fund clean cookstove projects in Africa, supporting healthier forests and families through our partnership with Impact Carbon, and you can even gift offsets to your friends and family.
  10. Share your climate love! Each change we make as individuals has a positive impact, but we encourage you to amplify your impact by sharing these resolutions with friends and family. Perhaps the biggest change we need to make is to shift the culture around climate action, so that climate-friendly living is the new normal. The only way that’s going to happen is if we talk about climate with everyone we respect and care about. Let your friends and family know why you’re passionate about climate, and how you can support each other to change climate for the better this year. We’ve built Oroeco to make these conversations a bit easier, and we’re on Facebook and Twitter, so you can share the climate love with us there too!

Got some other climate resolutions for the New Year? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Hope your year is off to a grand beginning, and sign up here for even more tips to change climate for the better in 2015!

Join the community of Climate Heroes: click here to join our newsletter!

andrea head shot circleAbout the Author: Andrea Bertoli helps to spread awareness of personal climate impacts via social media, blogging, advertising and community outreach for Oroeco.

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