It’s Earth Day, and our news stories and social media are filled with images and videos of the planet earth. And the news is mostly bad. The Arctic is melting, nasty storms are devastating entire regions and countries, there are miles and miles of giant garbage patches floating in The Pacific and now in The Caribbean, and even the microplastics coming from our cozy, fleece clothing are getting into our food supply chain, our ground water, and our bloodstream.
If your feeds are like mine, you’re seeing lots of videos like this (or go to
Instead of feeling overwhelmed, averting your eyes, or sinking into a pile of hopeless inaction, there are some simple, seemingly small things you can do that may actually add up to major change if enough of us do them.
1. Switch (back) to bar soap. No more liquid hand soap, not even your favorite Mrs. Meyer’s, and definitely no more body wash. All of those plastic bottles? The planet doesn’t need any more of them. Even if you can buy them in a cheap two-pack at Costco or in recyclable packaging. Go back to bar soap. Or, depending on your age, introduce yourself to the wonders of bar soap. If you’re a parent, teach your kids about the magical simplicity of a bar of soap. Many of them may have never even seen one, having gone right from the tear-free baby washes to a more grown up version of the same: big plastic bottles filled with phthalates. There’s also a growing movement to bar shampoo and conditioner worth exploring. Be aware though: Not all bars are created equal. Make sure you choose one that is phthalate-free and isn’t surrounded by extensive plastic packaging.
2. Stop buying plastic water bottles, juice boxes, and other single-use beverage containers whenever you can, and start relying on reusables. Reducing your use is way better than recycling, more so now than ever as China has stopped taking our recycling. There are many options. So, sure, it will require some initial investment, but it will save you money in the long run. And best of all? You’ll be doing better by our planet. One of my new favorites we’re using for our kid’s lunch boxes: Drink in the Box.
3. Stop using so many plastic bags and Ziplocs. Stop putting your grocery store fruit and vegetables into a plastic bag; just put them directly into your cart/basket. You’re going to wash them when you get home anyway. (And if you aren’t, you should start.) If you must bag them, find some good reusables. Same with grocery store bags. Same with all those Ziploc bags. Why not invest in some of the many reusable snack and sandwich bags for lunches? Everyday, there are more affordable and convenient alternatives. I think these choices are especially important if you are packing lunches for kids. Teach the next generation a better way.
4. Check out alternatives to tubes of toothpaste. Try Bite toothpaste bits. Seriously innovative and super cool, these chewable, toothpaste tablets are a great alternative to the insanity of all those tubes of toothpaste (to the tune of one billion a year) filling our landfills and oceans. Give yourself a day or two to get used to them, and then you will likely agree, they are great. Or explore the growing collection of other options, toothpaste in reusable jars for example.
Even some of the major manufacturers are trying to create alternatives in response to growing customer demand. Right now, some have created at the very least recyclable tubes, which shouldn't be the end goal (since we know that recycling is a bit of myth sold to us by the plastic manufacturers) but may be a step in the right direction. At least it shows there’s concern in the Board Room about brands looking entirely unsustainable. There are also some simple DIY recipes too. Baking soda alone has a lot of fans.
5. Stop using plastic straws (and utensils). Use no straw or seek an alternative. The choices are many – from paper to hay to rice/tapioca to pasta to what we are now using in our restaurants, Air Carbon straws (from Restore Regenerative Foodware). These amazing straws seem like plastic but are actually made from a natural material found in every ecosystem on the planet that breaks down in our oceans in 180 days. (We are currently looking into Air Carbon utensils for our to go food.) There are also long-lasting straws made from metal, bamboo, and even some very fancy, high-end collapsible straws to carry on your key chain or in your pocket book. So, when you are dining or ordering out, ask your server or to go platform to, “hold the straw” and the usual plastic utensils. You can also take the pledge to #StopSucking at OurLastStraw, a non-profit I started to eliminate the use of plastic straws.
6. Learn more about plastic pollution and phthalates. Read Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie. Or check out my blog on phthalates. Or explore any of the newer research on all of the chemicals in everyday items, like beauty supplies and toiletries, cleaning products, and even our clothes, that are slowly being absorbed into our bloodstreams every day. I bet you’ll throw away those air freshener pods, Axe body sprays, Teflon-coated pans, and so much more.
It is quite possible that these six simple steps could actually change the world. As smart choices, stepping stones, and awareness practices on the path to more change. Not only do they create change in your life, they impact the supply chain. If you, and more people like you, seek alternatives to what has become the norm – giant plastic bottles of body wash and bulk boxes of Ziplocs, all of our typical, trash-producing, earth-polluting daily existence – the more demand we will create together for other, better options. And trust me, large corporations are always paying attention. When they start to see the demand driving revenues and taking market share, they will make the necessary investments to meet this demand, shifting the global supply chain towards reusables and more planet-conscious products.
There are so many entrepreneurs and environmentalists creating awesome solutions. Let’s support their innovation. The large multi-national corporations are influenced by our choices and those best & brightest change-makers. And for the record, I have zero invested in the products I am suggesting (except my non-profit, Our Last Straw). They are merely examples of innovations and alternatives. I am all for supporting people and companies who are making change.
Small changes do add up. If you’ve already done some or all of the ideas on this list, keep adding more to the list, and by all means share it with me, and maybe I’ll write more about it. I always want to know more, better solutions.
Everyday needs to be Earth Day.
Do something instead of nothing.
Even something small.