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I have to admit, I was a little giddy when I realized Earth Day was on a Monday! I've wanted to do a minimalist post on reducing (vs. recycling) for ages. I've also been dying to do a post on living more eco-friendly (i.e., plastic-free) since that's a (green) road my minimalism has taken me down, too... and, well, the stars aligned! (Or at least my calendars did!)
A little back story: The core of minimalism is to live with less. By nature, being a minimalist also makes you more conscious of the things you do buy. I don't mindlessly shop anymore. When I buy, I buy with intention and purpose.
Even before we were minimalists, Scott & I self saw ourselves as environmentalists. In fact, "the environment" is (and was) a big motivator for why we adopted a plant-based diet!
Being eco-minded and a minimalist — those two lifestyles just seem to fit together. We buy less; therefore, there is less waste, less use of resources, and so forth. We also buy purposefully and when we can, opt for the organic, sustainable, fair trade option.
But still something didn't feel quite right when I was taking bags and bags of recycled goods to the recycling center every few weeks.
We had very little household trash. I could probably go a month without filling a trash bag of "trash," but the amount of recyclables was alarming. "This isn't very minimalist," I thought.
Now don't get me wrong, I am a proponent of recycling and I still recycle. I just came to realize there was still more I could do — that not having a plastic bottle to recycle was better than recycling it.
I realized I could be and needed to be more minimalist with my waste. I decided to go on a plastic-free diet (or at least, try to live with less plastic). At the root of it, I wanted to take less to the recycling center each month.
At first it started with reusing my old glass jars (i.e., the jar that my salsa came in) for new purposes -- such storing marinara sauce I just made in it, or soups for lunch, etc. Basically instead of plastic bags or Tupperware, I started re-using my jars. I also found other interesting uses for them.
I also fell deeper in love with baking soda. Instead of cleaning supplies, I used baking soda and vinegar to clean my home. I even started using baking soda for my teeth, skin, hair, deodorant and body scrub.
Minimizing cleaning and "personal hygiene" supplies has saved me hundreds of dollars. We were spending so much money on eco-friendly cleaners, wipes, fancy salon shampoos and organic body washes. Baking soda is cheap, comes in a cardboard box and works better than anything else I've ever tried!
I also have more space under the sink and "switching to baking soda for everything" was an easy, minimalist way to cut down on plastic and recycling. Win-win-win!
From there, I stopped buying plastic (to the extent possible) when buying groceries. For example, instead of buying the salad blend we love (but regrettably comes in a plastic tub), we started buying whole heads of lettuce instead.
Similarly, instead of buying mustard that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle, we started buying the mustard that comes in a glass jar with a metal lid.
All of these little "tweaks" have made a huge impact. I have drastically less recycling to take to the recycling center and I find it's made me even more minimalist.
When I decided to tackle this topic on Minimalist Monday I reached out to Beth Terry who runs the blog My Plastic-Free Life. Beth's story is incredible and one that hits to the heart of minimalism, even if she had no intent on being a minimalist. Her book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, has a wealth of information on how you can (and why you should) live with less plastic. It's a great read and I highly recommend it!
I also had the chance to chat with Beth and ask her some easy things you can do right now to reduce and live a little more plastic-free. (Remember: progress, not perfection!)
Beth's Easy Ways to Cut Back on Plastic:
*Carry a bamboo spork.
*Carry a glass straw.
*When ordering takeout, tell the restaurant that you don't need extra stuff (i.e., condiments, napkins, etc.).
*Carry a container (i.e., one of your old salsa jars) for leftovers.
*Buy in bulk.
*When you order pizza, tell them you don't need the plastic table in the middle.
*Shop with small companies; often they will accommodate — ask them not to send plastic packaging.
*Shop on Etsy.
Beth & I also got to talking about personal care and hygiene — and how maybe not everyone is as eager to use baking soda as we are. Thankfully, there are still non-plastic options for you! You can try "bars" of shampoo, for example. In addition to looking on Etsy and at the farmers' market, Beth also recommends LUSH, Chagrin Valley and Rex Apothecary.
Giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of Beth's book, share a way you plan to reduce your use of plastic and other recyclables. (Limited to U.S. residents — Sorry!)