How to be a better environmental steward

This post goes out to anyone that is looking to reduce their impact on the environment. I also want to put it out there that no one is perfect.  I don’t claim to be perfect and I don’t expect anyone reading this to follow each and every step, these are just suggestions to inspire you and make you think of ways you can change your behaviors. With the global population increasing exponentially, it is more important than ever to reduce that footprint that we all put on this beautiful Earth.  Sidenote- this list isn’t ordered by importance.

9. Reusable waterbottles

We all know plastic is bad for the environment, but how bad is pretty shocking.

  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic water bottles every single hour. Yes- single use water bottles- which is such an easy habit to break!

My suggestion for you, hydroflasks (or similar metal-insulated brand) with a straw for the easiest drinking.  Hydroflasks are hugely popular in Hawaii, they keep water ice cold for 24 hours!  Even after I leave it in the hot sun at the beach, I always have refreshing water at my fingertips.  My personal favorite is the 40 oz bottle.  Yes they are a little pricey but I cannot tell you how much more I drink with this bottle, it is amazing (and environmentally friendly too!)

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Have I mentioned we love hydroflasks?

8.  Reusable bags

Well this one is a no-brainer.  Easy, inexpensive, and quick way to show your favorite Mama Earth that you love her.  Pick up some reusable bags (maybe you have some lying around in your house?) and keep them in your car!  This way you have them when you go shopping. Not going to lie, I am not perfect and there have been many many times where I have had to run out of the store to grab them from my car mid shopping-but hey at least I got them eventually! Hint: Savers and Goodwill (probably and second hand store) have some pretty cool bags for pretty cheap prices.  There’s even insulated bags so your groceries stay cold!

  • 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. Side by side, they can encircle the world 7 times.
  • An average family will use 60 plastic bags on four visits to the supermarket.
  • Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
  • Plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals when they are mistaken for food
  • Due to their lightweight and aerodynamic design, even if you try to recycle plastic bags often times they get caught in the wind, ultimately ending up in the ocean

7. Avoid harmful sunscreens!

In Hawai’i, if you are an avid water-lover like myself, it is important to be mindful of any chemicals that could be entering the ocean from your body. Sunscreens are damaging on corals. Let’s start with a pop quiz- are corals a plant, animal, or mineral?… Think about it for a second. You ready: they are an animal!  That is why it is so important that humans don’t touch, stand-on, or collect coral. Just look at it from afar and admire it’s beauty from a distance.  Anyways- this coral animal has a symbiotic (meaning both species benefit) relationship with a plant called zooxanthellae. Thus, the zooxanthellae need sunlight to produce energy, and some sunscreen damages this process leading to coral bleaching.  Sunscreen can even be washed down the shower, eventually ending up in waterways! This is why it is so important that beach-goers use “reef-safe sunscreen”.

  • Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, octocrylene, 4MBC, butylparaben and octinoxate.

Better yet- avoid sunscreen use by using rashguards, hats, and spandex leggings! Some brands that I suggest are waterlust leggings (made from recycled water bottles) which I can’t actually afford so go for all things shark designed from One Ocean Diving apparel. Or just go to your favorite thrift shop to find a beautiful pair of second hand rashguards or leggings.

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check out these stylish whale shark print leggings, and sun protecting rash guard (and BEAUTIFUL coral reef!)

6. Shop Second Hand

Thrifting may have some negative connotations, but let me tell you, it is so underrated.  Not only does it save lots of money, it also has many environmental benefits!

  • It takes 700 gallons of water to make a single cotton t-shirt
  • Jeans take the equivalent amount of water as hosing down a lawn for 9 hours straight
  • Shoes can take more than 1,000 years to decompose (or longer)
  • Microfibers from synthetic clothing material is a major pollutant in the ocean, poisoning the food chain.

Nearly everything I wear and own has been previously worn, and I am proud of it! Next time you are out shopping, really think to yourself if you *need* it, or if it just a spur of the moment decision.  Think of the money you can save (to spend elsewhere- like swimming with sharks or skydiving or FOOD!) Live in Hawaii? Check out Savers, I score on so many deals here! Maine/ New England has Goodwill stores that I bought nearly my entire wardrobe from.

5. Skip the straw, and bring reusable utensils

Single use straws are horrible for the environment.  I am sure you have all seen the video of the sea turtle with a straw stuck in it’s nasal passage.  It is so easy to bring a glass, bamboo, or steel straw, or just skip the straw all together.  Another easy thing to do is bringing bamboo utensils everywhere to go to avoid using single use plastic!  I got my bamboo utensils at my local Down to Earth store for only $1/utensil.  What a deal!

  • Over 500,000,000 straws are used each day in the US
  • The vast majority of plastic cutlery can’t be recycled
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    So easy to carry around these bamboo utensils, check out this beautiful fork!
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    My family’s reusable straw collection.  Some are made of plastic but we reuse them a million times, invest in a straw cleaner (or pipe cleaner) if you drink smoothies a lot

    4. Participate in your local beach or park clean up!

    Or even organize yourself with friends or family.  What better way to spend a day than cleaning up microplastics with your loved ones!  In Hawaii it is so easy to participate in clean-ups.  Sustainable Coastlines and One Ocean Diving does several fun ones, some even have prizes (not that you should need an incentive to clean up the aina). Check out 808  Clean ups for more opportunities to lend a hand as well!

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    Mother-daughter day cleaning up the Windward coast!

    3. Reduce plastic use

I just really need to drive this one home- plastic is really as bad as they say it is.  Not only are the chemicals extremely harmful, but its environmental impact is huge  Plastic never ever breaks down, just into smaller pieces (see microplastic post above).  I find it super easy to cut out plastic in my everyday life.  So besides already mentioned replacements (straws, bags, waterbottles) here is a list of other ways to reduce plastic

Refuse to use Styrofoam: 

Styrofoam has become such an accepted everyday product that people rarely stop to realize that it is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic. Styrofoam is bad for your health, the main ingredient has been shown so cause cancer.  If that isn’t enough to deter you from Styrofoam, then read on my friends. Food in Styrofoam containers can be contaminated by chemicals that leach into the food, affecting human health and the reproductive systems. This is accentuated if people reheat the food while still in the container. In addition, benzene is an ingredient in Styrofoam, which is considered a carcinogenic that is foremost an occupational hazard, even causing leukemia in severe cases.  Lastly, it never ever breaks down.  Once it makes it’s way into the environment it will be there forever.  It will get into the food chain, and if you eat animals, it will get into your body. Is any of this a shock for you?  Please read here .

Buy in bulk:

I don’t mean bulk as in buying in mass.  I mean go to the grocery store and buy your spices, grains, and ingredients in glass jars.  You can bring whatever jars you have at hand.  This could be saving old spaghetti sauce jars, chickpea, jelly, or any glass/plastic jar.  Go to the grocery store, and fill up your containers.  It may seem silly at first but once you get a sense of how easy it is and how great it is for the Earth, you will be hooked.  I also suggest when shopping for fruit/veg, avoid using the thin plastic bags that stores offer.  Instead, skip the bag altogether or use an alternative like Norwex’s produce bags (buy them from my cousin Leah lol), or these reusable bags.

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My mom is more organize that I will ever be, but you get the idea

Skip the plastic wrap:

The easiest way to avoid plastic wrap is using Tupperware and reusable containers. But if you need to cover a bowl or something no worries, there are alternatives!  This includes beeswax wrap (you can even make your own!) The downside to beeswax wrap is that it has a limited lifespan (when cleaning it don’t rub too aggressively).   Silicone stretch top lids are great and cheap too, and reusable!

Go topless:

Oh scandalous… just kidding just kidding.  By topless I mean the lid of your coffee/soft drinks.  You don’t need that negativity in your life.  Better yet, why don’t you bringing your own reusable coffee cup, it will make your coffee stay hotter longer anyway!

2.  Spread the message

It is amazing what the impact of one person can have.  Tell your friends and family why they should care about the environment and what they can do to help make a positive impact.  Find something you are passionate about.  It can be overwhelming to want to make a change and save the entire world.  Choose something and focus on it.  Learn about it, do you research, spread the word, and make a change.  It can be something as little as a cool frog in your backyard, or as big as whale sharks around the world.  just be bold and don’t let anyone get in the way from you expressing your opinions. Social media and blogging is such a simple way to spread your message to the masses.

  1.  Meatless Monday

I would tell everyone to go full vegan, but I know that is a lot to ask.  If you don’t know what veganism is I will make an entire blog post dedicated to this because it is something I believe in very strongly.  But making that switch from a meat-based diet is pretty hard.  So start off by going a single day of the week without meat.  Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.

How does meat impact the environment?

Meat has a massive environmental impact.  Larger than all of the carbon emitted by the transportation sector worldwide. The meat industry uses so much energy to produce grain for livestock that if instead we used the grain to feed people following a vegetarian diet, it would be enough to feed about 840 million people.  In addition, the water needs of livestock are much greater than those of vegetables and grains. Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef whereas about 39 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of vegetables.  I highly suggest watching Cowspiracy on Netflix to learn more about the environmental impacts that the meat and dairy industry has on the environment.

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How does meat impact your health?

Did you know that read meat and processed meat is considered a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer!  I highly suggest watching What the Health on Netflix to see the full extent of the damages that meat can cause on your health.

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I have so much to say about how much your diet impacts the environment, so I will save that for another post.  But please, do not hesitate if you have any questions at all about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  I am open to speaking with anyone and discussing any criticisms you might have.  If you have read this far, thank you for taking the time out of your day to hear what I have to say!

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