Going Green 101

The first steps to living a sustainable life

Have you seen those zero-waste videos where people empty a single Mason jar containing their trash from the past year? While zero waste is an admirable lifestyle to attain, it is also a lifestyle that intimidates and causes apprehension.

While we won’t all live zero-waste lifestyles, we can still be intentional about living a sustainable life. Because it can feel so daunting when you’re starting out, here are five practical ways to get you moving in the right direction.

Keep a “Sustainability Kit” in Your Car The easiest time to slip up on sustainability is while you’re out and about and have limited options away from home. To make sure I’m always prepared, I keep a kit of items I frequently use while out and about.

My sustainability kit includes:

  • Reusable bags for the grocery store (both large totes and produce bags)
  • My glass reusable coffee cup
  • Reusable silverware and metal straws
  • Glass storage containers for to-go boxes

Because everyone has their own specific needs, pay attention to the type of items you’re regularly throwing away while out of the house and add reusable options to your kit.

Reducing Food Waste The average American wastes a pound of food a day. Two simple ways to combat this huge problem in your own home are to have a weekly meal plan and to compost.

Meal Planning Not only can meal planning save you time and money, it also prevents the purchase of excess food. When creating your meal plan, be mindful of how many servings each meal will make and account for leftovers (which are what usually ends up in the trash).

Composting From worm bins to tumblers, you would be amazed by how much of the food (and nonfood items) you throw in the trash can be composted. This includes paper products, veggies, apple cores and more.

Set Wardrobe Rules Fast fashion is one of the top pollutants, and something we all have contributed toward at one point or another in our life. Here are some of the rules I’ve set in place for myself.

Prioritize buying secondhand Buying secondhand is the best option for your budget and the environment. I primarily purchase secondhand clothes from local thrift stores, apps like Poshmark and Depop, and Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups.

Support sustainable clothing companies While this option will be more expensive, you will receive top-quality products, and your money will support a sustainable economy for individuals around the world.

Track What You Toss Whether via a notebook or on an app, find a way to track everything you throw in the garbage for a whole week. Highlight things consistently being tossed and find a sustainable replacement for those items.

Some examples of changes you might make:

  • Paper towels – washcloths/fabric from old T-shirts
  • Paper plates – reusable plates
  • Plastic lunch bags and containers – reusable storage bags, bee’s wrap and glass storage containers

Recycle, Recycle and Recycle Some More

Research your city’s recycling program You can find Fort Worth’s recycling rules at fortworthtexas.gov/solidwaste/recycling.

If possible, choose metal and glass over plastic and paper Not all recyclable products are created equal. While glass and metal products can be recycled into the same product repeatedly, plastic and paper materials break down over time and are often downcycled. This means they can only produce products of lower quality when recycled over time.

Purchase products made with recycled materials Your dollars speak! Support businesses that choose product packaging that’s made out of recycled materials.

Take responsibility of recycling products you use If a restaurant or your friend’s house doesn’t have a recycling option, clean the product and take it with you to recycle.

Empty, clean and dry It is especially important in cities like Fort Worth with single-bin recycling to ensure that your recycling products are empty, clean and dry to prevent contamination that would keep products from being recycled.

When it comes to sustainability, my personal mantra is “progress over perfection.” There are many ways to improve, but as long as we are always looking for ways to grow, perfection doesn’t have to be our standard.

by Jessica Irvin