Small changes in lifestyle can result in a large impact for our environment. For example, becoming conscious of the things we throwaway that will end up in a landfill. Landfills are oxygen-free environments, meaning they don't allow for the natural decomposition of organic matter, although waste does decompose at a slower rate, while also releasing high levels of methane. In some landfills, this methane is trapped and used as energy, but in others, the methane is released into the atmosphere, resulting in a highly potent greenhouse gas effect. So what does all this mean for the everyday citizen? It means that awareness around the things we throw away is important and necessary to move toward a more sustainable way of being for humans.
Sustainability sometimes seems overwhelming or out of reach for many people, however, there are small changes we can make in our everyday lives that will yield large results. A few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint are switching to cloth napkins instead of paper, ditching the plastic body-wash bottles and loofahs for bars of soap and washcloths, and utilizing "refill stations" in your neighborhood, if available.
In our home, paper towels were becoming a source of contention because my family would use large amounts of paper towels for seemingly nothing. I would find nearly unused paper towels in the trash bin and my heart would sink. Even though I was already buying recycled paper towels, I really did not like seeing all of that precious paper go to waste. Not to mention that recycling takes energy--it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card by any means and, as we know, paper comes from trees, recycled or not. What was my tree-hugger heart to do? The idea hit me like a granola flavored meteorite--cloth napkins! Sure, I had always used cloth napkins for dinner parties or fancy events, but for everyday living? I knew I had to find some inexpensive cloth napkins to make this idea work and find, I did. I visited Home Goods and stocked up on a plethora of cute cloth napkins, which were also OEKO-TEX compliant (bonus!), and cheap! I’m talking 4 napkins for $5 cheap. Can I get an amen?
When I first sprang the idea of cloth napkins in lieu of paper upon my lovely family, they balked. I heard whining and complaining of one sort or another because, let’s face it, change is hard, even when it’s something as simple as switching from paper to cloth napkins! Still, I was determined to make this switch to a more earth-friendly way of cleaning our hands and faces and did not let the grumbling of my family deter me. After only a couple days of our transition to cloth napkins, my family acclimated to this new way of being and actually confessed that they preferred the new cloth napkins over the old paper ones! Woo-hoo, that’s what I call a win-win!
I feel really good about the fact that we’re solely using cloth napkins now. It’s really nice not to see paper towel build up in the trash cans and I believe that everyone in my household, including myself, has become more thoughtful about how and why we reach for napkins. We have become more prudent in our use of something so mundane and there feels to be a quiet profundity in this small action. Using the cloth napkins has me thinking about other ways in which I can turn away from “disposable” or single-use items and instead find or create more reusable and sustainable ways of living. Yes, there may seem to be some level of inconvenience associated with turning away from the inherent convenience of disposable items, but is it worth it? And is it actually that much more convenient or have we been bamboozled by advertising? Instead of worrying about having to buy and keep paper towels in-stock, all I need to focus on now is getting the napkins washed and folded. I feel as though I spent minimal money and am receiving maximum rewards.
Becoming sustainable in an era of ultra-convenience takes thought and effort, this is true. However, thought and effort are two hallmarks of achieving great things. With small changes, we can make a difference. Sustainable living is absolutely within our reach, we need only to extend our hands and feel for the possibilities. I'd Love to hear about the small changes you're making in your household to become more sustainable. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!