Reducing Waste Is Way Easier Than You Think

5 min read
Learn the dos and don'ts of recycling, plus easy tips for being more planet-friendly.
Learn the dos and don'ts of recycling, plus easy tips for being more planet-friendly.

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Hi! My name is Kimmie. I design for an amazing skincare company called Youth To The People where I am submerged in a culture that believes wholeheartedly in putting sustainability at its forefront. Being in an environment that proactively cares about our planet has sparked my personal mission to be the change our mama earth needs. My personal curiosity around sustainability has evolved into empowering my community on how we all can do better for the earth we inhabit.

Recently I’ve been opening up some dialogue around the health of our planet with friends, family, and coworkers. I’ve realized that the more conversations I have, the more I hold myself accountable to practice what I’m preaching. I’ve also been able to use my Instagram as a platform to merge my love for design with educational sustainability tips. I am in no way an expert or perfect, but knowledge is power, and I’m stoked to be able to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.


My epiphany

When I was doing my annual “spring cleaning” a couple of years ago, I had this absolutely horrifying realization that all of the outdated cords, old makeup, and crap in my junk drawer weren’t simply just being thrown away, because there is no “away:” The four plastic garbage bags (filled to the brim) were literally going to be put directly into the ground, to sit there and essentially stay intact forever. Frightening. It then spiraled into an internal conversation with myself: Where is all of our trash going to go? What are landfills? Am I recycling properly? How does this affect our planet, our animals, our resources, our health?

For the past year and a half, I have personally been working on my own awareness of my overall waste consumption. It’s important to me because I am 29 years old and have a lot of years left to live. I have children to raise (one day), and they will have their children to raise. I care because we cohabitate with other beings. It’s not just our planet as humans, it’s the birds and the bees, the life in the oceans, the trees, the flowers, and every single living creature’s planet. They give me life, and I want to keep theirs going too. Without them, I (and you) simply cannot exist. It feels good to care because frankly, we all know our world needs it. Now I am trying to do something about it.

Reduce, reduce, reduce

You have the power to be aware of your daily purchases (from your morning coffee to that Amazon delivery). How often are you buying new things to replace something that still works? Upgrading for the latest and greatest? Grabbing for that convenient single use plastic bag? We as humans have become so quick to replace and move onto the next thing, while what we’re replacing still works, still looks good, still has life left in it. Before you hit that “add to cart” button, think about the impact on our planet it will have. From the birth of that product, to the shipping emissions, to its death in the trash can, think about all of the resources it’s going to deplete from our earth for your instant gratification.


A crash course on reducing and reusing

Search for companies that provide refill stations for your household and personal goods. Depending on your city, farmer's markets and some natural grocery chains have laundry detergent, dish soap, multi-purpose cleaners, shampoo/condition, body wash, and more in bulk where you can bring your own jars to refill. If you live in LA, Refillery is a mobile option—they come to your home to refill your goods for you! I also recommend No Tox Life and Sustain LA.

Bulk is better. It’s obviously more expensive initially to buy a big pack versus a single container, but cuts down on the amount of disposable packaging. For example, buy a 24-ounce container of yogurt instead of four six-ounce containers.

Personal hygiene and grooming contributes to an immense amount of waste. Purchase cosmetics and skincare in recyclable materials, invest in reusable makeup remover pads, and try out shampoo bars.

Just say no to single-use plastic bags at the grocery store. Challenge yourself to think about whether you need a bag for your items. Are you grabbing it only for convenience while you check out? These single use bags are used for maybe 30 minutes, then literally tossed into the garbage to sit in a landfill forever. Oranges, grapefruits, bananas, avocados, onions, garlic, lemons, limes, mangos, pineapple, and melons all have their own natural “packaging!" And if you'd feel more comfortable bagging your fruits and veggies nonetheless, invest in eco-friendly reusable produce bags.

Rethink how you're storing your leftovers. Invest in planet-friendly reusable containers. And instead of plastic, wrap your foods in beeswax wrap.

Say no to single-use plastic straws, water bottles, and disposable utensils. Get a reusable stainless steel, glass, or bamboo straw and store in your purse or desk at work. Keep a reusable water bottle in your car. When ordering delivery or take-out, you can make a comment on your order to request no utensils needed. Invest in a coffee or tea maker at home and bring your caffeine to work in a reusable mug. This also saves you money—and a trip to Starbucks!

Let's talk about paper towels. Make your own cleaning rags from old clothes to cut back.

Your shopping habits matter, too. Choose clothing and other personal items made from earth-friendly materials instead of some fibers which pollute our water. On that note, it's important to remember that if you're wearing brands that use recycled plastics (like Reformation and Girlfriend Collective—which are both great!), these types of clothing shed microfibers when they’re washed and are put directly back into our water streams. Guppyfriend makes washable bags specifically targeted to this issue—a great investment!

Know your recycling basics

Do your research. First and foremost, it’s a great idea to look up the recycling rules of your city before you’re placing anything in your blue bins. Depending on where you live, there are certain guidelines and rules your state and/or city sets for recycling standards. It’s easy to Google!

Rinsing is a must. I find it very interesting that something as simple as this is not widely communicated to consumers! It’s a huge piece of information that drastically impacts the contents in your recycling bin from potentially not even getting recycled. This goes for leftover peanut butter, jelly, dried condiments, leftover food in your take out container, unfinished smoothies, etc. Basically, if any of this leftover food or drink leaks onto your other recyclables, they become “contaminated” and are thrown into the landfill. Greasy pizza boxes, cardboard, paper plates and towels are also not recyclable, as they’re soiled.

Don't tie up your recyclables in a garbage bag. In Los Angeles specifically, if your recyclables are tied up in a garbage bag, it is considered a health hazard to the workers that sort through the contents since they can’t see what’s inside—which means the entire bag is thrown into the landfill. Make sure your recyclables are put in a loose paper bag or straight into the blue bin.

It can seem like a lot, but start small—read an article; adopt a habit or two. But above all else, be present. Be aware. Be the change and pay it forward.


Find Your Ritual

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