Steps Towards Sustainability

I can’t be the only one intimidated by the concept of all things “green.” But living conscious of the environment isn't just for hippies wandering around Upstate anymore. Being green is being modern. Part of creating my own little home in Brooklyn was taking this more seriously. With some trial and error and lots of grace, I’m happy with the steps I’ve made to take caring for the Earth more seriously by creating less waste. After all, seemingly small choices become habits only with time and intention. Here are some of mine.

Composting: I’m lucky to live in Brooklyn, where composting is prioritized and really simple. I remember my beloved aunt showing me how she created her own with worms and ripped up cardboard in her kitchen. I also remember being confused why it was worth it and maybe shrieking. Taking the time to look at my garbage, I realized it was mostly food scraps. Not only were the food scraps taking up real estate in my trash bin, they also were quick to smell in my tiny kitchen. Since beginning composting around three months ago, I’ve been shocked by how infrequently I have to empty my trash. I toss my scraps into a paper bag in my freezer and empty them in the compost bin my building provides. So simple!

JOCO Coffee Cup: Part of what makes trying new coffee spots in the city enjoyable has always been the excitement of a new atmosphere, coffee cup designs included. But tossing them and the lid when I leave always left me feeling discouraged. There are so many models of reusable coffee cups on the market, but I don’t need my drink to stay hot for three weeks or to hold a vat and a half of liquid. A simple, beautiful design that is easy to wash is more my speed. I discovered JOCO and have been hooked since. Being glass, the cup is fun to drink out of and the easiest to rinse out. When my lid popped off on a delirious walk to nannying one morning, the customer service team shipped me a new one, no questions. 

Klean Kantee: Sort of in the same vein was my water bottle situation. I’m a recovering water bottle addict. I used to hoard five or six, justifying a new one the second it hit the market. The issue is that after week three or so, the newness wore off and like many well intended accessories, it landed in the back of my cupboard. A good water bottle, after so much trial and error, is easy to wash, probably steel, keeps water cold, and has a screw on top. Once at FIT, a glass water bottle I’d spent nearly $50 on shattered in the dining hall-which might explain why I never ate in the dining hall again. This is no time for glass or plastic; stainless steel is the ideal material. I love my Klean Kanteen, but plenty of friends prefer Hydro Flask. Err on the side of utilitarian over chic when it comes to this one.

Walking: Another benefit of living in New York is the unavoidability of walking. It’s part of what I missed the most living in Iowa. Whenever possible, I walk instead of taking a car or the subway. The time alone is special and the environmental effects are an added bonus. I think I get my love of walking from my mom, who does it religiously. So grab a friend, a podcast, or an album you love, and take the long way home.

Zero Waste Shopping: Packing reusable shopping bags for the grocery store feels sort of like a given in 2017. For one, they’re sturdier, making for a less dangerous hike up 3rd Avenue on my way home. They also reduce a considerable amount of waste. For produce, I’ve been using dust bags from clothing/bags. Taking this a step further, I’ve recently been dipping my toe into zero waste shopping. I know, I know, anything with zero in front of it kind of freaks me out too, but don’t let it. The idea is buying food without packaging or in some cases, bringing your own. Think about how many annoying green produce bags you’ve just tossed out or cardboard boxes you’ve thrown away after transferring the goods to a glass jar. Instead, I’ve been bringing glass containers, getting them weighed, filling them with what I need from the bulk section, and loving the process. Of course, I’m not zero waste and am still consuming plenty of plastic, but with just a little preparation, the whole trip can be a whole lot greener. On top of this, shopping in season at the farmer’s market has helped bring awareness to what produce is best right now. And I’ll take any chance to pick up fresh bread for toast all week.  

Conscious gift wrap: It was a few years ago, after the gifts had been opened and the packaging abandoned, that I was struck by how much paper had been wasted via wrapped gifts. As a simple solution, I’ve been wrapping in newspaper ever since. First of all, it reuses something lying around anyway. Secondly, it can be kind of fun to wrap gifts in articles that match the person receiving. Grant, my brother, will find his present covered in boring stock reports. Maybe I’ll wrap my mom’s in the travel section and Jim’s in a recipe. Magazines work as well or even the paper cut flowers come wrapped in. This is the perfect time to get creative.