I’m going to depart a bit from our usual content of gear reviews to get serious. Chris and I both have large families with three kids each. As such, our impact on our planet is not insignificant. We love spending time outdoors with our families and enjoying the beauty of nature. Chris and I are committed to making sustainable life choices to reduce the impact we have and do our part to make sure our kids and our kids’ kids can continue to enjoy the outdoors.
For 2023, I’m making it my New Year’s resolution to make two changes to my life to decrease my impact on the planet. In this post, I will share my two changes I’m committing to and then some other ideas for you to consider in joining me for your New Year’s resolution.
This is a strong, no-judgment post – I understand not everyone is able to make the choices I am making to be more sustainable. It takes commitments of time and money that not everyone has, and I fully understand that. If you’re not able to make further changes to your or your family’s lifestyle for personal reasons, that is ok! Don’t feel bad. You’re doing the best you can do. But I share these ideas in case you are able to consider making some changes that work best for you and your family.
Use zero-waste hygiene products
The first change I’m committing to making for 2023 is to convert my personal hygiene products to zero-waste options. Hygiene products, such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. are frequently packaged in plastic containers. While plastics are recyclable, their production has an impact and studies show that only around 5% of recycled plastic materials actually end up recycled and the vast majority ends up in landfills. Further, many products such as shampoos and conditioners contain lots of water and thus use more carbon emissions to transport them along the supply chain due to their weight.
Therefore, I’m converting to use of a shampoo bar to replace my shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. The specific product I’m trying out for 2023 is The Mod Cabin gunbarrel solid shampoo bar. It can wash hair like a shampoo, condition hair like a conditioner, and wash your body like body wash. It is a vast improvement over those products though because it sheds the water weight which increases carbon emissions for shipping. Also, it’s packaging is not plastic but compostable and recyclable! I’ll be throwing the boxes into my garden compost bin when I open a new bar. I will also commit to using a wash cloth instead of a plastic loofah like I usually do, so that I’m not creating waste when the loofah wears out. I’ll reuse the wash cloth for multiple showers so that I am minimizing my water usage for washing them.
I’m also converting to use of a zero-waste deodorant bar, specifically the Ethique solid deodorant bar. This brand of deodorant (and other products they have) uses compostable / recyclable packaging, reducing the plastic waste produced for many standard deodorants on the market. More fodder for my compost bin! For those concerned, it is also vegan and cruelty-free. But first and foremost it is sustainable and helps reduce your environmental impact by reducing use of plastics.
There are tons of other zero-waste hygienic (and other) products on Amazon and elsewhere, so you have a ton of options available to you if this change interests you. Just make sure you do your research before purchasing to find out if the company producing the products is the real deal. Lots of companies will throw around terms like “biodegradable” and “eco-friendly” but may still rely on plastics or other harmful production and shipping practices that don’t make them zero-waste.
Stop using plastic bags or use recycled plastic bags
The second change I’m committing to is reducing my use of plastic bags – no plastic shopping bags and only recycled plastic trash bags. Plastic is in almost everything we use nowadays. When we’re done, it may get recycled but most of it just ends up in a landfill. There are a variety of ways you can reduce your use of plastic in your daily life.
Most trash bags on the market are new-production plastic. This means that for every bag of trash you throw out, a factory has produced and shipped new plastic for you to just throw into a landfill. Instead of using standard kitchen trash bags, I’m converting to use of GreenPolly recycled plastic trash bags. These bags are produced with 90% post-consumer recycled plastics and 10% green polyethylene from sugarcane. By using recycled plastic bags, you’re facilitating a viable market for recycled plastic bags which in turn reduces production of new plastic. I want to note that trash bags that go into a normal landfill, and not a specialized composting facility, should not be compostable / biodegradable. You can do more harm than good by sending compostable / biodegradable bags to a landfill, as the biodegrading process can produce harmful methane in an uncontrolled composting environment. So go with recycled plastic! (NOTE: The Amazon listing for the GreenPolly bags is only for 20 bags, despite saying for 240 bags. Still one of the cheaper recycled bags on the market.)
I’m also committing to stop using plastic shopping bags. Laziness be damned, I will bring my reusable shopping bags into the store instead of using plastic shopping bags. I’ve been guilty of forgetting to bring in my reusable bags and just caving and using the plastic bags. No more – I will turn around and go back to the car to get my reusable bags before I use plastic bags.
Use less plastic in other household products
I’m also converting to use of compostable / biodegradable sponges to replace our use of normal sponges, which contain plastics and other harmful waste for the environment. These Scrub & Throw scrub sponges are made of 100% loofah plant fibers that are compostable. Once I finish using a sponge, I’ll clean it out and throw it in my compost bin.
There are many other areas in your life where you could reduce use of plastic, so take a look at what you use frequently and search around to see if there are other products you could switch over to for 2023 as part of your New Year’s resolution.
Use reusable water bottles
Instead of buying those single use plastic water bottles, and thinking that just recycling them is enough, go out and buy you and your family reusable water bottles. We started doing this several years ago and never looked back. As I cited earlier, only around 5% of recycled plastic ends up actually being recycled. Therefore, you can make a huge impact in reducing plastic in landfills and elsewhere by switching over to reusable water bottles. We’re personally fans of the 40 oz Klean Kanteen single wall water bottles and 32 oz Nalgene bottles for the adults, and the 14 oz Camelback Eddy bottles for the kids. Wash them out and reuse them, and you can sleep sound knowing you’re not wasting harmful plastics. Join us in stopping the use of single use plastic bottles and convert fully to reusable water bottles!
Use waste-reducing food delivery services
There are tons of food delivery services available these days that help reduce wasted food, which reduces environmental impacts elsewhere – such as wasting carbon emissions to ship food that just gets thrown out. We personally use Hungry Harvest for all of our fresh fruit and vegetables that we don’t grow at home. Hungry Harvest works by rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste and affordably and conveniently bringing them right to your door. Basically, fruits and vegetables that are too “ugly” to be sold in grocery stores can be had from Hungry Harvest. They’re perfectly usable fruits and veggies with a catch – the apples might be too small, the Brussel sprouts might be too large, the squash might not be yellow enough. Whatever the reason, it won’t get sold in a grocery store and so you’re preventing its waste with your subscription. Every Hungry Harvest order saves at least 10 pounds of food from going to waste and works to reduce overall environmental impact. As Hungry Harvest states on their site, cutting food waste in half globally could reduce our ecological footprint by 16%. As an extra bonus, the ice packs Hungry Harvest uses can double as plant food – so once you thaw it out, you can pour it into your compost or directly into your soil.
There are other similar services out there, so take a look at what’s available where you live and sign up for 2023!
Grow your own food
Nothing screams sustainability like growing your own vegetables and/or fruits. You can reduce the impact of carbon emissions for your food (think shipping it or driving to the store) by supplementing your groceries with homegrown vegetables. Build a box garden in your yard, till some soil and plant right in the dirt, or grow in pots and planters. Whatever it takes, grow your own food and feel good that you’re reducing the waste and carbon emissions your groceries bring with them. You can also be prepared in the event of any shortages or other such challenges we all experienced during the pandemic. I personally order our seeds each growing season from DollarSeed, which sells non-GMO, organic, and heirloom seeds. As the name suggests, most seeds are $1. You can get your kids involved in planting and harvesting the seeds to teach them a bit about the process and give them a sense of ownership over their food. I’ve seen my picky daughter eat vegetables at dinner that came from the garden we planted together that she would never otherwise eat. She felt ok eating them because she had a stake in them. You can also use all that compostable packaging from your zero-waste products to feed your garden. Read about what grows in your growing region and get started with a backyard garden!
Use used gear and clothing
Whether you accept hand-me-downs, shop at your local thrift store, or shop online for used gear from sites like Kidizen, Geartrade, and REI Re/Supply – buying used gear keeps that gear out of landfills and breathes new life into it. Our consumer culture today pushes us to buy new, especially when sales and clearances make new gear cost almost as much as used gear. But buying used can make a big difference, and also save you money in the long term. This is especially true for kids gear and clothing, since they outgrow and destroy items so quickly! Kids growing out of their clothes and they don’t need it anymore? Pass it on to a friend or family member who has a younger kid that can wear it. If not, donate it so another kid can rock that sweet swag! Make an impact by reducing waste with used gear.
Repair your gear and clothing
When your gear or clothing experiences a failure, think to yourself – can I repair this? GEAR AID Tenacious Tape is amazing at sealing holes in jackets, backpacks, and tents. You can also sew up any holes or failures in stitching. If a buckle breaks on a piece of gear, you can use a Sea to Summit repair buckle like I featured in a recent review. There are also gear repair services, like Rugged Thread, where you can take your busted gear and pay a small fee to get professionally repaired. Instead of throwing your well-loved gear into a landfill, make an impact and repair it!
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of possible resolutions you can make this New Year’s to reduce your footprint and make a difference. Join me in 2023 and make two changes to your life to be more sustainable, using these ideas or ideas of your own. Together we can make a difference, it just takes some commitment to make the change. Thank you for reading this post and taking the time to consider making a change!
Do you have other ideas for sustainable New Year’s resolutions? Share them below! I’m no expert on sustainability, so if you have other information or corrections to the information I provided in this post – feel free to comment.