Green Life

Making your own household cleansers can greatly reduce your overall waste.

A new year means different things to different people. Some people enter the next year ready to change lives, theirs or others, while other people continue along content with things as they are. I tend to use the change of the calendar to reflect on the past year with friends, and talk about the goals we have for ourselves in the coming year. One goal I have every year is to be a better consumer by making decisions that reduce waste and make a positive impact on climate change. For 2020, I came up with a Top 5 list of things to work on.

5. BUY LESS/BUY BULK. We all fall victim to our consumer culture. Overnight delivery services make it even easier to impulse shop. My personal email inbox is full of flash sales offering great deals on things that I love. This year, think before you buy. Do you really need a travel size version of something you already have in a large size? Instead, purchase reusable travel containers that will reduce your overall waste in the long term. If you are shopping for a favorite shampoo or a regular household purchase like toilet paper, see if you can buy the same product in bulk. This will reduce the number of trips to the store, as well as the amount of overall packaging.

4. BE SELECTIVE. When you are buying things, try to purchase from companies that have good environmental practices. There are lots of great companies that make items using recycled materials. Clothing companies have started trending towards using more sustainable manufacturing practices, reducing waste through their entire manufacturing process. Others now offer recyclable packaging and carbon offsets. The more people select these options, the more wide spread these practices will become. This also applies to purchasing food. When shopping, skip items with unnecessary packaging, and try to purchase glass or canned items instead of plastic.

3. TAKE ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION. This is one I haven’t been doing great at lately and have vowed to do better in 2020. The latter half of 2019 I was plagued with injuries that prevented me from riding my bike and even walking very far for a time. I was driving everywhere and feeling guilty about how often I was behind the wheel by myself. This year, I am going to ride my bike, take the bus and carpool more. It will be a big adjustment for me, but I know that reducing vehicle miles traveled in a car is better for the environment, which also means it is better for me.

2. DIY PRODUCTS. This one might seem a little odd on this list, but I can tell you that making your own household cleansers can greatly reduce your overall waste. I make my own household cleansers. They are vinegar based, smell great and instead of using multiple spray bottles I just buy the ingredients for them in bulk and reuse a spray bottle. Not only have I reduced the amount of plastic waste I generate, I save a lot of money.

1. BUY LOCAL. This is a big one and probably one of the ways you can make the biggest impact. Buying local reduces the number of truck trips that need to be taken, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation is one of the largest controllable contributors to carbon emissions. Buying local also gives you control over what your purchases are packaged in. This is particularly true when it comes to food. We are lucky to have an abundance of places we can purchase locally grown produce that hasn’t been wrapped in plastic, and doing so reduces single use plastic waste as well as overall emissions. Plus, you are supporting local businesses and farmers. It is a win all around.

For 2020, I am going to work even harder at sticking to these goals. I find the rate at which our planet is being impacted by climate change scary, and want to do more on a personal level to make an impact. I invite you all to work on meeting those goals with me in the coming year.

Erin Maker is the environmental coordinator for the city of Carpinteria. She studied biology after discovering her love of nature and science while growing up in Vermont.  Always interested in improving water quality and recycling, she currently oversees the city’s Watershed Management and Solid Waste Programs. For more information, contact Erin at, (805) 684-5405 x415.

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