Growing up in high school in Taiwan taught me a lot about sustainability. Because Taiwan is a small island and has limited land, Taiwan requires everyone to recycle and compost and to sort recyclable materials based on individual categories. Plastic bags often have to be purchased in grocery stores and people often walk, bike, and take public transportation on a daily basis. Returning to America when I was in college was a culture shock to me when I saw just how much waste we produce here in America.
Since living in America, we have sought, as a family, to continue living out the value of environmental sustainability at home.
Some simple ways to reduce waste as a family, in the home, include:
- Recycle – Call your local city Recycling Services if you do not have a blue recycle bin. Once you start recycling, you may find that you will need an extra bin for your boxes, paper, and hard plastic goods. Did you know that the City of Waco will even provide you with an additional recycle bin for FREE upon request?
- Reusable napkins – You can find reusable napkins made from various materials on Etsy or even create your own. Reusable cloth napkins help to prevent the need for single-use napkins. Once done, just plop them in your laundry to be washed and used again and again!
- Reusable water bottles – Rather than continually drinking plastic water bottles, when possible, bring a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle to work or for use on the go. Investing in a quality water filter and adding natural flavors such as lemon or mint leaves can also help to increase hydration.
- Turn off lights and unplug plugs – When not in use, turn off lights and unplug plugs around the home. Sustainability includes conserving energy and can also include turning off (or adjusting the temperature to) the air conditioner or heater when one is not in the home.
- Reusable shopping bags – When shopping for groceries at your local farmer’s market or at a local grocery store, bring reusable shopping bags to prevent the need for plastic bags. There are also reusable mesh bags that you can purchase for vegetables, as opposed to the single-use plastic vegetable bags. When you forget your reusable shopping bags, note that plastic grocery bags can often be recycled directly at grocery stores. Unfortunately, plastic grocery bags cannot be recycled at home in blue recycle bins.
- Shop secondhand – Do you like thrifting like I do? Shopping secondhand at local thrift shops and vintage clothing shops may save you money and can support local nonprofits and businesses. Finding clothes at local thrift stores can help to reduce fast fashion and encourage sustainability.
- Compost at home – There are many different ways to create a compost pile in your backyard. For those who are not wanting to compost at home, Mission Waco’s Jubilee Food Market has an industrial compost machine. You can participate in composting through their Urban REAP project.
- Stainless steel straws – When drinking smoothies, coffee, or even boba tea, use a reusable stainless steel straw! We sell reusable smoothie/boba tea straws at our bubble milk tea business Waco Cha. You can also find reusable standard sized straws online or in home good stores.
- Reusable storage containers – Glass storage containers and glass mason jar containers can help to prevent the need for plastic storage or single-use plastic storage bags. Rinse out old pasta sauce jars or honey jars to be saved and used as storage containers.
- Beeswax food wraps – Eco-friendly beeswax food wraps can be purchased or made at home as an alternative to plastic wrap. While not ideal for raw meat or hot dishes, beeswax food wraps can be used to wrap fruits and vegetables, cheese, and even on the top of leftovers.
While there are many other ways to be environmentally sustainable at home and outside of the home, these are a few tips that I hope you and your family may begin (or continue!) as a way to bettering our environment. While sustainability may seem daunting at first, each simple step makes a difference overtime. As we each begin to take seemingly small steps in our homes, we will move toward creating a healthier, more sustainable community.