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This blog post is a (lightly edited) transcript of my latest podcast episode, 10 things you can do to make the world a better place. (There were actually 11.)
This episode was sponsored by my “Done For You Amazon Bestseller” program at //rachelrofe.com/bestseller.
I don’t know about you, but I think a lot about the future of our planet and how I’m contributing to making it better or worse.
And while I don’t like to be ruled by guilt, sometimes it can be an excellent guidepost in helping you realize where changes are necessary.
One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is trash. I came across this woman’s website, Trash Is For Tossers, where she talks about how all of her trash for the past 2 years can fit into ONE mason jar.
Since learning about her, throwing things into the trash has been a totally different experience for me. When I walk to the trash can now, I think about how I’m contributing to a landfill that’s going to be there forever. I think about how it’s an act that actively makes the world WORSE, and how I do have an option, because there are people out there who are an example of not throwing trash away.
While changing completely overnight doesn’t seem doable, and it isn’t healthy to become obsessive about anything, I DO think we can ALL become a little bit better every single day.
In that spirit, I’m going to share 11 things, each that take 5 minutes or less, that require very minimal effort but make a big impact in the world.
#1: Use cloth tote bags.
Instead of the regular plastic or paper bags that most grocery stores give you, use the cloth tote bags.
They’re usually $1 or $2 at most stores and actually better quality than paper or plastic anyway. They’re far stronger and hold more (1 tote bag can equal 3-5 plastic bags’ worth of stuff), which means you don’t need to carry as much.
This is one of the easiest switches because it only makes your life better. You have a better quality bag, you don’t have to carry as many groceries, and you’re not wasting so much plastic or paper.
I know a lot of people buy the bags but then forget to bring them to the store. To remedy that, here are a few solutions:
a) After you unpack your groceries, immediately put the bags in the trunk of your car or by the front door so you can grab them when you leave.
b) Buy extra bags and keep them in your trunk. This will double the likelihood of you having bags on hand, but you’ll still need to remember to replace them.
c) Set a phone reminder on grocery day to take your bags with you.
#2: Bring a mason jar with you.
If you go to cafes or places where you can get water, bring a mason jar and use that instead of the plastic or Styrofoam cups.
This is one of these switches that’s better than the alternative all the way around. You’ll get more water (a mason jar is bigger than most of those plastic cups), won’t be throwing out a cup, and you’ll have water to take with you when you leave. Yay hydration!
I’ve *never* had a problem asking someone at a cafe if I could use my mason jar. Not only is it fine for people, but it’s often been a great conversation starter.
I also feel much better knowing that I’m not going to use a cup for one or two uses and then have to throw it out.
#3: Plant a tree when you fly.
I know some people may say this is tokenism, but I feel it’s way better than doing nothing.
I was looking at some stats about this and there are some easy things we can do to counteract the carbon footprint we leave on the world. If you go on OneTreePlanted.org, it talks about how trees are a habitat to 80% of the world’s species. They provide natural medicine, food, sequester carbon, and clean the air we breathe. And 80,000 acres of forests disappear from Earth every single day.
According to the Department of Transportation, the average US citizen flies just over 17 hours per year. That amounts to 2,814 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from air travel alone.
OneTreePlanted says that if you plant just TWO trees, you can offset this impact.
You can go on that site and plant a tree for just $1.
I’m personally going to be planting at least a thousand trees this year. It’s so easy and makes such a big difference.
#4: Pick up trash when you’re walking around.
If you’re walking on the street and see trash, pick it up and throw it out.
I’m not talking about disgusting things, but there are often wrappers or other things that are easy to pick up. When I lived in NYC, I’d see wrappers all the time. There were trash cans on every corner and it took me less than 60 seconds to pick things up and dump them.
Lots of places have lots of trash cans – cities, parks, most public places in general.
While I’m not a huge fan of trash in general, at least this way, things go into the landfills versus the 6.5 million TONS of garbage and litter that ends up in the ocean every. single. year.
This is a less-than-one-minute thing that can really help.
#5: Look for where you’re wasting water and stop it.
It can be very easy to waste water without realizing it.
One easy culprit of this is when we’re brushing our teeth. Many people have the water running as they’re brushing their teeth, even though they’re not using it.
If that’s what you do, just stop it. :) Pour some water on your toothbrush if that’s what you do, turn the sink off, and put toothbrush on your toothpaste. Brush your teeth, then turn the sink on to wash off your toothbrush. Done.
Another place people waste water is letting the shower run for a long time before they get in so that the hot water is ready for them. I understand why people do this, but I think that the water doesn’t take a few minutes to come on. Test it out – see if there’s hot water after 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc, instead of letting it run for minutes at a time when you’re not using it.
If you’re saving two minutes every day, that ends up to being 730 minutes out of the year. And while it might not sound like a ton, things add up, especially if there are legions of us who are being the change we want to see in the world.
There’s a website called WorldVision.org where you can sponsor a child for $35 a month.
If you go on this site, I know they talk about how they’re a Christian organization, but as a non-religious person, I don’t let it bother me. They’re not big about blasting that and they do help all kinds of religions.
I’ve said on many of my podcasts before that the reason my intro says “If you have a choice, choose a better life” is because there’s a lot of people that don’t have a choice.
There are kids out there who don’t have a choice. People being sex trafficked. People in all kinds of circumstances that we are so fortunate not to be in.
If we have the opportunity to help those people, I consider it a privilege to be able to do so.
WorldVision is a great site. You can even search for people by dates, so if you wanted to, you could find a child born on your birthday or anniversary date. You pay the $35/month and then you can interact with your child, send them letters, get progress reports, and send them presents.
For $35 a month – especially considering how easy it is to throw that away on other purchases – it feels like a no-brainer to me.
Paper towels are something that drive me absolutely crazy. Crazy.
It’s so easy to waste so much paper with paper towels. Every single day, 3,000 tons of paper towels are wasted. And for what!? You can’t recycle them once they get a mess on them, so you’re just wasting paper.
Instead of using those, try Bambooee. They’re rolls of towels made of bamboo and replace paper towels. In fact, each bamboo roll replaces up to 28.6 rolls of paper towels.
This is another case where the better alternative is actually better for us. These last longer (each one can be washed up to 100 times), are much stronger than paper towels, and work out to be cheaper. For every roll you purchase, they also plant a tree.
The way I use these is that I’ll use them and keep a pile of the dirty bamboo towels in our laundry room and then I’ll just wash them in a separate wash so they don’t get mixed up with clothes. They last forever.
#8: Don’t take the plastic bags when you’re buying produce.
Do you know how, at the grocery store, there are produce bags you’re supposed to put your produce in? You take a bag, put your cucumber in, and then go home and throw the bag out?
This is a big waste.
I think one reason for the produce bags is so that the water that’s splashed on the produce every few minutes doesn’t drip all over the store. The fix for this is easy though: either set your tote bag down on your cart and put your produce on top of it, or put your produce right inside your tote bag.
#9: Switch to e-statements instead of paper bills.
This is going to save you paper, clutter, and it’s more convenient anyway.
Use auto-pay wherever you can so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting bills. For the bills you can’t use auto-pay on, just mark it in your calendar to remember when the bills are due.
Two of my boyfriend’s bills don’t offer Auto-Pay, so I have a recurring event set up every month to remind myself to pay the bills, just like this:
You could also have a spreadsheet that reminds you which days different things are due.
#10: Call and get your catalogs stopped.
When I moved to our new house in Vegas, I got so many catalogs for things I didn’t look at or need. This is another one that drives me crazy because not only is it wasting paper, but you can’t even recycle most catalogs because they have a special gloss over them that render them un-recyclable.
I get hundreds of pages of catalogs that I will never look at, that go right into a landfill. It’s maddening.
Because I don’t really like the phone, I use MyFancyHands.com to call the catalog companies for me and request that they stop sending things my way. You can also call or email them.
(MyFancyHands.com is an assistant service that I love. If you haven’t seen my post about 99 things I’ve outsourced to them, check it out here.)
11. Donate your unused food to a homeless shelter.
We all have foods sitting around that we haven’t eaten and probably never will.
Instead of letting those foods expire and be a complete waste, we can donate them. If you go to www.homelessshelterdirectory.org, you can find a homeless shelter in your area that you can donate to.
So, these are a few ideas of things you can do that take minimal effort on your part but actively make the world better.
Hopefully, at least one of these inspires you. If so, please let me know which one! And if you have other ideas on easy ways to make the world better, please let me know. :)
This episode was sponsored by my “Done For You Amazon Bestseller” program at //rachelrofe.com/bestseller.
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