June’s Zero Waste Wins and Struggles

The school year is over and it’s summer vacation! If you’re like me, your routines change during July and August, and that can affect your zero-waste habits. But don’t fret – some eco-friendly living is better than nothing and every little bit counts. Here’s what my family accomplished and temporarily relinquished over the past few weeks.

We skipped the airplane trip and took a local vacation instead. As you may know, plane travel can be very costly to the environment. However I think it would be unrealistic, and frankly sad, to forego plane travel altogether. There are many places I long to visit around this Earth and want to bring my kids and husband with me. Does that make me a bad environmentalist? I don’t think so. But I can take enjoyable summer trips in my area, and limit plane travel to whenever truly necessary or desired (assuming you don’t travel for work). That feels do-able for me.

Last week, we headed home to the NYC/NJ area and it was really cool to see the city embrace environmentalism. It can be much harder to follow simple eco-friendly habits in an urban area (even though one’s reliance on public transportation is huge), so I was inspired by what I saw- city composting and community gardening, plant based restaurants in the middle of conservative midtown and battery recycling in an apartment building. I was impressed.

While traveling, we tried to maintain our less-waste ways but definitely got side-tracked. I started out with good intentions and packed our fabric snack bags, water bottle and reused tissue paper for gift wrapping My husband even bought me a reusable straw to carry around in my purse. But life happens. You can’t find your Klean Kanteen in all of the luggage, the kids are hangry and you wind-up buying fast food somewhere along the highway. A few too many Poland Spring water bottles were also purchased and consumed during our week in the city, because few want to schlep a heavy Yeti all around Manhattan. I tried my best to refill my plastic water bottles when possible, but definitely felt like a hypocrite. That said, we came home and returned to our regular habits. A derailied week isn’t the end of the world. It’s way more important to think about long term and sustainable habits that will have lasting environmental impacts.

Reusing a water bottle I had purchased for the hotel. it’s only single-use if you use it one time.

Our family has returned to in-person supermarket shopping, which means a lot less waste! During Covid, we relied on curbside shopping, as we tried to minimize risk to our family. I preferred purchasing from Whole Foods because they use paper bags (and let’s be honest – delivered to my house!), but there was still a lot of plastic and other materials used to keep the food cold. I felt pretty conflicted about it. Now I head to the store once a week and supplement with the local Farmers Market. I always bring my reusable totes and produce bags. For meat and eggs, I try to focus on local sources and skip extra packaging whenever possible. As I say, it’s all a work in progress, but it feels good to be back to my previous routines!

Do you shop the clearance section in your supermarket? It’s a great way to save money and prevent food waste. (If not purchased, the above items will be land-filled.) I loved how this store in New Jersey had everything displayed prominently towards the front of the store, rather than in some corner that no one sees.

Lastly, I skipped Amazon Prime Day! Like Black Friday, I feel pretty privileged to walk away from a day where the prices are so low. Many people wait for those sales in order to buy much needed items for their home, and I want to respect that position. But I don’t need anything right now and am trying to be better about mindlessly shopping. I’m not perfect – I just admitted to my overeliance on Whole Foods (which is owned by Amazon)- but I’m trying to be more mindful about what I buy and where I shop. As Hannah said, items that come into your house will eventually need to leave. One less thing to worry about it in the future! That said, there can be necessities, and I purchased my end-of-year teacher gifts from stores right on Main St in Concord. I supported my community and feel pretty good about that one!

Spotted in Concord!

That’s all for now. What about you? What were your wins this month? Share with us! – Rachel

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