practical tips for loving the planet, but not being a jerk

I have a weird relationship with social media lately. I feel this pressure to constantly post, in order to have a “consistent presence,” and it’s making me fall victim to the comparison game.

I follow countless zero waste and wellness gurus on Instagram, and to be honest, many of their profiles piss me off.

I’m caught between having this sour jealousy for not being “zero waste enough” when I look at others perfectly edited Insta photos, while also having this pious internal desire to dismantle the elitist mentality that shames those who use styrofoam plates at a party.

Both sides of the spectrum are messed up. And I consistently find myself switching back and forth between the two.

I think social media can do that to us. It can interject feelings of inadequacy and then spike moments of harsh criticism towards those you find fault in.

It’s a weird thing. And I often need reminded as to why I’m limiting my waste in the first place: I really do give a heck about our planet and the people who live on it.

I believe people are meant to look after the earth — and we’ve been doing a pretty horrendous job the last several hundred years.

But I also think that living a zero waste life isn’t feasible for everybody.

Although a lot of the things I do to limit my waste are actually a LOT cheaper in the long run, for people living in significant poverty, prioritizing using less plastic over paying rent, feeding your kids and making ends meet is just asinine. And that shouldn’t be the expectation.

It’s about a balance, and making small sustainable changes. Changes that ANYBODY can make. I know I say that in just about every single one of my posts — on the blog, Instagram, or otherwise — but I really do believe that to be the case.

And lately, I need reminded more than ever that it’s ok for me to just do my best.

I’m learning that I can’t compare myself to anybody else. Simply do what you can with what you’ve been given. (Make that your mantra!) If you do that, you’re killing it, fam! Trust me :]

On a more practical note, I’ve come up with some super simple, real-life tips to help you limit your waste in a cheap, sustainable way, that also doesn’t have you coming across as an elitist jerk.

Here’s what I’ve got…..

NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT TRAVEL MUGS

You don’t gotta invest in a super expensive water bottle. Go to Walmart and buy a nice water bottle for $10-20. I’d recommend staying away from plastic if you can. Glass breaks easily, so maybe go for aluminum. That’s what I use and I love it! My coffee thermos is also aluminum. I use a HydroFlask for my water bottle and a Klean Kanteen for my thermos. Those are pricey (but they last!).

If you don’t want to invest in a good one because you don’t have an extra $40 laying around (I get it!), opt for a nicer one from Walmart or Target or your grocery store. Honestly, Dollar Tree has some quality containers too, fam.

Bringing your own coffee mug to coffee shops will almost always save you money — most places (like Starbucks) will give you 10% off for bringing your own mug in! And lots of places have water fountains… so if you’re going out to lunch and are thirsty, don’t buy a drink, just fill up your water bottle!

You’d be surprised how much money you save by not buying a disposable plastic water bottle everyday.

ASK FOR PAPER (OR ANYTHING BUT PLASTIC)

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I’ve got a maaaaaad sweet tooth. When I go to a coffee shop and there’s some sort of homemade cookie or bread in the display case, I’m most likely going to indulge.

A lot of shops will toss your treat in a plastic container. But before you order your cookie, ask if they have a paper or tissue paper bag instead. Or, if they don’t, ask if they can just put it in a napkin for you.

It’s simple and all it takes is asking a question. If you feel weird asking, I always preface it with, “hey, I’m trying to limit my plastic use…. do you happen to have paper or anything other than plastic to put my pound cake in?”

Say it with confidence and you’ll look like the dopest person around — because you are.

STOP BUYING THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

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This has been really helpful for me. For fun, I walk through Target and look at the notebooks and planners and pens because that’s my idea of a good time — no joke.

I used to not be able to leave Target without buying something — and usually that something was as dumb as yet another notebook or mascara.

But now, I try to just look around. I go in with the mindset that if it’s not plastic-free, I’m not going to buy it. And if it’s not second hand or something I really need, I’m not going to invest in it.

With that mindset, I walk around, enjoy the trendy stuff, get ideas for redecorating my apartment with my own stuff, or used items I may purchase later, and talk to the photos of Joanna Gaines as if she and I are besties. #MagnolaFarms #FixerUpper

Target is oddly soothing to me. And so is Barnes and Noble, and random, second hand bookstores.

Sometimes I do splurge and buy something random when I go into Target. Or sometimes my mom will pick me up something that isn’t plastic free, or a shirt that isn’t second hand.

When something like that is gifted to me out of so much love, I would never return it or toss it out. I’d rather get good use out of it!

But as a general rule-of-thumb, I try to keep my splurging — especially on plastic items — to a minimum. (Asking myself, “do I really need this?” is often helpful for me).

SHOP SECOND HAND

Like I just said above, I have clothes that are new that were gifted to me. But, for the most part, I try to only buy clothes second hand.

I also try to get a lot of other things that way, too. I’ve gotten people gifts by shopping at the thrift store, spent half the money I normally would, and most of the items were brand new!

There are so many hidden gems at a second hand store. If money is seriously a concern for you, shop second hand! It’s amazing!

If you shop second hand because it’s fun or trendy, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I do think it’s also important to invest in good companies, too.

Buying new items isn’t bad! In fact, investing in businesses you can really stand behind is imperative. Vote with your wallet!

Plus, it leaves more options for people who really can’t afford other pricier, eco-friendly options.

Just something to keep in mind :]

AVOID PLASTIC WHEN YOU CAN

If you buy groceries at Walmart — like I often do — you can get most of your fruits and veggies without using one of those plastic bags!

Bring a reusable bag of any sort, it can even be an old sack… and fill it up with your produce! (Just be careful it doesn’t look like you’re stealing 😂. Keep the bag in your cart and toss your produce in the bag as you stroll through each aisle).

From my understanding, there isn’t a rule about having to use those baggies at the grocery store. You can also buy little cotton bags from my friend Agnes by clicking this link, or from lots of other places.

That’s a simple way to limit your plastic use. Opt for items that come in bulk or that are in paper, glass or aluminum. It’s not that hard to do — trust me.

I’ve gotten a weeks worth of groceries for under my budget and only bought a couple of things in plastic. It’s doable! And I’m seriously broke as heck.

BE FRICKIN NICE TO OTHERS AND YOURSELF

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The comparison game is real, my friends. It ruins relationships and your overall physical and mental/emotional health. Give other people grace and give it to yourself, too.

If you’re at a party and forget to bring a reusable fork — don’t hate yourself over using a plastic one. If you really need a coffee to get through the work day, but you forgot your thermos, don’t beat yourself up over it — get the coffee, dude.

If someone buys you something in plastic, don’t be rude about it. Show empathy.

If you gave someone something wrapped in compostable paper, and they said they hate compostable stuff, it would make you feel crappy, right? (Maybe a bad comparison hahaha but I’m trying to say be others-focused!)

Just because you believe you are morally correct in not using plastic, that doesn’t give you the right to make someone else feel bad for not realizing that.

It happens. Our world is brimming with plastic — literally, have you been to the beach lately? It’ll make you sick.

It’s nearly impossible to not use plastic.

It’s about making an effort and voting with your wallet! Buy second hand, purchase eco-friendly items, make your own products, reuse reuse reuse, and most importantly, be kind.

Encouraging people to use less plastic is great! But don’t be a jerk about it. Kindness wins, fam.

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