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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rihanna: Tips and Tricks for Living a Greener Life

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It's true. I'm posting again on my blog. Before I jump into today's topic, I thought I'd give you a little life update. A lot has changed in my absence from this page. Perhaps I'll do a deeper dive into what's been happening with me in a future post, but for now, I'll give you the short version.

The last time I posted was about realizing that no one else could make me happy and if I wanted to reach that point, I needed to make changes and take my life into my own hands. After my post, I hit a low point where it felt impossible to fake joy and progress. I was more stressed out than ever about what I was going to do with the rest of my life but finally made the decision to go to Esthetician school to fulfill my teenaged dreams of doing makeup and skincare. Since enrolling in school, which, by the way, will not start until April 2019, I started a new job at a hair salon, met new friends, attended three weddings, and found new medical professionals that I trusted with my mental health.

I can now say that after several months of being on new medications, I feel amazing. I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I felt happier or more positive about life. Instead of wallowing in my sadness, I decided to step up and focus on myself and my healing with a team of doctors and nurses who genuinely care about me and who have made me feel supported and understood. This, in turn, has allowed me to focus more on the positives and the things I'm grateful for. At this point, I don't have much to complain about. Life has a funny way of working itself out when you recognize the gifts, even the subtle ones, that you're given every day.

Okay, now that the sappy stuff is done, let's jump into what you came here for, my tips and tricks for living a more environmentally friendly life. I just want to throw in a quick disclaimer here and say that I am by no means an expert on environmentalism nor am I saying that you should be doing all of these things. It has taken me nearly two years to get to the point where I'm even comfortable to talk about this or share my thoughts. I recognize that there is more I can be doing, but you don't have to live a completely zero-waste lifestyle to feel good about the work you're doing. This brings me to my first tip, don't let others make you feel guilty for not "being on their level." We all need to start somewhere, and even small things like recycling cans or reusing plastic bags makes a difference. The more comfortable you get, the more you can add in. When I first started, I just recycled cans and cardboard. At this point, I have made huge strides in eliminating the amount of single-use plastic in my life. Am I perfect about it? No, and that's okay.

Tip #2 is to read about your city's recycling laws. In Omaha, we cannot recycle glass in our curbside programs. Upon further research, however, I have found that several drop-off locations around the city will take glass. There are also spots to drop off plastic bags, which is great because if you're anything like me, you probably have a plastic bag full of other plastic bags that you have no idea what to do with.

My third tip is to try to unplug electronics when you're not using them. This is one that I still struggle with, but have been actively trying to work on. If you aren't charging a device or are not planning on using something for a while (for me, this is my desktop computer), unplug it. Many outlets still draw energy even when the things plugged into them are turned off. I've seen energy-saving power strips in the past, but have no experience with them myself. While trying to learn more about these strips, I've made it my mission to remember to unplug (tip #3a, this will also help you save some money on your energy bills!).

Tip #4 is to donate things that no longer serve you instead of throwing them out. I have been desperately trying to condense my wardrobe and get rid of all the clutter in my closet. This means finding clothes that no longer fit, that I no longer like, or that I haven't worn in a while and donating them. Find an organization that you like, and see if they will take whatever you're donating. Try not to throw things away if they're in good condition and can be used by someone else!

My final tip is to try to find reusable replacements for things you use every day. This whole blog post was honestly inspired by my friend Megan (Hey Meg) who posted online about wanting to find some good options for things to help her reduce the amount of waste she produces. I jumped on the opportunity and created a list on Amazon of all the things that I've purchased and loved over the years as well as some things that I just recently bought and am just trying out. By sharing this list, I'm not suggesting that you should own all of these things, nor am I saying that they're the best products out there. I'm merely sharing my opinions with you on products I've purchased and that I hope you'll consider looking to. Here are the top 5 items on my list that I would suggest starting with if you're looking to reduce, reuse, and recycle (and also listening to Broad City in the background while looking at pictures of Rihanna):

(Photo: Amazon)

These are hands down my favorite thing on this list and what I started with when trying to find more environmentally friendly options. I love these bags because they're a great size, can fold up for easy storage, are sturdy, and each bag can hold up to 30lbs. I've ended up buying several sets of these and getting my family members hooked on them, too. While there are other reusable bag options out there, I love these the best. In case you didn't know, some stores will even offer you bag credits for bringing your own bags! We all buy groceries/spend too many hours wandering around stores like Target, why not pick these up and take them for a swing?

(Photo: Amazon)

These are another staple for me. They're a decent size and can hold quite a bit of produce. They have a drawstring opening, so you know your apples won't roll around in the backseat. The mesh bag allows cashiers to read the labels easily and helps make checkout a breeze. My only complaint is that the colors sometimes bleed when you wash them, so I would recommend washing them with dark colors just in case.

(Photo: Amazon)

I have owned many reusable cups in my time, but this is hands down my favorite. I love the large size (although the brand does offer smaller cups as well), and the different color options. I would say that the quality of this tumbler is similar to the Yeti, but for 1/3 of the price. We love a good deal! This cup keeps my drinks cold/hot for long periods and does not give me any metallic taste when I use it. I recommend hand washing it with gentle dish soap to make sure everything is nice and clean.

(Photo: Amazon)

This one goes well with the RTIC mentioned above, but reusable straws are a must for me. It seems a lot of restaurants in big cities are starting to offer plastic-free alternatives, but unfortunately, Omaha is not quite there yet. To make up for it, I either try not to use a straw, or I bring my own! These are great options and fit in a variety of reusable cups. I also like that they come with a cleaning brush. My tip for these is to make sure you're washing them well, especially if you're using them to drink anything other than water (I still wash mine after water tbh). I've seen a lot of people online throwing their stainless steel straws out because they were dirty or got gross on the inside. When asked about it, they would say they didn't wash them. Gross. Washing these straws is very easy. I usually pour a little drop of gentle dish soap down into the straw and use the brush to clean both sides and remove any residue left behind. This ensures that your straws will be clean, germ-free, and will last you a very long time.

(Photo: Amazon)

I recently purchased these and have not had the chance to use them too much yet, but I can already tell they're going to be my new best friends. Bamboo is sustainable and durable and makes for a great travel cutlery set. I especially like this set because it rolls up into a case and it comes with a straw (plus a cleaning brush! huzzah!) The company says this set is dishwasher safe, but they recommend hand washing for long-term use. If you're not into bamboo, there are plenty of stainless steel options out there, too. With the convenience of these, there's no reason to choose single-use plastic that you'll throw away.

These are just my top 5 favorites out of a list of many. Reflecting back on when I first began to be more conscious of the products I was using, I remember feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. I felt like I needed to immediately throw out everything I owned and start over. Reading other blogs and forums online made me feel ashamed for not realizing the effects of my buying habits sooner. I created this list because I genuinely love many of these products (some I am still in the process of trying out!), and I want to share them with you. It is not my intention to shame anyone or make you feel guilty like I did. If you decide to check out the rest of the list, I hope you're able to find something you will use and love! Remember, you don't have to be entirely zero-waste to be environmentally conscious. Taking little steps throughout the day and making an effort to choose reusable products is a great starting place.

If you have any products that I have not mentioned or included in my list that you love, please feel free to share them with me!

Until next time, be well and do your part to protect Mother Earth.

***Additional Disclaimer: Please note that the links to these products are not affiliate links and I will not receive any compensation if you choose to buy them. I only want to share with you these products in hopes that you will find something you love!***

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