Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22, and I thought I’d share a few moves I’ve made to cut back on plastic waste and generally be a better steward of the only planet we’ll ever call home. Read on for more!
Easy ways to poo-poo plastic
🧼 Groom greener. I’ve raved about local soap in this newsletter before, but it’s honestly great, and there are tons of places to get it. My personal-care favorites right now are Lovett Sundries, Hip Modern Soap, Trail Botanica and the Refillery. Everything in the photo above is from those shops and 100% plastic-free. You can also look for items like plastic-free toilet paper or add a bidet for a cleaner bathroom experience.
🌽 Eat cleaner. Get your produce from a CSA or farmers market. While CSAs can seem like a “compost supply agreement” when you get a ton of chard you don’t know what to do with, this is actually just a great excuse to learn pickling and canning! I still have a few jars of last year’s banana peppers and all the frozen green beans I’ll ever need.
♻️ Join your local Buy Nothing community. These private Facebook groups are an absolute godsend for students, new parents, gardeners or really anyone who wants to ensure their old stuff has a valuable second life in your immediate vicinity. For example, I found a new home for our old gas-powered lawnmower when we went electric! Speaking of…
Grass without gas
🔋 Swap the old two-stroke weed wacker for an electric one. Fossil-fuel-powered yard tools get it done, but they’re also noisy and pollute the air. While electric appliances still draw on the power grid and thus aren’t carbon-free, they do improve air quality and make it easier for you and your neighbors to enjoy the outdoors without engines roaring all day. I swapped earplugs for ear buds when we got a battery-powered mower — it’s WAY quieter.
🌿 Also, let your lawn go wild. You can keep your lawn mowed and still have a pollinator paradise. We’ve let patches of violets, Creeping Charlie and wild strawberry take hold, and the bees love it. Add a bee barn or hummingbird feeder and local plants like bee balm for maximum pollination power.
Composting is easy
Composting is one of my personal favorite ways to cut down on trash. Food scraps are a non-negligible part of many households’ waste streams, but composting can turn that trash into treasure for your garden. Some quick tips to get you started:
Get a lidded container for your food scraps. Compost gets stinky, but there are tons of container designs out there that keep the smell down until you’re ready to take those old banana peels and onion skins outside to the heap or tumbler.
🍂 Mix greens and browns. This is the golden rule of composting. To get the right mixture of nitrogen (greens) and carbon (brown), you’ll want to even out wet and actively decomposing ingredients like food scraps or lawn clippings with stuff like dead leaves, straw, sawdust or even shredded paper. Maggots and soldier fly larvae can be a sign you’re doing things right. Abundant mold growth, not so much.
🧑🌾 Tumble or turn: One issue with open compost heaps (besides pests) is they’re slower than tumblers. Turning them with a pitchfork can help, but my household has expedited our composting operation with a black plastic tumbler. It keeps the compost hotter, and the two-chamber design lets us rotate batches so the compost has time to fully break down.
🪱 Bring on some hired help. Worms can help move things along! A cheap way to enlist some wormies is to buy a small container of live bait and chuck them right in. For a more advanced scraps-to-soil process, you can also look into vermicomposting.
Check out our composting Reel on Instagram to see my process for yourself!
Make every day Earth Day
🚲 Mark your calendar for car-free fun. OpenStreetsPGH just announced their 2023 dates and inaugural route, which will take cyclists, skaters, pedestrians and anyone else eschewing automobiles from the North Shore to Southside via the Armstrong Tunnel (Editor’s note: Going through the tunnel by bike is an awesome experience!).
🚘 Get a pollinator habitat license plate. The new design supports the Pollinator Habitat Program Fund, a state initiative that supports the cultivation of pollinator gardens on roadsides and in berms and medians.
🗑 Get rid of your hazardous waste through the city. Got an old TV or a bunch of moldy paint? Is your garage full of questionable automotive fluids from the ’90s? The city will take it (though you might have to pay a small per-pound fee).
We hope these tips help you — or validate the steps you’re already taking to be mindful of the environment.