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Eco Audit August – Part 1

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Before we ask others to adopt more sustainable practices, we should always examine ourselves. I consider myself to be ‘super green’ already, but there is lots of room for improvement! Reading the books ‘Microtrends‘ and ‘Switch‘ gave me the idea to closely examine my own consumption habits during the month of August.

I haven’t been able to find an environmental theme for August, so I made up my own #ecoauditaugust. For the entire month of August, I will examine my consumption habits (without changing anything). I will keep a photo journal on my various  Instagram accounts (@fatchange101, @supergreenshug, @ecoauditaugust) of the following:

>my purchases
>shipping
>wants/desires
>traveling habits
>food consumption
>energy consumption

I hope you enjoy this monthly journey and I hope you can add some of your own.

Day 1 – Beach Trash

beach cleanup cigarette buttsI’m still on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. We live in the southeast, so we drove to Myrtle Beach. Driving produces fewer emissions than flying. While we were at the beach I picked up some beach trash, which was plentiful. I have never seen so many cigarette butts discarded in my life.

One regret I had while on vacation was the inability to compost. One reason I produce so little trash is because I compost. During our next vacation, I am hoping to manage leftovers better, thereby producing less food waste.

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Day 4 – Dining out

kanki steakhouse dinner food waste to go boxesWe are back from Myrtle Beach. I took my mother to Kanki Japanese House of Steak and Sushi for her birthday. My family (excluding my mother) are flexitarians, which means we eat animal-based products sparingly. I ordered shrimp hibachi rice. Animal-based consumption is directly tied to increased greenhouse gas emissions.   ⠀

In lieu of shrimp, I may choose the tofu next time. I did not remember to bring my to-go box, so I went home with styrofoam. I plan to invest in a set of to-go containers just for my car.⠀

Day 5  – Free Stuff

refuse reduce reuse recycleMy husband went to the store to pick up groceries. The grocery clerk handed out reusable bags with plastic goodies. This could have been an easy win. All he had to do was refuse. One way to remedy this is to discuss these things beforehand. “Just say no” to free plastic crap. ⠀

Day 6 – Pre-Packaged Foods

circular economy packaging wasteI forgot my lunch today and needed to buy it. I purchased lunch in paper and foil. I will compost the paper and recycle the foil. The foil and paper is a semi-win. I avoided buying a cup of soup ? in styrofoam, but I purchased a bag of chips in non-recyclable wrapping. And crackers. I love crackers! I grabbed a pack with my lunch without even realizing it. Unfortunately for me, these crackers are individually wrapped in plastic. ⠀⠀

One thing I can do is purchase pantry snacks in large packaging, thereby reducing my packaging waste. I will keep one of these bags in my office so I’m not tempted to buy chips or crackers. Ultimately I need to remember to bring my lunch!⠀

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Day 8 – Shopping

hemp diaper inserts reusable cotton roundsI made a purchase from Etsy today. I have been contemplating this purchase for a while. I love cloth diapering my baby boy (who is 1 year old now), but I have a super soaker on my hands, so I’ve been using disposables at night. I’m hoping hemp inserts can help us. It’s important to remember that cloth diapering doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

My second purchase was with the same vendor. I have been using cotton balls or sensitive baby wipes for my face. Terrible right? I haven’t found a cloth soft enough for my sensitive skin.

Photo credits and purchases from Eco Life Natural.

Day 9 – Pantry Planning

pantry printable lower food wasteMy plan for limiting food waste starts before the compost bin. I start with a monthly inventory of my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Inventorying our food prevents me from buying too much or rebuying something we already have. It also helps with meal planning. It’s so much easier to plan meals when my inventory is in front of me. I can easily type in a few ingredients into Pinterest and find a great recipe. It saves money too! Win-win! You can download my free pantry, freezer, refrigerator printables here.

Day 11 – Is Disposable Glass Better?⠀

is disposable glass eco friendlyIt seems that the zero waste movement focuses a lot on disposable plastic and rightfully so. Disposable plastic is ravaging our planet. Lowering our usage of disposable plastic is absolutely critical, but is disposable glass a better solution? (Please note that recycling is local and heavily dependent on where you live).

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Cons ⠀

>glass is heavier to ship which increases emissions.⠀
>glass has become difficult to recycle in mixed-use recycling b/c it easily breaks in transport and gets contaminated w/ plastic and paper. This glass ultimately ends up in the landfill. ⠀
>many municipalities have stopped recycling glass for this reason.⠀
>recycling glass is resource-intensive. It takes an incredible amount of energy to recycle glass. ⠀
>only 1/3rd of glass in curbside recycling gets recycled. The rest is landfilled.⠀
>unfortunately not many companies are utilizing reusable glass.

Pros⠀

>disposable plastic is destroying the planet. It should not be used lightly. ⠀
>plastic has a huge manufacturing footprint.⠀
>reusable glass is a low emissions rock star. Sterilizing and reusing glass bottles makes up for the increased weight during transport.⠀
>some good news— glass recycling may be rebounding.⠀
>unlike plastics, old glass can make new glass.⠀
>the materials to make new glass are relatively plentiful.⠀

So what do I do? I don’t want to use disposable plastic? But I don’t want to increase my emissions by using disposable glass?

I’ve decided to try to buy at bulk stores (if I can) or become “my own bulk store” lol, by buying the largest container I can find (thereby limiting my packaging waste). The product may or may not be in disposable plastic, as long as it’s a large portion.⠀

Day 12 – Frozen Meals

vegan meals disposable plasticI love Amy’s Kitchen meals. I’m a busy career mom who eats on the go. I really like that these meals are either vegetarian ? or vegan. Eating a mostly plant-based diet is essential in the fight against climate change. Animal agriculture is a huge greenhouse gas emitter. That said, plastic is also a huge emitter. These meals come in cardboard, then wrapped in plastic, the tray is a cardboard/plastic amalgam. The only thing I can recycle is the exterior cardboard. I assume this mixture of plastic in the tray is necessary? ⠀

Since I’m not eating frozen meals with meat, my carbon emissions have decreased significantly. So perhaps just eating a vegetarian/vegan meal ? is the win?⠀

Day 13 – Are Bananas Ecofriendly?

are bananas ecofriendlyBananas are usually plastic-free but are they ecofriendly? The zero-waste movement is more than plastic-free. It’s about consumption habits, emissions, and advocacy for the environment against corporations, governments, and careless consumption. ⠀

So back to bananas ?. There are different varieties of bananas, but the standard edible banana that we eat is called the Cavendish. Similar to the Gros Michel variety before it, the Cavendish is susceptible to the same fungus and diseases that collapsed the Gros Michel banana trade. ⠀

Banana plantations in Asia and Africa have already been wiped out. The disease has been confirmed in Australia. Costa Rica and Ecuador (largest banana producers) may be next. ⠀

If the crops in Ecuador and Costa Rica go down, there is no replacement that has the taste, the transportability, and monoculture ability other than the Cavendish. That’s how close we are to losing the banana as we know it. ⠀

The corporate banana plantation owners are not known for their ethics or environmental stewardship. Many of these plantations run on exploited labor and heavy pesticides. The pesticide use is so bad that it may be causing sterility in male farmworkers. ⠀

Bananas may be cheap and plastic-free but the true cost is borne elsewhere. As part of my audit I will seek out different varieties of bananas other than Cavendish (which may taste different and be more expensive) or I will purchase organic or Fairtrade bananas.

Day 14 – Plastic-Free Produce⠀

plastic free produce fruit vegetablesI really want my kids to eat fruit. Is there any way to find grapes without disposable plastic? If there is, I haven’t seen it yet. Likewise, I have had trouble finding strawberries plastic-free even at the Farmer’s Market. We grew strawberries earlier this summer, but they are long gone.

I will continue to grow strawberries in our potager garden and I will limit our strawberry and grape purchases in disposable plastic. If we do buy strawberries/grapes, I will buy in the largest package I can find to limit my packaging waste. If I cannot find grapes or strawberries without disposable plastic, then my secondary goal is to find a different fruit that my kids will eat without all the plastic. ⠀

Day 15 – Shipping and Mailing

carbon emissions 2 day shipping slow livingThis week I had to mail some important letters. The documents had to be mailed, not emailed or faxed. I used the envelopes I had in my house. (Win— using what you already have). But… these envelopes have a plastic adhesive strip. These envelopes are so much easier than the old fashioned glue lick ? envelopes. But as part of my eco audit, in the future, I will buy old fashioned glue envelopes. No need to create more plastic waste.⠀⠀

Then there is online shipping. Soooooo school supplies? I purchased my little girl’s school supplies online and I donated school supplies to a little boy in need. I didn’t have time to go to the store, walk the aisles, and pick up the needed items, so I ordered everything online. This is the question— is ordering online more eco-friendly than brick and mortar shopping? ⠀

The answer really depends on your situation. I live in an area with a lot of urban sprawl so ordering online batches my deliveries with other consumers, thereby lowering emissions. However, 2-day shipping throws all that out of the window. The resources required to locate inventory, package ?, and ship it within two days time may negate any gains earned through batch deliveries. Also, two-day shipping means more packaging because the vendor is focused on speed. This is why 1 item arrives in a big box with a ton of plastic air pillows. ⠀

I will continue to shop online, but I will purposely choose slower shipping options so my packages are bundled together. This will lower emissions and packaging waste.


That’s it for the first half of Eco Audit August. I will create a second post at the end of August, as I audit the rest of the month. I hope you’ve enjoyed my audit challenge. I hope it inspires you to examine some of your own consumption habits and share them!

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#environmentalism, #ecofriendly, #ecoauditaugust, #zerowaste

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