10 Next Level Eco-Warrior Tips
We all know the drill...
Skip the straw, carry your own, reusable water bottle and utensils, recycle, avoid unnecessary packaging, cook from scratch, buy your dry goods in bulk, buy second-hand clothes, tech and furniture, use a bamboo toothbrush, embrace a minimalist, less consumerist mindset (I mean do you really 'need' to have the 'latest' iPhone?), use your bike instead of your car, fly less, be vegan, lend, borrow and repair, reduce your waste...
All of these - and probably many more I can't think of off the top of my head - are wonderful tips that will definitely set you on the right path and every little positive thing we do goes a long way.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to incorporate more, perhaps less obvious little efforts into our lives.
Here's a list of 10 more things you can do right now to take your eco-warrior battle to the next level!
Throw stuff out !
And no, I don't mean in the trash, I mean directly in nature!
Hear me out.
Much of what we would consider waste or scraps wouldn't be viewed in the same way by other nature dwellers.
For instance, most plant-based foods (if they don't contain any salt) should be safe to put at the disposal of birds, rodents or insects. Of course, you can't dispose of mountains of waste that way but in some cases, particularly if you can't compost, it might be a better alternative than sending food to landfill, where it won't decompose properly and create more pollution.
Birds may find little pieces of yarn very useful to build a comfy nest.
And I once lost a huge bag worth of dog kibble to the mice that were hiding in my walls, which means that they would have been more than happy to find more food to scavenge outside!
And did you know that septic tanks basically run on bacteria and that probiotics are good for them? Yup, that expired (dairy free for me please!) yogurt can go straight down the drain and still technically be classed as useful. Of course, don't go around throwing perfectly good yogurt down your drains if you can help it, but for that last pot that was somehow forgotten at the back of the fridge, there's a semblance of salvation!
You can think of all this as giving back to the Earth and trow any seashell you still own back into the ocean too!
2. From food scrap to face mask
You'd be surprised how many "cosmetics" you can craft using nothing but food or plants you can find in nature or in your kitchen! (a few ideas here!)
Citrus peels, when ground up, can make for a wonderful exfoliant. If you eat a banana or an avocado, rub the inside of the peel on your skin before composting for an instant face mask that will nourish and hydrate without spending an extra dime.
Your green tea is not completely useless after having been steeped once! Make another tea from the same leaves and use it as a face toner. This will work with absolutely any tea of course, so if you use chamomile you will get a soothing effect on the skin or help your hair get some blond highlights, if you go for mint you can make a cooling face and body mist... the options are endless!
Don't hesitate to use what nature gives you instead of buying packaged cosmetics. Ivy or horse chestnut (or conkers) for instance, produce saponins when boiled which can be used to wash your hair (after it cools, of course!).
And jump to tip 5. for more ideas!
3. Up your cardboard game
Thanks to online shopping (which I definitely am guilty of on occasion, as most of us are!) cardboard boxes enter our lives on a regular basis. And while cardboard is highly recyclable, the recycling process itself requires energy and water, so why not put this material that we get for free to great use if we can? If you have a feline in your life, you know that they would never let you throw away a perfectly good box if they had a say in the matter, because they're the absolute perfect bed! Bickie told me so. And they're not picky either, even a small - sometimes too small for them - box will do! But if you're not a fan of the "Amazon packing facility look", nothing prevents you from decorating said bed. Something children will be more than happy to participate in if you give them a chance! And don't forget your furry friends at the shelter: some shelters will let you bring blankets for the animals, so why not offer them cardboard boxes since they're what cats prefer anyway?
Not that this is the only use you can make of cardboard boxes if you are all out of cats to make happy!
If you put cardboard down on the ground, at the bottom of your garden beds before adding compost and soil. It will both help smother the weeds and encourage helpful worms to come visit. Make sure you're using brown cardboard though, as you can never be sure what's in the ink and you don't want any chemicals being released into the ground, whether you're going to consume what grows out of your beds or not.
4. The seeds of change
You come across seeds a lot more often than you think! And each seed has the potential to bring a new plant, often even a tree, into this world.
Want to contribute to reforestation? Why not start with this: whenever you eat an apple, a cherry, a pear, an apricot, a peach, a cantaloupe, a tomato or absolutely anything else that contains a seed or pit, try planting it into a pot with a small amount of compost. It may or may not sprout, and the sprout may or may not end up growing into a fruit bearing tree. But to mother nature, a plant is a plant and every plant is useful. After a few months, you can plant your little tree into your garden or directly in nature. Perhaps it will continue growing, perhaps not, but it's always worth a try!
5. Not just good for mylk
Oats, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, buckwheat... the list of nuts, seeds and cereals we can make home made mylk with is truly endless, and unlike what happens when you buy a bottle of mylk from the shop, you end up with a perfectly delicious by-product that it would be a real shame to discard.
We often find recipes to make pancakes, granola or crackers out of this pulp, but even if you get bored of consuming it (or you make so much more mylk than you can consume the pulp from!), there are plenty of other things you can do with it.
For instance, I like to use oat mylk pulp to make treats for our horses. I just flatten the pulp onto a parchment paper (preferably reusable and compostable! - or here in the UK) and either let it dehydrate in the sun or in the oven depending on the season.
If you throw in some peanut butter and turn it into little balls, your dog will be delighted.
If you make nut or seed mylk, birds will love you for sharing.
Your skin also loves oats and nuts, both if you consume them and if you apply them, ground into a flour with some water added... which is exactly what mylk pulp is! So go crazy and apply the stuff liberally, as a scrub or a mask, and your skin will thank you!
6. Clothes for those in need
Some of us can donate (or even sell) their clothes because they are still in perfect condition by the time they are ready to part from them. I'm not one of those people. I'm not a fan of clothes shopping at all, and my use of them derives from necessity and convention more than it does from love of fashion. With that said, I do own some items of clothing that I absolutely love. So much so that the only times you won't see me wearing them is because they are literally gross and really need a wash - which in fact is quite often since playing with horses in the mud is not the best way to keep clothes clean. So by the time I'm done with my clothes, they end up looking more like rags. Which is great because I can then use them as rags! But again, not only. Sometimes, there's a cute pattern on a t-shirt that makes it worth turning into a little pillow or even a handkerchief, and sometimes the material is particularly warm and comfy, which is when the garment should be used as a pet blanket. Perhaps your local shelter will accept them, and if you have pets of your own you can make your cat's cardboard box even more lovely to sleep in or give your dog something warm to lie on which has the added benefit of smelling of you! This can be comforting if your pet has abandonment issues.
7. No fixing necessary
When something is broken, our first reaction is to consider it useless. It's often interesting to think outside the box and, instead, to consider what it could be in its new form.
Pieces of a broken flower pot, for example, can be used at the bottom of another flower pot to promote better drainage. You can also use broken plates and cups for the same purposes.
Did you know that it can be dangerous for bees to find drinking water in the heat of the summer. They are not great swimmers and if they get too close, they can lose their grip and drown. So why not use loose beads or marbles, broken bits of flower pots (them again) and other bits and bobs to create a bee friendly watering hole? All you need to do is arrange these broken bits of things on something that's hollow enough to contain water and make sure the water can't get higher than the pieces of materials you used. That way bees (and other friendly little creatures) can have access to water without risking their lives.
8. The purpose? Re-purposing
So many things are created for the sole purpose of containing something or facilitating something once and be discarded immediately after that one use. Such is the case of bottles, jars, yogurt pots and so many other things!
So next time you need virtually anything at all, look around you.
Need a door stopper for that pesky door that keeps hitting the wall? This champagne bottle cork, screwed in place, will do the job (it can also be makeshift furniture feet for anything that's just a little bit too low to the ground).
You want to sow a lot of seeds for your garden but no containers in sight? Look in your fridge! Any plastic pot that you can poke little holes at the bottom of will work! Think yogurt, margarine, bottles of juice, etc.
A soap dish would be nice? The lid from that jar is not too ugly!
And speaking of jars... buying mason jars to store dry lentils when we have a perfectly good jar from yesterday's pasta sauce? Well you get the gist!
9. Grow Up (and learn from your mistakes)
Living up to our responsibilities is probably the most important tip of all.
Just because some people are promoting veganism or a more zero-waste lifestyle like it's basically the only way to live doesn't mean it came to them naturally. There were some difficulties to overcome, some decisions to make and some fears to get past. But that's exactly why the experience is so rewarding, not just for the planet but also on a personal level. Fighting for the environment is something that takes work and, because of that, it truly gives you something to be proud of.
It’s always possible to get some inspiration from others but, ultimately, only your own decisions and efforts will bring you to the next level. Ditching straws just because everybody else is, of course, contributes a little something to the fight against plastic pollution, but it’s more like a conversation starter than a real contribution if the rest of your life revolves around wasteful habits. Go a step further, always, in your thinking about and questioning the world we live in as well as in your day to day actions.
Think of it as growing your garden. Every plant needs tending to, watering, feeding and a certain amount of your time to thrive. But when you can visit your family and bring with you a huge basket full of home-grown veggies, don't your efforts make you feel proud?
And speaking of which, growing your own delicious food (whether or not you have a garden!) is another great eco-tip! (more on that later!)
10. Clean up the mess
By now, you’ve probably heard of beach cleanups and nature walks where you enjoy a hike while picking up as much trash as you can all around you.
Why not join one of these outings or even organise one with your friends? And if that’s not your thing, it doesn’t stop your from picking up whatever doesn’t belong on the street as you walk about your business. If you find plastic bottles and put them in the recycling bin, at least there’s a small chance they might make it to a recycling facility…
And while we’re on the subject of cleaning, sponges are terrible for the environment. They're made out of plastic and, since we use them for scrubbing, they happily break up into tiny pieces that end up in the ocean until they are consumed by unsuspecting animals. But if you still have some, you can put them to good use and keep them from ending up there... at least for now. Cut them up into pieces and place a few in your flower pots, mixed with soil. For those plants that are always thirsty, it can allow the substrate to store additional moisture.
And this is still only the tip of the iceberg!
There are many other ways to reduce your impact or contribute positively such as carbon offsetting or activism in its many forms…
Any other ideas? Share them in the comments below or over on Instagram @thetinyveganlife
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