- Editor’s Note: This article is Part 2 of a three-part series written by Kane County Board member Jarett Sanchez, who serves on the County Board Energy and Environmental Committee. The mission of Kane County’s Division of Environmental and Water Resources is to develop, evaluate, and implement programs to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the environment.
You know how we said last week that this would be a two-part series on how to adopt a plastics-free lifestyle here in Kane County, IL? Well, now it’s a three-part series.
Last week, Sustainability Fellow Leslie Hernandez and I laid out the case of why you should consider eliminating single-use plastics from your daily routine.
This week, we boil it down to five simple tips to make this challenging lifestyle change just a little easier.
Next week, we’ll offer some brass-tacks specifics about what products you can use in place of single-use plastics.
5 Tips For a Plastic Free Lifestyle
1. Start small.
As Kane County Resource Manager Jessica Mino says in her Step-By-Step Sustainability series, just make one change in your life, then build from there.
“If you want to change your habits, you have to take it slow,” Hernandez said. “It’s so overwhelming, and there’s so many areas to consider for waste reduction, you just can’t take it all in at once so don’t pressure yourself. Take a look at your daily routine, and find one thing that you can easily change that will still impact your waste output. Even just the reusable straw is a big step.”
2. Focus on changing yourself.
Henandez says it is impossible to make the people around you care about the environment, so her best advice is to focus on what you can change: your own attitude and habits.
“You cannot force people to want to change,” she said. “If you try to pressure people around you or try to pressure your community into doing as much as they possibly can, it’s very overwhelming for them.”
3. Stay Positive.
Hernandez says people often associate sustainability and sustainable initiatives with negativity, because the responsibility for climate change so overwhelming.
“People don’t want to think about it,” she said. “They don’t want to feel bad, so they kind of just brush it off. We can’t quite make it all positive, but if we change our angle toward engaging positive lifestyle changes, then that could help get us in the right direction.”
4. Don’t Plastic Shame!
In some ways, this is a corollary to tips No. 2 and No. 3.
You can and should be enthusiastic about environmentalism, but you can hurt the cause by being too extreme.
“We really need to change the dialogue around that and how we approach these situations,” she said. “I get comments about how snobby environmentalists are, and that has to change, for sure.
“If your friend is using a plastic straw but they also talked about how they started a garden, applaud them for the garden! Encourage the positive action they took and hopefully that will continue to grow into other lifestyle choices they make.”
5. Find the Others.
You can find inspiration by reaching out to other people who are going through similar lifestyle changes.
“Facebook is great when you’re looking for information and community,” Hernandez said. “Instagram is great because it’s more visually inspiring. A lot of the old school sustainable stuff isn’t that pretty (laughs) and so now you can find so many great sustainable influencers whocurate products really nicely. It’s slower to catch on in the U.S., but it’s really popular in Europe, and it’s growing here.”
Search for any local sustainability and zero-waste groups you can find and also do your “Google” homework. A quick search can give you many good ideas for this to start swapping out in your life, or reducing altogether.
The Fox Valley Sustainability Network is a good place to start in Kane County.
Below are some social media accounts and groups to follow to learn more about this lifestyle and to help you find others on the same path.
- @Zero Waste Chicago: local group that helps businesses and individuals transition to a zero waste lifestyle.
- @Rocket_Science: a zero waste warrior and author, I like her page because she provides tips and swaps for those on a budget.
- @Litterless: a solid zero waste influencer.
- @Zerowasteclub: a shop in London, I like looking at their products for ideas and tips.
- @Zero.waste.collective: community sharing tips and swaps.
- @Litterati: an artistic approach, they have followers submit captions to all their posts which are of litter found on the street.
- @zerowastememes: pretty self explanatory 🙂
Facebook (private groups)
- Journey to Zero Waste
- Plastic Free Support
- Non-Consumer Advocate (not specifically zero waste, but they do come around, and it’s much more budget friendly)
- Plastic Free Living Swap
Postscript: If Leslie Can Do It, You Can, Too
I met Leslie at a Fox Valley Sustainability Network’s forum on plastic waste, where she was one of many participants in a group brainstorming session. It was clear from her words that she had not only been converting to a plastic-free lifestyle for a few years, but that she’s also very active in trying to help others do the same.
But she wasn’t always a champion for a more sustainable, zero-waste kind of life. In fact, for her, the perspective change began in college.
“Before college, sustainable living wasn’t even on my radar,” she said. “But I had an AP Environmental class that was about sustainability, and I found myself suddenly emotionally caught up with the way we’re living and the kinds of impacts we have on our environment.”
Like many college students, being introduced to new information had a truly life changing effect on her career path.
“I studied Environmental Science and Marketing, applying that toward Ecological Footprints of businesses and individuals,” she said. “There weren’t many jobs available in that field so I got a corporate job and eventually worked my way into being able to bring forth some sustainability initiatives through my employer, engaging residents and trying to make a difference.”
That work led her to being offered a job with Oak Park after getting on the radar of their champion of sustainability, Mindy Agnew. It wasn’t a sudden or easy journey for her to go from normal consumer to mindful consumer, but she felt it was a necessary journey.
“Mindfulness and sustainability are two key words for anybody trying to reduce their impact on the planet,” she said.
Read The Plastics-Free Series!
- Nov. 1: How To Live Without Plastics — Part 1: Why You Should Consider ‘Zero Waste’
- Today: How To Live Without Plastics — Part 2: Five Tips To Change Your Lifestyle
- Next Week: How To Live Without Plastics — Part 3: What Products You Can Do Without
Now We Recycle Some Graphics
- Editor’s Note: Several readers of Part 1 requested that we re-post two of the graphics in a larger image size. They are posted below in hopes that they’ll be a little easier to read.