Diary / Lifestyle / Sep 26, 2022
Give A Sh*t: Ashlee Piper's 8 Tips for Sustainable Living
Written by: Ashlee Piper
by Ashlee Piper
*Ashlee Piper didn’t set out to become an eco-expert. The former political strategist started researching animal rights in her 20s and after realizing how interconnected our actions are to the creatures living on this planet, she decided to make the environment her number one focus. She left her job in politics and has since appeared on countless TV segments and has written about eco-friendly living for just about every magazine and website. In 2018, she released her book, Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet., which is filled with tips and tricks to make holistic sustainable living easy and exciting. In honor of Earth Day, we asked her to share a few tips from her book that will help you make a positive impact on the planet. - Alexandra Perron *
The nice thing about living more sustainably is that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. There are so many ways we can do better and feel good about it, that I see it as a menu of options. These are some of my favorite "quick hits" from the book, meaning they don't take a ton of time, but they pack a big positive planetary punch.
1. Go on a financial fast
Try it for a week. The more stuff we buy, the more stuff we create demand for and Americans already have SO MUCH STUFF. There are more external storage facilities for our stuff than there are McDonald's and Starbucks combined. Americans also spend 50 minutes a day just looking for stuff and 90% of our spending habits are unconscious (meaning not utilitarian, but rather based on feelings). A week-long breather from buying anything (aside from food and essentials) is really eye-opening.
2. Think secondhand first
If you do need something, make secondhand your first port-of-call. Whether it's a clothing swap, Poshmark, Craigslist, ThredUp, a local consignment or thrift store, swapping with your neighbors - whatever it is you need, explore secondhand options. Besides, secondhand is chic as hell and can often save you quite a bit of green.
3. Create a reusable arsenal
Single-use plastics are a huge issue and Americans individually create 4.4 pounds of trash per day, much of which never even get recycled. You can easily cut that number down to size by building a reusable arsenal. I have a bottle (good for hot and cold beverages), reusable bamboo cutlery, a cloth napkin, Stasher bag, cloth shopping bag, and a little stainless steel tiffin in my bag at almost all times. It doesn't take up much space or weight, but it really helps me eschew disposable cups, bottles, cutlery, takeout containers. And it makes any meal feel more like a refined occasion than a quick dash.
4. Throw in the towel
Paper towels are such an American addiction that can add up (some families can spend a whopping $500+ just on paper towels each year) and take a huge toll on our forests. Swapping disposable towels for some sturdy reusable cloths takes little getting used to and will really help the planet. I have a few and I simply throw them in the wash with my regular laundry when they need to be cleaned.
5. Research rotting
Many people recycle (which isn't the end all be all, as I go into more detail on in the book), but few of us compost. Composting cuts down on the weight and amount of trash sent to the landfill and also reduces the harmful methane released when organic materials (i.e. things you can likely easily compost) decompose with inorganic materials (like in the landfill). Plus, composting is cooler and cleaner than ever before. I have a service that comes every other week and collects my bucket and brings me a new one. It never smells up my apartment and it has reduced my trash to pretty much zero. You also become much more mindful of food waste and become obsessed with what can be composted (hair, fingernails, pencil shavings, all the grody things). Ha!
6. Cancel that junk
Junk mail is insidious and persistent. The average American receives 41 pounds per year, 44% of which goes straight to the landfill. While it may take a few months to see results, get started now by 1) ensuring you're set to paperless billing (it's not always a default, most require opt-ins); 2) getting on "do not mail" lists via CatalogChoice.org, DMAChoice.org, OptOutPrescreen.com; and 3) simplifying your subscriptions. And while you're at it, help out an elderly relative or neighbor do the same. Seniors are disproportionately targeted with almost double the junk mail of a younger person, which can expose them to being victims of fraud.
7. Go naked
Whether shopping for food or buying deodorant, focus on how little packaging you can buy something in. The bulk bins at your grocery or health food stores are a great place to start — and you can usually save a lot of money, as well.
8. Buy cruelty-free
Ensure your beauty, personal care, and home cleaners are not tested on animals.
Read more of Piper’s tips in her book, Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.