With all the dismal news swirling around us we may feel helpless, insignificant, or as if our actions don’t matter.
Well, I am here to tell you that they do! Seriously. And, getting involved in your community is one of the best ways to keep eco-anxiety at bay. Get more tips for banishing eco-anxiety.
I am an environmental activist. I advocate for a less wasteful life in my community, and I am going show you how to do it too.
I’m a wife, a mom, I work, I know that time is SO valuable. I am just your average gal - I promise!
I’m going to be honest, being an activist can be a huge commitment, but it doesn’t have to be! Sometimes it’s as easy as asking a question or talking to the right person. Yep. It’s really that easy.
1. with the school:
During a meeting I asked if they would eliminate single-use, plastic straws in the cafeteria.
It took some time, but eventually the did - which prevented 3,600 students from automatically being given a straw every day!
2. with the PTA:
In 2016, I set a personal goal to reduce the waste at the school and school events in my district. Every year we have a HUGE carnival where thousands of plastic trinkets are handed out as prizes.
I decided to work with the event chairs and PTA president
I explained why the prizes weren’t needed
I explained the impact of plastic our environment
Reminded them that most kids played with the toys for a few minutes before throwing them away or having to be decluttered a few months later
So, they decided to ditch plastic prizes! As a bonus, this also saved the PTA a significant amount of money.
3. with a local non-profit:
I work with Go Green a non-profit organization that has really upped my community outreach.
I have worked with several organizations to “green” their events which means reducing landfill waste, setting up recycling, and composting.
For instance, the Boy Scouts program is strong in our community and each troop has an annual Pancake Breakfast fundraiser that caters to more than 500 hungry guests.
While at the event one year, I looked around at all the waste and thought there had to be a better way.
I spoke with one of the troop leaders which then lead to me presenting a more eco-friendly pancake breakfast to the committee.
Everyone was on board so we swapped out the Styrofoam plates, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, etc. for either reusable or compostable items, while adding composting and recycling.
The original event created 18 large trash bags, the new zero waste event created only two!
4. with the grocery store:
I love to shop from the bulk bins when I can. This helps me reduce my packaging waste. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.
I use my produce bags to buy nuts, granola, rice, beans, raisins, etc, but I would love for there to be more of a selection so I’m collaborating with the Bulk Regional Manager at Whole Foods to expand their bulk section.
Hopefully this will come to fruition, especially since Illinois is about to pass a bill (HB3440) which will (FINALLY!) allow customers to use their own containers at bulk sections. Cross your fingers!
5. with gifting:
Speaking of my reusable produce bags, they always get attention when I’m grocery shopping, usually at checkout. My rule is if someone asks me what they are or where I bought them, I give them one of mine for free!
I see this as a way of inspiring people to use reusable produce bags as well as paying it forward in hopes that they will do the same. In fact, while handing over the bag, many have excitedly told that they will do just that – how cool!
6. with the local government:
A new eatery opened on Lake Michigan which is a hot-spot for waste!
I attended our Park District’s bi-weekly meeting to advocate for better sustainability practices. Given the proximity to Lake Michigan, I lobbied hard for the elimination of plastic straws! A no-brainer in my eyes. It’s still a work in progress but giving up is not an option.
7. with my neighborhood:
Lastly, block parties are big within my community. Often times they create a lot of unnecessary waste.
To combat this, I created an Event Greening one-pager that provides suggestions on how to reduce waste at any type of event.
I worked with our local government to have this one-pager added to the Village Block Party website right next to where the block party permit application resides so that residents can’t miss it!
I am set to personally green two block parties this summer and the hope is that the one-pager will inspire residents to do the same.
The best thing about working in your community is that you get to share the message outside of yourself. Think about ALL of the people you can influence.
Not only are you bringing awareness to the those working and volunteering, you’re bringing awareness to the guests who witness first-hand how a few simple changes can reduce waste significantly.
Guest Post: Nicole Boomgaarden, from Chicago, is the founder of imperfectzerowaste.com. She works part-time as a Sr. Business Analyst in the financial industry. Serves as the liaison with local school districts to help them adopt sustainable practices and environmental education. Enjoys playing softball, volleyball, dancing, reading and sharing her knowledge around how to live a greener life on her Instagram account @imperfect_zerowate.