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The new year is one of the most popular times to set goals. While health, wellness, and weight loss are usually at the top of that list lets aim for a more sustainable goal in 2022. A goal that will not only keep us healthy but can also help out the planet. I have rounded up my 10 tips that have personally helped me make a difference in the amount of waste that I create.

Once you read through this list, pick one or two areas to start with, then go from there. A habit is not built overnight and no sustainable changes will be made in a day, so aim for the long term behavior changes by starting small and achievable! I hope this helps you reduce your waste and live more sustainably in this new year.

I. Eat a more whole-food, plant-based diet

This should come as no shock as one of my tips if you are already on my website! Ok, but for real, how does eating a plant-based diet help me reduce my waste? When I talk about waste I don't just think about a plastic bag, I think about wasted energy, resources, and materials that we cannot reuse. The production and management of animal products is incredibly energy intensive, in particular at such a large scale required to supply the Standard American Diet. Reducing your intake of animal products and increasing your intake of minimally processed plants can greatly reduce the amount of resources going into your food production. Eating a more plant-based diet will also limit your options for eating out and fast food. This will simply reduce your waste by saving on those take out boxes and bags of napkins and ketchup packets that just get thrown away in the end.

One thing that I feel the need to clarify is that no effort goes unnoticed. There is absolutely no need to go 100% plant-based if it is not possible for you. Simply eating one plant-based meal per day, let alone 3-5x per week will put you miles ahead of the typical American in terms of a nutritionally adequate diet. Not to mention reducing your intake of heavily processed foods that come in lots of packaging like chips, candy, frozen meals (like pizzas and chicken nuggets), deli meat, and fast food will do the same.

Learn how to make your own staples like plant milks and more, I love the book The Homemade Vegan Pantry for this by Miyoko Schinner!

Check out my Recipes Page for all sorts of plant-based ideas to get your inspired this year!

Check out my book Plant-Based for Prevention to learn about more of the science and environmental benefits that come from adopting a plant-based lifestyle.

II. Invest in a good coffee routine

I think that this might be my favorite tip that I have ever come up with. While I love a good moody coffee shop to read in, or to get that latte on my way to work, the single use cups are just not worth it. Pre-pandemic we were able to get glass mugs at most coffee shops that they would then wash and use again or we were able to have them fill our own travel cup. These are sadly luxuries that we no longer have (in most places) due to the state of public health. With that said, if your local coffee shops still have these amazing perks definitely go support them! For me I found that to forgo the coffee shop urge I needed to be able to make coffee as good as I could get it out. This involved finding my perfect latte recipe for home. Luckily my parents have an amazing Breville Espresso Machine that I use regularly and I am currently abiding with them till I finish my Dietetic Internship. However, when I lived on my own I purchased a little espresso machine for $150 (the cost of about 1 month of lattes) with a milk frother attachment. This allowed me to make all the lattes that I could need without going out and creating more waste. I was also able to buy my coffee beans from a local shop who would refill a glass canister for me.

Ultimately my point here is to figure out how to make your favorite coffee and make it at home to reduce your use of single use cups. Again, you can still go and get your favorite Starbucks coffee, let's just make it less often than every day!

III. Plan!

Failure to plan is planning to fail! Yeah yeah, we know. But seriously, if you are going to try and successfully reduce the waste that you create it will take some planning. For example, if you plan to go grocery shopping, make a list, check what you already have at home so you don't double up, grab those reusable bags, and if your grocery store has a bulk section bring some jars! If you are going to work and will need a lunch, make something the day before or pack some leftovers and don't forget the silverware! This can save you some money and Styrofoam containers and plastic forks.

IV. Keep extras in your car

This is a tip I actually learned from my mom after I opened her glove compartment and found a fork, knife, spoon, and dish towel. When you pack a lunch or do end up getting food to go, don't bother wasting those extra plastic utensils and napkins, keep your car stocked for those random occasions. I personally like to do this with water bottles. Sometimes I will forget to refill my water bottle before I leave work and be so thirsty I could stop for some but remember that I have an extra water bottle in my back seat. Save some plastic and stock up your car!

V. Compost

Composting is an amazing underrated way to reduce your food waste in particular. Instead of throwing out those carrot ends, onion wrappings, and plate scraps add them to a compost bin. You can actually reduce about 30% of your household waste by composting yard waste and food waste. If you happen to live in a house with a yard and are able to actually manage your own compost then this is a great opportunity for you to get started! Check out this website to learn how to start composting and using it in your garden. If you live in an apartment or in a city you may think that this is simply not achievable for you. However, you are wrong! Most cities have compost trucks that come around like your garbage or recycling trucks that pick it up weekly. All you have to do is get it outside once a week. But what to do with it during the week? Compost can get a bit stinky and even attract bugs if left to long. So if you don't like having it in a canister in your kitchen then here is a great tip for you, put it in the freezer! This will keep all of the components of the compost from starting to decompose and thus will hold off on that stench. Then you can add to it as you go and get rid of it when its time. If your city does not have trucks that come and pick it up the next option would be to find a local farm. Just about every farm should have a compost pile and would be more than happy to take yours weekly.

VI. Pack your lunch for work

This goes along with being prepared but I have always noticed how much this brightens up my workday when I have a lunch that I am looking forward to. So I don't mean packing a sad ice berg lettuce salad with a few cucumbers and a banana for your work lunch. I mean pull out all the stops and make something that you know you enjoy. This will diminish the desire to go out to eat and will most likely help you eat a much more nutritious option. Not to mention reduce the waste from what ever you would have gotten to go.

Check out this article on How to Pack the Perfect Work Lunch. Some of my favorites include a massaged kale salad with a creamy dressing, a buddha bowl, lentil or chickpea pasta, and chickpea salad sandwiches.

VII. Shop local & small

When I was living in New Hampshire for school I really took this one to heart. I lived in a small town on a main street and loved supporting the local businesses. I worked at a local consignment shop that sold upscale second hand clothes and a women's boutique. It was not only great to get to know all of the other local business owners and towns people but to shop small and know where everything was coming from. I also frequented the Co-op for all of my groceries and tried to support all of the local small companies when possible. The way that this can reduce your waste is by cutting out shipments, packaging and vehicle emissions from purchasing things across the country. You are getting it from the local source instead of from a warehouse like amazon. This can also lead to better quality goods as well decreasing the amount of time that you actually need to go and purchase replacements.

VIII. Simplify your beauty routine

This is an area that I find has always been difficult for me and others because the majority of beauty products come in plastic packaging. What I have found worked best for me was to simplify my beauty routine and clean out those bins of old make up in my bathroom closet. Find your core skin care and make up products you need and love. I try to keep it up to ten. Treat them well, aim for glass packaging when possible, and try to switch to more natural alternatives. Don't wear make up when you don't need it so you can make it last longer. Here is what I like to stick to to keep my beauty routine simple. For skincare: face wash bar of soap (no waste), moisturizer (glass container), vitamin c serum (glass bottle), under eye cream. For makeup: concealer, mascara (and metal eye lash curler), eyebrow pencil (that doubles as an eyeliner), a face powder, and a bronzer. This area may not be your best low waste area but is definitely something that you can work on to reduce.

IX. Educate yourself

This one is so important if you want to make lasting changes that will make a difference. You are actually already one step ahead by reading this post, so go you! Staying educated about sustainable living can seem daunting as humans aren't doing such great things to our planet but change starts small. My favorite topics to educate myself on include fast fashion, home practices, food systems, and environmental practices. Both documentaries and books can be a source of inspiration to keep you motivated along your journey to living more sustainably and reducing your waste. I also love watching youtube videos from people following a zero waste lifestyle so I can pick up tips that I can apply in my own life. We don't need everyone to go zero waste, we need everyone to make less waste. The thought of having to follow an absolute lifestyle deters people from making better choices, similar to how the thought of going 100% vegan all the time may deter someone from even trying it. We need to emphasis the importance of small steps and that every action does in deed matter and especially over time.

Here are a few of my favorite low/zero waste YouTubers to get inspiration from!

X. Pick your battles

I know I say that each one of these tips are important but actually this one might be the most important to help you keep up with these hacks. Pick your battles! No one is perfect and in todays lifestyle it is just about impossible to avoid plastic, food waste, single use products, and creating garbage in general. It can be so discouraging to constantly be unsuccessful so I suggest picking the areas where you know you will be able to make a difference. For example, eating a plant-based diet I rely on protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and legumes. The problem is is that tofu and tempeh both come in plastic packaging. While I am not fully equipped to make these staples at home just yet, to offset the plastic I get from these products I make sure that I get my beans in bulk in paper bags or my own containers and try to get the rest of my veggies loose with no packaging. Maybe that week I will also make my own nut milks to save on bottles/tetra packs as well. I will just make sure that packaging is cleaned properly and makes it into my recycling bin. Do your best and what you can, because if we all start doing that then we will make a difference before you know it.


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What is a Registered Dietitian?

A food and nutrition expert who can work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice. RDNs are accredited health professionals that must meet state and government regulations to maintain their credential in addition to completing continuing education. RDNs can practice something called Medical Nutrition Therapy to improve the health of those who suffer from chronic diseases. 

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