“Did you know that the dry cleaner will take back your hangers AND plastic!? Yeah, they send the plastic back to the manufacturer so it can get used again.” – Leah Peterson, co-founder of Rowdy Elephants
Meet Leah Peterson, co-founder of Rowdy Elephants. Rowdy Elephants partners with businesses, restaurants, schools, and even your home, to create simple eco-friendly solutions that work for them. Simple changes, big impact.
2020 update: Rowdy Elephants has permanently closed.
I met Leah when she was standing next to the recycle bin at an event this past fall deliberately taking a ubiquitous plastic twine off of everyone’s lunch plates so they could properly be recycled. I struck up a conversation with her because I’m ALWAYS that girl at the trash/recycle/compost station standing like a deer in headlights, wondering what goes where. So I was naturally interested in what she was picking off people’s plates.
Then she started telling me about a composting service that comes to your house every week for a nominal fee. “So then you would have three bins” she says. “One for landfill, one for recycle and one for compost. And you can even ask for the nutrient-rich soil back for your garden.” And that’s when I knew I had to have her on the blog to share more sustainable living tips with us.
Thanks to Leah for her insight. Be sure to comment below if you want to see her back again!
10 SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE HACKS
by Leah Peterson
Do you ever learn something new and it just rocks your world? You know silly stuff, or what some may consider insignificant, but that new fun fact provides an entirely different view on life for you? I’ve been on my wellness journey for more than a decade now, but as I transition into incorporating more sustainable practices into my life and grow Rowdy Elephants, I am constantly floored by new facts and tricks of the trade.
It’s understandable to want to ignore the facts but the truth this, we’re all in this together. And there are simple, little changes we could all make that would deliver a big impact on our planet. I mean, every straw used counts people!
Here are my favorite sustainable facts and tricks of the trade that hopefully provide you a different view on life.
#1 Composting is not just for hippies
Composting is not just for the crunchy, hippy folk and it’s super easy to incorporate into your home/office routine. Let’s be honest, it’s the fertilizer Mother Nature’s intended.
Mainstream alternatives are made up of three primary chemical ingredients of which the plants absorb about 33 – 50% of, the rest running into our water ways and eventually the ocean. Not to mention, food waste that sits at the landfill produces a chemical called methane which contributes to green gas emissions.
Have no interest in doing this yourself? If you’re in Atlanta, check out Compost Now. If not, a simple web search should help you locate a local composting company. For a (relatively) inexpensive monthly fee you can collect all of your food waste in a bin and have the composting company pick it up. For example, I’m in Charlotte and pay Crown Town Compost $22/month to pick up weekly.
#2 Know what to recycle
Rinse your recycling. If something is dirty in your bin, the entire bin is considered contaminated and can’t be recycled. Also, recycling can be tricky. Nearly 60% of what we think we can be recycled, CAN’T. So make sure to visit your city’s recycling webpage to learn more about what can and can’t be recycled in your community.
P.S. BATTERIES CAN’T BE RECYCLED. Instead, take them to Home Depot, Lowes or Batteries Plus. All of these stores have a battery recycling station/receptacles that’s usually near customer service.
#3 Opt for foil
Ditch the plastic (for a multitude of reasons) for metal– it’s the poster child of recycling. Recycled foil uses 95% less energy than normal and can be recycled over and over again. This is one material you can feel good about using.
#4 Buy local and in season
They say you should buy local and in season but do you know why? The average American-meal travels 1,500 miles to make it to your kitchen table. If you’re buying out-of-season produce, it could travel up to 2,300 miles before it hits your fork. If you have the space and time commitment, try growing your own garden. Here are some beginning gardening tips. Otherwise, take advantage of your local farmer’s market to support those that are doing it for you. For me, it’s my Saturday morning ritual that I’ve grown to love.
#5 Say NO to palm oil
Read up on palm oil (aka vegetable oil) and do your best to avoid it. Aside from a lack of nutrients, palm oil is the leading cause of deforestation and animal suffering (adorable orangutans no less). It’s primarily grown in the Amazon and we need the rainforest to breath. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen comes from here. Palm oil can be found not only in our food but also beauty products and household items. Here are 25 sneaky ways it can be listed as an ingredient. This list is taken from Treehugger.com:
1. Elaeis guineensis
2. Etyl palmitate
4. Hydrogenated palm glycerides
5. Octyl palmitate
6. Palm fruit oil
7. Palm kernel
8. Palm kernel oil
9. Palm stearine
12. Palmitic acid
13. Palmitoyl oxostearamide
14. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
15. Palmityl alcohol
17. Sodium kernelate
18. Sodium laureth sulfate
19. Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate
20. Sodium lauryl sulfate
21. Sodium palm kernelate
23. Stearic acid
24. Vegetable fat
25. Vegetable oil
#6 Kill weeds with vinegar
Spring will be here before you know it and that means those pesky weeds will start growing again. No need for Roundup and/or other pesticides (nearly 1,600 of them) since they can change the acidity of the soil and also kill off birds, bees and insects. Instead, switch to simple white distilled vinegar. My husband bought himself a reusable 2-gallon lawn sprayer and walks around our property thinking he’s a badass spraying those things. Trust me, the weeds won’t know what hit them.
#7 Dry cleaner plastic CAN BE recycled
The fashion industry is the second largest pollutant in the world after the oil industry. Fashion used to have two new collection cycles (spring and fall) but now, the demand for inexpensive clothing has created more than 50! Let’s buy less and buy better.
If you are buying new, avoid polyester. Long story short, it’s plastic. Every time you wash it tiny pieces of microplastics are shredding into our water supply.
Also, that annoying thin plastic from dry cleaners can be recycled. Most laundry cleaners will take it and those hangers back. For some reason your cleaner doesn’t, you can take the plastic to your mainstream supermarket and throw it into the same bin as the plastic bags found normally near the front doors of the store.
Lisa: Wait, a bin for plastic bags at the grocery store!?
Leah: Yep! I have never seen one at Whole Foods but Publix and the others should have them. I know my Harris Teeter does.
Or opt for a reusable dry cleaning bag.
#8 Embrace the cup
Consider making the switch to a menstrual cup and/or period underwear. The average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her life and…wait for it…those tampons and pads make it to the landfill, and the chemicals they are made up of release pollution into our groundwater and air.
Are you still with me? Gross, right? Take a cup quiz online, find which one will work best for you, and make the investment. It took me a hot second, and I’ll admit I needed to join a Facebook group to ensure I was doing things correctly, but I’m never going back. You hear me? I’m never going back!
I won’t judge you if you drink Starbucks but I may look at you crooked if you don’t use a reusable mug. This and a reusable water bottle should be your staples. Have one set at the office and one at home, or wherever you want them but they should be there every day with you. Why? For one thing, 7.2 BILLION coffee cups and lids are thrown into the landfill each year and are the second biggest polluter after plastic bottles. And just to clear up any rumors, while your city may recycle those cups and lids, it’s actually incredibly hard for it to be accomplished. So let’s just assume they can’t.
If you forgot your reusable mug today, do your best to support the coffee shops and local eateries that have made the switch over to compostable serving ware.
#10 Avoid single use plastic
That means the plastic stuff you buy once and then toss. There is no excuse for single use plastics. There, I said it. Although the material may be cheap and convenient, it comes at the expense of our polluting our planet – both while the product is being made and then again after its been used.
Around 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year and of that, only 10% is recycled. Overall the world has seen a 620% increase in plastic use over the past 40 years and not a single piece of it has fully biodegraded.
Like this? Check out 10 ways you can live greener without doing much!
Here’s what you can do about it…
Opt for a reusable water bottle and coffee mug. Hands down, best damn investment you can make.
Stop using plastic straws. America uses over 500 MILLION STRAWS A DAY. I overheard a mother say the other day she had to keep using them because she “has kids.” No, you don’t. Grab yourself a couple mental straws, they even make some now that bend for you to toss into your handbag for on the go.
LISA’S RECS: I like these metal straws with a silicone top because they don’t make my teeth feel weird or stab me in the face.
Use reusable tote bags for your groceries and invest in some cloth produce bags.
Use a razor with a replaceable blade, better yet, invest in a stainless-steel razor.
Opt for a bamboo toothbrush works just the same as the plastic ones you’ve been using.
Pack your lunch and snacks in reusable containers – wax wraps are the bomb! And upgrade your plastic Tuperware for glass containers.
- Weangreen glass containers
- Pyrex glass containers
- Eco Lunch Box
- Stasher Bags (these come in all sizes up to a gallon!)
- Kids reusable water bottles
- How to shop for sustainable fashion
The average plastic spoon is used less than 15 minutes and will take 1,000 years to biodegrade. Let’s bring one from home. Or better yet, pick up a Single Serve Sallie set from Rowdy Elephants.
I am by no means a sustainability expert, but I’ve been exposed to some life altering facts that have really rocked my world and therefore changed how I want to live. Maybe one or two tricks of the trade will help you along too.
In the spirit of getting Rowdy,