Here are five ways to live more consciously for the environment that all the while, happen to be delightfully luxurious. Let’s take a cue from some of the earlier generations and up the ante on slow living habits with a bit of style and planet-sensitivity.
Use Linen Napkins
Not only do linen and cloth napkins look lovely on a set table, adding a sense of warmth and civilisé. They’re also far more sensitive to the environment than a paper napkin. I used to use a paper towel with every meal and snack— that’s three to five paper towel sheets per day getting tossed and often barely dirty. A single linen napkin stays clean for a couple of days and when it’s time to refresh, I simply grab a fresh one and send the other to the laundry bin.
As a teenager, I was an exchange student at a high school in Marseilles, France and I remember my host family gave me a red linen napkin that I quickly learned would be mine for several meals. At the time, I recall finding it a bit strange, even slightly icky. In my maturity, I’ve realized this was a powerful early lesson in wastefulness. As a two-person household, it’s easy to remember which gray napkin is ours. But I’m now on the hunt for ideas to create eight unique napkin rings (a good one I’ve heard, is to use eight unique cookie cutters).
Pack Lunch in a Mason Jar
Mason jars and Tupperware are a superb way to: (a) stay on a budget, (b) eat what you intend, and (c) use sustainable transport methods for your meals-on-the-go. Be it a prepped, chopped salad in a jar with dressing in a separate container, a soup, or stir-fry, a mason jar is easy-to-pack, clean and happily re-usable. I use it for other meals too, be it for overnight oats, freshly made juice, or storing leftovers.
Grab a thermos for drinks on the go, keep a mug at your desk, and you’ll be set with sustainable beverage containers at work.
Use a Handkerchief
More often than not, it’s during the cold weather months or the onset of spring when you just need a simple nose wipe, nothing terribly icky, and a handkerchief is a perfect thing to carry in your purse. Surely at the times when you’re ill or with a particularly runny nose, it’s quite forgivable to revert to disposable tissues… but, you can reduce your average use of tissues and remember a laundered handkerchief is clean anew, perfectly suitable for replacing tissues. Personally, I carry around a handkerchief on which is delicately sewn in script “Ladies is pimps too” — a gift from a dear friend.
They’re also a handy tool on the subway platform for ye forehead sweaters in summer.
Swap the Pods for a Pausa Caffè
If you need a caffeine boost or a few minutes of repose, save the instant coffee pods to make your own delectable coffee break. We use a stovetop Bialetti Moka for a smooth espresso or add water from the kettle to make it an Americano. I like to use a French press (also an Italian invention) when preparing a coffee just for myself. It is easy-to-use and the taste is finer than the typical jumbo pot we begin our mornings with. The smell is rich and warm and the pausa caffé allows you clear your mind, be present and focus on creating a coffee. It’s also a nice way to share a moment, be it with friends, family, or colleagues. The French press is an especially adaptable option since you only need access to a kettle.
Not only will this save your wallet, but also have a significant impact on the environment. Most pods, when disassembled, are recyclable (admit it, you’re probably not disassembling them). But as David Gelles wrote, “Just because something is recyclable, that doesn’t mean it will actually be recycled.” K-Cups rely on recycling centers to find these tiny, individual cups among the heaps of aluminum and plastic waste to sell them for a profit. Nespresso, in a higher-end price bracket, makes it easier to recycle these small pods through return programs. Even with this effort, we must then circle back to the production and resources required to meet these demands as 1 in 4 American households own a pod coffee machine. Take back the coffee break.
To-Stay or Takeaway?
At many a coffee shop or lunch spot, the difference between staying and going could also mean the difference between a real mug, plate, and flatware versus something disposable to take with you, possibly even in unrecyclable styrofoam. I know that one of the modus operandi of New York life is that there’s no time and we’re always busy. But do you really not have 15 minutes to sit still and eat away from your screen or to sip your drink for five minutes? And sure, sometimes we are pressed for time, but you’ve already spent the money on this meal. Shouldn’t you at least enjoy it? And when you have something delivered, you’re still paying as you would be if you were to sit down in a restaurant, interacting with others, enjoying food and ambiance.
To be more eco-conscious, we must also live more consciously. When you rush about ordering a boxed meal to hurry back to Microsoft Outlook are you truly conscious, focused on what it is you’re doing? We can change the culture by slowing down.
Many places around the world already require grocery stores to charge for disposable bags and our own Suffolk County joined the ranks as of January 1, 2018. I recommend leaving a few bags in the car or keeping one that easily stuffs into a small size in your everyday bag. You might just end up buying less than you need knowing you have a finite amount of bags you’re taking back home.