Simple Actions for Earth Day

Every year around Earth Day, walls of elementary schools across the country become plastered with adorable artwork by children eager to spread the message about saving the planet. The solutions are mainly “pick up litter,” “recycle,” and “reduce, reuse, recycle.” When it comes to reducing waste, however, these solutions fail to address the problem: we don’t know how to produce less trash AND less recycling. We’ve been sold on the idea that disposable products are convenient. That they somehow make our lives easier because going back to the store over and over again to buy more and more is somehow easier than reusing something we already own.

This Earth Day try these simple actions to produce less trash and recycling.

Learn from litter. Putting litter in the trash only changes the location. When you pick up litter, learn what it is that you and others around you buy that contribute to our waste problem then think of less wasteful alternatives for those items.

Say “No, thank you.” Refuse what you don’t truly need whether it’s a shopping bag, produce bag, straw, freebie, gift with purchase, etc.

Use your own reusables. Avoid single-use disposables by using a container for your leftovers instead of a plastic baggie, bring your own mug to the coffee shop, pack your own silverware with your lunch,

Talk about trash. Every conversation is a nudge reminding others of our trash problem. Mention your shock about that garbage patch swirling in the ocean. Tell others about those straws you refuse. Talk about what you learn from that litter. Share what you do to reduce waste. Those conversations might spark another conversation and another and another and then finally...change.

Basic Moisturizing Balm


Although dry winter air requires constant moisturizing, it doesn’t have to require creating waste. A simple balm can be used to moisturize and protect skin all over the body instead of a clutter of bottles and tubes intended for every individual part. It can also be used to tame static in hair and clothing and protect skin from diaper rash.

Basic moisturizing balms consist of two ingredients: wax and oil. Wax acts as a protectant and oil acts as the moisture. Popular waxes include beeswax and candelilla wax. Commonly used oils are almond, olive, avocado, grapeseed, pumpkin seed and rosehip seed oils. Infused oils or essential oils can be added to turn the basic balm into a therapeutic salve.

Personally, I use beeswax and whatever oil I have on hand because that combination makes it easier for me to sustain making a safe, economical and low-waste balm on my own. When using beeswax, the best ratio for skin and lips is 1 part wax to 4 parts of oil (1:4 ratio) but 1:3 can work well under warmer conditions (in a pocket, summer weather) and 1:5 can work well under cooler conditions as well as in chapstick tubes.  The most efficient way to make a moisturizing balm is to use a small heat-safe jar (such as a jelly jar) that can also be used as a container for the balm. If smaller containers are needed (such as for use in a purse), the melted balm can simply be poured from the jar into the smaller containers.


You’ll need: 1 part of beeswax, 4 parts of oil(s), heat-safe container with lid (such as a jelly jar), small cooking pan with water and 5-10 minutes of your time.

Place the jar filled with wax in a small pan of water (water should be low enough so that, if boiled, will not get into the jar). Heat until wax melts, then remove pan from heat and stir in oil(s). Let cool until solid or pour into additional travel-sized containers. Use on skin, nails, and hair.

Must-Read Zero Waste Books

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

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An ultimate guide to eliminating household waste, Zero Waste Home is the first book to open when beginning the zero waste journey. Johnson provides practical advice for reducing waste in every room of the house as well as when shopping, traveling, raising children and taking care of pets. Her family of four produces less than a quart of garbage per year using her methods.

Garbology by Edward Humes

It may sound like the opposite of a page-turner but Edward Humes' history of trash and present-day challenges is fascinating look at what really is "away." Humes explores ways to reduce our reliance on trash and highlights what others are doing in the movement toward a healthier relationship with waste.

Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit by Beth Terry

This unintended zero waste book focuses on the how and why of reducing plastic in everyday items. Beth Terry's tips are practical, well-researched and inspiring to even the most plastic-dependent readers.

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Humorous and insightful, No Impact Man shares the year-long experience of a man reducing his ecological impact to the extreme while living in Manhattan with a unsuspecting wife and 3-year old daughter. It's laugh-out-loud humor makes for a quick, light-hearted read that's real. It may even nudge you to do more than just recycle.

Reusable Hand Warmers & Hot/Cold Packs

Simple solutions to single-use hot/cold packs and hand warmers are available in most kitchens. These reusable options reduce trash and the need to continuously spend money on disposable, one-time-use products such as heat wraps and instant hand warmers. Additional benefits include mobility (no cords), repairability (no electronics), and enjoyablity (no condensation or leaks).  

  1. Choose a natural filler such as rice, dried beans, lentils, etc. (Optional: Adjust the aroma by adding dried herbs or experimenting with different fillers. I use dried lavender petals.)

  2. Find pack materials (worn-out long sock or salvaged cloth & thread/string/ribbon).

  3. Make pack, fill and close.

  4. Microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time or chill in the freezer. Use as you would with a heating pad, heat wrap, hot water bottle, ice pack or hand warmer.


If using a sock, fill. Tie closed using the long cuff.

If using cloth, fold a square shaped piece into quarters and cut into quarter-circle. Unfold, put filling in center. Tie closed using a string or ribbon.


If sewing, fold cloth in half with the inside facing out. Sew two sides, then turn right-side out. Fill with filler. Stitch the remaining side closed.