5 Not-So-Small Ways I’m Getting My Greta Thunberg on in 2023

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I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a home that had, I kid you not, no less than five waste bins in the kitchen alone. One each for regular rubbish, paper recycling, compost, general plastic recycling and bottles and cans that could be taken to a facility. Being from California, home to some of the country’s most stringent environmental policies, it seemed only natural. Perhaps because of this, the topic of sustainability has always deeply interested me, from my grade-school recycled art project to the environmental science class I took in high school (everyone else was just there for the easy A). I even pondered studying the latter at university—but the romance of being a writer won that round. However, it’s still something I think about constantly, especially with the state of the world we find ourselves in. Scientists say it’s imperative that we prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the way forward is to drastically decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

It's a daunting problem that won’t be resolved by the actions of a single person. I do believe that I alone cannot make a meaningful impact by changing my actions, but revolution does start on the granular level. What would it look like if we all made one small change in our daily routines that reduced (if slightly) our carbon footprint? Each action might not count for much, but together? The results are compounded. That’s why I’m committing to five (pretty easy!) ways I can be more sustainable in 2023. Hopefully, you’re inspired to make a greener choice, too.    

How Eco-Friendly Is Sustainable Denim, Really?

how to be more sustainable: bar shampoo from the earthling co and viori
Marissa Wu

1. Switching to Bar Shampoo and Conditioner

  • Why It Helps: Keeps plastic bottles out of the landfill, recyclable packaging has a lower carbon footprint than typical plastic

I was super skeptical about this because I love a good lather. Though lather does not at all equate to cleanliness, it just feels good—I didn’t want to give it up. However, my guilt about tossing my plastic shampoo bottle outweighed my desire for something that probably wasn’t helping clean my hair at all, so in January I went with bar shampoo and conditioner.

I stocked up on two products: The Earthling Co. Vanilla Coconut bars and the Viori Citrus Yao bars. Thus far, I’ve been incredibly pleased with the former (it happened to arrive in a broken box, so I decided to use it first). It’s been roughly a month and I haven’t even made my way through a quarter of the bar. It’s almost scandalous how little product I need for a good lather. And my hair feels just as clean and soft (if not softer).  

how to be more sustainable: blueland laundry tablets

2. Swapping Laundry Detergent Pods for Tablets

  • Why It Helps: Prevents microplastics from entering the water supply; free of harsh chemicals, dyes and bleaches; compact and lightweight design reduces carbon emissions in transit

Laundry pods are incredibly convenient—I say this as a gal who must walk seven blocks to do the laundry. It most definitely beats lugging a ten-pound jug of detergent. However, the plastic encasement is too good to be true. According to this study, it’s actually not biodegradable under current water treatment processes.

So, once I finish working through my stash of laundry pods, I’ll be transitioning over to these BlueLand laundry tablets. The first shipment comes with a reusable steel tin, and their products are shipped in recyclable packaging. If you’re ever unable to recycle one of their “forever” tins or bottles, you can mail it back and they’ll do it for you.

how to be more sustainable: bite charcoal toothpaste bits
Marissa Wu

3. Trade Toothpaste Tubes for Bites

  • Why It Helps: Reduces plastic waste, packaging is compostable

Additionally, as I come to the end of my tube of toothpaste (which I swiped from a magazine beauty closet since it was destined for the landfill anyway), I have subscribed to Bite Toothpaste Bits in a bid to eliminate that packaging, too. Bite sends its toothpaste bits in a reusable glass jar, and subsequent refills are delivered in compostable packaging.  

how to be more sustainable: bamboo toothbrush
Marissa Wu

4. Choosing Bamboo Toothbrushes

  • Why It Helps: Diverts plastic from landfill, bamboo is a better environmental choice than traditional wood

While not perfect, bamboo is better than plastic: It grows quickly, can be recycled or composted, produces 35 percent more oxygen than the average tree and has excellent durability. It seemed like a worthy swap, especially considering that, per National Geographic, every toothbrush manufactured since the ‘30s (the ‘30s!!) still exists. Yikes. I went with this pack of ten on Amazon, and it came out to about a dollar per brush—plus, I now have a toothbrush for the next five years.

how to be more sustainable: madewell jeans (madewell recycles old clothes) and a responsibly-sourced wool sweater from & other stories
Marissa Wu

5. Shopping at My Short-List of Brands

  • Why It Helps: Gives clothing a more circular life, prevents it from ending up in a landfill

For me, avoiding fast fashion is both easy and incredibly difficult. Easy, because I never shop at the typical “fast fashion” sites. However, I’m also a notoriously bad thrifter. (No patience, too chaotic, what have you.) So, my goal this year is to a) buy less b) say yes to hand-me-downs (some of my favorite pieces in my closet have been given to me by friends who were cleaning out theirs) c) consider the long-term future of my purchase—if I think I’ll wear it for the next five years (or more!) it’s a yes, if not, pass and d) when I do buy things, I want to prioritize recycled materials, sustainable fabrics and companies that have recycling programs and environmental commitments, like & Other Stories, Sézane and Madewell. (In the above photo, I have jeans from Madewell that I got after taking an old pair in to be recycled, and a sweater from “responsibly sourced wool” via & Other Stories.)

how to be more sustainable: three old yogurt and sour cream containers repurposed to hold leftovers
Marissa Wu

6. Reusing Plastic Containers Instead of Buying Extra Food Storage Containers

  • Why It Helps: Repurposes containers otherwise destined for the landfill

I love beautiful kitchenware as much as the next person—truly. I have antique glassware and teacup collections and dream of owning the whole of Food52’s inventory. But the unaesthetic truth is, the planet is better off if I simply reuse all the yogurt buckets I’ve accumulated from Trader Joe’s, as opposed to buying some pretty food storage containers. So that’s what I’ve been doing, and hey, they do the job. I’ve put them in the fridge and freezer, used them to store everything from soup to cookie dough (the photo above shows containers that have anything but yogurt and sour cream inside) and have no qualms sending leftovers home with friends—there’s no worry about getting the container back.

MW 10

Associate SEO Editor

I’ve covered the lifestyle space for the last three years after majoring in journalism (and minoring in French) at Boston University. Talk to me about all things sustainable &...