If there’s one thing in life I excel at, it’s passionately choosing careers that require me to constantly move, be in a constant of uncertainty, and flourish in a small community where everyone is connected and knows one another professionally and personally. My experience in Chicago has been no exception. You could argue that other fields are this way, but I’ve never really known anything but a career that thrives on challenging societal norms through storytelling, advocacy, and creativity. Being on the move and constantly relocating can not only be stressful, but it can also make it difficult to practice sustainability constantly. Why? Because sometimes when you’re on the go it’s easy to pick what’s readily available without thinking. Actions like recycling and reusing are not a problem. What is difficult? Although I’m not continually moving every week or two, I tend to spend 3-6 months in one location and then pick up and move again, making it a little more complicated to develop sustainable practices like composting and growing herbs in my home, but for my semi-nomadic lifestyle, there has to be something, right? After consulting several blogs and searching the internet, here are a few more goals I’m working towards for a more sustainable lifestyle:
- ALWAYS pack cloth bags. This seems like a given, but I can’t tell you how many times I think I don’t have room for them or forget them entirely. It’s now going on my permanent packing list so it doesn’t slip past me.
- Pack my reusable lunch tote. I purchased one a year ago after visiting northern Peru and needing a cool drink in the hot desert. I wanted to pack it with me for Chicago but once again didn’t think I had the room. After being in the city for a couple of weeks, I started to realize there were some things I didn’t need and could have made this a priority. It’s going on the permanent packing list as well.
- Look for local farmer’s markets when shopping for groceries. One of my favorite parts of living in a new city is checking out the local farmer’s markets for produce. I’ve done so in Denver and San Diego and was not disappointed. It’s something I can definitely make more of a priority as I continue to explore the world.
- When looking for clothing or gifts, shop local boutiques. I usually do a good job of following this one, given the fact that I prefer boutiques over chain stores when it comes to a personalized gift. Boutiques always have more unique tastes that I’m looking for and doing the research ahead of time to find one in a new location is key to making shopping locally a priority.
- Be careful about products I purchase to make sure nothing is tossed out. Currently my roommates have their own compost, which is helpful since I love to cook and can put things like banana peels and avocado shells in the compost instead of the trash. However, if there is no compost option, I’ve been more careful about ensuring that I use everything I purchase. Scouring Pinterest for recipes to use all the celery and carrots I’ve bought to make sure very little or nothing is thrown out is helpful to making sure I don’t throw out produce I could have used in a chili recipe.
- Use leftover glass containers instead of plastic. Most recently I’ve seen the effects plastic waste has on the environment and have been brainstorming ideas of how to use less plastic. While I’m nervous to take my lunch to work in glass because I’m afraid my klutzy nature will cause me to break the glass container, I’ve come up with a compromise: If possible, reuse and empty glass containers for food storage and use a plastic container to transport food to and from work. It may not be the most ideal situation, but for a clumsy person like me, it will be a good solution.
- Replace Ziploc bags with reusable sandwich bags and collapsible food containers. After consulting a few blogs, this came to my attention and now I’m convinced it will be my next travel purchase and item on my Christmas list. Amazon has great options for collapsible food containers and Thrive Market has options for reusable sandwich bags. Although I wash out and reuse Ziploc bags (and will need to for carry-on restrictions), I can begin to reduce my use with these sustainable options.
- Pack a reusable coffee mug and water bottle. Although I don’t always drink tons of coffee, having my own travel mug and water bottle is great for reducing the waste from getting a morning coffee or purchasing bottled water. Plus, it reduces the cost of having to continually purchase coffee, tea, or water.
- Consider toiletry alternatives. Some swear by the Diva Cup, including Adventurous Kate and Joybilee Farm suggests Glad Rag Moon Cup for periods. It will reduce the waste of tampons and pads and your exposure to toxins, so although I’m hesitant, I’m curious to give it a try. Have you tried these options? What would you suggest?
- Make my own shampoo, conditioner, soap, and toothpaste in travel friendly containers. I attempted my own conditioner of tea tree oil and coconut oil with very little luck, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider other possibilities. Since many acquaintances I’ve known recommend making my own toothpaste, I’m definitely curious to give this mixture from Joybilee Farms a shot. Do you know of any other suggestions or possibilities?
- Replacing plastic with bamboo options. Even though bamboo toothbrushes are known for being expensive, I’ve been told they are well worth the cost. Not only will bamboo decompose, but you also won’t be ingesting bits of plastic as you brush your teeth. Have you given bamboo alternatives a try?
While this list is just the beginning, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities out there. Taking on too many goals can be overwhelming, which is why I plan on taking small steps and continuing to branch out from here. With each step, I feel more of a connection to where I work and travel and remember the citizen we often forget on Earth: the environment.
What other recommendations would you suggest I try? What steps do you take to travel more sustainable?