"What can I do?" is a question I often get asked when discussing the health of Mother Earth. I get it. You alone can’t keep the polar ice caps from melting or rid the oceans of plastic. The problem seems insurmountable, but the good news is that each of us can make a difference. And the more we work together as a community and provide good examples to those around us, the more progress we will make. There are plenty of actions you and your family can take starting right now, so let’s go!


1. Use what you have

Every day we are bombarded by marketing messages: the next best thing that will make you look younger, help you sleep better or make your dog happier. Impulse buying keeps the supply chain churning, creating more and more products the retail industry will convince you to buy. But before you pull out that credit card, try using what you have in your home. Chances are you have a great product stash already. Use up what you have, and then buy a replacement when you actually need it. This restraint will save you money and help you and your family distinguish between want and need.


2. Recycle

Many of you probably think this is a no-brainer. Good for you! Be sure you are current on the recycling rules for where you live; know what can and cannot be recycled. Let recycling awareness also drive your purchasing habits. Look for packaging that can be recycled, as well as packaging that actually contains recycled content. The only way recycling can remain viable is the willingness of companies to incorporate recycled content in their products and packaging.


3. Carry reusable "to-go" containers

Keep reusable "to-go" containers in your car. If you often have leftovers when eating out, impress everyone around you when you whip out your own container for that yummy fettuccine alfredo you couldn’t finish. Then don’t forget to put a clean container in your car when you get home.


4. Skip the disposable straws

If you’re a straw user, simply add reusable straws to your cupboard, your purse and your glove compartment so you can skip the plastic disposable straw. Then just say, “No straw, please,” at the drive-thru window or restaurant.


5. Value your water

We are fortunate to have readily accessible, quality water available to us. Every time you flush your toilet, turn on a faucet or start the dishwasher, you are making a conscious decision. You are paying for that water. Use it wisely. Just boiled a pot of pasta? Let that pasta water cool and then use it to water those beautiful mums on your porch. Brushing your teeth? Turn off the water until you’re ready to rinse.


6. Pick up trash

See that candy bar wrapper on the street in front of your house? I know you didn’t put it there, but pick it up and put it in the trash. The wrapper could easily wash down the storm drain and wind up in the ocean. You certainly don’t want that on your conscience!


Julie Rhodes lives in North Little Rock. She is a passionate Earth advocate, eager to engage more people in the conversation through many means, including her Facebook group Earth Arkansas. She is a TRUE Zero Waste advisor, and works with Food Recycling Solutions as a project manager. Contact her at julierho9@gmail.com.


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