By: Elise Ertl

At the start of every new year, people are always looking for ways to improve themselves and consider this time of year to be a fresh start. Whether you already have made your new year’s resolution or are searching for a way in which you can help make a difference for yourself or for others, there are always ways in which you can implement great new habits into your everyday life.

One of these ways is learning how to be more environmentally aware. This can mean anything from smaller gestures like switching out your plastic toothbrushes for wooden ones to larger gestures like purchasing a bike to use on campus to reduce your total amount of CO2 emissions. We see an increasing need for awareness on environmental issues, but why do we need to be aware in the first place? While plastic was once thought of to be the best new invention, it now has taken a major toll on the earth we live on.

The Environmental Protection Agency concluded that Americans alone produce about “254 million tons of trash” each year.  Not only this but, it is even harder to fathom the idea that every piece of plastic you have ever “thrown away” still exists.

While we cannot do anything to change the use of plastic in our past, we can change how we use it today and in our future.

As mentioned above, there are many things you can introduce to your life to make a difference. No matter in what way you contribute, every little bit is step towards the right direction.

Small gestures like using a reusable water bottle and choosing not to use a straw are great ways to start getting rid of plastic in your life and are simple enough that almost everyone is capable of doing it. If you take a look around your room or house, you will notice that a lot of your plastic containers come from personal hygiene products such as your shampoo bottles or your laundry detergent. Many plastic personal hygiene products can be replaced by taking glass containers, such as mason jars, to a bulk store. You can generally find most of your necessities such as food and household items at bulk stores. Some salons will even sell you their shampoo and conditioner in bulk and put it in your own containers.

For food, if you know you are going to go out to eat and are going to have left overs or take-out, bring your own container with and ask if they will put your food in your personal container instead. By doing this, you not only use less plastic but also reduce to amount of garbage bags that you will have to buy and use, ultimately saving you money and creating a cleaner earth.

The same goes for reusable containers. The idea behind them is that they are “reusable” and will last you for many years. So overall, paying for one reusable container will save you from paying for multiple single use containers every time you need one.

Larger gestures are sometimes not as easy to do, as they can be more time consuming and more expensive. One item that most people already have, however, is a bike. Riding a bike to school or to work can sometimes seem like a huge commitment, and in the cold Wisconsin climate, it can also seem to be a daunting task. In reality however, the weather most days is permittable enough to choose to take your bike over your car to class. If you do not have a bike or simply do not want one, you can also walk to class. It is a bit of exercise you can add to your day, you save on gas, and the earth will love you for it.

In almost every store you can find reusable products and I suggest shopping locally for them. Not only can you find some really unique products that you will not find elsewhere, you will also support and get to know your community.

Being conscientious of your habits and trash output has so many health benefits for you and for others around you, so I urge you to think more about environment this year. New Year’s resolutions are difficult to maintain because it is not easy to change your developed habits, but hopefully, these are some that will stick with you and become a part of your everyday life.