April 22 is Earth Day, and it’s more important than ever to focus on our goals for helping the planet. While it’s a great idea to join Earth Day clean-up efforts or volunteer at educational events, it’s also an excellent time to implement eco-friendly changes into your daily lifestyles and set your planet-friendly goals for the year.

Earth Day

If you need ideas for setting your Earth Day resolutions, here are a few easy sustainable swaps you can implement to make Earth Day everyday.

5 Easy Sustainable Swaps You Can Practice All Year Long

Earth Day Resolution #1: Ditch Traditional Toilet Paper

The average American uses an estimated 141 rolls of toilet paper per year, with much of the pulp coming from the boreal forest of Canada, a massively important carbon sink that continues to be threatened

In 2019, the National Resources Defence Council issued a report called “The Issue with Tissue,” complete with a sustainability scorecard for different brands (which is now updated annually). If you’re currently using household names like Charmin, Cottontelle, Quilted Northern, P&G, and Kimberly Clark, and many others, those toilet paper rolls are coming almost entirely from these virgin forests. 

The best alternative to traditional toilet paper (that’s still paper) is a roll made of 100 percent post consumer waste (like 365 Everyday Value, which received an “A+” on the 2022 scorecard). Bamboo toilet paper, although not as good as recycled paper, is a better choice in general, provided it is FSC certified. Hemp is another great choice but it’s much more difficult to find.

Or, ditch the toilet paper altogether and switch to a bidet attachment. These trending devices can be added to your toilet for a refreshing cleanse that’s more sanitary than using toilet paper. 

Earth Day Resolution #2: Reduce Your Plastic Bag Use

It’s amazing how store clerks go into auto-pilot and put your single store item into the plastic bag, and once it’s in there it might feel awkward to ask for “no bag.” Be proactive at check out and request no bags or bring your own reusable bags or reused cardboard boxes. 

Reuse the shopping bags you do have lying around for smaller trash bins, and if you can’t do without plastic trash bags, shop for ones that are made using a high percentage of post consumer waste (PCR) recycled plastic. Or, opt for bioplastic bags that are certified home compostable. This goes for dog poop bags too! 

Earth Day Resolution #3: Stop Buying New Clothes

Earth Day

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, accounting for 10 percent of global carbon dioxide output. According to this harrowing statistical summary from Earth.org, “of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills. 

Thrift stores and yard sales are everywhere, and not only will buying used clothing reduce the amount of new clothing being produced, it’s also more affordable. Just be cautious to only buy what you need and resist the urge to go on a spending spree because it’s cheap! You can also shop on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist

It’s never been easier to shop for used clothes, with the many online outlets like Ebay and Mercari for snagging deals on used items. Dedicated fashion apps like Poshmart, Vinted, Depop, and my favorite, ThredUp, make the used clothing shopping experience simple and fun. 

Or, avoid buying the clothing altogether! Join a local Buy Nothing group for a free exchange of items that are no longer needed. 

Alternatively, If you need something for a special event or travel, consider renting clothing

Earth Day Resolution #4: Level Up Your Recycling Game to Styrofoam

We get it. You religiously rinse the curbside recycling items and place them in the blue bin, and that’s awesome! But what about all those Styrofoam take-out containers from Uber Eats, foam coffee cups from that great little mom-and-pop shop, or the vegetable trays from the supermarket? Don’t give up recycling it just because most curbside recycling programs do not accept Styrofoam

Instead, rinse and save the foam containers and drop them off at a Styrofoam recycling location near you. Many grocery store chains like Publix offer this service in dedicated bins outside the store, so you can easily save a trip and add them to your grocery shopping routine. To find a foam recycling location near you, visit HomeForFoam.com and enter your zip code. 

Curbside programs also typically reject plastic bags and film, but those same Publix (and other grocery store locations) accept the plastic film from multi-packs of water bottles, bubble wrap (they encourage you to pop them first, hooray!), dry cleaning bags, paper towels and toilet paper wrapping, and more. You can search for the nearest plastic film recycling drop off in your area by going to BagAndFilmRecycling.org

Earth Day Resolution #5: Give Birthday Parties an Eco Makeover

I’ve done it too: Made that last-minute dash to the Dollar Tree (a.k.a. the $1.25 store) to grab something to make a birthday party more festive. I remember looking at the cheap decorations and balloons and thought “why do we do this?” But really, why are paper plates, plastic cups, forks, balloons, and decorations the default at a kid’s birthday party? All these single-use items go straight into the trash and are incredibly wasteful. And do kids really care about the wrapping paper? Probably not. They just want the present. 

Here’s a few eco birthday party swaps:

  • Ditch the colorful glitter wrapping paper (which usually isn’t recyclable) and opt instead to use colorful fabrics to wrap gifts, or place them in gift bags that you can reuse again and again. 
  • Stop using balloons! Balloons litter our landscape and waterways and kill wildlife that ingests them. Check out BalloonsBlow.org for ideas on alternatives to using balloons like DIY banners or reusable lanterns. 
  • Use washable plates, cups, and flatware. At every other breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we use regular old plates, so why not use them at birthday parties too? If your classic set isn’t colorful or festive enough, the Party Kit Network offers reusable party supplies. If the event is being hosted elsewhere and don’t have the ability to wash items, consider opting for bamboo cutlery instead of single-use plastics. And be aware that “bioplastic” cutlery marketed as compostable almost always ends up going to the landfill because the composting system in the U.S. is not designed to dispose of these items (with a handful of exceptions). 
  • Rethink party decor. Chances are, you’ve got plenty of fabric or paper scraps in your home (or your friends and neighbors do) to make a fun DIY birthday banner, sign, or even piñata. 
  • Go digital. Most people are on social media these days, or at least have an e-mail address they check frequently. Instead of sending off paper invites and thank you notes, send a digital one. Canva is a great website for making all types of e-cards, but there are loads of free programs to easily create one.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Earth Day and to find more sustainable swaps you can practice all year, visit the EPA’s website. For information on Earth Day cleanup efforts near you, visit Earthday.org.