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A New Year’s commitment to sustainability

2021! What a year! I know many of us thought (or hoped) this pandemic would have come and gone by now. But here we are! Despite the whirlwind of this year, we have a new year to look forward to. With this new year comes the common practice of creating New Year’s resolutions. Some people focus on getting into shape, cutting back on sugars (I love my soda!), or spending more time with family, among others. For me, being someone who works at Zoo Atlanta advocating for the conservation of animals and care of the planet, I want to practice what I preach. My 2022 resolution is to focus on becoming more sustainable in my daily life. I know trying to be more sustainable can seem a daunting task. But welcoming in the new year is the perfect time to be setting higher goals and pushing ourselves to be better than we have been. I hope you will join me in the pursuit to make more sustainable choices in our daily lives. These do not have to be drastic changes, but rather small or easy conscious decisions that accumulate to have a positive impact. Here are some of the choices I hope to make in 2022.

Grocery shopping is a chore I often would much rather send my husband off to do while I stay at home with our dog. However, it can also be a good place for me to practice making sustainable choices. Plastic grocery bags are everywhere and often do no good after their first trip home from the grocery store. It is amazing how quickly you can accumulate these bags. Over 1 billion plastic bags are used EVERY DAY. To save myself from being buried in all of them, I use an alternative. Laundry baskets make a great carry-all for groceries. After purchasing, all my groceries go straight into the cart, no plastic bagged items, and wheeled out to my car. I load up the laundry baskets in the back of my car with my groceries and off I go! It is much easier to carry all the food in one or two baskets than 10-15 bags. Along with this is produce bags. I cannot say I have ever reused a plastic produce bag. They are flimsy and cannot do much after holding my broccoli for several days. However, reusable produce bags are easy alternatives. What is even better is they can hold more, are stronger, and often are machine washable. Now if you do happen to forget your baskets or reusable bags, because no one is perfect in this pursuit of sustainability, don’t fret! Many large supermarkets accept plastic bag recycling.

Another choice that I hope to make in the coming year is to cut back on my paper consumption. I am an avid paper towel user. They are easy and convenient for cleaning up messes when the dog knocks a glass of the coffee table. However, it takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to create one ton of paper towels. The U.S. alone creates 3,000 tons of paper towel waste every day. While I may not create that much waste daily, it does add up over the years. So to reduce my waste, I will use old bath towels in their place. These can be easily scavenged from friends/family or bought from thrift stores for cheap and cut into any desired size. They are reusable and of course machine washable. Many departments in the Zoo already do this and it’s something I can easily adopt at home.

My last choice I hope to make is to begin recycling my food waste. There are always some food scraps that go uneaten or cannot be consumed. Rather than just tossing these in the trash, they can be composted, for the most part. Composting is a bit more effort than other sustainable choices, but not by much. There are two ways you can go about it. One is keeping a small compost bin in your kitchen and once full, bringing it to your local composting facility. The other option is to compost the scraps in your backyard. This process requires a bit more work up front, but once a pile completes the composting process, you have yourself some free fertilizer! It can be used to nourish any plants you keep or given to friends/family who have a green thumb.

Like I said, these are not drastic changes. I’m not looking to solve world problems with these. However, they do have a positive impact over time. It also gets the ball rolling for any future sustainability goals. It is my hope that you join me in setting your own sustainability goals for 2022. Start small, build those good habits, and soon enough you will be making a real difference in the environment around you.

Melanie S.
Keeper I, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl