Earth Day is behind us, but that’s no reason to wait for next year to think about reducing your environmental impact. Indeed, many of the most meaningful steps we can take towards a healthier planet aren’t one-time grand gestures, but everyday changes to our daily lives.

Berkshire Food Co-op in Great Barrington is committed to making sustainability convenient and accessible by addressing some of the most common sources of household waste. Here are five simple ways the Co-op can help you incorporate the spirit of Earth Day into your everyday household routine:

1. Skip the box and buy in bulk

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The Co-op encourages shoppers to bring their own containers to fill in the bulk department. 

Bulk departments are a great place to start cutting down your grocery-related waste. Not only is it a better deal — always a plus — the lack of retail packaging, with its layers of decorative outer coverings and sealed-for-freshness plastic inner wrappings, removes a major contributor to the issue of overflowing kitchen trash bins.

Berkshire Food Co-op encourages customers to bring their own reusable storage containers and skip the plastic bag altogether. “All you have to do when shopping with your reusable container is weigh it and write down the tare weight, then fill your container and bring it to the register,” explained Co-op Marketing Manager Devorah Sawyer.

Shoppers, Owners and non-Owners alike, can visit the bulk department for the typical nuts and beans, as well as grains, oats, flour, granola, rice, dried fruits, teas, coffee, spices and even ground-on-demand nut butters. The Co-op also stocks plenty of storage containers, like those by Life Without Plastics, to use and then bring back for your next trip to the market.

2. Think long-term with food storage

In recent decades, food storage products have become more and more disposable, from the classic plastic sandwich baggie to inexpensive, light-duty airtight bins that may or may not survive more than one round in the refrigerator.

Even sturdier, reusable plastic containers have their problems: chiefly, the petroleum-based materials from which they’re made.

Plastics have more negative effects on the environment than there is room to list here, from the process of extracting raw materials to the mountains of non-biodegradable waste created once they’ve been disposed of.

Life Without Plastic, a Canadian company, replaces plastic storage, shopping totes, lunch bags and other household essentials with more sustainable options, made from glass, wood, stainless steel, wool, recycled paper, bamboo and other, more Earth-friendly components. All materials are ethically sourced, with high standards for environmental impact, product safety and work conditions for each supplier.

Life Without Plastic’s food storage options are just as (if not more) effective compared to their single- or limited-use plastic counterparts in keeping food fresh, without exposing your leftovers to potentially harmful chemical contamination or supporting exploitative production practices.

3. Clean up your way of cleaning up

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Marley's Monsters' UnTowels are a colorful, reusable replacement for disposable paper towels. 

While paper towels may seem fairly harmless in comparison to the collection of cleaning chemicals we all keep stowed under the kitchen sink, every roll produced contributes to deforestation, which in turn reduces the number of carbon dioxide-consuming trees, an important natural defense against the rising levels of greenhouse gasses in Earth’s atmosphere that contribute to global warming.

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UnTowels from Murphy's Monsters are self-adhering, so they can wrap around your existing paper towel holder. 

Enter the UnTowel, from Eugene, Oregon based brand Marley’s Monsters. Each 12”X10” UnTowel is handmade from 100% cotton flannel with serged edges for added durability.

Not only are they reusable — they’re machine washable, and actually became more absorbent after their first few trips through the laundry. Thanks to the self-clinging nature of the flannel, UnTowels can be wrapped around a regular paper towel tube and displayed on your existing towel holder. And ‘displayed,’ they will be: UnTowels come in an assortment of bright colors and whimsical prints that are almost too delightful to get dirty.

4. Reuse what you have on hand

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ReCap prodcuts, available at Berkshire Food Co-op, convert mason jars into storage containers, spray bottles and other useful household tools. 

Utilizing the products you already have, or those that are cheap and readily available, to create your own reusable containers skips right over the recycling process to make something ‘new’ without using energy and resources to break down and reform those materials.

ReCap turns the humble mason jar into a multi-tasking powerhouse with a range of specialized screw-on lids. Sprayers, pumps and shaker inserts create convenient, refillable containers for cleaning products, a less wasteful — and less expensive — alternative to single-use bottles.

5. Ditch disposables

Take a look at the things you find yourself buying, using, throwing out and replacing on a regular basis, and consider if any of them can be swapped out for products with a longer lifespan. As waste reduction becomes a more mainstream concern for American households, companies have turned their attention to producing sturdier, reusable alternatives.

The Co-op is in the process of adding Zero Waste Club products to its selection of multi-use goods. Based in the UK, Zero Waste Club focuses on creating eco-friendly, ethically-produced replacements for many of the most common disposable items in our daily lives: biodegradable sponges and trash bags, bamboo travel utensils and reusable metal coffee filters and tea strainers, to name a few.

Transitioning into a more sustainable lifestyle is a matter of taking small steps in the right direction. Stop by the Co-op to learn more about some of the simple changes you can implement in your day-to-day tasks to make Earth Day a year-long event.