the essential arsenal of green items

Going green starts with making a few small changes here and there. I always tend to tell people that it doesn't require you to immediate stop shaving your pits and quit washing your hair. I mean, you can choose to do that if you want...but don't point the finger at me when people might ask why!

So, what if you're starting your green journey? Where do you begin? It can be a little confusing to figure out what to do or have, so I'm doing a series of posts on just how to start! First up was Recycling 101. Now, we'll move on to which items to pack in your green arsenal!

If you're going to start anywhere, start by investing in a reusable bag. Or two. Or 10. If you want some for free, holla. (Seriously, my boyfriend has condemned the trunk of my car and demanded that I get rid of a sizable portion of the cloth bags that have taken over.)

Reusable bags come in all sizes, colors and materials. You can get the grocery store-brand $1 bags, or order some cute ones for way more online.

Now, one of the biggest issues with getting reusable bags is remembering to have the reusable bag at the store. It won't do you any good when it's sitting at home! If you're forgetful, go for a bag that folds itself into an attached small pocket. And then keep that folded up bag in your purse or center console.

Where to use your bags? They will make the biggest impact at the grocery store, where you regularly receive multiple plastic bags per trip. But you can take them to the mall, to gift shops, on vacation for souvenirs, or anywhere you shop. Anywhere you receive a plastic (or paper) bag, you should bring your reusable bag.

Bonus deal: Some places give you a $.05 discount per bag that you use, like Target or Albertson's. More place should do this, but that's another rant for another day.

Why is it so important to cut down your use of plastic bags? They are one of the biggest litter culprits, they do not biodegrade, and they end up in our waterways and throughout nature. NOT where they belong! The fewer plastic bags being used, the less they can litter our entire world.

The next item in your arsenal should be a reusable water bottle. I always champion Klean Kanteen because I love the style, color assortment and size varieties they have. But you can go for any kind of reusable water bottle you like. It is just important that what you choose is BPA-free. Especially if you are carrying hot liquids, you don't want the chance for chemicals to leak into your drinks and get into your system.

Insulated BPA-free bottles are great for carrying hot or icy liquids (especially coffee, tea, margaritas and beer). Regular bottles are great for carrying water or juice.

Once you've picked out your bottle, use it as much as possible. Fill it up and bring it to work every day. Take your insulated one to the coffee shop and ask the barista to use your bottle instead of a disposable cup (they'll oblige!) Bring your bottle to the gym and skip the bottled water or disposable cups at the water fountains.

In just a couple weeks, you'll start to see how much waste you are avoiding by choosing reusable! You'll also save a little money.

When it comes to food leftovers, invest in a set of reusable containers, and use them instead of cheap disposable containers. Glass or Pyrex containers are great because they can be microwaved and refrigerated. Try not to use plastic bags to freeze foods.

And then, for the recycling materials you do still have around your house or office, you're going to need a recycling bin. It can be just about anything - use something you already have! For my desk, I used this spare storage container and made a Recycling sign myself. Saving money and reusing something I already own - it's the green way.

Having a bin inside your home, next to your trashcan, helps you get in the habit of sorting what's trash and what can be recycled. Once the bin is full, bring it outside to your curbside bin and save it for collection day! Get more tips on citywide curbside recycling with Recycling 101.

Simply by arming yourself with a few reusable shopping bags, a reusable water bottle and reusable food containers, you'll cut a large portion of waste out of your life. Then, your recycling bin will take care of much of the waste that's still hanging around. And that's what it's all about! :)

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