When it comes to trying to be more eco-friendly, the first thing experts say we should do is to try to eliminate as much plastic use as possible. But taking stock of how much plastic we use in our homes can be overwhelming. There are dish soap bottles, plastic bags, disposable cups, and sponges. So where do you start?
Luckily, here in Ann Arbor, we have some of the best resources in the country when it comes to shopping local, recycling, farming and so much more. In fact, we’ve been named one of the “greenest cities in America” time and time again.
If you’re looking to delve into a more waste-free lifestyle, we rounded up some of our favorite green resources in A2, from our favorite eco-friendly shops and restaurants to composting services and dry cleaners. Enjoy!
Buy in Bulk at a Local Co-Op
Photo courtesy of the People’s Food Co-Op
Minimize a need for plastic packaging by filling your own cloth bags or mason jars with bulk pantry items at a local co-op. People’s Food Co-Op has been an Ann Arbor staple for almost 50 years, offering a wide range of all-natural and organic foods. Here, you can bring your own containers and fill them with lentils, flour, peanut butter, honey and so much more. And, if you are looking for a healthy spot to grab lunch, stop by their hot bar, which offers something new and delicious every day.
There’s a reason “recycle” is one of the three pinnacle “Rs” of eco-friendly living. For every pound of mixed municipal solid waste you recycle, you not only save a pound of garbage from the landfill, but you’re also eliminating 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Luckily, Ann Arbor has a spectacular recycling program. You can get a free 64-gallon recycling cart from Recycle Ann Arbor and put it out during your weekly recycling collection. You can also take your recycling to a local drop-off location around the city (you can find a list of those here). And if you’re curious about what can and can’t be recycled, Recycle Ann Arbor has a complete A-Z recycling guide that you can search here.
Eat at Restaurants with Green Practices
Photo courtesy of The Lunch Room
When eating out, it can be hard to know exactly how much waste is being created by your meal. That’s why it’s important to choose restaurants that are committed to green practices like using local ingredients, recycling, composting and more. A few of our favorites include The Lunch Room, which only gives out compostable take-out containers; Grange Kitchen + Bar which only uses fresh, sustainable ingredients in their food; and Fresh Forage, that provides locals with dishes created using ingredients from their own family farm.
Shop at Thrift and Consignment Stores
One of the pinnacle rules of reducing waste is to reuse. And because the fashion industry creates more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, buying used clothes is one of the best things you can do to help out the planet. Plus, many times when you’re shopping at a thrift store, you’re actually helping to support a nonprofit—giving you the chance to help out several causes at once (and get some cute clothes while you’re at it!).
Apply for a Plot in a Community Garden
Through decades of history, our Ann Arbor area communities have been built around agriculture. As a result, our neighborhoods are home to thriving family farms, year-round farmers’ markets, several food and agriculture-based organizations, and dozens of community gardens. In fact, we have an entire list of the best—from Project Grow, which has over 20 sites around A2 to the Chelsea Community Garden. You can find our full guide here, which will show you the best spots and exactly how to apply for your own plot!
When you take a garment to get specially cleaned at a local dry cleaner, often times they use harsh chemicals and an overwhelming amount of water to help get the job done. Not at Eureka Cleaners! Featured in the Ann Arbor Observer for their eco-friendly practices a few years ago, Eureka Cleaners uses a special “wet cleaning” alternative that gets clothes clean by using the help of biodegradable detergent and a computer to precisely determine the time, temperature and washing action used. So the next time you need your clothes pressed—head to one of their three locations around the area!
Become a RiverSafe Home
Every time you water your lawn, wash your car or even walk your dog—you have the potential to impact Washtenaw County’s waterways. The RiverSafe Homes program was created to help citizens identify water quality protection activities they currently practice around their homes, and to commit to additional pollution prevention practices they may not have considered before. Becoming a RiverSafe Home is as easy as taking an online survey. In return, you’ll receive a marker to display at your home to help encourage others to take the pledge.
Take Advantage of Ann Arbor’s Many Farmers’ Markets
Honestly, meals taste so much better when they are made using fresh ingredients. And you can get all of the fresh, locally grown ingredients you want at an Ann Arbor farmers’ market. By shopping at a local market, you can help support local farmers and makers’ businesses, eliminate waste and have a great time! Here in Ann Arbor, you can shop the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market year-round on Saturdays. For complete details, hours and dates for this year’s market, click here.
Shopping from local businesses is one of the most underrated yet simple ways to help reduce waste. While shopping online may be convenient, it produces a lot of waste, from the excessive packaging to the carbon emissions created during delivery. Avoid this by shopping for clothing, home decor and other items from local businesses. We have a guide to the best local furniture stores, coffee roasters, gift shopping destinations and bookstores to help you get started.
If you’re an Ann Arbor resident, you can pick up a free compost cart in a 64-gallon or 96-gallon sizes from the Customer Service Center! In it, you can put all of your compostable materials—such as food waste, leaves and brush, grass clippings and more—and have it picked up during the weekly compost collection from April to mid-December. To learn more about the process and find a full list of compostable materials, click here.
Purchase Eco-Friendly Home Decor From FOUND Gallery
Photo courtesy of the FOUND Gallery
Perfectly merging vintage and modern, FOUND offers a mix of eco-friendly home decor, pillows, rugs, textiles, candles, jewelry and gifts. And many of those goods are made right here in Michigan by local artisans! Their brick and mortar location is in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown district, but you can also shop much of their inventory online here.
How do you reduce waste?
Let us know in the comments below!