With Earth Day tomorrow, I decided to spend the week blogging about environmental issues–recyclable packaging, renewable energy, and all things “green.” When I was looking for topics to blog about, I felt completely overwhelmed. I think looking at a big issue like global warming/climate change can make the average person feel powerless. What can one person do to make a difference?

As it turns out, one person can do a lot, but I think the trick is to tackle things one small piece at a time. We all get into our little “ruts” and it’s hard to break habits. For example, I’ve been packing two kid-friendly school lunches every day for years, using handfuls of plastic bags, individually packaged snacks, and juice boxes that get emptied and thrown in the trash. Finally I decided to find other options, and since January my kids have had “greener” lunches. Here’s what we changed:

1. In addition to the reusable lunch bags (which they’ve had for years), we added reusable sandwich bags to the kids’ lunches. Wrap-n-Mats are really great–they’re lined with PEVA, which is food-safe, and the outside is fabric. They fold around a sandwich and have a velcro closure (click to see how they work), and then they fold open and act as a clean placemat for the lunch. Super for picnics, too!

2. Instead of using plastic bags for chips, pretzels, crackers, and cookies, we reuse tupperware-type containers. Yes, they’re still plastic, but can be used over and over again all through the school year, which reduces waste.

3. No more juice boxes or bags! As cool as these Basura bags are (made from recycled juice bags by a co-op in the Philippines, truly amazing!), most juice bags and boxes end up in the landfill. We use bottles like these, or reuse bottles that can eventually be recycled.

4. If you do need a plastic bag, consider one that’s biodegradable. These cellulose bags come in a sandwich size and can be composted or recycled with paper. They break down in soil in a matter of months (compare that to the years it takes petroleum-based bags to break down).

There are lots of small things that you can change every day that make a big difference over time. We were using 80 or more plastic bags every month in lunches, 20-40 juice boxes or bags every month and now we don’t use any of them. These were really simple things to change–things that actually ended up saving money–and they’ve become routine. What small thing can you change that could make a big difference?