Of course, in this day-and-age, it can be extremely difficult to live a 100% ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle, especially at a time when online shopping is pretty much the norm (just think of all that packaging and shipping involved) and plastic is still the primary packaging used for everything from clothing and beauty products, to bread and water. It helps to be aware of our purchases on a day-to-day basis, and to choose brands that focus on recyclable, sustainable manufacturing and packaging methods over others. But this may not always be in the cards – things like location, convenience, income, and just plain desirability can lead us to make not so planet-friendly purchases.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce our environmental footprint simply by swapping out a handful of our everyday items for more resusable and sustainable options. They may require a small investment up front, but in the long-term, they can help reduce waste, conserve resources, protect the plant and wildlife, and save us money too. Here are five to consider adding to your routine…
Beauty & Hygiene
Reusable Cotton Rounds
I used to go through cotton pads like crazy – from applying toner in the mornings, to removing makeup in the evenings. And into the trash they all went, after just one use. I didn’t always buy organic ones either, which meant they were likely treated with fertilizers, bleaches, and other chemicals – things that can contaminate soil and leak into water sources (plus, who wants all that on their skin!?).
I knew there had to be a better alternative, and so I did some hunting and discovered reusable cotton rounds. They do the job just as well, if not better, and yet they feel incredibly soft on the skin (especially around the delicate eye area). The best part? When they get dirty, all you have to do is wash them with your regular laundry. The ones I picked up on Amazon are made of organic, chemical-free bamboo. They also come with enough to get you through 1-2 weeks, and they even threw in a handy little laundry bag to keep them from magically ‘disappearing’ in the wash along with your socks.
After learning that billions of plastic toothbrushes end up in the world’s oceans and landfills every year, I decided it was time to switch to a natural, biodegradable one. Not only are they more environment-friendly to produce compared to plastic ones, they also biodegrade more quickly and more safely, as opposed to sitting in landfills for ages, or contaminating our oceans.
I have my favorite green beauty subscription boxes to thank for introducing me to some great brands, including Plus Ultra and WooBamboo. Both brands offer eco-friendly toothbrushes made from organically grown, sustainable bamboo. They also come with soft bristles that feel extremely gentle on the teeth and gums, yet manage to do a great job at cleaning. The best part? Once the brush gets old, it can be recycled/composted! You can find them here on Amazon.
When you’re on-the-go, it can be tempting to pick up one of those plastic water bottles for hiking trip, or a quick cup of coffee sold in one of those paper (or worse, styrofoam) cups. But all of these materials use up natural resources to produce, and a majority end up in landfills. Though it takes a little bit of foresight, try to bring your own tumbler to the coffee shop (most offer a small discount too for going cup-free, including Starbucks, Peet’s, and many local shops). And for hydration on-the-go, skip the plastic bottle and opt for a re-fillable glass bottle.
Stainless Steel or Glass Straws
In the US alone, we use ~500 million straws every day. Where do they all end up? Our shorelines – scientists estimate there are 7.5 million plastic straws polluting US shorelines, and anywhere from 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws on shorelines around the world. The fact is, most plastic straws are not recycled – instead, they float around in our oceans where they can take up to 200 years to decompose.
So the next time you grab a drink at the cafe or sit-down restaurant, skip the straw. Or, bring your own reusable one from home. You can find both stainless steel and glass ones (complete with handy travel cases) online. They can be reused over and over again, and they’re dishwasher-safe.
Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and made from non-renewable resources. They can be recycled, but most are discarded. Once in landfills, they can take 1,000 years to decompose (1). Or worse, animal can mistaken them for food and get infections or even starve to death. In fact, just this past June, a whale died after eating more than 80 plastic bags.
And while biodegradable, paper bags aren’t that much better for the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the production of paper bags generates more air and water pollution than plastic bags. Manufacturing and recycling them also requires more energy than plastic.
The good news is that many counties have taken steps to reduce plastic bag usage, and some have even banned them completely. If you haven’t made the switch already, consider purchasing a few reusable bags (or make your own) and toss them into your purse or car before going shopping – whether that’s to the grocery store, the mall, a take-out restaurant, or the convenience store. This simple switch will help conserve natural resources and reduce atmospheric and landfill waste.
Have other suggestions and ideas for reducing waste? Let me know in the comments!