This past year I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the amount of waste I generate. Living in res means that I’ve seen exactly how much rubbish I create and throw away, and I was actually horrified. I’ve found that it’s really difficult to live a low waste lifestyle as so many things come in plastic packaging or non-recyclable packaging. I’ve been particularly lazy about recycling even though it’s something that I used to pride myself on and do consistently. Creating the amount of waste that the average person does is completely unsustainable, as our world cannot take this kind of beating for much longer. Small changes add up, and these are the small things that I’m taking into the new year to hopefully reduce my waste just a little, or use things that aren’t as bad for the earth or myself.
Lily Cup Compact
This first item is actually something that I’ve been using since 2014, and it’s a silicone menstrual cup. This is a really great alternative to pads and tampons, which are not only expensive over time, but not terribly good for the environment. Because people often flush them down the toilet, they end up in the ocean and on beaches, where they do not decompose. Even organic cotton tampons only biodegrade very slowly in landfills and don’t really help the landfill issues.
It takes a bit of getting used to, but I honestly can’t imagine using anything else anymore. There are lots of brands available, at varying price points. A menstrual cup might seem expensive at first, but if you consider the amount of money spent on sanitary products over a lifetime, it’s not much to pay. The pros far outweigh the cons.
Palm Oil Free Soap
Palm oil is an incredibly controversial substance, due to the fact that it has a huge impact on the environment. Vast areas of rainforest are being cut down in South America and Asia in order to make space to grow trees, leading animals losing their habitats. It’s also a contributor to climate change, due to the rainforests being converted into plantations. It is incredibly difficult to avoid palm oil, as it is included in so many foods and cosmetics, from Nutella to Cremora to lipstick. The implications of using palm oil products are huge, and soap is something we all use, and can easily change. This Pure Soap has no palm oil and is my first step to cutting down on my use of unsustainable palm oil.
I go through a huge amount of shampoo, so I decided that this year I would switch to shampoo bars, in an attempt to cut down on the amount of plastic waste my hair washing habits generate. I bought this bar from Faithful to Nature, and while I haven’t started to use it yet, I have great hopes for it. It is hand made in Cape Town and infused with rosemary to help with hair growth. A review will be coming later in the year, once I’ve used it for a few months and have really seen how it works.
Basic eco replacement alert: the bamboo toothbrush is a solid choice. They last just as long as plastic toothbrushes, they are biodegradable, and bamboo grows really quickly to keep up with demand.
Knitted Cotton Pads
My mom made these knitted cotton pads out of Moya Cotton, to replace my usual store bought disposable cotton pads used for removing makeup and nail polish. While these don’t really work for removing nail polish, they are really effective for makeup removal. Being able to wash the cotton pads and reuse them pretty much infinitely makes them so much more environmentally friendly, especially as cotton is biodegradable and doesn’t contribute to the build-up of synthetic fibres, which makes up the majority of the microplastic in the oceans.
Reusable Coffee Cups and Steel Straws
By far the easiest change to make, a reusable coffee cup makes life so much easier. Not only does it mean that you cut down on plastic waste, but you might also score a discount at your favourite coffee shop. I have an eCoffee Cup, and I really enjoy using it. Steel straws, while some people complain of the taste, are a really useful thing to carry around to use when out at restaurants.
Cotton Market Bags
This is a market shopping bag that I crocheted for myself out of string. I’ve seen quite a few of these online and in the shops recently, and couldn’t believe how expensive they were, especially as I thought I’d be able to make one for myself. Turns out I was right, and I spent all my evenings in the last week crocheting. For someone with only a little experience, this bag was surprisingly easy to make, and I only made one little mistake. It’s super sturdy, as it’s made out of quite a strong string, and I really love the natural colour. I think its perfect for groceries or veggie shopping, and I definitely see myself getting a lot of use out of it.
I hope that everyone can find small ways to be more environmentally friendly this year _ our Earth needs us more than ever, and every small change adds up. Not everyone is in the position to make changes, it’s up to those with the privilege to do something to spark action.