At the end of the day, we are all human just like everyone else, and all we can do is simply try our best to preserve the planet. I certainly am far from perfect in my efforts, but I am constantly pushing myself to believe in a better self, and a healthier world. So, in no particular order of importance, these are just some of the little, and simple, everyday ways to living a more sustainable, waste-free lifestyle that won’t crack the bank.
The majority of widespread disposable menstrual products contain plastics that cannot be recycled or reused- adding to a ton of waste and pollution both in our oceans and on land. Not to mention, if you are a person who has ever had to buy menstrual products then you probably have a pretty good idea of how expensive it is, how much packaging is used, and how much waste they can cause. So here are some tips on how we can have a healthier, waste-free, and radical period!
Reusable Cotton Pads:
Many people still believe that using reusable cloth pads are gross, and admittedly until I started researching the idea of plastic free periods, I was also one of those people. Once I had a better idea of all the chemicals inside disposable pads and tampons, which interfere with how our body works naturally, and pollutes the earth, and how much money is spent on purchasing these products mere to throw them away in a few hours; I changed my mind.
To buy cute reusable cotton pads, head over to http://www.hannahpad.ca
Reusable menstrual cups:
Reusable menstrual cups are meant to replace regular tampons, but rather than absorbing your flow, they actually collect it in the cup. They are healthy, as most cups are made from body-safe medical grade silicone or bio-plastics. They are Earth-Friendly because they are reusable, which prevents the accumulation of persistent waste from disposable menstrual products. They are long lasting, as the produce can last you up to ten or more years! And they are way more cost-effective because of how long one cup lasts.
head over to http://www.organicup.com
Reusable tampon applicator:
DAME just created the first ever reusable tampon applicator! This company uses antimicrobial technology found in nature to keep it hygienic, leak free, and built for the body. Additionally, the semi-gloss matt finish and ergonomic design makes this reusable tampon the most comfortable applicator you’ll apparently ever use.
I absolutely love grabbing a cup of coffee on the go, and there are few things more enjoyable to me than getting to sit down with a hot or cold beverage (depending on the season), and work on my academic and creative “to-do list”. I always knew that single-use cups definitely contributed to a ton of waste and pollution, but I figured that if I just made sure to toss out the cup that I’d be doing my job as a humanitarian (don’t we all like to ignore the bad, and focus on the good?) However, once I did some more research, I realized that throwing out my single-use cups is just NOT good enough, because;
- styrofoam and paper cups are just the worst! Seriously, the EPA estimates that about 25 billion styrofoam cups are thrown away in the United States alone each year, AND they require 500 years to fully break down! And while paper cups are a better choice than styrofoam , the glue used in these cups can start to break down which *potentially* could release melamine, which is incredibly harmful if consumed.
- Most single-use cups are not recyclable, or recycled. Realistically, these cups most often end up in landfills, or as pollution and litter. Another unfortunate note, while the cardboard sleeves are fully recyclable, they don’t tend to be recycled at all as they are just tossed away with the cup.
- Plastic lids are hella harmful. According to tentree.com, the lids for coffee cups are made from a type of plastic called plastic #6. This plastic is polystyrene, which, like styrofoam, leaks styrene into your coffee (which is a carcinogen). So, at the very least, find a safer lid, or just refuse a lid all together if you’re enjoying a lovely afternoon at your fav cafe.
- Coffee cups are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waste after plastic bottles.
- half of the world’s plastic goes into products that are only used one
- And if you don’t care about the impact it has on your body, or our planet because you just love easy on-the-go coffee, then here’s an additional coffee tip for you: the taste of coffee is quite literally better out of a ceramic or stainless steel reusable mug. So if nothing else, DO IT FOR THE TASTE.
- Most coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring in your own reusable cup or mug.
AND LET’S TALK ABOUT PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES FOR A QUICK MINUTE. Many people don’t even realize the impact plastic water bottles have on both the environment, and our health. I’ve decided to stop purchasing one-use plastic water bottles, and carry around re-usable water bottles both in the house, and outside of the house because;
- Just like coffee cups, the bottles actually rarely get recycled.
- When using a disposable water bottle, you’ve probably been told a bunch of rules like “don’t drink it if its been sitting out in the sun” – mom was right, this is for good reason folk! The chemicals from the plastic seep into the water, which then ends up in your body. These chemicals have been known to cause birth defects, several types of cancer, and much more.
- why are you even paying for a bottle of water, when you could just carry around your own? I legitimately cannot afford that.
- Tap water is better than bottled water. And yes I know, that is a pretty bold statement to make. but depending on your geographical location, this statement is true. Tap water gets filtered more often than bottled water, and contains less chemicals than plastic bottled water.
- You’ll be more hydrated, and thus healthier. Seriously. If you constantly have a reusable bottle around you, you’re way more likely to drink more water.
- You’re saving the earth and beautiful animals because you aren’t contributing to the broken down plastic in the water, or on land, that animals often confuse for food.
Let’s explore some alternative cup/bottle options:
head over to http://www.drasticplastic.net to get your eco-friendly reusable coffee cup, made of biodegradable wheat straw. MINES IN THE MAIL RIGHT NOW! This is a student necessity.
Now, don’t get ahead of yourself. This bottle is not initially nice to your wallet. S’well is a high end reusable water bottle brand, that does come at a hefty price (for a water bottle), but does good, keeps your beverages at the temperature you like them best at, and eliminates the need for disposable water bottles. (and not to mention, you can choose from so many designs that compliment your style and personality. http://www.well.com/S’well
Finding @potteryfortheplanet on instagram was a godsend! Go take a look at all the absolutely stunning handmade ceramic reusable mugs on http://www.potteryfortheplanet.com – or check out similar businesses locally or on Etsy!
First, you’re probably thinking “why bamboo, Emily?” So take a look at some of the top ways bamboo actually saves the planet!
Now, let’s talk about toothbrushes. Saying goodbye to your old plastic toothbrush, and switching over to a bamboo one, is one of the most popular “trends” in switching over to a more eco-friendly, sustainable living lifestyle.
Bamboo is a natural plant based material which, at the end of its life, is totally biodegradable and can even be composted. With 4.7 billion toothbrushes being made annually, which are advised to change every 3 months, it seems pretty important to switch over to a more sustainable option ASAP.
We need to give a shit about plastic pollution. As we speak, there are over 8 million pieces of plastic that are being dumped into our oceans from around the world. Due to this, “over 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea birds are killed off annually” (givingbrush.com)
Here are some quick reasons why we should all begin ditching our plastic toothbrushes:
- First of all, plastic toothbrushes are made from a large mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil, as well as some extra plastic and cardboard that goes into their packaging.
- Electric tooth brushes actually leak out toxins, not to mention the batteries that power these suckers can potentially cause harm to the environment if not disposed of properly. Overtime, these batteries leak out acid that cause harm to oceans, wildlife, and the environment.
- North America alone wastes over 1 billion toothbrushes (givingbrush.com)
- they pollute our oceans. Plastic toothbrushes end up getting washed away into the ocean, and effectively endangering marine life. This also presents a danger for people who consume seafood; as the plastic contaminates both the ocean, and our food.
- bamboo toothbrushes are way, way cuter than plastic toothbrushes.
So, where can you get them?
For right now, I recommend heading over to http://www.givingbrush.com (@thegivingbrush) because they are giving away FREE bamboo toothbrushes!
One thing that is hard to change, is that we all want to have nice things. But having nice things doesn’t always mean having the most popular brands, or gadgets; I like to think that the items that you own that get the most notice are the ones that not everybody else has! So why not be fashionable, noticeable and unique, while also saving the planet!
There are so many different things you could find eco-friendly alternatives to. But I’m going to start by discussing a common, “luxury” plastic item that pretty much *everyone* owns: a cell phone case!
If you are anything like me, you’ve probably gone through your fair share of phone cases over the years. The majority of cell phone cases are made of plastic, and other materials that are not biodegradable and that emit harmful toxins into the earth and oceans. It seems like a small change- but when you add up all of the cases you and your friends and family have gone through, were leaving a pretty big ecological footprint.
So, a few months back when I needed a new phone case, I decided to switch over to a case that looks unique, isn’t chunky, and is environmentally friendly!
Pela recognizes that building an eco-friendly company is no easy task, but they’ve made their goals pretty clear and simple:
- Reduce the amount of plastic waste created by consumer products
- Alleviate our dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels and oil-based plastics
- Educate people about plant-based, sustainable alternatives that are both functional and beautiful
Their cellphone cases are made with a starch-based biopolymer, recycled materials, and flax straw “waste” for added strength. The cases are family, pet, and child-safe, and are free from BPA, Lead, Cadmium, & phthalates. They also intentionally have a unique look that helps corporations and consumers separate sustainable bioplastics from traditional plastics. The delivery of the pela case is also plastic-free, with minimal packaging.
Photos taken by @snairjessiephotography to purchase: http://www.pelacase.com
This is sustainable lifestyle tip I’ve recently been working hard to adhere to! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, many shopping centres are ditching their plastic bags (and rightfully so!). While this can be annoying (and surprising) if you go to a grocery store unaware, and unprepared, it opens us up to great alternative opportunities!
The first zero-waste way to go bagless, is to start bringing mason jars, cloth bag, glass snapware, ect. with you for foods such as grains, seasoning, loose teas, snacks, ect. The bulk barn is a great way to do this, and I’m literally obsessed (I’ve been blessed with a Bulk Barn 2 seconds from my house). Bringing your own jars to the Bulk Barn eliminates the plastic waste caused by the small plastic baggies and twist-ties used to collect your goodies. It also helps keep your food storage organized, fresh, and looking cute.
Note: You will definitely want to weigh your container either at home, or at your local store. It is important that you do this so that you are fully aware of the amounts you put into it, as many bulk stores and grocery stores will determine the price by weight.
Not only is buying and storing bulk goods in eco-friendly containers important, it is also so easy to ditch your plastic produce bags too! Whether you want to bring a backpack, basket, or a reusable grocery or produce bag, DO IT. Not only does it keep your produce shopping waste and plastic free, it also encourages you to head over to your local farmers market or produce stand instead of the Superstore!
Check out the amazing and visually appealing @zero.waste.collective on instagram for more awesome plastic/waste-free tips.
There’s always been a ton of debate over which is greener; buying local, or buying fair trade- but at the end of the day, doing both is so important!
73% of money spent on local goods is reinvested into the community, while only 10% of money spent at major chain stores make it back into the local economy. So, there is reason enough to support your local businesses! Not convinced yet?
- Locally supported/purchased food and goods creates important economic/social opportunities, provides health benefits, while also helping to reduce environmental impact. Whether you are buying a product from a farmer’s market or using a local service, you are not only supporting local economy, but you are supporting your neighbours, your community, and creating wonderful social networks.
- fresher food is available when you buy local. A lot of the time, the food bought and used locally comes directly from a local farmer, and packed within a week! Talk about fresh!
- There is way less packaging involved! According to scientists in 2010, around eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean; which can easily be combatted by choosing reusable over plastic.
- Not only does buying local reduce waste from packaging, it also reduces the use of fossil fuels! Food miles not only consume energy, but they contribute to air pollution, AND your food takes much longer to get to you (which means potential affects on your health).
- The experience is way more fun! When you go to the farmer’s market for example, you often get to plenty of familiar faces, hear live music, eat delicious food, and meet other members of your community! There are also so many “pick-your-own” farms around, where you actually get to pick your own food, enjoy the outdoors, and some laughs with friends and family!
Now, let’s talk about fair trade:
- The fair trade label means an organization such as Fair Trade USA has certified that farmers and other producers adhere to fair trade standards.
- When you buy products that are certified as fair trade, your purchase ensures equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain!
- Additionally, the fair trade license fees generate funds, which are given to the fair trade communities, which is then designated for social, economic, and environmental development projects.
- Workers on fair trade farms are supposed to be guaranteed freedom of association, safe working conditions, and sustainable wages; with forced child and slave labour being strictly prohibited.
- Lastly, fair trade certified products are free from genetically engineered ingredients, and must be produced with limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, and have proper management of waste, water and energy.
If you’re not able to support local businesses or fair trade, at least educate yourself on where your food is coming from! Do research, see who benefits from your purchase, who doesn’t, and always be critical of the food and shopping industries.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a pretty plentiful “beauty routine”. From a number of different face products (cleansers, exfoliators, moisturizers, day/night serums, ect), hair products, way too many hygiene products (literally our shower is way too full), and not to mention perfumes, and makeups, (woo long list)- I definitely leave a large ecological footprint when it comes to my everyday beauty routines.
However, over the years, I’ve started switching over slowly to natural, green, eco-friendly products. Mostly every hygiene product I use on my skin, or hair, is eco-friendly, not tested on animals, and made with all natural ingredients. Not only do I find they actually work BETTER than products containing chemicals, they often smell incredibly and help your hair grow longer! But- I’m definitely no ecological warrior when it comes to makeup. Only recently, after running into financial constraints, have I even switched over to buying drug store brand makeup (yes- I used to be a Sephora snob). That’s not to say that I don’t completely avoid brands that still do animal testing- but very rarely do I care about the ingredients in my makeup.
So, I’ve been researching some ways that I can slowly make changes in my own beauty routine! Here are some simple green swaps:
- reach for a stainless-steel razor instead of disposable plastic ones. According to my research, these razors actually tend to give a cleaner shave that lasts longer AND leads to less ingrown hairs. Stainless steel blades also last longer and can be recycled, so you will save money, be hair free, and you’ll make some environmental impact!
- Use facecloths to remove your makeup, instead of cotton balls- and just toss the towels in the wash when you’re done!
- Use eco-friendly, organic perfumes or essential oils instead of conventional perfumes. Now, if you’re anything like me, this could be a really difficult thing for you. I absolutely love perfume, body sprays, and anything that smells good. So, this of course, will be a slow adjustment for me as well (and I’ll probably never be perfect at it). BUT to combat all the chemicals in conventional perfumes, you can make your own perfume by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to a roller bottle and combining it with your favourite carrier oil (fractionated coconut oil, grape seed oil, ect.) You can find plenty of blends and recipes online & it has a number of health benefits as well! Just make sure you do your research on the essential oils that are safe to put on your skin!
- Head over to your local Lush, or The Body Shop to check out the eco-friendly, organic makeup, hair, and skin products that they sell! I highly recommend purchasing your products from lush as they are AMAZING, and the staff are always so wonderful and knowledgable. And ALL the products made are made by Lush staff in their “factory”.
- Even better than Lush or the Body Shop, buy local eco-friendly beauty products! Usually you can find some at the local Farmer’s Market, roadside shops, or online!
Cleaning products are everywhere in our homes: on our dishes, countertops, furniture, clothes, floors, windows, and floating around in the air we breathe! I have four roommates and a wild amount of pets (including a dog and cat)- so as you can imagine, our house often becomes a constant war on dirt! Unfortunately- the majority of the conventional cleaning products we have in our home are petroleum-based and have numerous health and environmental implications (oops). So instead of opting for cleaning products that ruin everything in their path, there are so many natural products and methods we can start to use that will keep our house looking clean and fresh- and smelling delicious.
Besides employing green cleaning products, there are so many other things we can do to keep our how green and dirt free;
- avoid poor indoor air quality! According to http://www.treehugger.com, it is not uncommon for the air inside our homes to be more toxic than the air outside! This is because of the presence of all the toxic materials and substances we use in our home, AND the fact that homes are better insulated now than ever before! So, keeping windows open as often as possible allows all the fresh air to come in, and keeps toxins flowing out. This is ESPECIALLY important when you’re using cleaning products!
- Use baking soda to keep your home smelling fresh! Baking soda not only removes the gross smells from your fridge, it is also a great odor-eliminator for floors, carpets, furniture and anything that your animal may (god forbid) pee on. Just sprinkle on a little baking soda to soak up some of the odors and then vaccuum it up!
- If you are able to, try to avoid store bought air fresheners! If you or a family member enjoy baking, the you know that cooking a nice batch of cookies can make your house smell delicious! Also, picking up an essential oil diffuser and diffusing safe essential oils to clean the air, lift your mood, and make your home smell clean and fresh! It’s always better to have natural products that eliminate smells, rather than cover them up! Some of my favourite oils to diffuse are DoTerra’s citrus oils, peppermint and lavender!
- Plants, plants, and more plants! Not ALL plants will make your house smell different, but holy moly are they ever good for filtering interior air! Plant tip: Peace Lilies are a favourite choice, and are great for rooms where your animals spend a lot of time in, or you house small caged critters!
- Try to toss your toxic cleaners out carefully! When replacing your cleaning products, don’t just throw them in the trash! If they’re too toxic for your home, they wont be good for the drain or the landfill either. Check to see if your community holds toxics & electronics recycling days where they take all of these dangerous items off your hands!
- Vinegar is a god-sent cleaning item! It kills bacteria naturally, effectively! Cleaning tip: It also helps get scratches out of leather furniture!
You may still be saying “those things take time, and effort- I don’t want to switch up my cleaning routine”. While that is fair, let’s look at some numbers to change your mind:
- 17,000: the number of petrochemicals available for home use, only 30% of which have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment.
- 100: the number of times higher that indoor air pollution levels can be above outdoor air pollution levels, according to the US EPA estimates.
- 63: The number of synthetic chemical products found in the average home, translating to roughly 10 gallons of harmful chemicals.
- 275: the number of active ingredients in antimicrobials that the EPA classifies as pesticides because they are designed to to kill microbes.
- 5 billion: the number of pounds of chemicals that the institutional cleaning industry uses each year.
- 23: the average gallons of chemicals (thats 87L) that a janitor uses each year, 25 percent of which are hazardous.
AND IF THATS NOT ENOUGH, CLEANING PRODUCTS CAN KILL YOUR PETS OR BABIES.
I also highly recommend looking on http://www.pinterest.com for some fun homemade cleaning supply recipes!
Tip #1: save water, and shower with other people 😉
According to Boston University, the average American uses 25,300 gallons of water a year (69.3 gallons daily). On average, approximately 11,600 gallons of water a year are used per university student (unreal!). But, we can help reduce waste of this resource by making simple changes to our daily routines!
An average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute- which means (now I’m not good at math), if you shorten your shower by even 2 minutes, you can cut your water use by 10 gallons! So imagine what you could do by cutting 5 minutes off, or even further reducing your water consumption by turning the water off while lathering yourself with soap (even if it means you have to be a little chilly for a second)!
Tip #2: just don’t leave the tap running, please.
This one is so easy! When you go through your spring cleaning routine, and decide with clothes you are going to keep, donate, or throw out (if they are in bad condition)- keep that throw out pile!
If your clothes are not in a condition to pass on to someone else, a great thing you can do is cut them up into cleaning towels, recycled fabrics, or in our house, bedding for your pet rats. This is a great way to avoid using large amounts of paper towel, or buying cleaning cloth.
Another tip: If you’re handy with a needle, try making reusable grocery bags out of old clothing! Then you’re checking off #10, and #5 of this list!
Thanks for reading! I’d love for you to leave in the comments some ways that you practice sustainable, waste-free living in your everyday life! As someone who is attempting to start living a sustainable, waste-free lifestyle, I’ve got to say that green living is a gradual process. Instead of trying to make all these big changes overnight, focus on slowly introducing new things into your routine so that it becomes a stress-free hobby! That way, you’ll be able to create a sustainable routine!
Emily Arsenault (@arsenault.emmy)