If you followed up after my last post, then you know that the recycling centers have started closing down and plastic is no longer being recycled at most plants. The plastic apocalypse is upon us. It actually started “yesterday”.
However, it is never too late to change our ways and any small change in this matter will make a difference.
I will not reiterate again how astounded I am at the amount of plastic EVERYTHING that we purchase is packaged in but instead, I will give you my best tips on how to reduce it.
Here they are:
1. Purchase one item per need/purpose at a time
I strongly encourage you to evaluate each purchase that you make, whether it is for yourself, your household or your family, and to reduce the number to a minimum per each area/need. Especially for the items that you use on a daily or weekly basis.
To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, at any given time I will have only one shampoo, one conditioner and one hair mask in my bath. And only one soap/shower gel. That’s it. That’s all I need.
The same with laundry detergent. I no longer purchase laundry sheets or softener. Instead, I’ve invested in a higher quality laundry detergent that is better for my clothes and the environment. I’ve also switched to a non-toxic all purpose cleaner for my bathroom and kitchen and use cotton sheets that I repurposed from old t-shirt.
Do you really need 3 shower gels, 5 shampoos and 2 conditioners all at once? Sure, all of these things are nice to have, they give us a sense of luxurious abundance but you don’t actually NEED them.
Ask yourself this:
“What are the products that I absolutely must have?”
Start there, invest in these basics, then choose 1 or 2 areas in which to splurge on (more on this topic down below).
Over time, I managed to minimize the amount of household and body care products that I use to a bare minimum. My bathroom looks neat and is easier to clean! (always a bonus in my book).
What I have noticed is that having less stuff is freeing in the best possible way. It will leave you with more time, more money in your wallet and it teaches you to make more conscious and thoughtful purchases.
2. Finish the product completely before buying another
Uff, this is a challenging one. I often find myself wanting to buy something new even before the item is completely used up. What I’ve come to realize is that this happens not because I am suddenly dissatisfied with it, or even bored, but because it gives me a reason to shop, to go out which in turn provides a moment of instant gratification every time I make a purchase.
The psychology of shopping is convoluted and runs deep and straight to the core of our psyche and instant self-gratification.
When we purchase something, we reinforce and tell ourselves many things like:
“I can AFFORD to purchase it and thus, I am wealthy.”
“I worked hard so I deserve this.”
“Why shouldn’t I spoil myself? everyone else does”
“If I buy this, I will look and feel like X, Y and Z and thus, be a part of this/that tribe and have this status”.
“(insert your own)”
More often than not, we buy things because we think we are expected to in order to belong to a certain “club” (like a nice car or a home, a certain clothing item or a specific brand product).
But this creates a false sense of wealth. Being bombarded with constant adds, sales, promotions and media channels telling us that we need this or that does not help our self-control one bit. Plus, the whole shopping experience, whether it is online or in store is made to be easy and pleasurable.
Knowing this, one of the most powerful things we can do RIGHT NOW is to take control of our spending habits and money. Taking a look and buying only what we need. Resisting the social pressure of constantly purchasing items.
3. Choose one or two areas to splurge and indulge in
We, as humans, don’t do very well with self-imposed restrictions, especially those that seem to stretch ad infinitum (aka for the rest of our lives).
Just as strict diets don’t work (on the long run), restrictive shopping can backfire too. We want to create instead a balanced and sustainable lifestyle that is conscious and eco-friendly, but one that also leaves room for indulgences.
It is nice to buy something, once in a while, just because. It is important for our well being and good for our souls too.
But, because we have established that we are conscious consumers, we will treat these purchases just as we would treat a tasty but unhealthy dessert: once in a while.
The key here is to choose one or two areas that are most relevant and important to you right now (and they can change overtime) and indulge in those whilst keeping the purchases for the rest of your areas at minimum.
Perhaps skincare is a priority (it is for me). Or make-up. Or wholesome, organic food. Or lots of candles all over your home. Whatever it may be, choose to indulge, consciously, whilst reducing the purchases in all other areas.
4. Choose products packaged in paper/cardboard/glass/aluminum rather than plastic
If we want to reduce our plastic consumption, then opting for products packaged in glass (who can be recycled an infinite amount of times without degradation), cardboard/paper and even aluminum is one way of doing it. Although, there are some health hazards with the latter.
I know, paper and cardboard is made of trees and we have already reduced our world forested areas to less than 30%. BUT, if we strictly view this issue from the perspective of reducing the amount of plastic we bring into our homes/landfills, then we need to consider and choose these alternatives.
Tress can be planted and they can grow in time. With the concerted effort of citizens, organizations and governments committed to protect and enable forested areas to expand, we may have a chance. Plastic, on the other hand, takes hundreds of years to degrade.
5. Invest in reusable items for your day-to-day needs
Each morning on my way to work I grab:
- my pre-made lunch packed in a reusable container. I spoke about the importance of this in a previous post. You can check it out here.
- my Aladdin water bottle. Which I LOVE and is, hands down, THE BEST purchase I ever made at Target since I have been using it daily! This is the exact one I have.
- my KeepCup for my coffee. No more wasted coffee cups in the land field. Yay! This one is a bit pricey BUT I have seen them pop up in stores in US and UK which means that perhaps their price might drop in the near future. If you are a coffee/tea lover, it is so worth the investment. This is the one I purchased for myself and I take it with me every single day.
Other things I was able to replace to reduce the plastic packaged items in my life:
- Re-usable straws. They even come with a small brush for easy cleaning. Here‘s a good deal.
- Glass containers for food storage or packed lunches.
- Lots of totes to replace the plastic bags when shopping. I keep them in my car within easy reach. I find that most thrift shops carry loads of these if you want to stock up.
- Bamboo toothbrushes. These are incredibly soft and easy to get used to.
- A fast and efficient water filter to replace plastic water bottles. This is the one we have at the moment.
- Good quality soaps instead of face washes and shower gels like the Pekee Bar, the Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap or the Two Bear Mountain’s handmade one which is incredible! I bought the Cascade Falls one from the loveliest inn we stayed at last fall in Northern VA. The soap was so soft on the hands and lasted such a long time. Now I need to order some more and stock up. The good old Dove is a mild soap that still does a pretty good job. This was my absolute favorite in high school and Uni. Since I used very little make-up (I still do), it gently cleaned my face, hands and body, all in one go, and was super affordable.
- Solid shampoos and conditioners. I have enjoyed this one and find it to be of good quality. It also lasts quite a while too.
*I am NOT affiliated with any of these brands or products. But since I am/have used and enjoyed them, I feel comfortable recommending them to you.
Making this small changes in my lifestyle and shopping choices have allowed me not only to reduce my plastic consumption, but to save more money that were later invested in paying off debt and traveling.
I was also able to invest and purchase from companies that are ethical, some are local businesses, follow fair trade practices and pay living wages to their workers. Overall, I was able to buy less, but cleaner and better quality products.
For example, growing up in Romania and having a mother that worked 30+ years as a seamstress for a famous clothing company that sold their items abroad for hundreds of euros/piece whilst my mother was being paid 0.05 cents/button has always inspired me to purchase, when possible, from companies that treat fairly and justly their employees. Thankfully, more and more of these companies have come on the market in recent years. Sezane and Cuyana are some that I’ve enjoyed shopping from and come to mind.
Let me know what you think down below and what are some of your best tips for reducing plastic.
*photo found on pexels.com
Really useful and practical article. We are drowning in things and thus drowning the Earth in plastic and other waste. Your tricks are really simple – it doesn’t take much to start a change of lifestyle. But here I got another: it is not difficult or very time consuming to make own household cleaning detergents, soaps or other cosmetics ;) Better for environment and much better for our health.
Yes, yes, yes! you are absolutely right! it is not difficult to make our own cleaning products, and they last longer too! thank you for taking the time to read my article and for offering another suggestion! we learn and grow by sharing with one another :)