A couple of weeks ago, I went along to this beach clean here in Aberdeen. On a stretch of no more than 50 metres, I had stuffed two 60 litre bin bags full. Beer cans, soda bottles, crisps bags, sandwich wrappers, take away cups… even the odd toothbrush, I kid you not. While I wont go into detail of the feelings I felt that day (try something like disheartened despair), the good news is that most of these items can easily be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.
And this brings us to a very imporant conversation. To take the time to consider one’s own patterns of consumption and the lifespan of ones possessions. From toothbrushes to tampons - where does it all go? Can a small change in my life to prevent this product from ending up in landfill?
Below are a few easy examples of every day items that can easily be swapped for more sustainable alternatives:
Body scrub → Bath sponge.
It was not until I watched the Netflix documentary Plastic Ocean last year that it ever occured to me to consider the tiny pieces of plastic that make out the polishing in your toothpaste or the exfoliator in your body wash. These so-called micro plastics are indeed so microscopic that they fail to get filtered out in ordinary sewage treatment procedures. Instead they end up floating about in our oceans, where bird and marine life mistake them for food.
The imagery of a lady cutting up the torso of a deceased bird only to reveal a belly full of plastic is sure to be painted in my mind for a long, long time.
An easy swap is to opt your exfoliating shower gels (and facial scrubs, and toothpastes) for something like a loofah sponge, that can be used again and again. Once its time to discard you can simply throw it in the compost.
Soap + shampoo bars.
I have talked about the cons (particularly as a traveller!) of using bar shampoos in this post (which, on a side note, is probably what brings most people from google into this blog). I also recently, as our plastic pump soaps in the kitchen and bathroom finished, decided to swap over to using bars there too.
The beauty in this is that you can buy the bar without any excess packaging; just need a wee plate to store it by the sink.
Tote bags for shopping bags.
I see too many people purchasing plastic bags to put their weekly shopping in. Sure they might end up getting used a second time as bin liners, but likely they will sit in some kitchen cupboard for ages. Tote bags are way more durable, comfortable (no more plastic handles digging through your hands and stopping blood flow, thank you please!) and can be washed once they turn a bit manky.
I usually keep one wrapped up in my hand bag or jacket pocket in case I need to pick up some groceries on my way home; it hardly takes up any space at all! If you drive to pick up your shopping you can easily store some reusable bags in the back of the car, that way you will be more prepared than a scout!
Reusable food wrapping.
If you find that you consume plenty of single use cling film, for keeping half an avocado fresh or for your packed lunch sandwhich, perhaps it would be an idea to invest in a set of reusable food wraps? This is something I just recently got into, partly as I have been struggling to find a vegan friendly alternative as these are commonly made using bees wax.
Alternatively, store your food leftovers in any old tupperware with a lid and you won’t have to use any type of wrapping.
And as opposed to purchasing a sandwich each lunch hour, perhaps consider taking the time to prepare one at home. This will save you valuable money, and also a considerate amount of single use wrapping. Ponder you purchase a meal deal every day; in one month you will have accumulated quite the amount of rubbish.
Water bottles and take aways.
Working in a cafe, I have so many regular customers coming through for takeaways. It sort of baffles me, like you made it all the way down here to the beach, you do have some sort of carrier bag with you and you clearly seem keen on a coffee — perhaps it would be an idea to invest in a reusable coffee mug?
Alternatively, there is always the option to sit in. Ask for an actual ceramic mug. Take a T/O for yourself and enjoy the beverage.
The plastic toothbrush is an item that gets completely lost in the recycling process. Most likely it will end up as landfill after it leaves your bathroom.
I never really paid attention to the lifespan of my posessions before, a toothbrush would very much be thrown straight in the bin after it had seen its golden days. After swapping to a bamboo one, I did my research. Once it reaches the end of its lifetime, I remove the bristles (easily done with a pair of pliers!), dispose of them and compost the wooden handle.
Did you know that the amount of waste from sanitary products is enough to fill an entire dump truck during your ‘period years’? Now, that is a lot of packaging!
Switching over to a menstrual cup has a ton of other benefits, like being safer for you and saving you money. What is not to like? I know of no one that has made the switch from tampons to a menstrual cup that regrets it.
→ Do you have any easy swaps to add to the list?
I’d love to hear them! A few things that I am currently wanting to find alternatives for is sustainable shaving products (yeah, like besides not doing it at all!) and dental floss. I know there are brands both biodegradable and with minimal packaging but at present they all contain beeswax.