Today, on Earth Day, I am beginning a new series called 'Reduce Your Use' - aimed at collecting tips and strategies to reduce our plastic use. Reducing single-use plastics can seem like a daunting and fruitless task when we think about just how much plastic there is in the world, and how near-impossible it is to avoid in our daily lives. However, change doesn't often come about in giant leaps, but rather in small steps. Each step towards living more sustainably will lessen your footprint on our environment! There is no need to be perfect, there is simply a need to be conscious and try your very best.
You'll notice that in this article, I do not use the term "zero-waste" despite it being a pretty popular buzzword these days. I believe that term implies that the items we purchase that have no packaging when we get our hands on them create no waste. This assumption is untrue because at some point there was definitely packaging involved (for shipping, storing in high quantities, etc.) and therefore is not zero waste. Not to mention the non-material waste that comes about as a result of production and transportation. I believe the more appropriate term is reduced-waste - which also seems like a much more attainable goal and is therefore more inclusive and accessible to any reader who may come across this, regardless of the resources they may have.
With that said, let's move on to my favourite area of the home to make reduced-waste swaps: the washroom! While the kitchen and our closets may pose more of a challenge, I find the easiest place to start on sustainable swaps is the washroom. The most important tip is the last one, in my opinion, so make sure to read all 8 of these suggestions!
1. Opt for bar shampoo & soap
I have been using bar shampoo for a couple years now, and I am in love. Bar shampoo lasts decently long, is not over-priced, and it is easy to transport when you travel. There are so many different kinds out there, most of which lather just as well as bottled shampoo, so you're sure to find one that is right for your hair. The fun colours and shapes are an added bonus!
Bar soap is pretty self-explanatory, I'm sure you know the drill with that. Making the switch from pump to bar soap might just be the easiest swap in this bunch!
2. Refill your bottles
I am lucky enough to have a wonderful store called The Soap Dispensary here in Vancouver, which I go to when I need a refill on products that would otherwise require me to use plastic. I refill my castille soaps there (which are super amazing and palm oil-free!) and my hair conditioner. My hair conditioner is made by a local brand that is brought to be sold in bulk at The Soap Dispensary. Getting bottles refilled with just the product you need is way more affordable than buying new products. Take a little search in your area to see if you can find a similar place. It is so worth the extra time it takes when you're saving money AND the planet!
3. Make your own products
As noted above, I always make sure to have castille soap. This is not only for washing my body with, but also for making my own cleaning products. I use glass spray bottles and combine all ingredients in there, and have cheap cleaning products for the whole house! There are plenty of recipes out there, so find one that you have the ingredients for and give it a try. My favourite I have made so far is my glass cleaner (water, dish soap, lemon essential oil, vinegar).
Even beyond cleaning products, you can make products like apple cider vinegar toner, lip balm, and makeup remover super easily.
4. Invest in a safety razor
While it may seem shockingly expensive at first, in the long run this swap will save you money. With practice and care, these work just as well as normal razors, but reduce the waste that comes with shaving - big time. Now when my razor blade gets dull. I simply put in a new 5-cent blade. Yup, it costs me 5 cents to replace my razor. It's another win-win for my wallet and the planet!
5. Choose glass
I love skincare as much as the next gal so I'm not going to pretend I make all my own products and don't get excited by pretty packaging. When I'm shopping for a skincare item to solve a skin issue I'm having, though, I do some research and opt for items that come in glass containers rather than plastics ones. Another great option is buying products from a company that recycles containers for you once they're empty, like Lush.
side note: In the photo above you can see my cleansing oil and tea tree essential oil, which I use to remove my makeup - without a cotton pad! This is another little switch that has not only reduced my waste, but made my skin much more glowy.
6. Baby steps!
This is the most important tip! Do not try to swap everything at once. It isn't a true help to the planet if you throw out everything you own when you haven't even used up all the products yet. Take your time, replace your products after they run out with a more sustainable option.
You also don't need to have all the answers right away. This is a process. For example, did I know there was such a thing as plastic-free floss? No! But when I was out of floss and needed some more, I found a (very cute) little plastic-free floss and it's amazing. I will probably never go back now that I know. And that's the trick - doing the best you can with the information you have.
I hope you found something in this first part of the series helpful! If you have other tips from reducing plastic use, leave a comment below and help other readers and myself out! Feel free to ask any questions you may have, too. :)
Happy Earth Day, beautiful humans!