How I began my sustainable lifestyle journey and what you can do to kickstart yours!
Hi, my name is Kirsten, working for The Cleaning Cabinet has opened my eyes to so many more ways in which I can live a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.
6 years ago, I decided to go vegetarian, for the animals and the planet and I eat vegan food a lot of the time too. I also always try to shop second-hand or upcycle items I already have before buying new ones, as well as little things like always carrying a reusable drinks bottle and making sure to separate general waste and recycling, but when I joined the TCC Team it made me realise that there was so much more I could be doing, some things so simple I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been doing them already!
Here at TCC we understand that not everyone can do everything but everyone can do something, so today I want to talk to you about a few changes I believe everyone can make and implement into their day to day routines to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle, all of which are prime examples of how paying attention to the little things and going about our everyday lives with a more green eye can really make a big difference, especially with more and more of us doing so.
I’m going to begin with toothbrushes. Although I’d seen bamboo toothbrushes before I’d never made the switch or actually researched what plastic toothbrushes are made up of and the environmental impacts they have, who knew such a small everyday item could cause such large scale problems? Plastic toothbrushes take up to 400 years to decompose, as they settle into the landfill they are constantly releasing chemicals into the air. They can end up in our oceans and on beaches where they are consumed by marine life, harming and potentially killing them. However, it isn’t just the disposal of plastic toothbrushes that’s an issue, the manufacturing process also contains a myriad of harmful plastic by-products as well as petroleum and crude oil. There are so many sustainable alternatives out there so there is really no excuse for not making the switch!
Before throwing away your old plastic toothbrush though think about what else you could use it for? It might not be at the end of it’s life just yet, at TCC we have discovered toothbrushes are the perfect little size for cleaning spots around our bathroom such as window seals and around the drains and taps.
As we are on the topic already let’s take a look at toothpaste tablets. Before working for TCC I had never even come across toothpaste tablets before. I can’t lie, I was a little sceptical about trying them at first and they do take some getting used to but now I will never go back. You simply just pop the tablet in your mouth, chew it and brush and it creates a foam like any standard toothpaste. Old toothpaste tubes go into landfill and contribute to waste and pollution whereas most toothpaste tablets are sold in reusable packaging with a refill option also available so there is absolutely no waste at all!
Sticking with the dental care theme, Dental Floss is another environmental minefield. First of all dental floss usually comes packed in a plastic container and then the floss itself is generally made out of nylon, another non biodegradable material. Being so small, dental floss often gets swept up in the disposal process and ends up in the ocean. Floss that is designed not to tear can end up suffocating marine animals or getting stuck in their stomachs where it stays for years, causing them serious health issues.
Reusable vegan food wraps are a favourite of mine, as someone who eats a lot of packed lunches whether it be at work, a picnic or if I’m just going out for the day I couldn’t believe I hadn’t used these sooner. They’re such a great concept, a perfect alternative to cling film or foil, and they are so easy to use, just using the heat of the palm your hand to wrap and mould it round your food and then simply washing them in cool water after each use ready for next time. They are 100% reusable, compostable, organic and toxin free. They come in a range of shapes and sizes so can be used for just wrapping a small sandwich or covering a large dish and everything in between! They also come in a variety of patterns so not only are they good for the environment but they’re nice on the eye too.
A simple thing like deodorant is another one to watch out for. Whether your go to is an aerosol or roll on, there’s so many sustainable alternatives out there that are not only better for the environment but for you as well. I was sceptical at first, how can something completely natural fight odour? It turns out, with the right blend of essential oils, they do so just as well as any other deodorant. Natural deodorants generally include bicarbonate of soda which acts as a natural deodoriser and cleanser. Arrowroot powder is another key ingredient which absorbs moisture and sebum from your under arms, acts as a natural soft healer for skin irritations and also helps to eliminate toxins. At TCC we have two eco-friendly deodorant alternatives. One in the form of a cream stick and the other a powder. The stick deodorant by Ku.Tis comes packaged in a 100% biodegradable cardboard push up tube and is simply applied in the same way as a standard roll on deodorant. The deodorant powder by Heavenly Organics is packaged in a glass jar. Simply apply to your underarms using clean fingertips or a spatula. Due to its powder form, rather than being rubbed into the skin it sits and forms a layer on top, reducing redness and irritation to delicate underarms. Both come in a variety of all natural scents.
Another simple switch I believe we can all make is from liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners to bar alternatives. The benefits are endless, not only for the environment but for you too. Looking from an environmental aspect first, soap bars require little to no packaging at all making them so much better for the environment than their bottled counterparts. A million plastic bottles are sold around the world every minute with this number predicted to project even more by 2021. In 2016, 480 billion plastic drinks bottles were sold with fewer than half of them being collected for recycling and only 7% of those collected turned into new bottles, meaning approximately 93% of those 480 billion bottles have ended up in landfill or in our oceans. I know these numbers aren’t specifically regarding soap and shampoo bottles but they’re enough to give an idea. These numbers alone are by far reason enough to switch to soap, shampoo and conditioner bars and I haven’t even told you the other benefits of using them yet.
Bar alternatives last much longer than liquids. Take a look at your shampoo, conditioner and soap bottles, the first ingredient you’ll see is water. This means you need to use more each use, you can generally get twice as many washes out of a bar alternative than from their liquid counterparts. Make sure to drain your soap bars after each use to increase their life even more. Their compact size also makes them ideal for travel. Them being so small and lightweight also means they have a much lower carbon footprint than their bottled counterparts, around 10 to 15 trucks of liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners would be needed for one truck of bar alternatives to get the same number of washes!
However if bar alternatives aren’t for you, reuse your bottles. Take them along to your local refill station, like ours in store, and get them refilled, do not throw them away just to buy another!
Finally, washable and reusable makeup removing pads. I made the switch to these myself over a year ago now and I will never go back to using single use cotton pads. As someone who wears makeup daily I was going through A LOT of cotton pads, usually 3, sometimes more each time. Since switching to reusable cotton pads I’ve found I only need one to remove my entire face of makeup, with a simple rinse afterwards I am completely fresh faced. The biggest issue with conventional cotton pads is the use of chemicals, water consumption and destruction of habitats in order to make way for land to grow cotton on. Conventional cotton pads are also usually packaged in single use plastic, all of this for a circular bit of cotton we are only going to use once and then throw straight away? It is crazy right?
Luckily, makeup pad alternatives are becoming more popular and widely available. Reusable Makeup Pads help to reduce the demand for cotton and as well reduce the amount of waste going into landfill. They are also much nicer on your skin than conventional cotton pads and are less likely to cause irritation. To look after them simply wash them in the wash bag provided at around 30-40 degrees (this may vary) and leave them to air dry. Not only are you doing your bit for the planet by using reusable makeup pads, you are also saving yourself money, by making this one little investment you’ll find that you don’t need to buy more for a very long time. Even if you don’t wear makeup these pads can be used for applying face creams and moisturisers or even just for cleaning and washing your face.
So, I want everyone who reads this to think about how they can approach their daily routine with a greener eye. Think about all the items I’ve given you alternatives for, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, food wraps (e.g. cling film and foil), liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners, and cotton pads, pick one (or more!), find the alternative that suits you and make the switch to a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.