At the end of 2017, my resolution to reduce plastic use was all-encompassing with plans to revolutionize my lifestyle! To fully embrace the art of slow living!... A lifestyle which, according to some of the Instagram accounts I follow, looks like an existence bedecked with lavender garlands, white linens, and old-fashioned bottles of frothy milk. Basically, I'd made plans to live a fantasy not a sustainable reality. Plans that quickly ran up against a couple toddler-sized roadblocks that shall remain nameless, although the biggest roadblock actually proved to be the kind of plastic packaging I suddenly noticed EVERYTHING we consume comes in. (As for that, here is a brilliant piece by Renee Peters of Model 4 Green Living about her own monthlong attempt to cut plastic out of her life.) So, despite those challenges and despite the setbacks, I'm proud that I still made a few small changes to my daily crazy.
Or... is the word "proud" when these changes (listed below) were soooooo easy to make that it counted more as a shift in awareness than willpower or effort? I emphasize the ease of these particular changes for two reasons: yes, I want to entice others to cut out single-use plastic, but, also, I sincerely hope I don't come across as holier-than-thou in these sustainable pursuits of mine! What I hope I come across as is what I am: a totally ordinary but concerned mommy with all the limitations of time and energy that come along with that role. Basically, if I can do it, anyone can! And, whether you're an ordinary, exhausted, and often bedraggled mommy with nary a clean linen in sight or not, once you become aware of the scope of our planet's plastic catastrophe, you do begin to feel icky using and tossing products made of plastic. Even recycling is problematic these days! Overall, I'm learning these changes are a learning process. I still have many goals for 2019, but as for 2018 here are 5 simple, easy changes that have become part of my daily or nearly daily life, and that I think could be achievable for anyone! Click on the pics for a direct link to purchase these reusable goodies from Amazon. For a more comprehensive list of resolutions, check out Eco Cult's 50 Sustainable Resolutions for 2016 here!
1. Reusable Dryer Balls
I promised these changes were super duper easy, so let's start with the easiest of all! $8 wool balls that you simply let lie in your dryer. Added bonus: my kids think gathering them back up after running a load through the dryer and having a few of the balls inevitably tangle up in the sheets is FUN. So you're not using and disposing of single dryer sheets any longer, all without having to do a single thing once you've made the initial purchase. (FYI I bought my reusable dryer balls last year for $8.99 and still have four usable ones left! And we do a lotttt of laundry in these parts. )
2. Reusable Straws
Actually, did I claim switching from Bounce to dryer balls was the easiest switch? Well, reusable straws might tie with that first change. I did accidentally purchase glass straws my first time however. Be warned, those shattered in the sink and made me realize they were dangerous to give to tots. If you're a mom (or as embarrassingly clumsy as I am), consider silicon straws. They come in bright colors, and my kids love them! I know some people need straws, but if you're not one of those people, and I doubt most of the people who use 500 million straws a day are, consider making this easy switch and keep a couple colorful silicon straws in your cutlery drawer or your purse.
3. Reusable Cotton Pads
This switch was originally the most challenging only because it was hard to keep track of those slippery little suckers. (Sorry to plagiarize a phrase, but I just rewatched Pretty Woman and it's on my brain, because I Googled it to see if other women felt like it held up surprisingly well in the #MeToo era, which I'm happy to say they did! Because of Julia Roberts! I recommend it! However, less watchable is the new Broadway musical version, which ugh... there are no words... or Julia Roberts. I mean, why? Whyyy resurrect this tired story of materialism making everything better??? Anyway, this is a rant for another day.) Well, a way around the issue of keeping track of the slippery guys finally occurred to me: keep the box the pads come in for storage, so I can keep track of them! I then hang up the little laundry bag they come with next to my own laundry bag and toss the little bag in with the big one when it's full. That keeps them all together in the wash! I rarely paint my nails these days, so I can understand if people want to use the cotton, disposable kind for harsher chemicals or does the scent wash off? If anyone has used them for both makeup removal and nail polish removal and had success, I'd love to know in the comments below!
4. Reusable Menstrual Cup
Here's where I'm really going to harp on what a 2.5 children-having-married-to-a-corporate-guy-ordinary-basic lady I am, because I know SO MANY women, who continue to be grossed out by the idea of menstrual cups and think they're only for die-hard environmentalists who live on remote islands and don't use shampoo or something. (Or [insert your image of the perfect environmentalist here]). However, if someone as basic as me is using them, I hope more women get inspired to use them as well. I had the same hangups all my friends have until I decided to go ahead and give one a whirl as part of my whole self-education in sustainability. No, I didn't want to mess with my vajajay, either, which is the number one worry I hear from my friends: that there's something icky about the whole idea. I too feared it would be gross or messy. It's not. It's liberating. You become less grossed out by your own body, which is as it should be. It takes a sec to master the whole breaking the seal thing, but only a sec, and if you're careful and slow with learning how the seal works, it's not particularly messy or different from the tampon... er procedure, either. I also know tampons contain toxic chemicals, but I was more concerned with how many tampons a woman uses in her life and tosses-- about 11,000. That's expensive for you and expensive for the environment.
However, if toxicity does bother you, consider this: if you wouldn't put a tampon in your mouth, why put those chemicals in your vagina? Same body! At any rate, some of my friends prefer the Luna cup. I prefer the Diva. Here's another bonus: I was at the pool with a friend who hadn't had kids yet. She's a swimming instructor and one day I noticed she was wearing shorts in the pool. Her flow was really heavy she explained and she didn't want to risk... you know... anything, because as anyone knows with a heavy flow, tampons are limited in their effectiveness. "Oh my God, you have to try a Diva cup," I told her. "You can wear bikinis again. And white pants! You don't have to worry about accidents." It was like those tampon commercials only way grislier and wayyyyy more liberating! Her life changed, my life changed. Trust me: go get yourself a cup!!! Take ownership of your body and your flow and your impact on the planet! Just all good things! If you get inspired by anything on this list, I hope it's this, because, really, tampons are some bs. (That is, unless you have a medical issue that disallows use of a cup! I'm only talking about the women who have a choice.)
5. Reusable Water Bottle
This one became a concern when my sister who's a water scientist and professor-- or a fluvial geomorphologist as it took me years to learn to say-- informed me that most tap water is actually better quality than bottled water! (It was such a shock I wrote a haibun about it which was published at Every Day Poetry, which now no longer exists online, sigh, so allow me to plug my book real quick, because it's the only place you can read it now.) If you live in Flint, Michigan, bad tap water continues to be a problem, which is some more bs for a different day, but anyway you might be surprised at the quality of the free water flowing from your own tap! Here in Philly, because of taste issues, we filter our tap water with a Brita, but overall I'm in love with my 'Swell bottle! It's so easy to carry around and it keeps my water cold even on a hot day!
Wearing all thrifted clothes from eBay or Greene Street Consignment. Another change! I LOVE thrifting!
These were all such simple changes that involved a couple small initial purchases-- most of which meant investments in reusable objects that were priced under $10! And there's plenty more changes I can make in that price-point! For example, I only recently learned there are small amounts of plastic in teabags after beginning to follow 1 Million Women on Instagram, so my Christmas present to myself this year was a tea strainer. That might sound like a lame self-gift, but I really love my evening cup of tea and I think it will add another element of grace to the nightly ritual.
I'd love to keep on adding changes from here well past 2018, 2019, and off into a better future for all. Have you guys heard of the 1 Million Women Movement? It's all about (mostly but not exclusively) women around the world making these kind of small daily changes in how our households are run, because these small changes when done on a larger scale can affect nearly 17% of greenhouse emissions! What are some changes you'd like to make in 2019? Any ideas you'd add to this list?