A couple weeks back, I did a round up here of some of the lifestyle changes I made this past Earth Month. My focus was overall a change in mindset. I had encountered the idea of a zero waste challenge on a fellow blogger's page but doing the same didn't feel practicable for me, at least not with my current responsibilities.
Two toddlers. Three animals. A household of mayhem, etc.
However, that same day, maybe inspired by some of what I'd read, it occurred to me to try an alternative to all those wads of paper towels for picking up our home's infinite balls of animal fur & trails of toddler crumbs. I tried the dustbuster instead. A true lightbulb moment. (Sad or not to say.) It was a small change but an incredibly easy one. Still, it made a big impact on the amount of waste my family created that day. I began to wonder if there were other small ways to reduce our family's waste that simply required conscious thought processes before I unconsciously reached for instantly disposable items. You can read my fellow blogger's much more intense adventure (which I think she ought to turn into a book) here.
While part 1 of my own zero waste experiment focused on the mindset change, part 2 is more about the inexpensive purchases that have helped make waste reduction practicable.
Here are some of my favorite eco purchases that have proven to be inexpensive, easy ways to reduce our family's waste! Plus, they're purtyier than their evil, single-use step-cousins.... win, win! (Sorry I have fairy tales on the mind. I just watched the Royal Wedding on CNN. I find Meghan Markle's humanitarian work (not to mention fashion sense) so inspiring! I promise to control myself and remain very serious-minded for the rest of this very serious post.) Ahem, here, in no particular order, are 5 life-changing eco products that will help you feel like you are saving the world:
1. Reusable Dryer Balls $9.98
These are so cute I hang them on the outside of our laundry closet's door rather than tucking them away as I did with our Bounce dryer sheets. Plus, they're hypoallergenic, smell great, and work perfectly well. I've been using the same ball since I bought the bag, so I think my $9 and my bag of reusable dryer balls will go quite a long way. Here's a link to the $9 ones I bought on Amazon.
2. Reusable Cotton Pads $15.98
A couple months ago, I discovered the eco brand Glossier, and I've been hooked on this magical toner ever since. That also means I've been using and discarding cotton pads every night. It didn't even occur to me how wasteful I was being. A very simple switch it is indeed to begin using washable cotton pads. An added bonus is that they feel softer on the face, more like a facial at a spa! The ones I like also come with this washable laundry bag, although I'm using the little bag for storing the pads as organization is more important than laundry sorting, which I have to do anyway.
3. Reusable Metal Straws $9.99
We use so many straws in our house! Since we've made the switch to metal straws, we've definitely cut back, although it's annoying that so many so-called green places send their drinks with straws or the ways straws come with juiceboxes. We've also used paper straws, which at least have the virtue of disintegrating. Still, it feels good to do something. After all...
"Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That's 46,400 school buses every year! Americans use these disposable utensils at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person per day."
4. Reusable Utensils Travel Packet $9.99
This kind of falls under the same rubric of reusable straws except a zero-waste friend of mine made an excellent point: why not make a little packet that you take with you everywhere? I already try to remember my reusable bottles and cups, but why not try to bring my own reusable spoon, fork, straw, and napkin all tucked up together? Even if I don't remember all the time, (which I don't sadly) the times I do remember will help me start to cut back on really useless kinds of waste. I've just begun doing this. So far, I've remembered zero times, but that's how I was with my cups too at first, and now I almost always have a cup or bottle with me. The trick there for me was to purchase bottles and cups I really like. On that note, I really like this handy, bamboo travel set for $9.99 or this cool reusable lunchbox set with a bamboo carving board for $24.99 if you pack your own lunches every day.
5. Reusable Tampons $15.95- $29.14
I also listed these in part 1 of this blog series, but I can't stress enough how easy these are to use and what a game-changer they have proven to be in my life and the life of many women. According to the Guardian...
"The average woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. The time it takes for a tampon or pad to degrade in a landfill is centuries longer than the lifespan of the woman who used it, particularly when wrapped in a plastic wrapper or bag. In addition, the process of manufacturing these products – turning wood pulp into soft, cotton-like fibres – is both resource- and chemical-intensive."
Even though half the population deals with their period every month, there's still a taboo that keeps us from talking about it. The feminine hygeine industry therefore thrives even though there's a cheaper, safer, easier, WAY more eco option available out there: diva cups. Or Luna Cups or Goddess Cups or whichever brand works for you. Just be sure to get an undyed one. Some of the dyed ones are tested on animals. I hope that doesn't make me sound wacky to mention, although I don't really mind sounding wacky. This is why: I could not be a more ordinary woman. I'm a stay-at-home mother who loves Starbucks and shopping. I'm happily married, and we even have one boy and one girl. I love Target, and I have been known to rip a romance novel read in the bath. What I'm saying is: I'm exactly the type of totally ordinary, basic woman who needs to be speaking out. So here goes.
Ladies, GO GET YOURSELVES A DIVA CUP. It is not gross or weird. The environmental savings are huge, but so are the savings on your wallet. It will also make your life infinitely easier. No more leaks. You can sleep through the night if you have a heavier flow. Most of all, it's just common sense: if you wouldn't stick a tampon in your mouth and suck on it because of all the chemicals, WHY would you put a gross, chemical lollipop in your vagina?
I personally love the Diva Cup, but I've heard friends say they prefer other brands like Luna Cup.
Next up for my family is cutting back on paper towel use. A friend recommended we try Norwex Cleaning Cloths. They retail between $14.95- $24.95. These are all easy, inexpensive changes, but I don't want to pretend it's all easy. Paying attention to our waste also brought home the limitations on any real changes we can make. Our worst waste is from food containers, and there's not much we can do about that. Real change is going to have to be institutional. Renée's post does an utterly amazing job delving into the more difficult work necessary to make more lasting changes. I think what I've tried to emphasize is so much of this is simply a change of habit. And these aren't centuries-old habits that we'll have to break! They came about only two generations ago when production values changed. Our great-grandparents and maybe even grandparents did not live like this, and we shouldn't be, either.
I'd love to keep the conversation going below! What are some ways you've learned to cut back on foolish waste in your own lives? (Please no one say "by not wasting time reading this blog!" haha. That said, I've been working very hard at improving this blog the past few weeks, but I always value feedback! Thanks!)
In the outfit above, I'm wearing:
a secondhand Anthropologie skirt. Similar here.
An old Missguided gingham top. Similar here.
A reusable basket from Robertson's Florist. Similar here.
Soludos espadrilles. Available here.
A Slow Fashion Diary