Living more sustainably doesn’t have to be a drastic, overnight change where you never shop again, move to a solar-powered hut on a farm and wear only hemp for the rest of your life. There are plenty of easy swaps you can make to slowly transition into a more sustainable lifestyle, with the added benefits of better health, convenience and affordability.
Refuse: say no to single-use plastic
We all learned about ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ in school, but we were never taught the other ‘R’: Refuse. Learning how to refuse single-use plastic items like straws and cling wrap means you generate less waste without even having to worry about the other ‘R’s. Next time you order a drink, ask for no straw. If you feel like you can’t go without them, you can buy a reusable stainless steel one. Beeswax wrap is a long-lasting, reusable alternative to cling wrap that you can DIY or buy in health food shops, otherwise silicone food savers or glass containers work just as well. For every single-use plastic item that exists, there’s a reusable one that’s been tried and tested for centuries before plastic ever came along!
What’s in my bag: no waste edition
There are a few things you can keep in your bag that will help reduce your waste, while also making your life so much easier. Every day, I carry a drink bottle, a fork or set of chopsticks, and a fabric bag. If I’m planning to eat out, I’ll also chuck a container in my bag or car. This way, I avoid having to buy bottled water when I get thirsty, and I’m always ready to eat without needing plastic cutlery. If I need to buy or carry something, I have a bag handy, and if I have leftovers from my meal out, I have a container ready to go. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, carry a keep cup or tea infuser – you mightn’t be aware that most teabags are made from plastic, and despite a cardboard façade, coffee cups have a plastic lining.
Don’t buy: DIY
Turns out, pretty much all you need for household cleaning is vinegar, bicarb soda and lemon juice. A vinegar and water solution is a great all-purpose cleaner for surfaces and floors, while bicarb gets rid of grime, and lemon disinfects. Initially I was suspicious of vinegar having a strong smell, but it fades within minutes and cleans better than any supermarket product I’ve tried. If the smell still bothers you, you can add your favourite essential oil. Have a quick google to find recipes for all your cleaning needs – making them is faster than buying an equivalent at the shop, and even better, no nasty chemicals!
DIY toothpaste is another of my favourite uses for bicarb soda. Just mix bicarb with coconut oil (both are natural teeth-whiteners!) and add essential oils like peppermint to adjust the flavour to your liking. Other easy personal hygiene DIYs are moisturisers. Coconut oil, shea butter and almond oil, among others, are all great for your skin and can be used alone or mixed to keep your skin smooth and silky.
Get naked! Buy package-free or in bulk
Zero-waste shopping can still be sexy. Lush is my favourite cosmetics shop, because everything there smells amazing, does good things for your body, is organic and cruelty free, and can be bought PACKAGE FREE! Their shampoo and conditioner bars are great and treat my hair better than anything out of a bottle does.
For food shopping, Canberra has plenty of package-free and bulk options, like our own Food Co-op near campus, The Source in Dickson, Naked Foods in Braddon, Let’s Be Natural on the Southside, and plenty more. Buying local is always more sustainable, because it cuts out many layers of middlemen and packaging, and supports our local economy.
A large proportion of the planet bleeds every month, so it’s time to kill the period taboo and have an open conversation about how menstruating people can have better periods. The average Australian woman uses over 10,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime. Not only do these come wrapped in plastic, they take centuries to biodegrade in landfill and are often filled with chemicals that are absorbed into your body.
There are many reusable alternatives available that can save you hundreds of dollars per year. I can personally and very highly recommend both a menstrual cup and Modibodi period underwear. You may have heard of Thinx period underwear online, but Modibodi is an Australian company, making it a cheaper and more sustainable option. I make no exaggeration when I say that Modibodi undies were life-changing, for me and several friends who are now total converts themselves. I’ve been using them for over a year now, sometimes together with a menstrual cup, and have not had a single leak incident since. No more sleepless nights lying in awkward positions with an uncomfortable pad! There are plenty of other options on the market too, so do some research and figure out which option is right for you.
Individual actions might seem insignificant, but your choices as a consumer are what influence companies to sell certain products. Becoming part of a growing movement that swaps disposable products for reusable ones will slowly compel companies to adjust to meet the demands of the market. Make these small swaps today, and start a transition to a lifestyle that is healthier and happier, for you and the planet.