Talk of sustainability is everywhere, at the moment. If the imminent death of our planet is a source of anxiety for you, you’re not alone. It can be easy to be scared into inactivity by the fact that any improvement we make will likely be overshadowed by the multitude of corporations that constantly cause thousands of times more damage than individuals, and I fell into this trap for too long. However, I’ve found that rethinking my own decisions as a consumer – and ultimately waste producer – has helped to settle this somewhat.
One of the most challenging elements of starting uni was the fact that I’m now suddenly in charge of everything I consume. For the first few months, I made rookie errors in terms of sustainable choices, but recently I’ve been making a big effort to change that. Below are some of the alterations I’ve made.
Reusable Water Bottle
This is one of the most basic tips that any eco-friendly post will give you, and I’m ashamed to admit that I failed. Contactless vending machines seemed like the best invention ever until I realised just how many plastic bottles I was getting through.
My original attempt to fix this involved a plastic water bottle, which broke pretty quickly after weeks of constant use. I now use a kinda pricey Chilly’s one, but many stores will sell some form of metal water bottle if that’s not in your price range.
Cutting out fizzy drinks also helped with this – while I gave them up to cut my sugar intake, it also cut my use of plastic bottles considerably.
Again, one of the basics. I use one that I bought from Primark three years ago, and it’s still going strong. The main thing for me was remembering to actually take it along. I even had another one that folded up and fit into a smaller bag on a clip, but of course managed to lose it… Yeah, my bad. Recently, I’ve got better at just permanently leaving it in my bag.
Reusable Sanitary Towels
They sound like one of the most grim ideas in existence, but aren’t as bad as they sound. The ones I use are slightly more high maintenance than disposable ones, but make up for it in how easy they are on sensitive skin. The up front cost is quite a bit more than disposable pads, but eventually I’ve ended up saving money as they are a one time purchase.
If, like me, you’re nervous about washing them in a public laundrette, I recommend using a delicates bag to mask them from potential onlookers.
I use Charlie Banana pads in three different sizes, but would recommend the larger ones the most.
Yup, I know these are another basic. For some reason it didn’t cross my mind that using disposable dishcloths was a very preventable waste. In fact, most supermarkets will sell the machine-washable alternative.
We live walking distance from the uni takeaway, and yet the novelty of ordering food got to me. Due to my nut allergy, I hadn’t had takeaway since I was about five, and so I was too caught up in how the nut free one meant I could finally join in to realise that this was an entirely unnecessary journey. Fortunately, I came to my senses, and we now walk to collect it whenever possible.
Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
My mum caught on to the sustainable game much sooner than I did, and sent me to uni with eco-friendly washing up liquid from Method. After discovering that cleaning was great stress relief, I invested in their anti-bacterial sprays for both the bathroom and kitchen, which smell way better than most ultra-chemical cleaners.
I’m all-too aware that the majority of the above solutions still use plastic in some way. I’m sure someone will call me out on that, and rightly so. But I’m also aware that my household isn’t going to become 100% sustainable overnight.
Our goal is to make more sustainable changes each semester – while it was tempting to just immediately switch to some of the new products we’ll be trying next term, it seemed even more irresponsible to just throw away our remaining, less sustainable things. Over the summer and into next semester though, we’ll be trying replacements for cling film, kitchen towel, mouthwash, toothbrushes and shampoo.
If you have any suggestions for me, please share them below. While I may not be able to take them on immediately, I’m doing my best to make changes where possible.
As usual, this post wasn’t endorsed by any of the companies listed above and all opinions given are honest.