Do you wonder where to start when it comes to becoming more sustainable? Me too. When we’re bombarded with information on sustainable living, it can be overwhelming, and demotivating, and that’s okay. Switching to a sustainable lifestyle does require more thought and research than you’d think, and through this blog post, I hope to simplify the process for you and give you resources on where to start.
If you think sustainability is just too much effort, maybe this sobering report on climate change (and predictions of irreversible damage as early as 2040) will help change your mind. No start is too small, and once you start being mindful of the waste, you will notice you begin to consciously make more decisions that reduce your waste. Plastic pollution is real, debilitating, and literally choking us. Individual efforts can add up, and hopefully should act in tandem with government efforts.
Lastly, remember that sustainable alternatives are a privilege that not many can afford – reuse requires washing, maintaining, storage. If you can afford to adopt any of the solutions below, you do have a degree of privilege which you must recognize, and act on accordingly.
Switch to solid shampoos and soaps, and bamboo toothbrushes
Ah, packaging. One of those everyday things that cause a lot of waste accumulation. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash bottles are one of those items that we don’t think about as waste accumulating when in fact, they make up quite a part of household waste.
An easy switch would be to go for solid shampoo bars and soaps – the latter is easily available even at your local department store/Khadi Udyog/FabIndia/Body Shop, while the former is more easily available online.
The Earthy Sapo shampoo bar comes wrapped in a woven cloth & a cardboard box. I’d recommend using it only if you have oiled your hair, as it can be quite drying otherwise. It gave a great lather, much to my surprise, and I loved how soft and clean my hair felt afterward. If your hair feels brittle after washing, dry it out and see – it’s probably soft when dry!
Buy Earthy Sapo Shikakai & Multani Shampoo Bar – Suitable For Oily Hair, Rs. 185. Amazon.in
Soapworks India is another company making tons of soaps, body butters, and shampoos. They’re also working to reduce its plastic packaging as much as possible. I have not tried any of their products, but the reviews on each product seem promising!
Buy Soapworks India Mango Butter Vegan Lotion Bar, Rs. 499 for 50g.
Other reusable, eco-friendly hygiene items? Bamboo toothbrushes & natural toothpaste. Bare Necessities India carries both; their natural toothpaste comes in a reusable and recyclable glass jar, which is another small and useful step to reducing your plastic usage.
Invest in reusable cups & cutlery
Whether you’re a backpacking traveller or just like your morning coffee from Starbucks, investing in a coffee cup/travel mug helps you reduce waste every time you order or you’re grabbing a drink on the go. Not many (or any) food chains have compostable cups, and I don’t know what their recycling practices are. So why not just carry your own, and wash it later in a sink?
If you drink approximately 5 coffees from Starbucks every month, that’s 60 cups you’ve used and thrown, and they’re probably washing ashore somewhere on a riverbed or sitting in a landfill (I wish I was exaggerating). And that’s just your impact. Think about every single person going to Starbucks to get a coffee, everyday.
So, be sustainable by switching to a reusable cup (or a mug!) over throwaway cups. P.S. you do get discounts at Starbucks for bringing your own cup.
Buy Freelance Bamboo Fibre Travel Mug for Rs. 299 from Amazon.in (or similar from your local home decor stores).
If you love iced drinks (coffee or otherwise), why not invest in a stainless steel straw as well? Straws are used for about 10 minutes and live on Earth for at least 100 years or more, and are one of the largest pollutants in the sea, causing harm to all marine life (including the fish you may consume). Stainless steel straws are the way to go, and are easy to store and keep in your bag.
Buy Fancyku Stainless Steel Straws for Drinking with Brushes (2 Bent + 2 Straight +1 Brush, FK-0372) for Rs. 409 on Amazon.in
Remember, “it’s just one straw”, said 1 billion people.
If you have coffee at work, just get a mug and keep it at your desk, and take it when you go for a coffee break or chai. Skip the paper cup that’s usually stacked next to it.
Lastly, if you travel a lot, get yourself cutlery that you can wash & keep. Your #wanderlust Maggi on the hills will come in a styrofoam cup and a plastic fork – why not take your own stainless steel fork and spoon? It helps keep the country clean as well & reduces impact of single use plastics. You can get a cute cloth roll-up pouch to keep your forks, spoons, and straws together, and wash with water once you’re done.
LASTLY, CARRY YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE EVERYWHERE! Please. It’s easy, most bags can fit a small bottle, and if you really need water, grab a glass and drink it instead of a single-use bottle.
Skip the cutlery while ordering in
We all have days where we order dinners from Swiggy or Zomato, but unfortunately, each order comes with a carbon footprint of its own, and excessive plastic packaging. While the packaging can’t be avoided (someone please create scalable edible/compostable packaging!), you can refuse the forks, spoons, straws, and knives that come along with your order. Zomato has an option to refuse cutlery during checkout. On Swiggy, try to add a note with order.
Bonus: start cooking more! By buying your own vegetables, setting your own curd, etc, you can really reduce how much you order & in turn, how much plastic you accumulate.
Store a shopping bag in your work bag and handbag & buy in-store over online
Anyone else stores sanitary napkins in all their bags’ secret compartments “just in case”? Fold up a reusable bag as well and keep it there. Whether it’s a grocery stop on your way back home, or an impromptu shopping trip, using your own bag helps you refuse those thin plastic bags that tear even before you get home.
Also, I’d recommend buying in-store over buying online, whenever possible. Walking to your local market and purchasing your vegetables helps you avoid the plastics that comes with online grocery shopping. You can extend this to whatever you’re purchasing – including clothes, books, makeup, whatever is possible & available.
Use public transport (or walk!)
Remember in school, we were always taught that usage of public transport was good? I know the public transport system may not be the option with the most connectivity for everyone, but in most metropolitan cities, there is at least one form – Metro trains, Uber/Ola Pool, autorickshaws, trains, buses – that you can use to get to where you want.
Yes, it will need you to leave a little earlier than usual, and they may not be the most comfortable option on a workday. But even on a weekend, if you can skip the Uber Go and catch an Uber Pool instead, you not only save money but also reduce your carbon footprint. Or take a walk if the place is nearby, instead of driving your own vehicle. No parking hassle, and it can be a good form of exercise for the day!
Discard your waste mindfully
Whatever waste you discard, be mindful about it. Separate food and dry wastes at home. Compost fruit and vegetable peels instead of throwing it away. Recycle paper, plastic, and glass as much as possible – this diverts your waste from a landfill. Kabadiwalla Connect is a cool Chennai-based app that helps you find a kabadiwalla who can take care of your recyclable waste.
Use glass bottles for DIYs, repair your stuff instead of throwing them away. Learn how to sew a button. Google your nearest e-waste center and see how you can drop off obsolete devices.
I hope this little article helped you understand different ways in which we generate waste + pollution everyday, and inspired you to do something different in your routine!
Do you incorporate any other tips in your lifestyle? Let me know in the comments 🙂