I think we hear a lot about "doing out part" for this planet that we live on, but when you think about it, what are you actually doing?
I remember when I was in elementary school and my hometown, Muncie, IN, started pushing recycling and started their blue bags and Recycle Muncie program. If we're being honest, I didn't start taking recycling seriously until the end of my sophomore year of college at Ball State. I took an Environmental Sociology course and it completely changed how I view the world.
I want to preface this by saying I do not think environmental views should be a political thing. I believe everyone should care about our planet, no matter your views on anything. Whether you believe in climate change (global warming if you're behind on the times) or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to better our planet and not leave extra trash behind. I am not saying everyone should have to approach things the same way, but trying to better our Earth and the way we do things should not be seen as 'political.'
Less than a year ago I started switching to more "eco-friendly" and natural products, not just for the Earth, but for myself. It's been a slow process, and I still have a lot of changes I want to make, but I wanted to share some of the small changes that I have made that I've been so happy with.
•Reusable Bags: The easiest swap of all... reusable bags. I don't know if you've heard about how bad plastic bags are for the environment, but shoppers use about 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. Nearly 100,000 marine creatures die from plastic entanglement each year (and that's just the ones that are found). Sometimes I forget my reusable bags at home though or I get a plastic bag when I forget to say I don't need one, you can recycle plastic bags at a lot of stores now though (Target and Walmart for example). They can't be recycled in your normal recycle bin though.
•Reusable Produce Bags: Reusable produce bags were another easy swap. You know those plastic produce bags that you use one time and then usually rip open to take your fruits or vegetables out? Swap those for reusable ones. I usually just leave these inside of my reusable bags that I take to the grocery with me that way I don't forget them. They also work as great garment bags for the laundry.
•Reusable Un-Paper Towels: This is one of the best investments I've made (well I actually got them for Christmas, so thanks Mom). I haven't bought paper towels (or napkins) since I got these. They dry things so well, are machine washable, work great as napkins, and latch together with buttons so it can fit on a normal paper towel holder or set up on your counter. These also work as great swiffer dusters. These were a little more pricey, but when you think about how often and how much you spend on paper towels, it's worth it in the long-run.
•Reusable, washable Sponges: We can thank my mom for these as well and for not only looking at the eco-friendly side, but the cleanliness side. Growing up and still to this day, my mom talks about how gross sponges are because bacteria from food, counter tops, and whatever else you use them for gets stuck on the inside and you never know if they're actually clean just by rinsing them with soap in the sink. I didn't like the idea of just throwing sponges away after using them just a few times though and came across these.
•Wool Dryer Balls: Alright so I have to be honest, these are definitely not a necessity. They're supposed to help dry your clothes faster, but I personally hang dry 90% of my clothes which is both more eco-friendly and saves energy. No matter what you read though... they do NOT help with static. I mostly wanted to put them in here to say just that because they're shown on a lot of zero waste websites and blogs and I don't find them super useful.
•Reusable Stainless Steel Water Bottle: A reusable water bottle is another easy swap that in the long run can save you a lot of money. I know some people are particular with the taste of their water, but this is hands down the best water bottle I've ever owned. I wanted something that wasn't plastic, but I also didn't want anything glass because when I carry a water bottle I'm usually moving it around a lot and putting it on hard surfaces. You have to wash this water bottle by hand, but it keeps things cold for up to 24 hours and warm for up to 12 hours. AND IT REALLY WORKS. Whether this water bottle is setting out in the sun for hours or I leave it on my kitchen counter for an entire day... when I open it up, it's always cold. There's few things I hate more than room temperature water and now that I'm living in Arizona I appreciate a cold drink more than anything. I know that Yeti is a comparable brand, but I liked the design, price, and meaning behind Cotopaxi the best.
•Reusable Food Wrap - Bees Wrap: Another change I've tried to make is not using cling wrap, which is something we ultimately just throw in the trash. I read a lot of good reviews about Bees Wrap which is made from Bees Wax and works to cover food items, bowls, etc. just be rubbing your finger over it to warm up the bees wax enough to make it stick. This is something else I questioned, but it really does work! If you get anything on it you just rinse it off with water and store it in a cool, dry place. It's also a little on the pricey side and I know now people are starting to make fabric style wraps to cover bowls and such, but so far I really like this.
•Bamboo Toothbrush: One of the first swaps I made on my less-plastic journey was changing to a bamboo toothbrush. In the U.S. it's estimated that over 850 million toothbrushes are discarded and end up in landfills each year... if you spend enough time walking around a beach and looking at the trash that washes up, you'll probably find a toothbrush in there somewhere. Bamboo toothbrushes can be recycled, you just pull out the bristles with pliers and throw those out (some companies claim their toothbrushes are 100% biodegradable/recyclable, but I haven't found a ton of info to back it up yet). You can buy bamboo toothbrushes from multiple places, the ones pictured I was sent for free by the company to do a review on them and currently they're my favorite!
•Menstrual Cup: (possible TMI ahead-->) I know sometimes people can be weird talking about women's personal products, but let me tell you that this is ACTUALLY the best purchase I have ever made. I bought a Diva Cup (there are other brands now so do your own research on which you think would fit best for you, but I've loved the Diva Cup brand). In case you don't know what it is, you use it instead of tampons/pads. I've never been a big fan of tampons for the sole reason of Toxic Shock Syndrome (and I also just don't know exactly what I could be putting into my body each month). I was nervous to buy one because I've heard they can be confusing and hard to put in (sorry if that's TMI). Let me tell you though that once you get it figured out, you'll never go back... I bought this in October and have not bought pads or tampons since. You can wear if for up to 12 hours and let me tell you that it's basically like you aren't on your period!! I've had zero leaks/problems with it. I usually put it in before I go out in public and then it lasts me the whole day so I don't have to (dump it out) until I get home. I've never had to deal with it in a public bathroom so I can't speak on that behalf, but even on heavier days I've had no problems. I'm writing a ton of information about this because I want more women to experience how amazing this product is. If you have any more questions that you think might be awkward, feel free to message me about it! I rinse it out in the sink between uses and then at the end of my period I boil it in hot water to sterilize it!
•Safety Razor: I actually have not used a safety razor yet because I've been using up my old razors (I like to wait to make my transitions until I've finished using up the products I'm getting rid of because I think it's more wasteful to not finish using a product). I'm also a little scared to learn how to shave with a safety razor, but I've watched a few videos and read about how to do so safely. You aren't throwing away a plastic handle every few months or a razor head. You can ultimately use this razor for the rest of your life and change the blade whenever needed (which can be recycled, but put it in a can or some type of bottle before putting in your recycle bag).
•Makeup Remover: Do you use multiple makeup wipes or some type of product each night when you take your makeup off? I personally don't wear a lot of makeup (mostly because I never took the time to learn how and I'm also a little lazy), but I do wear mascara, eyebrow pencil, and some eyeshadow on a regular basis. Almost two years ago my mom bought me a Makeup Eraser and it is truly amazing. You get it wet with warm water and then rub gently in a circular motion on your face/eyes/etc. Water only and it works MAGIC. As I said, I don't wear a ton of makeup, so I haven't tested it with a lot on my face, but it takes my mascara off so well that when I get out of the shower I don't have raccoon eyes still. Once the rag gets full you just throw it in the wash (follow the directions on the tag) and then it's good as new. It says that you're supposed to get a minimum of 1,000 washes out of it.
Tongue Scraper: This is cute if you have bad breath to be honest. I don't use mouth wash anymore, and this helps get all the extra gross stuff I may not have gotten with my toothbrush, off of my tongue. I bought a Dr. Tung's Tongue Scraper that came with a storage bag. It does come in plastic packaging though when you get it so there are probably other alternatives that might come in 100% recyclable packaging.
•Reusable Straws: I accidentally left my reusable metal straws back in Indiana, but these are SO IMPORTANT. Plastic straws cannot be recycled and the number of them that we use every day and that end up in our oceans is insane. It's so easy to tell places that you don't need a straw and you can either drink straight from the cup or if that grosses you out and you prefer/need a straw, GET A REUSABLE ONE!
Some other products that I use that come in minimal/recyclable packaging include:
•Primal Pit Paste- https://primalpitpaste.com/ an effective, natural alternative to normal deodorant that's better for your body and comes in a glass jar.
•Primal Pit Paste brand Tooth Powder- https://primalpitpaste.com/collections/tooth-powder this can be used as an alternative to normal toothpaste, I still use normal toothpaste because I care a lot about having pearly whites, but for people looking for an alternative, I feel that this works well! I'm currently looking for effective, whitening toothpastes that come in a recyclable package.
•Lush Lip Scrub- https://www.lushusa.com/face/lips/ I hate having dry, chapped lips and I absolutely love this lip scrub from Lush. It comes in a glass jar and lasts a really long time! The flavor I have is Bubble Gum.
•Tea Tree Oil- I use this as spot treatment for my acne. When I feel a zit coming on it tends to work pretty well. I suggest buying local if you can, but I bought this from Amazon! Just make sure it's 100% pure essential oil.
•Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm- (google Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm Tin for best price). This is my favorite chapstick. It's natural ingredients and keeps my lips nice and smooth all day. I've noticed chapstick that isn't natural dries my lips out pretty fast now!
•Lush Shampoo Bar + Tin- https://www.lushusa.com/hair/shampoo-bars/ I've had so many issues with different shampoos over the last year, but Lush's shampoo bar Brazilliant works amazing and comes in minimal/recyclable packaging. I got this tin container from Lush to keep it dry from the shower and to store it in. I would suggest reading about each bar and the reviews to find out which would work best for you!
•Herbal Choice Mari Natural SPF 30- https://www.amazon.com/Herbal-Choice-Natural-Unscented-3-4floz/dp/B01EZ35LHY/ref=sr_1_2_s_it?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1524445649&sr=1-2&keywords=herbal+choice+mari+spf If you know me, you know I have very fair skin and HAVE to wear sunscreen. I burn pretty easily and turn super red if I don't. This sunscreen is non-greasy and has natural ingredients and works really well on both your face and body!
If you made it this far to the end or skimmed down here, Happy Earth Day! Even if you don't make a lot of changes, little things really do help. I don't want to sound like a crazy, environmentalist, but like I said before, what's wrong with creating a better, clean Earth? This is no harm in making changes, big or small. I know that the products I listed might not be the best option for everyone. It's better to buy local, close by, but these are just products that I have found and like. Do your own research, find what fits for you and know that you really are making a difference.