25 Eco Friendly Swaps To Live More Sustainably
Author : Amal Rahiman
Climate change, deforestation, growing population, depleting resources – there is a lot going on with our big blue planet. Each individual’s daily lifestyle choices are either having a positive or a negative impact on our eco-system and making tiny changes and swaps on our part can ease the burden on the earth. These 25 eco-friendly swaps are easy to do and have a much bigger and more positive impact on the future than you think it does.
1. Bulk buying over single packed products.
Bulk buying reduces wastage compared to buying single packaged products. Not only can we reduce packaging waste, but we also reduce food wastage. Single packaged products are filled with air and chemicals to add weight to the final product. Buying in bulk also reduces cost in the long term as you may not have to buy these items frequently, and most of the time bulk buying comes with discounts.
2. Tea strainers over tea bags.
You think you would be enjoying a nice cup of hot tea with a tea bag and some hot water, but what you are actually consuming is microplastic soup!
Teabags contain plastic to stop them from disintegrating right there in your cup. We all know the toxic effects of mixing plastic with hot water. So yes, although the amount of plastic is significantly less in one teabag, imagine the number of bags you use in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year – they all add up!
Instead, use tea strainers with loose tea. They are cheaper, healthier, and environmentally friendly.
3. Thrifting and organic clothing over fast fashion.
Have you noticed that the quality of clothes in big fashion brands is lower compared to a garment you would have stitched from your local tailoring shop? That is on purpose!
Big fashion houses want you to buy more and for that, you need to wear out your clothes faster. Large-scale textile production leads to deforestation, water pollution, human rights violation, and toxicity in humans. This study has shown that the chemicals used in kids’ pajamas can be found in their urine (by just wearing it for one night), 5 days after wearing the pajamas.
4. Napkins over paper towels.
You can imagine the amount of waste that accumulates with paper towels and single-use tissues, especially from schools, restaurants, and office buildings. Instead, make use of handkerchiefs/cloth napkins for personal use, and reuse old clothes/socks as kitchen rags. This way you can reuse the waste from fast fashion as well.
5. Menstrual cups over sanitary pads.
With over 12.3 billion used pads generated in a year, period waste is yet another environmental hazard. Not only are pads laced with chemicals and filled with plastic, but they are also expensive. In India, there is no proper waste disposal system for used pads, which leads to contamination, the spread of diseases, air&water pollution, and many other hazards.
Menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads are growing in demand and with good reason! They are cheaper in the long run, good for the environment, and are “human-friendly”!
6. Travel mugs over single-use cups.
Single-use cups used for your favorite hot beverages are not recyclable. This is due to the wax coating present inside these cups that prevent them from tearing apart. These cups end up in the landfill where they just add to the rest of our non-biodegradable waste. Using thermos or travel mugs would reduce this wastage, and you can even personalize these mugs according to your individuality!
7. Elastic bands and ties over sticky tapes.
Elastic bands and twist ties are reusable and are a great alternative to sticky tape. Although both options are non-biodegradable, the tape is a one-time use, compared to elastic bands, and can thus help in reducing waste to an extent.
8. Compost waste over dumping waste.
Composting the natural waste we produce, such as food scraps and garden waste is a good option to reduce the total waste we produce. Not only is it cost-effective, but it also helps in enriching our soil with much-needed nutrients (with all the pesticides and microplastics, our soil needs all the help it can get!). With healthy soil, you can also start your own mini kitchen garden.
9. Recycle over throwing away and buying new.
Rather than immediately throwing away something, think about the innovative ways you can use certain items. Empty yogurt tubs or ice cream tubs make for good kitchen containers. Juice bottles can be cut in half and reused as plant holders. Also, do have a look at vintage stores when it comes to shopping for house decor items.
10. Buy old books or borrow books or use e-books instead of buying new and hoarding books.
Make use of your neighborhood libraries and second-hand book stalls! If you are an avid reader, invest in a kindle or buy eBook versions instead of hoarding books. If you do have books to dispose of, consider donating them to libraries or schools.
11. Essential oils over chemical air fresheners.
Diffusing essential oils is a great way to make your house smell amazing, without inhaling the harmful chemicals present in air fresheners. You can also boil some water with orange/lemon peels and vanilla essence to remove any cooking odours. Opening your windows and letting in some fresh air can also do wonders to get rid of unwanted smells!
12. Re-usable razors over disposable razors.
On average, a person uses around 2,400 disposable razors in a lifetime. That is a lot of plastic that one single person contributes. Using a reusable razor can reduce this amount significantly. While disposables are usually made out of plastic, reusables are made out of metal (that can rust and disintegrate over time). If you care for your razors properly, they would last longer as well, and you would only need to replace the blades (which are also recyclable).
13. Bar soaps over body wash.
With more brands being environmentally conscious, there are options to buy naked bar soaps (no packaging), or soaps that come in paper packaging. Body washes not only come in plastic packaging, but they also lead to more product wastage. Nobody ever scrapes the entire bottle clean before purchasing a new bottle. Bar soaps do not have that problem!
14. Bamboo/ steel straws over plastic straws.
We have all seen the image of a plastic straw stuck inside a turtle’s nostril. That was just one incident. There are so many other sea animals suffering because of a straw we used for simply 2 minutes! Instead, bring your own reusable bamboo straws/steel straws. They come with their own carry pouch and cleaning brush as well.
15. Eco-friendly cutlery such as steel over plastic cutlery.
While ordering take-away food, make sure you ask for no cutlery. Use your own steel cutlery for food, and have a spare mini-set with you at all times so you can use them while eating out (in places where plastic cutlery is used). Other than reducing plastic waste, they are also way more practical. Try eating a cake slice with a plastic fork. It is just not the same!
16. Bamboo hair brush and tooth brush over plastic brushes.
While hair brushes need not be replaced regularly, toothbrushes must! Our previous toothbrushes (plastic ones) are still lying around in some landfill as they are non-biodegradable. Make the switch to bamboo brushes for a natural alternative.
17. Natural and clean makeup and skincare over toxic, unethical products and brands.
Vegan makeup, sustainable makeup, and ethical makeup are all available these days, with more brands realizing the importance of sustainability and using that to market their products. Beauty influencers try to push people to buy more when it’s not needed. It may be enticing to buy the newest shade or a product used by the influencer, but try to finish what you already have. When you have to buy new, look for vegan or ethical makeup. Not only will the environment thank you, but your skin would be grateful to you as well (for not stuffing it with toxic chemicals).
18. Home appliances that use renewable energy over non-renewable energy.
Solar power-powered appliances are gaining traction and it is a good time to think about investing in solar panels for your home. It is a one-time cost that will save big bucks in the future in electricity bills. By reducing the usage of fossil fuels (non-renewable energy), we would help in reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
19. Send out letters and documents electronically over using actual paper.
We live in a digital world with emails and cloud storage. Sending, receiving, and editing documents in real-time is easy now and it makes absolute sense to stop depending on paper documents! Paper production is linked to deforestation, huge recycling costs, and water pollution. Reducing the demand for paper will help alleviate some of these issues.
20. Air dry your hair and clothes over using an electric dryer.
Hairdryers contribute to CO2 emissions and consume enough energy that can compete with that of a refrigerator. Air drying your hair is much better for the environment and your scalp! Air drying clothes as well has been proven to increase the longevity of clothes. You would reduce the wear and tear of your clothes, which would reduce your purchases in the future (and reduce the energy consumed by electric dryers!).
21. Bucket bath over showering.
Although showers seem more luxurious and enticing, they waste a lot of water. A continuous steady flow of water makes us spend more time in the shower. Instead, a bucket bath, with its fixed amount of water, will ensure we only use that much water and not more. Since it is slightly laborious as well (we need to physically pour the mug over our heads), we would not spend an unnecessary amount of time bathing ourselves.
22. Natural household cleaners over store-bought chemical cleaners.
It is amazing what a combination of vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and essential oils can do for cleaning your entire home. Chemical cleaners are hazardous to the environment, and for humans as well (especially in households with crawling babies and pets). They can cause multiple skin infections and breathing problems. Vinegar and lemon act as disinfectants, and as healthy cleaning agents. Essential oils add in natural fragrances that do not harm our bodies. You can save a lot on cleaning costs, dermatology bills, vet bills, and you can help the environment!
23. Recycle instead of littering.
While out and about, if you do end up producing waste (such as plastic bottles and take away juice cups), do toss them in a recycling bin, or keep it till you reach home and recycle it. Instead of mindlessly littering or throwing away all your waste together, make it a habit to segregate your waste into recyclables and non-recyclables. Recycling whatever possible will help reduce the burden on our ever-growing landfills.
24. Re-useable bottles over plastic bottles.
Is there anything a mason jar cannot do? They can be used as food containers, storage containers, a tumbler for your water, coffee, or even soup. Investing in a couple of these jars would help in reducing the use of plastic bottles/containers. You can also invest in a good quality steel water bottle to make sure you get your daily water intake (without the plastic toxins!).
25. Re-useable bags over plastic bags.
Make it a habit to use reusable shopping bags while going grocery shopping. Keep a few in your car, or handbag, or a couple right next to your purse and keys, so that they are always available to you. A plastic bag takes hundreds of years to disintegrate, after which it pollutes the soil and water. That is a lot of damage done by a bag we use for barely 5 minutes a day.
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