Switching to a completely sustainable and zero-waste lifestyle can seem a little daunting - there are so many different things to consider, and often, a zero-waste option may not exist. Instead, focus on making small swaps in your daily routine. When you’ve accomplished one swap - focus on the next! Here are a few easy changes you can start making today.
While grocery shopping, begin switching out your produce bags with reusable bamboo or sisal bags. You’ll reduce your single-use plastic output every time you shop. In bulk food sections, bring a glass jar instead of using plastic, and instead of purchasing something pre-packaged - like grains, nuts or spices - fill up your jars. Don’t forget to bring your own tote bags to pack & carry groceries home. If everyone brought their own bags into stores, we could help eliminate 100 billion plastic bags from North America a year!
Cleaning products can be extremely harmful to the environment. Not only are they usually bottled in hard-to-recycle plastics, but the chemicals in them can be harmful to us. Fully committing to swapping out your cleaning products can take time - it is always recommended to fully use something first, and when it’s finished - find an eco-friendly option. You can opt in for dish soap blocks - that create zero-waste. Reusable wool dryer balls - that omit no chemicals and can last up to 1000 loads, or refillable cleaning supplies that contain no harmful chemicals and can be restocked by adding a tablet and water to a reusable glass bottle. You can also start swapping out your plastic tools for bamboo brushes and sponges.
Beauty & self-care products
With the majority of beauty products being packaged in plastics - this can seem like a big task. Instead - try focusing on one item at a time. For example, instead of using disposable cotton pads, opt for one made from bamboo or cotton that is reusable. Instead of using plastic razors - try switching to a metal or safety razor. For items packed in plastic - try and consider if there is a glass alternative available, or if a brand exists with the same product in a more sustainable format. You may not be able to find alternatives for everything, but switching out a few items in your beauty routine can help reduce your waste footprint!
Properly Recycling & Composting
Did you know that Canada recycles just 9% of its plastics, with the rest dumped in landfills? And unfortunately, a lot of our food packaging, beauty products and cleaning supplies come in these hard-to-recycle plastics. The first thing you can do before discarding something plastic is clean out any food or residue from the plastic before tossing it in the bin. This helps ensure that at the plant - it is recycled instead of discarded.
The second thing would be to check with your local municipality to begin to understand which plastics are actually recyclable and not. For example - items like disposable coffee cups and restaurant takeaway items in styrofoam or black plastic are not usually recycled!
Where you cannot find truly compostable plastic, ensure that the plastic you are using is both recycled and recyclable so you are diverting plastic from landfills and not creating virgin plastic. A great example of this is RPET plastic. RPET plastics (recycled PET) are made from recycled plastic and are also recyclable. This type of plastic would have otherwise gone to landfill and can be recycled over and over again.
Lastly, when possible opt-for an option that can be composted. For example - at your next BBQ or party, instead of purchasing plastic cutlery or styrofoam plates, choose an option that is compostable. Items made from birch, plant-fiber, bamboo or palm can be composted. That way, you’re eliminating items ending up in our landfills and instead choosing an option that can be regenerative to the soil.
As you begin to understand plastics and what can be recycled or composted - start to reach for items in alternative packaging - like glass, bamboo, birch and plant-fiber.
Making eco-friendly swaps takes time - but every little change can help!