These are the 10 things I stopped buying when I started noticing that the planet needed our help. I started to do a conscious and thorough analysis on my consumption habits. I want to share the 10 things I do not buy anymore for my household and what I have swap them for.
Why did I stop buying these? We all know that the plastic from trash bags get into the soil and slowly releases toxic chemicals. Eventually, the plastic breaks down into the soil, with the unfortunate result being that animals eat them and often choke and die. As we all know, there is TOO much plastic in the world. I avoid trash bags because I want to avoid being part of this chain of production. I believe that if I stop buying them eventually they will stop producing them. According to the Earth Policy Institute “Plastic bags are made from natural gas or petroleum that formed over millions of years, yet they are often used for mere minutes before being discarded to make their way to a dump or incinerator- if they don’t blow away and end up as litter first. The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic bags could drive a car for a mile.”
Time it takes to biodegrade: 10 to 100 years, depending on the type of bag.
Use this instead: I use all the bags that appear by magic in my household. I still purchase some products that come wrapped in plastic bags because I have not found an eco-friendly alternative. Some examples of those bags are the plastic bags the toilet paper comes in, the plastic bags the rice comes in, and the plastic bag the cereal comes in. So, my solution has been to reuse the bags that are already at home and that I have not found a way to avoid yet. Still working on it!
2. Cotton rounds
Why did I stop buying these? I started to realize that the farming of cotton makes a huge impact on the environment. Especially when it’s not organically sourced. The chemicals can pollute the rivers, damage local wildlife and impact biomes and ecosystems in many different ways. As we all know water is needed to grow cotton. Just one kilogram of cotton requires 10,000 – 17,000 litres of water(4). This water, of course, has to come from somewhere. It makes me wonder if the area where the water comes from has gone dry and the natural habitats for plants, birds, animals and fish are being affected?
Time it takes to biodegrade: Even though the cotton round itself will be totally biodegradable, the plastic bag it comes in and the production of it affects the environment to a level that has made me look for a more sustainable option.
Use this instead: I have two different ways I remove my makeup nowadays.
Option 1: I started using old cotton shirts. Shirts that Andre, my son will not use again and were stained or too old to give to someone else. I cut those into small squares and remove my makeup with those. After each use I will throw them to the next laundry load.
Option 2: was found later when I came across a make-up reusable and washable cloth. These are specifically made to remove makeup so it’s pretty soft. Now I use both options in my everyday makeup removal routine.
3. Body lotion
Why did I stop buying this? This change was hard for me. Body lotion was a habit I learned from my mom. She did not like dry skin therefore she would put loads and loads of body lotion on us. At that time, I had no clue about the plastic container or the ingredients in those lotions. Later, when she got cancer we started realizing the ingredients in products and avoided chemicals as much as we could. One of the ingredients that we decided to avoid was Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food preservative and stabilizer that some body lotions contain, as well as some lipstick and other beauty products. But beware—it’s an endocrine disruptor and “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” according to the National Toxicology Program. A couple of years after I started realizing the packaging of things and decided to avoid the toxic ingredients AND the plastic containers. Still… my body needs extra moisturizing. I need it every day… so, keep reading to find out what I use now.
Time it takes to biodegrade: 10 to 100 years for the plastic container and the toxic ingredients. Not only do they affect my body, they are passed to the water when I shower and that water might end up in the ocean. These toxic ingredients also affect ecosystems.
Use this instead: What I use now is natural coconut oil. I try to refill my container in the bulk store and add essential oils to make it smell even better. When I was living in Mexico, I always used Coco Nucifera Organics which are pretty clean and once the lotion is gone the containers can be reused at home (pretty good lego holders) or recycled. Here in Singapore I have been using only coconut oil with essential oils, which has worked just fine.
4. Plastic sponges
Why did I stop buying these? First of all, I started noticing that my sponges not only broke into small pieces of plastic but I realized that the synthetic sponges these days have chemicals such as Triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. So, I decided it was time to make a change and say no to the plastic that would go in the water and say no to the unneeded pesticides for my family.
Time it takes to biodegrade: Depends on the materials they are made, mainly plastic and we know 10 to 100 years, depending on the type of plastic. Not worth it.
Use this instead: I started using the Luffa or other natural fiber sponges. In Mexico, those are very easy to find. I started using those not only for dishes but for my body too. At least I know these luffas are 100% natural and they will reduce my waste footprint on this planet.
5. Feminine pads and tampons
Why did I stop buying these? I never liked feminine pads to start with. They felt uncomfortable and I could not stand the smell. So I switched to tampons which I could tolerate. I did that for a couple of years until one day I figured out that tampons contain two components that are potentially harmful for women: rayon (for absorbency) and doxin (a chemical used in bleaching). They are also made of cotton which carries its own production footprint behind the scenes. I decided to find a different option that would work for me.
Time it takes to biodegrade: around 500 years. It is not only the pad and/or tampon once it is been used. We need to think of all of the resources used in the production of menstrual products and how they have different impacts on global warming due to fossil fuel demand of production.
Use this instead: Nowadays we can find many options to make an eco friendly change. I decided to go with the Diva cup and reusable cloth pads. This has been a very comfortable change for me. If you are thinking about making this change and need some information about it please do not hesitate and contact us and we can share our journey with you.
6. Zip lock bags
Why did I stop buying these? I used to LOVE zip lock bags. I would use them for everything. From packing when traveling to keeping my books safe in my purse. I would buy these bags in all sizes and they were a must-have in my house. One day I decided to stop the plastic consumption. We all know how useful they are but now we can find many different reusable bags to serve the same purpose.
Time it takes to biodegrade: Plastic waste is one of many types of waste that take too long to decompose. Typically, plastic items can take from 10 to up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills.
Use these instead: I have found two different eco friendly options.
Option 1: GoStack: small containers that I can add my snacks and stack them one on top of the other and put in my purse just like that. Easy and simple way to take along some snacks
Option 2: Snack’n Go is a reusable bag to carry your snacks or small sandwiches, biscuits, fruits and other food. It substitutes traditional products such as single-use plastic food bags or tin foil. It is composed of cotton and polyester on the outside, and recyclable and extremely durable plastic on the inside. It does not occupy space in your bag after its usage (light weight)and it’s easy to wipe clean (damp cloth). The plastic layer inside is made of thermoplastic called TPU. TPU has a good elastic memory which has the capacity to return to its original condition after stretching; Inner layer stain resistant; EU Food certified to be in contact with food (no plastic migration); By using Snack’n Go instead of aluminium foil (for 6 years) the carbon footprint is reduced by 99.8%. It is worth every penny I paid for it.
7. Plastic toothbrushes
Why did I stop buying these? As you all know I am a teacher, and about 6 years ago my students started researching the life of some products. One student came across the The Journey of a Toothbrush video and that shocked me. We, then together, as a class ordered a box of bamboo toothbrushes and some of my students joined her in pledging to not purchase anymore plastic toothbrushes.
Time it takes to biodegrade: It is made entirely of plastic, so we know the answer to this. Around 500 years.
Use this instead: I switched to a bamboo toothbrush. Nowadays there are many different options and brands. Just make sure the toothbrush is 100% biodegradable.
8. Deodorant (plastic container)
Why did I stop buying these? There are two reasons why I decided to stop buying it. The first one is that they come in a plastic container and as I said before, when my mom had cancer we decided to “clean” our body products as much as possible and deodorant was one of the products that I decided to change.
Time it takes to biodegrade: The same as the body lotions, 10 to 100 years for the plastic container and the toxic ingredients. Not only do they affect my body, they are passed to the water when I shower and that water might end up in the ocean. These toxic ingredients also affect ecosystems.
Use this instead: Nowadays finding clean deodorant is easy but sometimes they still come in plastic containers. When I was in Mexico, I started buying HoMu and because I knew the girl that was selling it she was able to give me the deodorant in my own container. I loved it! It is my favorite deodorant in the whole wide world. Here in Singapore, I have been buying different types that come in tin cans that are good. I am currently using No Pong one and I am liking it. After we finish the deodorant, we reuse the tin can for coins, legos and some of Andre’, my son’s small toys.
9. Plastic Wrap/Cling wrap
Why did I stop buying this: Most plastic wrap is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC), categorized as plastic number 3. Plastic #3 is recyclable, if it is dry and clean. Most of the time our left over plastic wrap is wet and dirty that makes it hard to recycle. Let’s not forget that every product has a life of its own. The production of plastic wrap requires many resources, electricity and water just to mention some. So, I just quit buying plastic wrap for the good.
Time it takes to biodegrade: As I said before, it is recyclable but it needs to be clean and dry.
Use this instead: What I use instead is beeswax wraps. It serves the same purpose as Cling wrap. The best part is that you can do your own beeswax wraps with 100% cotton pieces of cloth and some other ingredients. It is easy and simple to make beeswax.
Why did I stop buying this: 80–90% of chewing gum is not disposed of properly and it’s the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts.
Chewing gum is made from polymers which are synthetic plastics that do not biodegrade. Littered gum can also make its way into the food chain.
Time it takes to biodegrade: around 5 years.
Use this instead: I just gave up on gum. I do not have a better option. If you happen to have a better solution please share it with us. I know that some people might use gum as a way to release stress but is there a sustainable type of gum? Please share with us if you know any.
I hope that this post inspires you to stay aware of your consumption habits and to make small changes on your everyday choices. Is there anything that you switch already and would like to share with our community? Share with us the small or big changes you are doing.