In our previous “Let’s Talk Climate Change” blog, we addressed some of the major issues with plastic and briefly touched on some solutions to implement into your everyday life. This blog is a follow up, and our goal is to provide our community with sustainable solutions for home and lifestyle products. Let’s begin!
First up, the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the places that I personally find the most plastic waste. Many food products come wrapped in plastic, takeout containers pile up on the counters, and food is wasted on a daily basis. One of the easiest ways to make sustainable choices when it comes to the kitchen is to inspect packaging. When you’re at the store, always opt for glass or aluminum if it is available. When investing in new tupperware containers, look for glass not plastic. Use reusable cups and water bottles instead of plastic. Buy reusable beeswax wraps or silicone bags. These types of swaps go on and on.
One specific item that I like to look at in terms of making sustainable choices is coffee and tea. These are commonly consumed drinks but their brewing methods can actually be harmful for the environment. To start with coffee, many people use some sort of single serve machine, such as a Keurig or Nespresso. And while these are extremely convenient (speaking from personal experience), the pods come in single plastic or aluminum containers. And sure, recycling is a thing, but recycling simply can’t keep up with the amount of waste that comes from these plastic containers.
So what are some swaps? First, instead of buying a new machine, you can purchase reusable pods for your already existing Keurig or Nespresso and refill them with coffee of your choice. Or, you can switch to a different brewing method. French press and drip coffee makers have the least amount of waste. My mom and I actually switched to our very old drip coffee machine this summer as an intentional sustainable choice. I look for either locally roasted coffee or coffee from the store that comes in aluminum. And, the paper filters (you can also buy reusable ones) are a lot gentler on the planet than the plastic keurig pods that we used to use.
Tea finds itself with similar problems. While a tea bag might seem like a zero waste option, it’s actually not. It contains lots of microplastics that get leached into the water and then, back into the environment. The solutions for tea are similar to that of coffee. First, use up what you have before you invest in something new. And then, once you have used up your old supply, buy loose leaf tea to lessen the amount of plastics in the water!
Second, the bathroom. This is another place where I find that plastic accumulates. Think of all of the plastic shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles that have ended up in the trash. Or, all of the plastic toothbrushes that have been used over a lifetime. It’s a lot. Solutions here are similar to the kitchen. First, use what you have!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sure, going out and searching for sustainable options is great, but you actually end up creating more unnecessary waste by not using up what you already have.
Once you’ve used up your supplies, bars are going to be your best friend. Bar shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash… they all exist. And, they actually last so much longer than your typical plastic bottle of product, which saves money overtime. Some of these products are available at your conventional grocery store. Zero waste shops also exist, like Unpacked Living (located in Danvers, Beverly, and online). Look for these stores in your neighborhood or support these small businesses by shopping online. From Unpacked Living, I have purchased all of my bar soaps and zero waste products, even refilling some of my most commonly used products such as hand lotion.
Third, cleaning supplies. We all need a clean home, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, etc. And like the other areas of the home, most of the supplies needed come in plastic or contain harmful chemicals. So therefore, the swaps here resemble the ones above. First, instead of using up tons of paper towels, use your old rags or t-shirts instead. This cuts down the amount of virgin waste that ends up in the system and also enables you to continue to re-use your well loved items. You can also look for plastic free options when it comes to dishwashing tools or toilet scrubbers. Again, you can check out Unpacked Living or consult their directory of refill/bulk stores in the state of Massachusetts.
Second, there are many low waste cleaning alternatives that don’t even require a trip to the store. There are many conventional items most likely already found in your house that you can use to clear. These include baking soda, distilled white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, salt, and lemons. Many at home cleaning recipes can be found online. Try one out and let us know in the comments about your experience! You can also, again, check out zero waste or bulk stores in your area and refill everyday household cleaning products.
All this information and all these swaps can be overwhelming. It can feel like every area of life needs to be upended and re-done in order to live more sustainably. And yes, ultimately it remains important to look to be a better steward of God’s creation in all areas of life. But to start, pick one and look to make swaps there. By starting small, we can all learn to go gently on ourselves and the planet, ultimately with the end goal of a healthier earthly home for us all.