In a world that always urges us to move faster and do more, it’s easy to get swept up in a consumer rollercoaster. We are constantly reaching for the next best thing, prioritizing convenience and superficial appeal above all else.
What this usually looks like is packaged lunches and single-use items, plastic wrapping and mountains of unnecessary products.
Breaking free from the consumerist cycle can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Many of the products that we use on a daily basis are easily replaceable by a more sustainable alternative, or are simply unnecessary to begin with.
If you’ve been wanting to go on a consumer ‘detox’, the following eight tips are a good place to start. From beauty products to diet to lifestyle, these ideas will help you lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and save you some cash in the process.
Shaving gels for body hair (usually advertised as shaving gels “for women”) are one of the many unnecessary products the beauty industry tries to sell as feminine self-care. The truth is that, while the sensitive skin of the face warrants the use of a special shaving product, your legs will probably be just fine with a little shower gel or soap.
So if you are someone who only shaves their body hair (and not their face), you can confidently skip the tube of Venus shaving gel and save yourself some money. If your skin does require extra hydration, you can actually spread some of your hair conditioner over your legs before shaving – same moisturizing effect, one less product to buy.
Switching to reusable cleaning cloths is one of the simplest steps you can take towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Paper towels might get an A+ for convenience, but they are also a completely unwarranted source of waste. To replace them, try purchasing some reusable cloths from the supermarket, or – better yet – cut up some of your old sheets and T-shirts to make your own cleaning supplies.
We’ve all been there – studying at the library, walking through the city or simply going about our daily lives – only to get the munchies all of a sudden. When that happens, the brightly-colored bags of trail mix (or their likes of granola bars and crackers) are often an easy option to grab from the nearest grocery store or vending machine.
While these are all delicious, they are also typically overpriced and wrapped in single-use plastic. For a more sustainable (and cheaper) alternative, try making your own trail mix ahead of time and bringing it in a small tupperware container. Simply mix some of your favorite nuts and dried fruit together (I like to add a couple of pieces of dark chocolate for some extra pizzazs) et voíla! – you’ve got yourself a delicious on-the-go snack.
Body scrub might not exactly count as a necessity, but it sure is one of the most enjoyable beauty products to use – it smells delicious, exfoliates your skin and leaves it feeling silky soft. Store-bought body scrubs, however, are often full of microplastics – tiny polymers (that serve as the exfoliating particles), which are too small to be filtered out by water plants, and thus end up polluting the ocean.
For an easy alternative that is both more eco-friendly and cheaper, try making your own body scrub at home. To do so, simply add one part coconut oil to three parts brown sugar. Alternatively, try mixing one part ground coffee with two parts brown sugar and one part coconut oil (this second version is also said to improve lymphatic drainage and fight water retention).
Your skin (and the ocean) will thank you for only using natural, non-toxic ingredients in your beauty routine.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, yet if you are anything like me, you might still occasionally find yourself with a single-use bag at the grocery store, because you forgot your reusable one yet again.
The solution I found? Carrying a reusable tote in all of the bags I use on a daily basis. This way, I don’t have to worry about forgetting my reusable bag in my backpack as I hastily transfer my belongings to my purse. If you are also tired of having to purchase single-use bags (and feeling like a terrible person for it), I’d encourage you to try this tactic.
Another tip that should go without saying – always carry a reusable water bottle. Single-use plastic bottles are an ecological nightmare – not only do they take around 450 years to disintegrate, but their production uses at least twice as much water as the amount they actually carry (so a liter of water goes into the making of every 500ml bottle). Ouch!
Few people know this, but most store-bought wrapping paper actually isn’t recyclable due to its glossy coating. As a result, after its 15 minutes of fame under the Christmas tree are over, gift wrap usually ends up in landfills.
Luckily, there are many ways to DIY your own wrapping paper from old magazines and newspapers. This allows you to upcycle materials that would’ve otherwise been thrown away, rather than producing more waste. Moreover, making your own gift wrapping can be a fun pastime activity – simply type up “DIY gift wrapping” in Pinterest, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with creative ideas.
Store-bought surface cleaners are often full of harsh chemicals that are not only water pollutants, but can also be harmful to your health. There are numerous homemade all-purpose cleaner recipes on the Internet, some of which we have shared on the TBYW blog. These DIY cleaning solutions use products that you probably already have in your cupboard, saving you not the toxic ingredients, but also cash.
Being a better consumer starts with taking small, simple steps that – overtime – can help us develop into more eco-conscious individuals.
Ultimately, the goal here isn’t perfection, but simply becoming more mindful of our consumption habits, so that we can be kinder to both ourselves and the planet.