Keep it Low Waste in your Pants

I believe that I covered most of the bathroom in my last post about Lush products, but as someone with a uterus I just couldn’t leave out sanitary products. Now, being on your period is probably the time of the month when you are least worried about waste and more worried about keeping clean and tidy. But you have to admit that throwing away umpteen sanitary towels or tampons is not exactly eco-friendly. The question is what do you do about it? Now I don’t know about you but growing up tampons and sanitary towels were the only two options presented to me if I didn’t want to go bleeding all over my clothes.

However with a bit of research I have found some low waste alternatives that actually turn out both cheaper in the long run and healthier for your between-me-down-there.

1. Contraception

The main thing that i’ve used has been my contraception. There are certain types of contraception that will, if not stop, then severely reduce the amount that you bleed each month. I have a mirena coil, which other than only needing to be changed every 5 years (low waste and low hassle), has the added advantage of practically stopping my period. Now whilst it was uncomfortable when I first had it inserted, it was provided free by the NHS and family planning, and it doesn’t require me to remember to top up my contraceptive every day.

2. Menstrual cups

The Menstrual cup is a good alternative to tampons, it consists of a reusable silicone, is shaped like a bell and comes in a variety of sizes. It’s inserted the same as a tampon and removed every 4 or more hours (depending on flow), rinsed and reinserted. Due to its material it can be easily cleaned with boiling water or the same sterilising solutions used for baby bottles, and it can be reused for up to 5 years or until the silicone starts to degrade. Whilst Menstrual cups are initially more expensive than tampons, their long life makes them much cheaper in the long run. Menstrual cups also provide a safer alternative to tampons as studies have shown that whilst toxic shock syndrome can occur with tampons it is virtually non-existent with Menstrual cups.

There are a wide variety of sizes of menstrual cups from various sources.

3. Reusable pads

For those of you who suffer from vaginismus (vaginal tightness) or simply don’t want to use tampons or menstrual cups then reusable sanitary pads are another good, low waste, alternative. They usually come in packs of 3-5, are brightly coloured or patterned in order to help reduce staining, and can be washed in regular washing machines. A lot of them come with cloth cases to keep and carry them in and poppers to attach them to your underwear, which prevents the accidental and painful sticking of adhesive to skin and hair. Whilst they don’t have as long a life as Menstrual cups they are multiple use and are often made of biodegradable fibres such as bamboo. If you don’t fancy buying these pads then there are very simple pattens online for you to make your own out of scrap fabric.

A lot of reusable pads come with cute and bright patterns
You can buy multipacks of reusables just like regular sanitary pads.

Low Waste is Lush

I had planned to dedicate my next few blog posts to breaking down sustainable living room by room, starting with the bathroom. However when I tried to list the main ways to reduce waste (no pun intended) in the bathroom I couldn’t overlook the shear amount of Lush products that I use for almost every part of my regime.

Now I like using Lush products for a variety of reasons:

  1. Lush uses all natural ingredients in their products which is great for someone who like me, is allergic to almost every synthetic skin care product on the market.
  2. They support many good causes, from their stance against animal testing to their charity pot hand and body cream, which donates 100% of the money made by it to the small charities that they advertise.
  3. Finally and most importantly for this blog, they use minimal, entirely recycled and recyclable containers for all of their products.

To go into more detail, Lush advocate for the recycling of their product packaging by giving you the incentive of returning 5 clean pots to them for a free face mask. Their soaps, massage bars, shampoo and conditioner bars are all wrapped in recyclable paper and can be kept in reusable metal tins. Due to their use of natural products their exfoliants do not include the plastic micro-beads that are polluting our oceans and killing our marine life.

 

Lush gives you an incentive to recycle
A well used set of shampoo and conditioner tins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also found that whilst on the surface Lush products may just seem like a middle-class white girls dream (and on some levels they are), they are in-fact quite cheap whilst still being well made. I can prove this with some comparisons of my main Lush products and their supermarket comparisons.

The shampoo and conditioner bars that I use, ‘Honey I washed my hair’ and ‘Big’, cost £6.50 a piece. Which may seem expensive but when you consider that fact that they both last me around 2-3 months they are actually cheaper than their liquid substitutes. An average bottle of liquid shampoos or conditioner costs around £2.50 and lasts me 2 weeks at the most, this comes to £15 per product every 3 months opposed to £13 for both products every 3 months.

The face cleanser I use, “Let the good times roll’ costs £7.50 for a 100g pot and once again lasts me around 3 months. The other daily skin cleaning products that I have used cost around the same but only last about 2 months.

A tiny pot of the charity hand and body moisturiser lasts me nearly 5 months and costs £3.75 which by all accounts is much cheaper than most moisturisers of the same quality on the market. And it has the added benefit of improving the lives of others through donations.

Whilst I do hesitate to push companies or consumerism in general I do believe in critical shopping, as well as focusing on sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Lush as a company comes up trumps on all accounts.

The Big Clean Out

As I wrote in one of my older posts I discovered the documentary ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix and it is one of the main things that inspired me to change my lifestyle and also to start this blog. The main thing I discovered whilst trying to reduce my wastefulness and declutter was how wasteful it is at the start. I was filling up bags and bags of rubbish and it almost made me stop short. How can I live low waste if i’m throwing so much away?

Well that’s just it isn’t it, you have to be wasteful initially before you can stop being wasteful. I had to go through what I had with a fine tooth comb and get rid of the things that I don’t need before I could find out what I did need. When you no longer have cupboards, boxes and bags full of crap you don’t need to buy more boxes and bags to fill up with more crap. Now with my low waste, environmental goal in mind I didn’t dump all of my stuff into landfill, what I found was that most of the things I was throwing away were still in really good condition, I had never really needed them so I had never really used them.

I moved back into my mums house after I left university and decided that I needed a tidy-up of my childhood bedroom. Whilst I was tidying I found a massive collection of Sylvanian families that i’d collected as a child, it had been left, forgotten, at the back of one of my cupboards. I tried to think back to the last time i’d played with them and realised that i’d kept these toys for over a decade for no reason what so ever. I told my mum about them and her response was ‘you can’t throw them away, don’t you want to keep them as momentos?’ I realised that that was exactly what I had been doing with most of the things I owned, I’d kept them out of some weird sense of ‘well this made me happy in the past so I can’t throw it away now’. That was the tipping point that triggered a massive clean out operation.

Preparation for the car boot sale.

I collected everything that I no longer wanted but that could still be used into the same storage bags and boxes that they had originally lived in and I had a car boot sale. Just because these things didn’t enrich my life doesn’t mean it can’t enrich someone else’s. What I didn’t sell I donated to charity shops or gifted to friends and family. I gave my Sylvanian families to my younger sister, who played with them more than I had ever done.

Obviously I tend to be quite a sentimental person, and at times I can be a bit of a hoarder, so the trick that i’ve been using to try and make myself stop hoarding things, especially since moving back home is: ‘if I moved house today would I want to take this with me’. If the idea of packing, moving, unpacking, and finding a new place for the item in question doesn’t sound appealing or important to you, you need to get rid of that item.

I now feel, after my big clean-out, that when I do finally move out everything that I own will come with me.

Think Packaging

Whenever I go shopping now I have a mental checklist that I go through to determine whether or not I actually need what i’m buying. Mostly it goes like this: How much of this will I be throwing away? How much is recyclable? How much is biodegradable? Is there a low waste alternative? And if it turn out that I will be throwing away over 50% of it into the regular bin then I have to think, do I really need this?

Whilst there had been an increase in the number of people who recycle on a regular basis it can still be confusing when it comes to what is recyclable, what is biodegradable and what is wasteful. I personally split my waste into 4 main categories: No-waste, biodegradable, recyclable and wasteful.

No-waste

To me, no-waste doesn’t just mean buying something that doesn’t involve any packaging and that you’re going to use all of. It also involves things like buying a book that you’re going to give to someone else once you’ve finished it, or donating old clothes and toys to charity. It also includes repurposing objects that you would other-whys throw away, for example using a takeaway container as tupperware. When shopping I try and buy things that fall into this category as much as possible, such as buying loose fruit and veg instead of ones that are wrapped in plastic.

Biodegradable

Something that is biodegradable will naturally break down over time (for it to be truly biodegradable it has to be able to breakdown without causing harm to the environment). Food waste falls into this category as well as paper, wood, wool and natural-oil soaps. As someone with a garden, I put my biodegradable waste into a compost bin and use the broken down fertiliser on my plants. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone, however many county councils will provide food caddies to allow you to compost on a small scale, this allows them to further reduce what they send to landfill. If your local council doesn’t provide this they can be bought from places like Wilko’s for a few pounds.

Recyclable

Once again most councils now provide a separate bin for recyclable waste and will also provide a brief guide to what can go in these bins. Most products also come with a label that tells you how much of it can be recycled and on what scale.

As a general rule of thumb paper, cardboard, glass, metal cans and thick plastics (bottles, containers etc.). I also make sure to give these a quick wash before putting them in the recycling bin. If you want further explanation please check out the link below.

https://www.keepcardifftidy.com/recycling-symbols-explained/

Wasteful

This is the category that I try to use the least, however there are many things that you don’t think about that are actually quite wasteful, such as bits of extra packaging that you can’t recycle. They’re only small things but over time they can build up and be very harmful to the environment.

For example; thin plastics like cling-film are both non-recyclable and non-biodegradable so I tend to use tupperware instead when making myself lunch. As I said earlier I try to buy loose fruits and vegetables that already have protective skins instead of buying ones in bags or vacuum sealed packaging. When buying something in bulk like carrots or apples I use reusable mesh bags instead of the plastic bags provided by the shops.

There are certain items that I no longer buy because of how wasteful they are, as I said before I try to only buy things that are at under 50% wasteful, that means if I can’t reuse or recycle the majority of the product then I don’t buy it. One of the items I no longer buy is Pringles for this very reason. On the surface the packaging may not seem all that bad, the plastic cap, cardboard tube and metal bottom should all be recyclable right? The only wasteful bit should be the thin tear-off lid, but the way the cardboard is fused to the bottom and the fact that its coated in foil makes it non-recyclable so in the end the only bit you can recycle is the lid.

Reducing my waste and my impact on the environment is not always easy and there are times when i’ve slipped up and bought something that is super wasteful but with the 4-5 questions I listed at the beginning of this post I’ve definitely made a step in the right direction and you can too.

Why Live Low Waste?

If you have actively looked for this website then you are probably thinking about trying to live low waste. However some of you might have simply stumbled here and may need some convincing on why you should reduce. There are many reasons to live a low waste lifestyle but the 4 main reasons, for me at least, were: protecting the environment, saving money, getting healthier and decluttering.

Protecting the environment:

Probably the biggest motivator for me, as a conservationist, to go low waste was reducing the impact I have on the environment. Did you know that around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions come from landfill sites? This makes landfills the 3rd biggest contributor to global climate change behind animal agriculture and energy production (power plants, car emissions etc.). By switching to recyclable or biodegradable materials or simply forgoing products that are packaged in non-recyclable materials you can help reduce the amount of impact you have on the environment.

Saving money:

The main thing i’ve always disliked about lifestyle blogs is how most of them only cater to well-off individuals, telling you that you can live healthier and happier as long as you spend hundreds of pounds on this or that. This simply isn’t feasible for lower income households or students, as a student myself I can’t afford to blow tons of money on my low waste goal. So I can tell you personally that it can easily be done on a budget, and can even save you money. I mean reduce means less so it should mean that you spend less money right? Obviously i’ll go into more detail in later posts when I talk about specific alternatives and items.

Living healthier:

This one probably seems like a bit of a stretch to some of you but I can tell you personally, as someone who has wanted to eat healthier, that extra bit of motivation to not buy that packet of crisps or chocolate bar really helps. The thought process goes from not only is it bad for me, it’s also bad for the environment, just another bit of non-recyclable packaging that will go in the bin. This also helps with the saving money aspect as you have to think extra had about whether you actually need to buy it or not.

Decluttering:

Part of my inspiration for creating a low waste lifestyle came after one of my documentary binges. The documentary ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix got me super excited to declutter my life and whilst I don’t exactly live minimalistically, I do now live critically. Do I really need this? How is my life improved by this? How often do I use this? How will I get rid of this once I no longer need it? With fewer pointless objects in my house I no longer have the urge to go through everything and have a sort out every few months. I no longer fill up bin bags with crap that I never used or needed because with this new critical lifestyle I use and need everything that I have. I’ve also become more creative with what I do have: this jam pot that i’ve just finished and washed out? BAM, now it’s a plant pot, no need to go out and buy one.