I haven’t posted in quite a while as a lot is happening – I am about to conduct a pilot study for my PhD and there is a lot to do for my part-time job. A lovely conversation with my friend and fellow PhD student reminded me why I started this blog.
In this post I will start talking about what we can do, and what a (more) sustainable lifestyle would look like and what it means to make changes. Some things are not easy to go without so I will more focus on swaps to environmentally friendly alternatives. I know how hard it is, that’s why I don’t want to win people over. I just want to explain what it is about, what alternatives are there are and why they are alternatives. Every little helps so maybe just give it a go.
I am going to start with household essentials, such as laundry, household cleaning, hygiene, etc.
One of the first things I swapped where toothbrushes. In the UK alone, potentially 264 million brushes are thrown away every year. This is 13 million pounds of waste added to landfills. They are made from polypropylene plastic and nylon, which are sourced non-renewable fossil fuels. Manufacturing nylon creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
An alternative to plastic manual toothbrushes are toothbrushes made of bamboo, corn starch, etc. But careful: not every of those are fully biodegradable. Some still have nylon bristles so you need to brake off the head to recycle it responsibly. There are solutions that either have a reusable handle and you exchange the head, or some are biodegradable to a certain extent. That means their bristles are made mostly of toxin free nylon and partly of plant-based oil. It is a beginning but there’s room for improvement. Swapping to a toxin free and mostly biodegradable alternative would cut down the use of plastic and harmful toxins immensely.
Hair and body
You may ask what is wrong with the laundry detergent we use. This answer is that there are different factors that make a laundry detergent sustainable and environmentally friendly. There’s the packaging, the ingredients and the resources used to produce both.
Most common laundry detergents use harsh chemicals or often contain ingredients such as enzymes, known to cause allergic reactions. Some brands use phosphates, which released into waterways can lead to algal blooms that stifle fish and other aquatic life. Sourcing phosphates is also not sustainable nor responsible.
Generally, powdered detergents are slightly better for the environment than liquid ones, as the liquid tend to contain more surfactants, which cause irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory systems. Using an eco-friendly detergent that biodegrades within days of its use, means creating less potential for water pollution. Biodegradable detergents are made of plant-based ingredients, rather than petroleum-based.
Also, powdered detergent mostly comes in paper packaging instead of plastic bottles, some even in 100% recyclable packaging. If you go for liquid detergent, you could go for brands that offer refill. Other environmentally friendly alternatives are washing nuts, refillable washing balls, or even homemade detergent made from chestnuts. Zero waste and totally natural. Haven’t tried it yet though.