Very often, people assume living in an eco-friendly and sustainable way must be expensive. After all, the eco-friendly toothbrush, bag, bottle that they saw costs so much more as compared to plastic!
But as a low waste living person who uses a lot of these eco-friendly products, I can guarantee you I save a whole lot of money - not because I have figured out a way to make sustainable products economically viable (we will get there some day but one needs to remember economies of scale and for a few more years, absolute monetary cost of some of your sustainable swaps is likely to be higher than the product you are replacing). I save money because I learned to live with less and need less products that I was made to believe I need!
Instead of talking about the oh-so-common tips of take your own shopping bag, remember your bottle etc, I am going to share my journey on reducing my own plastic consumption and how its an every day effort instead of just shopping some more and finding replacements to buy!
The bag, bottle drill has been common for me since childhood. But during my corporate life, I too got into the phase of having multiple lotions, creams, shampoos, conditioners, toners - you name it and I had tried it! Being a swimmer and a scuba diver, I also had at least 5 different types of sunblocks with me! The journey has taken me a few years but now I have a plastic-free bathroom and an annual plastic footprint of 3 kilos (an average urban Indian consumer has a plastic footprint of 24 kilos per year).
My swaps started with a drastic change in lifestyle when I moved to an island - but don’t worry, you don’t have to book one way tickets to tiny islands in Indonesia to start!
Here are some of the swaps that I have made ever since I moved to an island and even when I came back to a city life:
The magic of coconut oil - You realise the true value of coconut oil when it heals a sunburn overnight! At least I did. And I have never looked back since - its my moisturiser, sunburn healer and even a burn scar healer. I have also stopped using sun blocks since I realised their harmful effect on coral reefs and let the melanin in our beautiful Indian skin do its work instead.
Menstrual Cups - It was born out of the need to replace tampons as even with tampons, diving during my period was not a party. The menstrual cup is nothing short of a blessing and swimming, diving, even carrying dive gear, exercising - everything is just so easy! Oh and it saves a ton of money - pays out for itself in 2-3 months and then get ready for saving sanitary napkin monies for the next 5 years!
Product Swaps - The other products I replaced in my bathroom include Bamboo toothbrush, shampoo bar instead of shampoo bottles, apple cider vinegar instead of hair conditioner, cold pressed soaps instead of shower gels and face wash and I am now in the process of getting used to a Bamboo razor for those emergency shaving days!
DIYs - I also experimented a lot with toothpowders and I am happy with the current recipe I use (1 tsp each of cinnamon powder, neem powder, amla powder, rock salt, baking soda, clove powder and turmeric - you can also add mint leaves powder if you want).
My other experiments include making my own mosquito repellent using eucalyptus oil and aloe vera gel, switching to reusable make up wipes for removing kajal and liner etc, switching to almond oil or coconut oil as a make up remover.
But other than this, what has really made a lot of difference for me is using less products - my hair and skin are definitely better for it even though my hair did take close to 6 months to get used to the transition from chemical heavy shampoos to cold pressed palm oil free shampoo bars. I also don’t use any make-up (I never really did use a lot of make-up so this was an easy step for me).
While these are the steps I have taken for personal care products, there are also small changes in our household that we have made such as not using garbage bags / bin liners, taking our containers to a nearby bakery for our snacks and biscuits and cookies purchases, controlling the urge to order takeaway food or snacks in plastic packs!
My love for chocolates drove me to find ways in which I could get plastic-free chocolates and while this had been a long struggle, now I know a great home baker who makes amazingly yummy dark chocolates for me and without any plastic!
Of course there are days when I give in and order some Chinese food or Ice cream or even get maggi! But I try not to be too hard on myself for these “cheat”days!
The journey continues for me to remove as much plastic as I can from my own life and maybe experiment more in the coming months for easier swaps and fun DIYs.
Going back to the part about it being expensive - on an average I now spend lesser on my personal care products (by more than half) as compared to what I used to spend before!
Hope the tips inspire you to begin and share your low waste journey too!
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