‘We cannot recycle and clean our way out of the plastic crisis – we must move upstream to the source of the flow. When the boat is sinking, bailing out buys you time, but what you really need to do is fix the hole’ – Ellen MacArthur.
We all know the world is warming up and climate change is ravaging God’s beautiful creation. It’s hard to miss the urgent headlines about the impact of our wasteful living on the world’s poorest. I’ve certainly noticed an attitude shift amongst my friends. It’s all of a sudden trendy, woke and so very millennial to live more sustainably. But as Ellen MacArthur reminds us, we must look up stream. This isn’t some fad that will buy us time. Ethical living isn’t about patching up a hole temporarily. Neither is it about ignoring a hole for ‘someone else’ to fix. We must look at our lifestyle choices with a ‘preventative lens’ and not through a ‘reactive lens’ that shifts responsibility as consumers. It’s time to fix the holes in our boat, and that starts with us.
I want to share 4 sustainability swaps to try out. These are switches I’ve made in my life. I’ve focused on toiletries but the premise for ethical living generally is; to reduce plastic purchases first, then reuse plastic products, and recycle or dispose as last resort. I truly believe that we are called to steward creation and take action as Christians. Each of us is invited to make a conscious effort to reduce our waste and be part of God’s restoration plan for the earth.
1. Bamboo toothbrush and zero waste toothpaste
Every toothbrush that has ever existed still exists (unless it’s been incinerated). That blew my mind when I first heard it. I decided to switch to a bamboo toothbrush last year. I’ve signed up to a subscription service with Bristle, they post out a new brush to me every few months. All of the packaging is environmentally friendly and can be recycled. When the brush has brushed its last molar, you pull out the nylon fibre bristles (sadly these have to go in general waste) and then you can put the handle into food waste to biodegrade. I also use coconut oil based toothpaste that comes in a glass jar. You can also have a go at making your own!
2. Reusable face wipes
For years I’ve used cotton wool pads to clean my face. Although cotton wool is natural and less harsh then plastic based wipes, it still ends up going in the bin. FYI most face wipes are mainly made up of plastic, which can take hundreds of years to break down. Over a year I reckon I could use 1,460 cotton wool pads (maybe a few extra for nights out that involve glitter). So I decided to switch to reusable cotton pads which can go in the wash after a few uses. They’re pretty cheap (mine worked out at 54p each) and will last a good few years.
3. Shampoo bars and soap
I chose to start using a bar of soap over a bottle of shower gel when I saw how many bottles I go through. You can easily buy fragrant, moisturising and effective soaps from most shops, so it’s a logical change! I sometimes treat myself to a Lush bar, but you could go one step further and try to buy locally, like from a farm shop. I also moved from using shampoo and conditioner to solid shampoo. It looks like a bar of soap but contains natural ingredients to clean your hair. It’s an epic solution and has to be one of my favourite lifestyle switches. Fun fact – you’ll create a smaller carbon footprint too; one lorry full of solid shampoo bars holds roughly the same number of washes as fifteen lorries filled with liquid shampoo! The bars can be more pricey, but I’ve found they last for ages.
With approximately over 200 million cups of tea and coffee drunk in Britain everyday, disposable cups are a huge problem. Rather than go without your pick-me-up of choice, a KeepCup is a great way to reduce your waste. It’s a simple solution – a handy reusable cup that looks and feels great. If you’re picking up a hot drink on the go, simply ask to have your drink in your KeepCup. There’s a variety of materials and styles to choose from – everything from plastic to glass and even Star Wars designs! You can also get your church and workplace in on it, by designing custom branded cups and ordering in bulk.
5. Reusable sanitary products
To quote Lucy Siegle, ‘menstrual pads are hard to talk about, and also an eco disaster on our beaches – but we need to change our ways’. Some sanitary pads contain up to four plastic bags worth of plastic. I’ve chosen to use zero waste sanitary products, which massively cuts down on my plastic consumption each month. The menstrual cup has grown quite the fan base, and ladies, I’d encourage you to take a look at the various brands available (serious game changer). I also use reusable sanitary pads that can be thrown in the washing machine. I haven’t spent a penny on sanitary products since buying my sustainable alternatives earlier this year. A win for the planet and my pocket.
What sustainability switch could you make? Remember, fixing a hole in the boat is better than bailing out water. Our lives are part of the great Maker’s restoration plan. So take up the invitation and choose to live justly in your every day.
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