Ever feel guilty about the environmental impact of your purchases? I do. I often feel guilty about the effects of my negligence and overconsumption, but then remember that I can take steps to make my personal care routine more sustainable… and so can you! Keep reading for 5 swaps that can make your hygiene routine sustainable.
Helpful Sustainability Vocabulary
- Biodegradable: a term which refers to a product’s ability to break down naturally in the environment via bacteria or other living organisms; note: in the US, this term is not regulated, so many brands can falsely claim they sell biodegradable products
- Single-Use: a term which refers to a product which may be used once before being thrown out. Examples include Q-Tips, plastic plates, makeup remover wipes
- Sustainable: products that are eco-conscious and focused on maintaining ecological balance through ethical and biodegradable ingredient sourcing that avoids natural resource overconsumption
5 Easy Ways to Make Your Hygiene Routine More Sustainable
1 | Opt for reusable menstrual products over single-use supplies
In today’s landscape there are so many options for women utilize when trying to reduce period-specific waste. At the medical level, birth control pills and devices such as IUDs can help to reduce and regulate a woman’s monthly flow. As a result, less waste is generated each month. From an over-the-counter perspective, menstrual underwear and cups are reusable options for women that reduce environmental impact.
But what if reusable menstruation products are not a fit for you? Certain single use products can still reduce waste produced during monthly cycles.
Many menstrual disks can last 10-12 hours without needing to be changed. Even plastic-free (or plant-based plastic and) cotton-based pads or tampons can reduce the environmental impact of a period. Items like these will eventually biodegrade.
2 | Ditch standard laundry detergent for laundry sheets, pods, or eco nuts
In addition to its plastic packaging and potentially harmful chemicals, the sheer weight of traditional laundry detergents have a huge impact on CO2 emissions. The weight of traditional liquid detergents causes an increased carbon footprint during the transportation process compared to other consumer goods.
3 | Use wool dryer balls instead of single-use dryer sheets
Similar to the laundry detergent, dryer sheets produce unnecessary waste. Also, these sheets may be harmful to the environment and ourselves. Chemicals produced by dryer sheets can pose pollution and air quality risks. Instead of opting for single-use dryer sheets to help your clothes dry faster or dry with less wrinkles, choose for a reusable solution.
Wool dryer balls are more sustainable solution. They have a much longer lifespan than a traditional dyer sheet. Additionally, many of these dryer balls are biodegradable and hypoallergenic. Finally, wool dryer balls can actually cut down on the time needed to dry clothing. Thus, reducing energy consumption.
4 | Donate or up-cycle clothing you no longer wear
Did you know that textile waste accounts for a huge volume of the overall waste we produce in the Western hemisphere? By 2015, 16 million tons of textile waste were produced and this figure is expected grow.
Rather than simply tossing out your old clothing, consider up-cycling items. Have a ton of band tee shirts you no longer wear? Make a quilt. Use old tops for hair towels or household rags.
Up-cycling isn’t for you? Consider donating your clothing to a charity, selling expensive items to consignment shops, or dropping off old items in corporate-sponsored textile recycling programs. In the United States, J.Crew and Madewell offer customers coupons in exchange for recycling old jeans at their stores. Those jeans are then used to create housing insulation.
5 | Skip the fast fashion shops and opt for thrift shops
Fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to global waste production. Instead of shopping at fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, or Primark, consider paying a visit to your local thrift shop. Although thrifting can be more time consuming, shopping secondhand can be a great way to save money and reduce your environmental impact.
If you’re totally new to thrifting, consider watching the below YouTube video from Ashley (a.ka. Bestdressed) where she covers her tips and tricks for thrifting.
Considerations Before Making the Swap
Having a passion or sudden interest in making sustainable swaps is a wonderful feeling, but there are definite considerations to keep in mind before making any transitions:
- Research, Research, Research | Before you buy any new, sustainable goods, conduct your own research to figure out what brands or products will be easiest to incorporate into your lifestyle.
- Lookout for Green-washing | In the US, many terms such as “sustainable,” “biodegradable,” “natural,” and “organic” aren’t officially regulated which means that major corporations can use these terms to advertise their products without offering a solution that is actually better for the environment.
- Be Price-Conscious | In other words, don’t spend beyond your means. Sustainable options are often more expensive than more traditional goods because they are investments that will last a long time. Although it may be tempting to make sustainable purchases all at once, don’t spend beyond your means.
- Think About What is Feasible For You | Think about your abilities and your lifestyle. Deep down, if you know in your heart-of-hearts that something won’t be a good fit for you, don’t buy it.
- Don’t Just Toss Out Your Unsustainable Goods | It is much better to use up what you already own and then buy a sustainable alternative than to buy something sustainable and toss out the less sustainable options you already own. For example, if you already own a ton of single-use cotton rounds or makeup wipes, use up what you own AND THEN incorporate your new sustainable alternatives into your routine.
Takeaways on the 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Hygiene Routine More Sustainable
In the words of my favorite sustainability vlogger, Shelbizleee:
You cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.
What does this mean? Small changes make a huge impact over time. I may not be the most sustainable beauty blogger out there, but there are small changes that I can make that will make a difference over time! Moreover, if enough of us make these small changes, we can influence the products that major corporations start to produce.
Over time, sustainable swaps can lead to money saving – but the up front costs are often higher than traditional products. Don’t feel guilted into making expensive purchases in the name of sustainability. Think about what you can manage financially and what you’ll actually end up using in your daily life. Use up what you already have and then begin to implement small changes.
Take time to figure out what habits you think you can feasibly change. Rather than wasting money or resources on sustainable products you’ll never use, be honest with yourself about the changes you think are realistic for your lifestyle. Start with small changes and go from there.
Resources to Learn More
Disclaimer: Please note, I recognize that these sustainable swaps or alternative ways of doing things may not be viable for everyone due to personal finances or ability-status. I am in no way passing judgment on anyone’s habits or purchases but sharing this post to inspire those who are able to make more sustainable choices.
How are you planning to make your hygiene routine sustainable? Let me know in the comments below.1