While it’s great if you have a reusable water bottle or make a habit of recycling your cardboard packaging, the truth is that there’s so much more you can do for the environment. From the kitchen to the bathroom and beyond, there are loads of creative ways to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. If you want to make 2016 your greenest year yet, follow these eleven tips to reduce trash in all areas of your home life.
1. Replace detergent with soap nuts
When you’re washing your clothes, try using soap nuts instead of plastic bottles of detergent. These berry shells naturally contain a type of soap called saponin, which removes stains and gets rid of dirt. That might sound odd, but they really do work! All you need to do is put the soap nuts in a cotton bag, soak them in warm water for 3-5 minutes, and then put them in with your laundry.
2. Get hold of a compostable toothbrush
Most toothbrushes need to be thrown away when they wear out, but sustainable bamboo toothbrushes are a different story. Apart from the nylon bristles, every part of the bamboo toothbrush can be composted!
3. Make your own toiletries
Too many shower gels, moisturizers and the like are packaged in containers that are only partially recycle (or indeed aren’t recyclable at all). To get around this problem and also reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals, look into making your own toiletries. This is a fun, exciting process and you may be surprised by how many potential ingredients you already have in your home.
4. Opt for reusable razors
Sure, disposable razors can be very convenient, but they’re not so kind to the planet. Instead, invest in a good quality electric razor, or look into the possibility of a safety razor. The latter can be tricky to get used to at first, but typically delivers great results.
5. Go for reusable dishcloths
Just think of how many throwaway dishcloths you’ve worked through in your lifetime so far! You can make your home more eco-friendly (and save money) by making or buying washable dishcloths. If you ensure that the cloths are made from natural materials, you can even compost the cloths when they eventually wear out.
6. Bring your own container when you get takeaway food
Whether you’re picking up some tasty Chinese food or just want to take your leftovers home after a big meal, make sure you have a reusable (preferably stainless steel) container with you. That way, you won’t have to accept the disposable containers that restaurants tend to offer.
7. Carry a reusable coffee mug
Most major coffee chains use cups that end up going directly to a landfill after your latte is finished. Consequently, it’s well worth taking the time to buy a nice reusable mug that you can either fill at home or take into a store with you. Some of the best ones have a protective casing around the middle, which help to prevent your fingers from getting scalded!
8. Swap liquid shampoo for a solid bar
Solid shampoo bars take plastic bottles out of the equation, significantly reducing the amount of trash you produce in a year. They come in a variety of scents and formulations, so you’re sure to find one to suit your hair type. For example, shops like Lush (which sell handmade cosmetics) are likely to have a wide range of these bars.
9. Get mesh and cloth bags for food
While you’re to be applauded for stocking up on fruit and vegetables at the grocery store, it’s wasteful to keep using the thin plastic bags that grocery stores provide. Instead of using these bags, buy some reusable mesh pouches and use those to package up your fresh produce. While you’re at it, you can use this same type of bag to carry snacks when you’re on the go. However, make sure the lining doesn’t contain potentially hazardous lead, phthalates or BPA.
10. Consider a menstrual cup
If you’re a menstruating woman, just think of how much waste results from using tampons or sanitary pads. A menstrual cup is an eco-friendly, reusable alternative, and many women actually prefer using it once they get used to the insertion method. Meanwhile, if you don’t like the idea of a menstrual cup or haven’t found them to be comfortable thus far, using washable pads is a good option that still helps to protect the environment (and saves you money into the bargain).
11. Ditch tissue paper
Finally, instead of buying boxes and boxes of tissue paper, invest in a handkerchief, or make your own from some material you have lying around the house. While some people worry that cloth hankies aren’t clean, remember that you cash wash them as often as you want—and they’re only really unclean when you have a bad cold!