Sustainable Living Solutions
If you worry about the impact of the products you buy, then you're not alone. Studies show that 78% of Americans believe a sustainable lifestyle is important to them and do their best to minimize their environmental footprint. Unfortunately, the companies that make the day-to-day goods we need haven't always been good about meeting the demand for eco-friendly products.
That's why today we're taking a look at innovations that can help us all move towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle, from sustainable hair products to replacements for plastics. Start reducing your ecological footprint today with these simple steps.
Cut Out Single-Use Plastics
Plastic straws, packaging, and takeout containers may not seem like a big deal. However, they're shaping up to be one of the great environmental challenges of our time.
Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic products have been produced. Because these products are synthetic, nature doesn't know how to process them. That's why they can stick around almost indefinitely.
All of that plastic waste needs to go somewhere, and a huge portion of it finds its way into the ocean. Having tons of intact plastic garbage floating in the sea would be bad enough. But the problem is even worse than many realize.
While plastics don't biodegrade like organic materials, they do break into smaller and smaller pieces over time. This is what's given rise to the phenomenon of microplastics - pieces of plastic measuring less than five millimeters in length.
Because microplastics are so small, they're easily consumed by sea life. Under the right circumstances, they can break down into even smaller - but nevertheless dangerous - bits of pollution.
Over the last few years, microplastics have been found in living humans in worrying amounts. The plastics themselves are linked to several health issues, and can also be vectors for heavy metals or other pollutants.
To improve our health and the health of our environment, it's paramount that we reduce our reliance on plastics. Single-use materials like packaging, tableware, and the like are particularly egregious.
Opting for reusable shopping bags is one simple choice that most people know about. Using steel straws, reusable water bottles, cups and the like can further reduce the amount of plastic garbage that finds its way into the ecosystem.
Avoid Noxious Cleaning Chemicals
Keeping a clean living space is crucial to keeping yourself and your family healthy. Everyone knows that much. An aspect that we tend to overlook, however, is how toxic many common cleaning agents are.
Ammonia, chlorine bleach, and other common household cleaners can carry health risks.
The noxious fumes these chemicals put off can wreak havoc on the respiratory system in particular. Individuals with asthma or other chronic conditions are at an increased risk of adverse reactions.
Even so-called green products can contain harmful agents. That's why the safest way to keep your home clean is often make your own household cleaner.
There are plenty of options, some of which are better suited to certain messes than others. A simple solution of one part white vinegar to one part water makes for a great glass cleaner, for example. Combining vinegar with baking soda and a little soap makes for a potent foaming cleaner that's ideal for cleaning grout, nooks, and crannies.
Not only will you find these alternatives more pleasant to work with, but you can avoid putting any more harmful toxins out into the world.
Take the Plastics Out of Household Cleaning
Bottles and containers aren't the only ways that plastics find their way into your housekeeping routine.
If you hand-wash your dishes, you probably use a common plastic sponge. After a few dozen washings, these hunks of plastic start to rip and fall apart.
Minute bits and pieces get washed away every time you do a sink full of dishes, contributing to the microplastic problem mentioned earlier. There are almost certainly bits of plastic clinging to your clean dishes after each wash.
Ditching the plastic sponges for organic alternatives can help make sure no microplastics wind up in waterways - or in your dinner. When they finally do wear out, all you have to do is give them a good rinse and toss them out with the rest of the compost. Which brings us to our next point.
Reduce Kitchen Waste
Americans produce 119 billion pounds of food waste each year. Granted, a lot of that comes from restaurants, grocery stores, and the like. But it can't be ignored that the average household wastes a lot of food each year.
It's tempting to think that because food waste is organic it's no big deal. It won't sit in a landfill for a thousand years like plastic goods, after all. Unfortunately, even green waste can cause a major problem.
When food or other organic materials wind up in a landfill, they usually wind up sandwiched between layers of garbage, including non-degradable plastic and metal. In an environment deprived of light and oxygen, the helpful microorganisms that would normally break down food waste can't thrive. So these materials break down improperly, producing methane as a byproduct.
Methane is a greenhouse gas about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to some estimates, the climate impact from food waste in landfills is greater than the notoriously carbon-dense airline industry.
There's no judgment here. With how fast fresh fruits and produce spoil, sometimes it's just not feasible to get through that jumbo-sized container of leafy greens that you bought on special. But wouldn't it be nice to at least get something out of your spoiled produce?
That's where home composting comes in. Composting is the process of collecting green waste like vegetable cuttings, apple cores, and spoiled produce and letting them decompose in an optimized environment.
Once these organic materials break down, you're left with a nutrient-rich substance that makes for a great fertilizer. Sprinkle a little "black gold", as gardeners call it, on your lawn or planting beds. Before you know it, you'll be the envy of the neighborhood.
The Rise of Sustainable Hair Products
In 2023, it's hard to imagine taking a shower or bath without plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner nearby. They're such a part of our routine that you tend to forget that people had been washing and treating their hair for thousands of years before we invented plastic.
Plastic waste isn't the only issue with our bathing routines, unfortunately. Artificial shampoos themselves can contain myriad harsh chemicals.
Alcohol is a common ingredient in many shampoos and can leave hair dry and brittle. Parabens are popular preservatives, even though some researchers believe that they're linked to increased cancer risks. Some shampoos have even used formaldehyde - a known carcinogen that's absorbed through the skin - as a preservative.
It's bad enough that many of these ingredients can be bad for our health. But when we wash them down the drain, they can find their way into nearby water systems. That's one reason why eco-friendly hair care has become so popular.
These kinds of products are often made from natural ingredients and sold in the bare minimum amount of packaging.
These shampoo and conditioner bars are a great example. Because they're not liquid soap they don't need plastic bottles. And they use rice water as a principal ingredient.
Not only is rice water an excellent, natural cleaner but it's been used for centuries to help promote healthy hair growth. Rice water may also help protect hair from frizz, environmental damage, and dandruff. It's a great way to care for your hair and the environment at the same time.
Look Your Best With Sustainable Beauty Products
Shampoo isn't the only common beauty product that's rife with harmful additives.
Common deodorants and antiperspirants use aluminum as a key ingredient, for example. Many beauty creams or moisturizers contain parabens, which as alluded to above, have possible links to certain forms of cancer. And still others contain petroleum products which, while not considered harmful to humans, are byproducts of the fossil fuel industry.
Opting for clean wellness and beauty products can help keep you healthier for longer without polluting the natural world.
Enjoy a Green Holiday Season
When you think about sustainable products, it's easy to forget gift wrapping. After all, it's a single-use product that's designed to be ripped to shreds and thrown away. How can that ever be made sustainable?
This is one instance where the devil is in the details. One of the big problems with gift wrapping is that most of it isn't made of normal paper. Instead, it's an amalgamation of hard-to-recycle materials that almost always wind up in a landfill.
While everyone likes that bright, glossy holiday paper, it's worth it to instead opt for simpler materials that can be 100% recycled. While you're at it, mixing in some eco-friendly gifts along with the usual high-tech gadgets and jewelry never hurt, either.
Sustainability Is a Collective Responsibility
In a better world, our leaders would be at the forefront of the charge to preserve the earth's natural beauty. That is not what's happening, unfortunately. Instead, it falls to each of us to build a sustainable way forward.
Whether it's reducing household waste or opting for sustainable hair products and beauty supplies, our choices matter. Start leading an eco-friendly life today by opting for these sustainable lifestyle products.