Sustainability begins in the home. First steps to reduce your footprint.
Resources are not limitless
There has been a lot of talk about carbon footprints and sustainability, at least in the United States. This article is not intended to sway any opinions or make any declarations. The purpose of this article is to show ways to reduce your budget, your trash and loosen the leash held on us by consumerism...if you're interested. Regardless if you believe in climate change or not, we cannot rationally ignore the fact that earth's resources are not limitless. Excessive packaging and "disposable" culture are outpacing our current ability to rid ourselves of waste. Reducing the amount of waste flowing from the home is a tangible way to reduce the amount of waste flowing into landfills.
To avoid confusion, let's begin by outlining some basic definitions.
The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas released as a result of human activity. Driving a car, heating with gas, oil or coal, food production, etc. are all examples of common ways human beings release greenhouse gases.
Means to chose an option that does not compromise the future to satisfy the present. Do not ruin water sources through production processes today because we will all need water tomorrow, create an alternative method.
Or a "throw-away" culture is one heavily influenced by dispose-ability over repair-ability and reuse-ability. Overconsumption and excessive packaging outline the consumer process creating exorbitant waste and pollution.
Is the idea of happiness coming from the purchase and possession of things. The more stuff you have, the better your life, the more expensive the stuff, the more relevant and valuable your existence. Consumerist culture is devoted to the acquisition and consumption of ever-growing amounts of stuff.
Our current trajectory as a culture is a result of many decisions made over many years. Our solutions must follow a similar course — many decisions made over not so many years. The examples presented below are small, easy steps anyone can take to help optimize participation in reducing carbon footprints, increased sustainability, decreased dispose-ability, and separation from consumerism.
According to the 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey facilitated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost per household on personal care is about $60 per month. This includes deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and haircuts. I chose to list these four in particular because they are rather easy to make yourself (or perform on yourself). Trading all the money and packaging of buying each of these items individually for a steady presence of baking soda and coconut oil will keep you off the aisles for deodorant, toothpaste, and household cleaners. A thirteen-pound bag of baking soda from Costco will run you about $7 and the Costco size coconut oil about $14. However, you will not need to buy baking soda, coconut oil, deodorant, toothpaste, or household cleaners for months.
If you buy it at the store:
Cost--You can expect to pay about $5 for common versions of name brand deodorants and antiperspirants. I will note, deodorants claim to deodorize, antiperspirants claim to reduce visible moisture from sweating.
Amount of Trash--Typical trash produced as a result of the purchase of commercial deodorant includes; (1) A hollow case, (2)cap, (3)elevator platform, and (4)threaded spindle, all made of plastics.
Ingredients--Alcohol, sodium stearate, sodium chloride, and stearyl alcohol. Another ingredient found in some brands is ammonium alum, which has its own set of controversies. Also, perfumes and essential oils for scent.
If you make it at home:
Cost--If you used an entire container of baby oil ($3-$6), a 1lb box of baking soda ($3) and an entire vile of essential oil ($5 for three scents) your cost would be about $10. Note! For the aforementioned $10 you would have enough deodorant for half a year, if not longer.
Amount of trash--Using baby oil, baking soda, and essential oil reduces the frequency at which I put packaging into the trash. Baking soda boxes are recyclable and baking soda bags are reusable. Essential oils come in glass which is not toxic to the environment. The plastic baby oil bottle is still a problem, but it is less than the alternative. Purchasing store-bought deodorant is an all plastic, nonrecyclable cycle performed at high frequency. I keep the baking soda bags purchased at Costco and repurpose them for use around the house. Also, all three ingredients are useful in other household DIY projects such as cleaners, hair products, skin moisturizers, toothpaste, and soap.
Ingredients--There are three, and we can all pronounce all of them: baking soda, baby oil, and essential oil (optional).
1 Shot glass size container
3 Tbsp Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Baby Oil (Give or take depending on your preferences.)
- Add three tablespoons baking soda to your container.
- Next, add oil until the consistency is smooth and velvety.
- Lastly, add an essential oil scent until it smells as strong as I like. Done.
Cost of toothpaste. As low as $1 and as high as $10.
Amount of trash--includes a cardboard box (hopefully recyclable) and a tube made of plastic, aluminum, or a plastic-aluminum composite (also recyclable if you wash them out first). The problem is frequency. I call this a problem in terms of cost and whether or not a tube makes it to recycling. In most cases the later is not successful. Toothpaste is bought frequently (cost) and thrown away frequently (trash).
Ingredients--Most abrasive ingredients fall under the category of chalk or silica and have names not worth the bother. This is also why ingestion is highly discouraged. However, if you make it yourself, not only is it cost-effective, and environmentally friendly, its also food.
1 glass jar (repurposed relish and jam jars are perfect)
2/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 essential oil (optional)
Sugar Substitute Xylitol (optional)
- Combine coconut oil and baking soda in a glass jar and mix until smooth.
- Add xylitol or other non-cavity forming sugar substitutes, to taste and mix thoroughly.
- Add essential oil, to taste and mix thoroughly.
I use this in my homemade toothpaste. It is light and not overpowering. I sometimes opt to use this sugar in other recipes that call for small amounts of sugar.
1 large spray bottle ($.99). Or repurpose a spray bottle you already have.
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup white vinegar
- Add all ingredients to the spray bottle and shake.
Note. To fight tough surface stains, spray area with cleaner, sprinkle (or douse) with baking soda, spray with cleaner again, then scrub with a towel or scrub brush.
What more can we do?
If you are feeling particularly motivated to reduce your impact on the world and extend every dollar, you may consider some other things I have done.
- Invest in washable/reusable bags for food storage and snacks.
- Switch from paper napkins and paper towels to cloth. I use white washcloths purchased in bulk from Walmart for the kitchen and around the house.
- Switch from paper toilet paper to washable/reusable cloth wipes. This is always the hardest to convince others of trying, but I do not regret it, ever. Me and my children exclusively use cloth wipes in the bathroom, and it is not as bad as you may think. You have to determine where your commitment lies. Is it in doing better for yourself and the planet, or is it in maintaining the social construct of what constitutes civilized behavior? Cloth wipes are the same as cloth diapers for babies; if you have a baby, you can use the same diaper pale and wash it all together. I prefer to add water to my diaper pale to reduce staining and smell. In my second bathroom, I repurposed a plastic detergent bucket with a lid. I have saved tons of trash and money by moving away from disposable paper goods around the house.
- Last but not least, stop buying disposable bottles of water. Select a filter option.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Lani Morris