I recently turned 27 and I can’t quite believe it. What a dynamic, turbulent, eclectic 27 years it has been on this earth thus far…

I thought in celebration of my aging (and impending wisdom that I swear should be appearing on the horizon sometime soon) I’d share with you 27 things I do to try not to be a douche bag to our planet. There might be something in there that you haven’t thought of before, so without further ado:

  1. Switch to natural cleaning products. The amount of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in modern-day chemical-laden household cleaning products is not even worth looking at. Opt for environmentally-friendly store-bought blends, or DIY your own with ingredients like baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. You’d be amazed how well these two work on pretty much everything in your life.
  2. Use bamboo toothbrushes. I change my toothbrush every couple months. That’s approximately 6 x a year. That’s a lot of toothbrushes headed straight to landfill if I were to still be using traditional plastic ones! I am in love with bamboo toothbrushes because they clean just as well and can be composted when they come to the end of their life. Totally biodegradable, no microplastics in sight and my dentist says my teeth are shit hot so, I’m happy (BTW that’s 4 years of using these bad boys that I’ve got under my belt, so I’m fairly confident they do the job just fine).
  3. Support slow fashion. The fast fashion industry is one of the most polluting on our planet. By switching to buying only second hand or ethical brands, you are choosing sustainability over wasteful and mindless consumerism.
  4. Opt for organic. Wherever possible in my life, I now choose organic over pesticide-laden. Whether it’s the food I eat, the skincare I use, the clothes I wear or whatever else. While it isn’t always possible, I try to buy organic versions to look after my health and the environment.
  5. Use mesh bags or food wraps. The number of times that little plastic baggies are used for carrying snacks, purchasing loose produce from the grocery store or pastries from a coffee shop is staggering. I keep a spare mesh bag or two in all the places I might need one and use again and again.
  6. Prepare real food. There is nothing worse for an aspiring zero-waster than being hangry, realising you have to purchase something wrapped in single-use plastic and then beating yourself up about it. Be sensible and prep food beforehand (carrying around snacks in one of your mesh bags!) and avoid this happening to you again.
  7. Do less laundry. You’d be amazed at how many wears you can get out of clothes if you simply air them out between wears. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging you to wear your undies more than once between washes, but for many items, this works a treat.
  8. Use bulk bins. For nuts, grains, pulses and seeds, find a local bulk bin store (take your mesh bags with you!) and load up to avoid plastic packaging.
  9. Purchase a safety razor. These things look terrifying, but as soon as you use one, you realise that they aren’t at all. Purchase one that’s well-made with a long handle, a heavy weight and good grip and it will last you a lifetime. All you need to do is change the inner stainless steel blades (which can be purchased wrapped in recyclable paper!) and be sure to lather up first with lots of soap.
  10. Support innovative textiles. I love a good vintage leather bag, but at the end of the day it is still leather and if someone sees it and wants something similar, they’re likely to buy a new leather version, thus keeping the demand there for these goods. Support alternatives like piñatex, cork or mushroom leather where you can, to show others that there are sustainable alternatives.
  11. Learn about the Venus Project. An incredible resource-based economy model created by the late architect, Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project is an incredible insight into how our economy could operate free of the limitations of capitalism.
  12. Cycle or walk. I know it isn’t always possible with the circumstances you find yourself in (hence why we desperately need electric, self-driving cars already!) but cycle or walk wherever possible. It’s better for your health and the planet’s.
  13. Choose vegan. The animal agriculture industry is incredibly wasteful from an energy point of view, but also a place of great cruelty. Have a watch of Cowspiracy, What The Health, Forks Over Knives or In Defense Of Food for food for thought (see what I did there?)
  14. Use reusable cloths. While there are some great brands of paper towel like EcoLeaf who use 100% recycled paper, 100% renewable energy and 100% biodegradable packaging, consider cutting up old towels, t-shirts and other textiles and using to mop up spills, clean surfaces etc. Simply toss into the washing machine after use and they’ll last you years to come.
  15. Use reusable cotton rounds. These can be bought in some larger healthy living stores or purchased online. Ideal for removing makeup, cleansing, removing nail polish. Use, wash, reuse.
  16. Paper cotton buds. Most cotton buds have a plastic stem that runs down the middle. Yuck! If you feel cotton buds are absolutely essential to your routine, opt for completely biodegradable ones.
  17. Change your gift-giving. Unless you know that special person is in desperate need of (fill in the blank), give them something edible, drinkable, or experiential instead and watch them beam!
  18. Learn about minimalism. And the joy and liberation it can give you in your life. As well as the psychological benefits, it’s environmentally-friendly because it places emphasis on less, not more.
  19. Upcycling for your home. If you’re in need of furniture or decorations, consider recycled materials and get creative! No one likes a show-home. Make your space unique and truly reflective of you as an individual. Use recycled wood to save demand on tree-felling and recycled scrap metal to add a modern, industrial aesthetic.
  20. Grow your own veggies. Even in the tiniest of apartments you can find a windowsill to grow some herbs. Plant, nurture and watch flourish. It’s good for your mental health, diet and wallet.
  21. Support vegan & cruelty-free cosmetics. Unfortunately, many cosmetic brands are tested on animals in some parts of the world. Choose a kinder option for your moisturiser or mascara by using the guidance that can be found here.
  22. Sustainable holiday decor. There’s a lot of pressure to fill your home with an array of trinkets for each and every holiday occasion. From Halloween to Christmas, the shops are filled with aisle upon aisle of cheaply-manufactured, plastic-based rubbish. Get in the spirit by focussing on seasonally-appropriate plants and flowers, foods, scents and music rather than a bunch of ‘stuff’ that you have to find place to store for the majority of the year.
  23. Support plant-based candles. Most candles are made of paraffin wax which is derived from crude oil (the same stuff that makes our petroleum fuel). Instead of burning that and contaminating your home, opt for candles made of sustainable beeswax (if non-vegan), soy, flax, or other plant oils for cleaner burning.
  24. Have a zero waste period. Ladies – forget tampons and nasty plastic sanitary pads. Have a read of my post here all about how to have a cleaner period without any throwaway items.
  25. Use bamboo water filtration. Forget plastic cartridges. Try charcoal water filtration for a completely biodegradable, waste-free way to purify your water.
  26. Say no to hormonal birth control. A recent gripe of mine, but consider the Fertility Awareness Method instead of your current hormonal birth control. Resources to look into here.
  27. Item swaps. Whether it’s amongst colleagues or friends, swap books, clothes and other unwanted items to cut down on waste and save you money.

vegan_leather

How many of us give much thought into the fabrics we drape around ourselves? It can mean the difference between sweating to death or experiencing breathability, tearing while lunging or giving yourself the power of free movement. In my experience it wasn’t until I placed fashion into the context of outdoor pursuits that I realised how making a bad choice can ruin an expedition. But actually, smart choices can improve every day activities. Some fabrics simply feel better against the skin. Some are tougher and thus last longer.

Let’s take a waterproof jacket. There’s goretex, hyvent, or AQ2 and that’s only dipping a toe in the pool. Each has its own pros and cons.  With a lot of investment placed on bigger and better things, a great deal of R&D goes into outdoor gear. If you’re facing the elements, you want to know that your gear has got your back. Quite literally. So it’s easy to see why these not only cost more, but also tend to be the best-made garments.

But what about everyday materials? There’s cotton, for starters. This natural fibre is arguably the world’s most common. But it also creates numerous environmental concerns that make me want to buy organic only. There’s also wool, linen, hemp, bamboo and of course leather. Each of these are from different natural sources and have their own selling points. Then there are synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and viscose. Known for their stretchy properties and frequently combined with cotton in sportswear.

With an array of choice on the market at all selling points, it’s easy to find something for you. But there’s another layer to all this that throws a spanner in the works. You’ve got the choice to select from, but from an environmental standpoint some fabrics are more ethical from others. And then there’s the likes of veganism and it’s upward trend. This eliminates animal products like wool and leather from the mix.

Vegan Leather

I try my best to follow a vegan lifestyle and incorporate this ethos into what I eat and the cosmetics I use. But I’ve always struggled with wool and leather. If the alternatives are fibres that won’t biodegrade because they are essentially made of plastics, is that really the best choice? I love leather and I’ll openly admit that. But yes, I do think that it’s sad that animals have to die to make that fabric.

It wasn’t too long ago I came across Piñatex. Piñatex is a leather-like fabric composed of the fibres of pineapple leaves, as the name might suggest. It can be treated in various ways to alter the appearance from canvas-like to leather-like and offers much scope for growth. According to an article on The Guardian, 480 pineapple leaves are required to produce 1sq metre of Piñatex. These are leaves that would normally rot in the ground after the fruits are harvested, so talk about salvaging waste!

Next up in the vegan leather category, with emphasis on natural fibres is Muskin. This is a leather-like material composed of mushrooms. Yes, as bizarre as that sounds, it is indeed being manufactured by Italian Grado Zero Espace. It is able to be flexed and ‘tanned’ in the same ways, making it a potentially viable long-term alternative to cow hide.

Lastly I’ll leave you with SeaCell – a fabric made of seaweed. Brown algae are incredibly tough and I can see how research could be done to investigate the likelihood of producing wearable fabrics from them. Algae typically become brittle when dried, but grinding the fronds once dry and transforming this into a fabric? Well, I guess that’s plausible.

It’ll be interesting to see the developments in each of these, because Lord knows we need something innovative to move us into the modern day. We’re holding on to old ways and fibres unnecessarily it seems. And with fossil fuels rapidly running out, we’ll have no choice but to find alternatives to materials derived from these hydrocarbons.

There’s much to discuss and many different opinions on what’s best from an environmental standpoint. But either way, I think we can all agree that research is the best area to focus on right now. We have no idea what we might find.

Photo: Flickr

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