Contributed by Jenna L. Lee, Intern at Go Gratis, Inc.
Looking at large environmental issues such as global warming and climate change can be a daunting task. It may raise the question of how one individual can make an effective change. However, change starts with one person. By implementing small sustainable alternatives into daily life, it will in turn lead to an eco-friendlier lifestyle. With this in mind I have created an easy to follow guide to become more sustainable in easy ways.
Bathroom and Bedroom
Cosmetics and Skin Care
Main Takeaway: Read ingredients labels and buy clean and natural alternatives
Knowing the things that you put on your body is extremely crucial to staying healthy. Looking into and putting in some research into cosmetics and skin care products is key in being healthy and sustainable. As the market for more environmentally friendly beauty products begins to increase, brands may put out misleading information about just how environmentally safe their products are to draw in more consumers. This is called greenwashing. This is so dangerous because businesses will spend more time saying that they are green and making a positive environmental impact instead of actually implementing these green changes. Greenwashing makes it clear that researching and looking at ingredient lists is extremely important. Beauty brands that use natural and organic ingredients are safer for your skin and the environment. Understanding the ingredients in your beauty products is important for you and the environment. These are some toxic and harmful ingredients that you should stay away from:
Parabens - are used to preserve the shelf life of cosmetics, but they have links to breast cancer, immunotoxicity, and skin irritation. It is commonly seen on ingredient lists as methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, and/or propyl-.
Phthalates - are plasticizers that are used to help the product penetrate the skin and extend fragrances and have links to reproductive system damage in all genders. This is banned in the European Union but still allowed in the U.S. It is seen in ingredient lists as DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), BPA (bisphenol).
Talc - is added into cosmetics to absorb moisture, smooth products, and make products opaque, this is typically found in baby powder and feminine hygiene products, however it has links to cancer and organ system toxicity. It is labeled as talcum powder or cosmetic talc.
Formaldehydes - mostly used in the liquid form called formalin, is used as a preservative to help products have a longer shelf life, however there has been recent studies linking this chemical to cancer. It can be labeled as Formaldehyde, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate.
When looking in your makeup bag more chances than not glitter will be found. Glitter, however, is a microplastic that is extremely dangerous to marine life. Glitter is made up of pigment, aluminum, and a plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) all sandwiched and pressed together then cut into very small particles that reflect light. Because glitter particles are so tiny, they are often washed right through filters and drained into the ocean. Because of the reflective nature glitter has, fish and other marine life mistake it for plankton and consume it, the glitter will sit in the stomach of the fish and cause starvation leading to death, disrupting the natural food chain of marine life. Making the switch to biodegradable glitters is a helpful step, but many scientists and critics believe that the real solution is finding something that is naturally shiny that can be used as glitter. Source
Main Takeaway: Bigger is better! Bigger loads of laundry using cold water and natural detergents can help save water and money!
Laundry is a chore that is typically very easy and monotonous, but actually affects the environment more than you think. To help save water it’s important to do bigger loads of laundry less frequently instead of washing smaller loads more frequently. Using cold water while doing laundry can help save energy because there is a lack of hot water being needed. Read the ingredients in your laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and other laundry soaps and avoid toxic chemicals like phosphates, chlorine bleach, formaldehydes and dioxane and opt for more natural ingredients. This not only helps decrease water contamination, but also helps extend the life cycle of your clothes. Skip the single use dryer sheets and use dryer balls which help reduce drying time and helps clothes dry more effectively. When clothes are in the washer microfibers will tend to come off the clothes and get into the water. A simple and affordable way to help prevent microfibers contaminating the water is to install a filter to your washing machine. This will help filter out the microfibers that are created during the wash and at the end you take out the filter and toss it in the trash.
Main Takeaway: Read the label! Understand what chemicals are in your menstrual care products and find safer alternatives.
Pads and tampons are notorious for having very hazardous chemicals in them like polyester, artificial coloring, phthalates, BPA, polyethylene, fragrances and a number of other toxic chemicals. This is a case of extreme concern because the vulva is one of the most absorbent parts of the body. It is important when going to purchase your menstrual products that you read the label and understand the ingredients. Pick products that use organic cotton and natural ingredients that are safe and clean.
Making the switch from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes gives you the opportunity to add the handle of the toothbrush right to the compost bin.
Main Takeaway: Shopping at sustainable clothing brands, thrifting and upcycling are amazing ways to help the environment and extend the lifecycle of clothes.
Fast fashion has been around since the 1990’s ushering in the latest fashion trends quickly but made cheaply. It contributes to the rising levels of pollution deteriorating the atmosphere, uses massive amounts of water and energy, uses toxic chemicals that contaminate the water, and many other environmental and health concerns. Buying secondhand clothes from thrift stores or from online thrift sites can help extend the life cycle of a garment and decrease the amount of clothes in landfills. Shopping at sustainable clothing brands that contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions, use organic and natural dyes and fabrics, and even use recyclable products in their designs, can help build up your wardrobe while also being eco-friendly. There are many ways to make your wardrobe have a longer life cycle. Donating your clothing and items you don’t use anymore is one option. Upcycling is another way of altering the clothing or items you have already into something different, giving that item a longer life cycle.
Contributed by Jenna L. Lee, Intern at Go Gratis, Inc.