We are advancing at an exponential rate with a ravenous appetite to evolve with current trends, whether it is technology or fashion. In this pursuit, we have come to neglect the long-term impacts of short-term products.
Amidst the fog of apathy and misinformation, a waste crisis has emerged worldwide. To combat the effects of pollution and waste produced by these habits we must lower demand and production, and that means striving towards less consumption of materials overall. Through small shifts in everyday behaviours, we can collectively make a significant impact. These are a few everyday actions most of us can implement to reduce our footprint:
Reusable Coffee Cups
There’s a bit of contention around the recyclability of coffee cups. The source of this confusion is due to the thin polyethylene coating that makes the cups waterproof, which may prevent the paper from being recycled. You can completely circumvent this problem by using a reusable cup instead. While the initial energy cost to produce a reusable cup is high, it breaks-even with disposable cups relatively quickly. Furthermore, it prevents more plastic and paper going into our environment and landfills.
While menstrual cups may seem daunting, they are hypoallergenic and have less associated health risks than conventional pads and tampons. I definitely had to become familiarised with my own body for this method, and the squeamishness of dealing with your blood may not be for everyone. However, using this method has completely cut out the need for emergency runs to the store or the anxiety of remembering to packing sanitary items, since you can insert it comfortably even before your period. With the copious amounts of plastic used in their products taking centuries to decompose in landfill, what more reason do you need to make the switch?
Buying in Bulk
By buying non-perishable items in large quantities, it lowers the amount of packaging going into our bins. If you’re lucky enough to live near a bulk food store you can avoid purchasing food in packaging altogether by taking your own containers. By buying from farmer’s markets and other local sources wherever you can it reduces the impact of transportation. As a bonus, you also end up with fresher produce and support local Australian farmers.
We all know that bringing green bags to the store is the way to go, but you can take it further by using mesh produce bags instead of plastic for your fruit and veg. If you find yourself buying things spontaneously outside of your weekly shopping routine like I do, keep a light tote tucked away in your bag or even reuse a plastic bag you already have.
Packing Your Own Food
Constantly buying snacks or take away is not only draining on your wallet, but also on the environment. All the extra plastic and soiled paper packaging going into landfill from these small purchases add up. Reducing the amount of takeout we buy and replacing it with homemade snacks also allows us to control what we put into our bodies, without relying on what we crave in the moment. There are a large variety of lunch boxes and reusable foods wraps that we can use instead of disposable products to avoid adding to landfill. I personally use a mason jar, as cliché as it is, to take salads and up-cycle small jars to carry the salad dressing.
Buying second hand ensures that piece of clothing isn’t going into landfill, and you aren’t buying from an industry that is potentially environmentally and socially irresponsible. With the advent of fast fashion, we have tonnes of low-quality clothes being worn down and thrown into landfill. Buying second hand or vintage clothing means it has stood the test of time and is likely to be of greater quality. For those who don’t feel like trawling through mountains of second-hand clothes, you can often find vintage shops that curate items, usually for a higher price. Personally, I love the treasure hunt and the satisfaction of finding a beautiful piece for less than five dollars.
We can’t be completely waste-free, but we can all strive to minimise our impact. While these actions seem small and inconsequential amidst the pollution produced by industry, the collective effort from many individuals is what will ultimately create a greater impact. As consumers, we have the power to shift attitudes around waste and be conscious of the sources of our products. This allows us to reward the industries and businesses who use good practices and punish those who exploit or pollute for the sake of wider marketability or higher profit.
This article first appeared in Orenda 5.
About the Author + Illustrator: Sumi Aranayake
Sumi is a cynical design student, but most of all a dawdling artist with no career prospects. She can be found either nose-deep in her sketchbook or lying face-down in the grass. Her Instagram is @notsooms.