Do you remember how exciting it was to find a tin of Danish butter cookies at grandma’s house? Our little fingers would struggle to pry open the shiny blue Royal Dansk container, but once we finally managed to get the lid off – our hopes and dreams of stuffing our faces with crispy cookies were shattered by the presence of a sewing kit.
That’s probably where our trust issues stemmed from (along with the other unpleasant surprises we’d find in different food containers), but it was also, most likely, our first introduction to sustainability.
According to the United Nations Brundtland Commission (1987), sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. So when grandma needed a place to store her raw seasoned chicken – reusing a Neapolitan ice cream tub was her way of reducing waste and protecting the environment.
We might have laughed and even rolled our eyes as they hoarded plastic items, but now their methods of reusing and recycling are considered admirable and are highly encouraged. This makes them the true pioneers of the low waste movement. Here are a few familiar throwbacks to their sustainable living:
- Must. Reuse. Every. Container.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter might be the name of a margarine brand, but it’s exactly how we felt every time we opened a tub of butter to find last night’s leftovers instead of a spread for our toast. We did not enjoy that guessing game!
- Triangular Plastic Bags
These were more enjoyable to do – we’d help fold plastic bags into triangles after grocery shopping and then store them in another plastic bag for future use. Plastic bags aren’t biodegradable, so this helped prevent them from ending up in landfills, waterways or the ocean.
- The Plastic Drawer
There was always that one drawer filled with, what seemed to be, the most random things from McDonald’s sauces and Domino’s chili flakes to plastic cutlery, straws and bread ties that were ready to be reused. Maybe hoarding had some points.
It has become our responsibility to protect the planet from further harm. Take a page from grandma’s book and reduce your waste by reusing single-use items (if you can). Through waste prevention and simple waste management, you’ll be able to reduce your negative environmental impact and help conserve the earth’s resources!
When it comes to plastic consumption, we usually think about our poor usage of plastic water bottles, bags, straws, and how it pollutes the environment – ending up in the noses of endangered sea turtles. You can now add yourself to the list because according to a study done by the University of Newcastle, Australia, we have actually been ingesting plastic, eating as much as a credit card (approximately five grams) a week!
Our oceans are heavily polluted with the International Union for Conservation of Nature reporting a shocking eight million tons of plastic being dumped a year. This has caused plastics to make up 80% of all marine debris, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments, giving rise to drinking water (both bottled and tap) as the single largest source of plastic ingestion. The plastics break down into microplastics and leak into our food chain with high levels found in shellfish, beer and salt.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics consist of any plastic particles that are smaller than 5mm. Primary microplastics enter the environment as small particulates, such as microbeads and microfibers, and secondary microplastics come from the degradation of larger plastic like plastic bags. Neither of them are biodegradable and have been extremely difficult to remove, causing severe injuries and deaths to marine animals that eat or get entangled in the plastic debris.
How do they affect our health?
A number of scientists and organizations, including the World Health Organization, are growing concerned by the potential negative health effects of plastics. Although more research is needed, the Plastic Health Coalition was formed to find out evidence on the endocrine disrupting chemicals, which are usually found in plastics, and their link to our hormones and immune systems, and causing cancer.
What can we do to reduce plastic consumption?
- Switch out face scrubs with harmful microbeads for chemical exfoliators. Not only are they more gentle on your skin – they are more effective too! Find out more in our beginner’s guide to chemical exfoliation here.
- Look out for the “Zero Plastic Inside” logo, which can be hard to find, so Beat The Microbead (an international campaign against plastic in cosmetics) has created a search engine to help you find out what products still contain microbeads and microplastics ingredients.
- If you’ve already made the change from single-use makeup wipes to a reusable makeup remover cloth, please make sure It’s not a microfiber cloth as they are not biodegradable. See our list of reusable beauty products for natural cotton and bamboo alternatives.
- Plastic water bottles contain twice the amount of microplastics than tap water. Avoid consuming these particles by finally giving up the disposables and using a refillable water bottle.
- Use loose tea leaves instead of plastic teabags as they have been found to release billions of microplastics into your tea itself. Unfortunately, manufacturers have replaced traditional paper tea bags with plastic ones.
As you’ve noticed from restaurants not using plastic straws and stores charging for plastic bags, Malaysia already has a roadmap towards zero single-use plastics in place. It’s a great first step for us to be more mindful of our everyday consumption, but to take further action against plastic pollution, you can check out these campaigns and get involved:
We’ve done a great job of replacing plastic straws with reusable alternatives, but what about the multiple cotton pads we dispose of everyday? Whether used for removing makeup or applying toner, it produces a lot of unnecessary waste that, fortunately, we can now cut back on. Here are six sustainable beauty products to make our everyday habits less wasteful (and more economical):
These super soft alternatives from The Mine Raw come in a set of five – just toss them into the washing machine before reuse.
Made with bamboo sticks and natural cotton, these compost-friendly swabs from The Hive are 100% biodegradable.
The size might be intimidating at first, but menstrual cups aren’t just greener – they’re also easier and healthier, according to the award-winning, OrganiCup.
If you’re still not convinced by menstrual cups, The Hive has a few eco-friendly pad options which are washable.
Antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, these bamboo cloth wipes are a brilliant alternative to makeup remover wipes, especially for sensitive skin.
- Silicone Masks
Swap out sheet masks for a single silicone mask cover from Daiso – place it over a hydrating mask or essence to lock in the moisture.
Not only are these options more sustainable, but they simplify your life too! You won’t have to make as many trips to the store as these products last-longer – that’s a win for your time, money and the earth! Reduce consumption, reduce waste.