Do you want to be more environmentally friendly at home, but don't know where to start or think it's too expensive? As a low waste consumer myself, my friends have taken note of my habits and often point out their conscious efforts to me, we are both proud of. One friend recently asked "how do I get started being more Eco-friendly? I have looked at buying Eco products, but they are expensive."
As a privileged society we are becoming more conscious about our footprint, lifestyle and what we consume (which is a great step forward). It is encouraging to see the community opting for plastic free food, drinking from reusable cups and buying second-hand.
In my opinion the problem with the low waste movement is that it's seen as a trend and not a lifestyle choice, to help the environment. Companies create 'eco products' and put a big price tag on it. But living a more Eco-friendly life doesn't mean you need to become part of a trend and buy unnecessary stuff. You can make your own conscious effort, the way it works with your lifestyle!
We see others plastic free homes on social media, presenter neatly and nicely photographed. It is completely unrealistic. Social media is half of the problem in the expense of the low waste trend - everyone compares their lives to shine over social media, when ultimately nobody's homes or lifestyle look like that!
It is unrealistic to try and change your habits all in one go, when all you can compare yourself to is what you see on social media. Taking small steps and making one change at a time is more realistic and sustainable for your personal budget.
Where to start for Eco/Low waste beginners...
Use up what you already have
Save glass jars, plastic bottles, bags etc. you don't need fancy new jars or label makers to create a plastic free pantry. In fact, I have lots of plastic in my cupboards because it is more sustainable to re-use what I already have, instead of recycling and buying something new and fancy. Then I can fill my jars at the supermarket or refillery store with grains, flour, nuts etc.
'Need' a new outfit for a new event? Put together something you already have in your wardrobe, or swap clothes with a friend for that dress you've been eyeing up they wear! This also works with other home items, if you're decluttering some old clothes or towels, cloths etc. they might be good material for something else like re-usable wipes that you usually buy as a disposable option.
Make your own
There are new trends each week; fashion, beauty, health etc. and it's difficult to not buy into something new when it might aid your eco living lifestyle. For me I saw re-usable make-up wipes and the price-tag was quite high, so I made my own from old cotton t-shirts. I've done this with dish cloths by knitting my own and also making my own beeswax wraps which replace plastic food wrap. It is easy to buy something new because it is a quick solution, but if you're on a budget, use your time and make your own!
As I said before, it's difficult not to buy into the latest trends. Buying new clothes is a hard habit to break, but something old (and in good condition) to someone else is new to you. Buying second-hand for all home and fashion goods is a great way to recycle and upcycle a new outfit or piece of furniture!
Shop around and buy local
It took me a while to find the closest and cheapest fruit & vegetable shop, but I have found opting for a local grocery store to buy fresh fruit & vegetable is cheaper than the supermarket. Almost all items are plastic free and are sourced locally, contributing to your local community.
8 budget Eco-friendly products to get you started...
Tui reusable cotton bags - take these fruit & vegetable shopping, fill them with baked goods, use on a picnic, use as travel toiletries bag. There are so many uses for re-usable cotton bags
Keep Cup - a simple, lightweight on the go coffee (or tea cup) to replace disposable plastic cups
Water bottle - why buy disposable plastic bottles when you can save money and re-fill your own bigger bottle
Bamboo toothbrush - here in New Zealand bamboo toothbrushes can be bought at big supermarkets for cheaper than a plastic toothbrush, saving you money! Bamboo toothbrushes can be composted, providing less landfill and ocean waste
Refillable shampoo & conditioner OR shampoo bar - I use Eco Store shampoo & conditioner, where I can refill my bottles at their store or at GoodFor refillery. I used to use a shampoo bar, good for travelling and less plastic waste. You can get these from mainstream shops like Lush or a great brand I used was Ethique
Menstrual cup - this has been my biggest money saver! I use the Moon Cup purchased from the UK. It cost me around $55, which will last me decades and saves lots of sanitary towels and tampons being sent to landfill
Loose teabags & teapot - I love my tea, but did you know teabags contain plastic and cannot be composted? I now use loose tea leaves (cheaper to buy than teabags at my local bulk food store) and a lovely teapot I purchased from a second-hand shop
Re-usable make-up wipes - disposable make-up wipes are a big beauty waster! To save money on these packs, it is very easy to make your own or buy cotton pads you can wash and re-use time and time again. Pair these with 3 tbsp of witchhazel and 2 tbsp of coconut in a jar for a remover solution and you're good to go!
These are just a few simple ways to get you started if you're interested in taking small steps to lowering your footprint! Please do get in touch if you have any specific questions, or share your own tips, I would love to hear them!