I have a minor pack-rat mentality.
I like deals. I like to stock up when the prices are good. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, books, food, or body-care products.
In the case of body-care products, I overestimate how much I can use and how long it takes me to finish a single bottle. As a result, I have enough product to last me years. And for a girl that wants to go low waste ASAP, having a cupboard of non-recyclable body creams sucks.
Before working part-time at Bath and Body Works, I can recall stepping into the store twice, both times in search of presents. I didn’t own body creams, shower gels, body scrubs, or body sprays expect for a few odd bottles of the stuff that had been gifts.
I worked at the company for just over a year and you can see from the pictures how much stuff I amassed. The sad part is, that’s not even all of it. I’ve given A LOT away and some I haven’t showed you.
Despite my parents warning me I could never use all the stuff I bought and deep down knowing that I had way too much, I kept snatching up the deals. A few months ago, I finally realized that enough was ENOUGH.
My version of enough was way too much.
My parents taught me and my sisters to be thrifty from a young age. When we first started earning money through odd jobs, birthdays and Christmas my parents made us keep track of what we tithed, put aside for savings and what we could spend.
When I was younger and we lived in BC, money was tight. My dad worked but my mom stayed at home to homeschool. We shopped for clothes at the thrift store, a lot of the meat we ate came from my grandma when she had too much, we had a garden which provided a lot of fresh produce, we camped as vacation instead of travelling, we didn’t get a lot of cheese, we shopped deals, and we never ate out unless it was at Wendy’s.
As a result, my family was active and creative and full of imagination. It doesn’t cost much to go for a bike ride or a roller blade (second-hand purchases). Paper and markers didn’t cost much. The library is free (so long as you remember to return your books on time).
When we moved over a decade ago, my mom started working and eventually she too got a good job. Now we live comfortably and the thrifty mentality we had, while still very much prevalent in our shopping for deals and getting things on sale, has morphed. We can afford to eat out, we buy new, and we go on vacations across the country and down into the U.S.
As I tell my mom more and more about what I’m reading, what I want to do, and what I’ve already done in my pursuit of low-waste living it reminds her of the way we used to live.
While I am grateful for the life I live, my ability to consume has come back to bite me. I have bottles of body cream, shower gel, shower cream, exfoliating scrub, and body spray to go through before I can switch to more sustainable options. I have another plastic loofa to use up, five or so face masks in plastic sheaths, plastic wrapped bath bombs, plastic razors… the list of things I need to use up before replacing them with alternative, plastic-free, low-waste options is seemingly endless.
As I use things up, I replace them with reusables and alternatives. It will remain my methodology until eventually I have a streamlined, low-waste routine.
Here are the major things I’ve already adopted:
Reusable snack and sandwich bags
Sometime in late February or early March I purchased a duo of reusable bags. Since then they have replaced all plastic sandwich bags in my life. The only time I have used a plastic sandwich bag since then was in April when I took a last-minute plane trip across the country.
Feeling bad about my plastic bag, I noticed a woman in the bathroom with a clear plastic, reusable pencil case to hold all her liquids. Before I travel again, I’m going to get one of those.
Reusable shopping bags
I keep these in the trunk of my car – my two favourites are from Indigo. One is a cloth bag with a leaf pattern and the other is a pretty floral bag with a stiff bottom.
I haven’t used a plastic grocery bag in a long time. I still underestimate how much I’ll buy at places like Value Village (mason jars galore) which leads to some interesting balancing acts to avoid that plastic blag.
Reusable produce bags
I’ve used these for mushrooms, mangos, spinach, green onions, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. They replace the thin plastic bags that tear half the time and are thrown away almost as soon as you get home and unload your groceries.
I don’t think I go a single day without a mason jar. I pack my daily smoothie in a large mason jar. It takes care of breakfast for two days. I bring my mason jars with me to Bulk Barn to fill up on bulk snacks. The other day I left my coffee thermos at my sister’s apartment so I brought a mason jar to church for a cup of free coffee.
I’m sad I don’t get to use this set more (at the same time I am also glad because I’m not in situations that provide plastic cutlery). Most recently I used my fork to eat poutine at the theatre; I used my knife at comiccon and before that I used my bamboo fork at a chip truck (their fries came in cardboard!).
Stainless steel straw
Also, another item I use almost every day. My boyfriend sometimes asks why do you need a straw? Truth is, I don’t. But I enjoy straws. I drink more water if I have one. I like drinking smoothies through straws. Because I didn’t have an option around the house other than plastic, I abandoned them all together.
Now that I have my sustainable alternative, I bring one to work with me everyday. I try to remember to bring one with me to restaurants (although I need to learn to speak up and say no straw please – that’s a real struggle for me. I have a hard time being direct with people).
My favourite restaurant has been super accommodating about the no straw thing.
Stainless steel safety razor
You saw the pictures so you know I still have plastic razors kicking around. Those are now exclusively for travelling and camping and when they’re gone, as far as I’m concerned – they’re gone.
I was initially nervous about switching to my stainless-steel razor and while it’s easier to miss a spot on my knee, I find the shave comparable if not better than what I was getting before with disposable. I’ve only nicked myself once, and it was more minor than most of the other cuts I’ve given myself with a disposable razor.
I still have a long way to go to cut back on single-use plastic items and switch to alternatives, but I love that the green living community is about progress and celebrating successes.
What alternative/reusable items have you recently adopted?