Out of ideas to reduce plastic usage in your home life? We’ve got you covered!
It’s heartbreaking to scroll through social media and read news of yet another marine animal dying from ingesting plastic. A whale shark was found dead on Tanjung Aru beach in Sabah earlier this month with a large plastic shopping bag lodged in its gastrointestinal tract. This is one of the many causes of animal casualties that have become common in oceans all over the world these days.
Plastic pollution is rampant and there’s only so much we can do to contain the problem before more irreversible damage sets in.
Single-use plastics are one of the biggest culprits in our home disposals. Think plastic bottles that store your soaps, detergents, product packaging, drinks and food. Most of the plastics for these items are unnecessary and cost you money (plastic costs are factored into the price of goods you buy). Hidden dangers such as bisphenol A (BPA)-tainted food and microplastics in our water sources are already present in our everyday lives and we DON’T even realise this!
So, how can we reduce the harmful impact on the environment and ourselves? Let’s start with making these changes at home.
HOME & KITCHEN
There are already so many ways to reduce plastic waste at home, such as buying in bulk instead of packaged items, reusable bags and tupperwares for take-away food and so on. What else can we do to reduce our plastic usage further?
1. Avoid buying plastic plates & bowls for your kitchen
“But they’re so cheap and durable!” – you might say. Yes, we know. But plastic bowls do not last as long as porcelain, glass, ceramics or metal wares. In fact, they get micro-scratches easily from the use of metal utensils, which can trap germs and bacteria, making it absolutely unsanitary for your family. Investing a little extra on porcelain or ceramic wares for your home may just give you a better bang for your buck in the long run.
2. Say no to cling wrap!
With so much food consumed at the various festivities in Malaysia, cling wrap has become such a commonly used household item. However, these filmy plastic materials are often found floating in oceans or lodged in some sea creature’s throat after they’re thrown away. Plus, some brands of cling wrap are known to contain phthalates which are harmful to your health! Alternatively, you can use beeswax wraps or silicone covers to cover your food instead. Both options are reusable and easy to clean!
3. Go chemical-free
Everything we use to clean our kitchen and home contain some sort of chemicals. These often come in large plastic bottles which usually end up in our local landfills after use. Do you know that items like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and apple cider vinegar are some of the most powerful and toxic-free items you can have in your kitchen? In fact, you can use a mix of these with plain ol’ water to clean your floors, dining wares, walls, tiles and even toilet bowls. This lethal combination not only brightens surfaces and kills germs, they even deter ants from your home – plus they are pet and child-friendly!
Most Malaysians these days are still getting used to the idea of working from home. But does working from home mean that you should bring home ‘office’ habits too? Sometimes, we just can’t help it! Luckily, we have a few small hacks to improve your productivity, without making any compromises to work quality.
1. Invest in a good coffee tumbler
Whether you’re working at home or in an office, one always needs coffee to function well. We all know that one colleague who has a collection of 20 different Starbucks tumblers, but still asks for a take-away cup whenever they order a cuppa. Our advice? Invest in a good tumbler that has good insulation for hot or cold beverages, a handle and spill-proof lid. Don’t buy one simply based on brand names or trends. If you do, make a conscious effort to use it more often. Don’t forget – a metal straw would complement your tumbler greatly, especially if you love your iced lattes.
2. Buy second-hand electronics
In our digital era, it definitely pays to use more electronic devices and less paper. But with newer models of smartphones, tablets and laptops launched every year, it’s tempting to constantly upgrade. Unfortunately, this causes a build-up of electronic waste in our landfills – most of which contain plastics. Most electronic devices these days have firmware updates and can last you at least 3 years or more – so why not get a second-hand gadget, or repair a faulty one instead of repurchasing?
3. Avoid disposable pens
It’s hard to avoid them. We get free plastic biro pens wherever we go these days – from hotels to public relations (PR) events. It is also commonly used as free gifts with retail purchases. We should definitely squash our love and habit for ‘free gifts’ and refuse free pens, especially if we don’t need one. Try refillable pens instead. You have the options of using biro, gel or ink. Fountain pens are an eco-friendly choice which allows you to switch ink colours easily. Though they might cost a little more, they look great and can last you a lifetime.
Last and most importantly, items that we use for self-care are the number one culprit for plastic waste. These include items such as toothpaste, body and hair shampoo and shavers. Most of these items last us only a short while, but they create so much waste each time we replenish them.
1. Alternatives for washing body and hair
Many brands are going package-less these days and selling plastic-free shampoo and body soap bars. However, these package-less items are sometimes sold at much higher prices than soaps in plastic bottles. This defeats the purpose of going package-less as most people would naturally prefer the cheaper, plastic option. Why not make your own body soap – easy tutorials are all over YouTube. Or try the ancient ritual of rice water shampoo (made from washing actual rice) to clean your hair? (Yes, it’s a thing!) Pure coconut oil is also a well-known and loved hair conditioner (as a plus, it serves as a makeup remover too).
2. Waste-free period
Ladies, listen up! Our sanitary pads are a major problem in landfills in almost every country – every woman uses a minimum of 120 pads a year, which adds up to A LOT of waste. Thankfully, the last few years have seen an uptick in the trend for menstrual cups. A one-time cup purchase can save a woman from buying 15 years’ worth of pads (that’s 1,800 pads and a lot of money saved!) and it helps to reduce unsanitary waste from piling up in our landfills!
3. Use mom’s best friend – aloe vera
Some of us may recall the days where our moms plucked an aloe vera leaf to apply its gel onto our sunburns or little cuts. Aloe vera is a plant with all sorts of benefits. Sadly, we seem to have forgotten about in our appetite for attractively packaged beauty products in retail stores. Why not try aloe vera as a face mask or as a scalp refresher? They also make a great skin soother for razor burns or wax-strip stings. Plus, you can even use the leftovers to make a nice cup of aloe vera tea.
We hope you found these tips useful! They are all really simple, but make a great and positive impact to our environment, even if we don’t see the results immediately. Save yourself some cash and create less trash!