In January 2020, I made a New Year’s resolution to become a more ethical and sustainable consumer. Little did I know that this choice would be the one actual New Year’s resolution that I have ever actually stuck with and completed.
To start off my journey, I made the simple goal of only buying secondhand clothing for the year. I had just learned about fast fashion at the end of 2019, and I was becoming more and more aware of how much I spent on clothing that I didn’t even actually like. I was just buying something because it was cute or I was bored, and what I was buying wasn’t even that good of quality.
That simple behavior switch has done a lot for me already and probably saved me a ton of money. A huge part of changing your lifestyle is changing those impulsive behaviors that cause the most trouble for you. For me, that was to stop shopping when I was bored and finding joy in making purchases.
It was really important for me early on to not buy a bunch of zero waste swaps that I didn’t really need, so the first thing that I always did was try and see if I could live without my more wasteful products. If I couldn’t, or if I was missing it from my routine, then I would try and find the more sustainable alternative.
One of the most versatile products that I’ve found overall are wash cloths and dish cloths. I made the switch this year to only using rags for cleaning up so that I wouldn’t have to buy paper towels. I initially thought that this was going to be a hard behavior to start, but it was surprisingly one of the easiest for me. I simply just found a bunch of old dish cloths that my mother didn’t use anymore and took them with me to college. All of the cloths are in one drawer in the kitchen next to the sink and are so easy to grab. For now, whenever a cloth is dirty enough, my roommate and I just throw the cloths in with our laundry, but I think in the future when I have my own place that I will have a bucket under the sink where I can put them out of sight and then be able to wash them all together.
I also was able to cut out disposable cotton rounds completely from my routine and swapped the single-use item for just a washcloth instead. I personally think that reusable cotton rounds are dumb and mostly a gimmick, and if you want to know why, you can read my zero waste rant about them here. Basically, everyone that I know owns washcloths already, so you can just use one of those to remove your makeup or wash your face.
The next thing that I did was start investing in reusables and eco-friendly alternatives that I knew I would use right away in my life. The first swap I actually purchased was my Leaf Shave razor, which had a pretty hefty price tag of $80, and it was worth every penny that I spent. I have actually gotten double my money’s worth from Leaf Shave already when my first razor had a little hiccup and they sent me a whole new one for free, no questions asked.
I also started assessing the unnecessary plastic and waste in my life by just going through my things, writing down the most wasteful things in my life and then going online to try and find any natural and sustainable alternatives for them. For example, I knew that I didn’t want to continue buying jugs of laundry detergent, so I looked at powdered alternatives, eco nuts, the new laundry strips, etc. I ended up deciding on using the EcoEgg (review here) instead because of its overall cost-effectiveness.
Now in some instances, I might not have gone with the most sustainable product out there just because of monetary restraints or just my status in life. Right now, I’m about to start my last semester of college this January, so I’m trying to save up money to move after graduation, and a lot of things that I would like to get wouldn’t do me any good right now considering I don’t have my own place.
To say that I have met my true goal of becoming a more ethical and sustainable consumer would be premature, as I believe that you can never stop being better in the pursuit of your goals, especially lifestyle goals. I am constantly learning about new things and continuing to find new products that are helping me get closer and closer to that goal, but I don’t know if anyone can ever truly be 100% zero waste. This was definitely a New Year’s resolution that I knew was going to be a huge commitment and last perhaps my whole lifetime, but with the world and society in the state that it is with climate change, I also knew how important it was for me to become responsible for myself, my actions, and my waste.