Thursday, 11 December 2014

Reducing my waste footprint

I've been meaning to write this post for months but haven't gotten around to it, but this article in The Age today about the plastic count in the ocean has reminded me to get on to it. It estimates there is 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating on the ocean's surface. That doesn't include plastics further down in the water column, on the bottom of the ocean floor, or washed up on beaches.


The amount of rubbish that ends up in the oceans really saddens me. Although in places like Australia we attempt to prevent rubbish from entering the oceans to a certain degree, in other places around the world I've traveled to, they have amazing beaches but they're completely ruined by all the rubbish.  I know that a lot of these places don't have the technology or money to spend on preventing rubbish from entering waterways, but just the sheer lack of understanding or concern by so many people around the world about where rubbish ends up really bothers me.  I still see people here throwing rubbish out of cars or dropping cigarette butts on the ground, despite all the education campaigns and money we have to spend on preventing actions like that. I guess no amount of education will change the behavior of selfish assholes who think about nothing else but themselves.

If you really want to be depressed, Google 'The Great Pacific Garbage Patch'. It is so fucked up what we're doing to this planet, fundamentally I think we've screwed it up beyond the point of repair, not just in relation to rubbish but in relation to climate change as well. I've been studying Masters of Environmental Science for a couple of years now and it really doesn't give you much hope for the future when ALL of your lecturers express the opinion that we're well beyond the tipping point and, barring some kind of cull of the human population, we're all doomed.

But, instead of being completely depressed about it, I have been trying to do what I can to reduce my own waste footprint so that less of what I consume ends up in the oceans or stuck in landfill for many many years to come.

Warning:  In the next section I'm going to mention periods, if you don't wanna hear about that then maybe look away now, go look at memes of grumpy cat or something. 

The first thing I've done in the past few months to reduce my waste footprint is to switch from tampons and normal pads to using a cup and cloth pads. What is a cup you may ask? It is a re-useable silicon or rubber cup that you use as you would a tampon, however, the beauty of it is that you just need one of them which will last for years, so you don't have to be constantly buying and disposing of tampons. If you think about how many tampons and pads you will use in your lifetime it's quite scary. I started my period at 11 and will probably have it until I'm 45 or so, that's 30 odd years worth of using approx 15 tampons a month, that's a LOT of tampons and wrappers that end up in landfill, not to mention all the raw materials that are used to make them. There are other types of cup that are made of rubber or other materials but the cup I went with is the Lunette, it looks like this (I have the blue one):

It was actually quite random that I ended up trying one, I remember at a party earlier this year someone had mentioned that someone they knew had received one as a gift from a relative and we all thought it was totally weird and gross and who would want to tip blood out of a cup every month? But one afternoon when I was supposed to be studying I got all crazy about reducing my waste footprint and for some reason it was the first thing I googled and now I would have to say that switching to a cup is hands down the best decision I've made for my health in forever. I love it.

It's so easy, you don't have to think about it all day because they can stay in for 12 hours (depending on your flow). I only have to change it once a day and you can even use it overnight, although I haven't done that yet.  Yes, you do have to deal with blood if you want to use one, but I actually find it cool because you get to see what's going on down there. That might sound hippy dippy, but I had no idea it was so varied and that there was actually so little of it! The other thing is that because you only have to deal with it about once a day, you can just do it when you're home, so you never have to worry about emptying it when you're in public. That said, it's really not that hard.

I've only had a minor leakage issue once, but it's just a matter of re-positioning it and you're good to go. I've had way worse issues with tampons. The other thing is that because they're not absorbent, they don't dry everything up. They're fine for using when swimming, during crazy crossfit workouts, basically everywhere. They're also great for travelling because you only need to bring it, not an entire bag full of tampons.

I could go on about them for days, but if you're keen on trying one then I highly recommend watching these two videos, there are others out there but these two in particular I found really helpful:

Cups are not for everyone, if you're squeamish you might struggle, if you're not cool with sticking your fingers up there you might struggle and some people might just struggle for anatomical reasons, but, for me, I think they're fantastic and I encourage everyone who is curious to give it a try.
I'm not so sold on cloth pads yet, they're kind of like wearing a nappy because they tend to be really thick, I think I'll just start using the cup overnight instead.

End Period talk! 

The other thing I've done is to switch away from liquid soaps and body washes which come in a plastic container and back into using bar soaps that come in paper slips. I've also switched from using facewash that comes in a plastic bottle to using a bar of tea-tree castile soap and I'm about to switch from using shampoo and conditioner from plastic bottles into using bar shampoo and conditioner, ie. like the ones from Beauty and the Bees:


The only reason I haven't switched yet is because I still have some left that I'm using up.
I'm also trying to buy grocery items that are in glass, cardboard etc. rather than plastic, although for some things it seems impossible. I also try to buy in bulk rather than buying heaps of little containers of things.

So those are some of the ways I'm trying to reduce my own waste footprint. I also pick up rubbish in my street when I see it and I'm trying to find a group to join that cleans up along the beaches, but I haven't had much luck with that. Really I should just go and grab a rubbish bag and some gloves and do it myself.

Although I think we're screwed in the long run, I do think there are things all of us can do every day to reduce our impact on the planet.