(Photo: Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Justin Hofman)
If you’ve never thought of the massively negative impacts of consumerism on widely varied items and products to our society and especially the planet, now is the time. Better late than never. There are many global scale facts and figures already available on the internet, collected and researched by governments, academia, companies, NGOs, organizations, and many more for you to be able to see the bigger pictures.
As for know, from those widely varied items and products, we’ve compiled some of them which are in the sanitary and hygiene area for you to start using them thoughtfully and eco-consciously. Noted that limiting, stopping, reducing, or recycling the use of already owned things is more advised than buying new things. But there are exceptions when taking the long term costs and benefits of things into account.
Also, there is no such thing as the perfectly combined of sustainably produced, environmentally friendly, carbon zero, and cruelty-free items or products. We just couldn’t achieved it altogether and at the same time. Some may have multiple benefits but still, logically and theoretically, we can’t create things from nothing. It will always use the already available energy and resources.
So think of what cause you wanted more to support and what benefits you want to gain. Is it to stopping the environmental impacts on the oceans or reducing your carbon footprints, is it to lowering your energy bills and grocery budget or making and having everything healthy, vegan, and cruelty-free?
A toothbrush is one of the staple personal hygiene instruments. It’s used ideally in conjunction with toothpaste and mouthwash. A toothbrush product generally consists of a polypropylene plastic handle, a nylon bristles attached to the head of the brush, and its cardboard and/or plastic containers. Both polypropylene plastic and nylon are sourced from fossil fuels.
Manufacturing of nylon creates nitrous oxide (N2O), a 310 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. And as we know, the plastic handle and containers could sit in a landfill for a long time and release toxic chemicals as it decays. If it doesn’t get in the landfills, it ends up in the waterways and oceans where marine creatures can mistake them for food.
The manufacturing of toothbrushes is processed mechanically. It begins with molding the plastic handles, filling it with the bristles, packaged into the containers, then shipped in boxes to distributors. The handle materials can be made of plastic, bamboo, wood, etc. The bristles materials can be made soft or hard and natural (i.e., boar) or synthetic (i.e., nylon). Other types than the traditional toothbrush are toothbrush with a non-disposable handle and a replaceable bristle head, and electric toothbrush.
In the US, a person purchases on average of three toothbrushes every two years, although it’s recommended to change it every 3-4 months by the ADA. For the national scale, around 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away every year and 50 million pounds of it are added to landfills. The manufacture and distribution phases account for 50% of the total eco-costs of a toothbrush.
To start using a toothbrush product eco-consciously is to make full use of it, to recycle it if possible, and to know and choose the available options on a more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly toothbrush. An old toothbrush can be used for household cleaning: scrub floors, faucets, drains, or polish rings and other jewelry.
Before purchasing any new toothbrush products, look or research for products with a biodegradable or recycled polypropylene plastic handle, BPA-free nylon or natural bristles, and biodegradable container. Find out if the materials, for example, bamboo, were harvested from sustainably-grown bamboo farms. If you are vegetarian, vegan, or just wanted it to be cruelty-free, avoid natural bristles made from pig hair.
2. Hair and body products
Hair products (i.e., shampoos, conditioners, gel, mousse) and body products (i.e., solid and liquid soaps) contain a long list of chemicals. Some of them are harmful enough like sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, methylisothiazolinone, as well as ureas and parabens.
From an environmental perspective, a lot of people using a lot of shampoo and soaps every day means a lot of toxic chemicals that are drained to the water system that feeds rivers, lakes, and oceans. Sodium laureth sulfate can build up in the environment and stay there for a long time.
Cosmetic ingredients including hair and body products have traditionally been tested on animals to reduce its risk to human’s health. There are many ways for the substances to be administered ranging from orally, applied to the skin, inhaled, and injected. The confinement, restraining, and the test will very likely cause stress and unnecessary suffering for the animals, and also could cost its life during the process.
To start using hair and body products eco-consciously is to use it and the energy as efficient as possible, and to know and choose the available options on a more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly hair and body products. The cheapest and easiest options are to wash with traditional hair and body products and water. When washing your body or hair, use less water and cooler water.
Before purchasing any, look or research the ingredients listed on the hair and body products. You can find some online database that grades products upon how toxic it is. Look for a plant-based, sulfate-free, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and minimally packaged products.
3. Face washes and cleansers
Many face cleansers contain palm oil. The demand for palm oil is contributing to huge deforestation across the world. Palm oil comes under many names on ingredients lists. It might listed as palm fruit oil, vegetable oil or fat, or sodium lauryl sulfate.
Also, some face washes are still using microbeads as an exfoliant. It can be found in other hygiene products. It is a polyethylene beads that is bad for the skin and the environment. Since they’re too small and don’t biodegrade quickly, they end up polluting the waterways down to the oceans. Marine creatures may mistake them for food. In the US, around 8 billion microbeads are polluting the US aquatic habitats daily, which is approximately 2.9 trillion beads per year.
To start using face washes and cleansers products eco-consciously is to use it as efficient as possible, to be able to recycle it, and to know and choose the available options on a more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly products. When in use, use less water and reduce its temperature to conserve energy.
Find out brands that offer refill services. Also, find out the best way to dispose and recycle them, either individually or that is offered by the brands’ store. Before purchasing any, look or research the ingredients listed on the products. Look for a palm oil-free and microbeads-free cleansers. You can look at this list of products containing palm oil by the WWF.
4. Deodorants and antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants help in keeping one cool, fresh, sweat-free, and gives a pleasant odor. The difference between them is that deodorants prevent bacteria growth on the skin and mask the odor through fragrance while antiperspirants mask the odor and also reduces the amount of sweat produced with astringents. These products come in many forms such as aerosol sprays, roll-ons, sticks, etc.
Some of the key ingredients are aluminum, parabens, propylene glycol, and triclosan. Other than its health risks to cause cancer, skin diseases, and Alzheimer’s, it affects the environment too. The CFC’s present in an aerosol spray has long been replaced by liquid propellant. So, they don’t pose a threat to the ozone layer but still have high amounts of VOCs, a contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog.
To start using deodorants and antiperspirants products eco-consciously is to use it as efficient as possible, to know and choose the available options on a more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly products, and to make sure it’s as zero waste as possible. Before purchasing any, look or research on the ingredients first.
The most recommended option is to go organic/natural. Some of plant oils and extracts that have antimicrobial activity and sweat soaking capability are coconut oil, shea butter, bergamot, kaolin clay, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, and many others. Beware that if it contains aluminum, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, synthetics, and other with the words “poly-“, “-eth-“, or “oxy”, it’s not a natural and eco-friendly deodorant.
In addition to containing natural ingredients, it also should be as zero waste as possible. Using a reusable, compostable, and/or recyclable packaging. Better yet, it’s palm oil free, vegan, cruelty-free, and have ethical ingredient sourcing policies.
5. Dental floss
Using a dental floss may not be as common as using a toothbrush in many countries. A string of regular floss is usually made of plastic known as nylon and coated with PFCs, as well as BPA, phthalates, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals. A 2019 study on the Journal Nature found that conventional flosses may contain fluorine, a harmful chemical. Nylon is a petroleum-based material that is non-biodegradable.
Since nylon floss is virtually impossible to recycle, it ends up in landfills where it turns into microplastics and pollute the soil and groundwater, or ends up in incineration plants, polluting the air. Typically, it comes in plastic packaging, which is non-biodegradable, which means more plastic waste. Concerning the marine life, dental floss threads could entangle, injure, or kill marine animals and sea birds.
To start using dental flosses products eco-consciously is to use it as efficient as possible, to know and choose the available options on a more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly products, and to make sure it’s as zero waste as possible. Before purchasing any, look or research on the threads material, threads coating, and packaging material.
The most popular alternatives to the standard nylon PFCs-coated floss that is biodegradable, chemical-free, eco-friendly, and healthy are silk floss and bamboo floss. Silk flosses are natural and use plant-based candelilla wax, a vegan alternative to beeswax, as oppose to PFCs. The downside, silk floss mostly isn’t vegan since, in the silk harvesting process, the silkworms need to be killed. But some brands that don’t harm or kill the silkworms in the process.
As for bamboo flosses, it doesn’t contain any preservatives, artificial colors, gluten, or sweeteners. It’s also free of potentially harmful wax used in many nylon flosses. For packaging, several companies offer it in small reusable glass bottles and metal canisters. Some can also be refillable and compostable.
6. Cotton swabs
Cotton swabs, cotton buds, or Q-tips are commonly used in a variety of applications like cleaning, cosmetic application, first aid, and arts & crafts. It’s most popular use is for ear cleaning although physicians have warned for years that it isn’t safe.
Cotton swabs generally comes in a plastic stick and cotton wool. Because there is plastic and it’s a single-use product, they add to the burden that our landfills, waterways, and the marine ecosystem has already had.
Several countries have introduced plastic-stemmed cotton swabs ban of sale and use, such as Italy in 2019, Scotland in 2019, and upcoming ban in 2020 in England and Wales, and 2021 in the Isle of Man and the EU.
To start using cotton swabs products eco-consciously is to use it as efficient as possible, to know and choose the available options on more sustainably produced and environmentally friendly products, and to dispose of it properly. Before purchasing any, look or research on the
Of course, always look for plastic-free cotton swabs. Also, the ones which are is eco-friendly and biodegradable when composted. Alternatives are paper, wood, or bamboo-stemmed cotton swabs. For the cotton wool, choose the ones which are made from 100% organic cotton wool and also certified. For the packaging, opt to cardboard box rather than a plastic tub.
In contributing to marine pollution, plastic cotton swabs are often incorrectly flushed down the toilet. For disposing of, throw them in the bin and don’t flush them down the toilet, even if you use the biodegradable ones.
Last updated on January 8, 2020