I spent years looking to lifestyle bloggers, bloggers, and everything in between in order to be a more responsible citizen of the planet. I became obsessed with trends like zero waste, composting, reducing packaging. I wanted to leave as little of a carbon footprint on the planet as I could. Honestly, I would get burnt out trying to ensure every tiny thing I did was better for our Earth.
The truth is, we take up space and consume in order to exist. We require fuel for our bodies and tools for our day to day lives. Is the attempt to be a better citizen of the planet futile?
My still very hopeful self says NO WAY. We need to accept our human condition of being consumers in order to begin thinking creatively to become mindful consumers. In the grand scheme of things, our daily actions may be small, but they move others to be more mindful as well. This Earth Day, I’ve decided to share how I’ve been able to integrate small habits that help me be a more mindful consumer.
Start With the Bathroom
Ever stop and take a look around your bathroom and count how many bottles and containers are there? I sure have. They once taunted me with their shiny, non-biodegradable plastic shells. These days, you can have a bottle for everything: lotions, perfumes, soaps, hair products, and more. My younger, more intense self would have tossed it all away (after using it all up, of course), and sworn off buying anything in a bottle ever again.
Over time, I have come to accept that I need certain things to be, you know, hygienic. Not to mention, it is nice to be able to have something nice, simply for the sake of having a nice thing. Once I accepted this, I started getting creative. Can shampoo come in a non-liquid form? How about toothpaste? Do I even need hair conditioner? I found a plethora of packaging free products (or, at the very least, plastic-free) that sought to serve the mindful consumer.
I’ve even gotten smart about paring down the products I need to use at all – living in a small space (150 feet squared), has made me think through purchases more. For example, rather than having hair conditioner, hand and body lotion, I have pared down to just a jar of coconut oil. When we get smart and creative about our consumption, we can make a world of difference.
Next, Rethink Paper Needs
We don’t typically think of paper waste as being a huge deal – and honestly, it is something much kinder to the environment than plastic. But it takes up space, and can be riddled with chemicals. Not to mention, there is a classy alternative to the paper napkin. Hear me out.
Growing up, anytime my family went to visit relatives in Spain, we would get our own little cloth napkin with our own napkin ring to mark it as ours. We would reuse them for a few meals, wash ’em, and be able to use the napkins again. No trash, and high class. Cloth napkins are the norm in my home now, and we are never going back.
Bidets have also made quite the mark in Western society (FINALLY). While I don’t have one, multiple companies sell relatively inexpensive bidet attachments that fit on any old toilet. You can also go the east Asian route, and get a handheld spray bidet (my fave). This reduces your toilet paper needs, and honestly saves your ass. Once you go bidet, you never go back.
If a bidet still makes you squirm a bit (we’ve all been there), then opting for toilet paper wrapped in paper rather than plastic is a great way to be a more mindful consumer.
Gianna, another writer on this blog, is a long time thrifter who has finally convinced me to give it a go. While I thrifted plenty while living overseas, it seemed a bit more difficult to do in the USA. This is mostly because I don’t know how to thrift without haggling in the hot sun in a non-English language. However, after finally diving in with online thrifting (because the pandemic), I can happily confirm I am fully converted.
You can choose to buy secondhand with more than just clothing – shops and online tools like Craigslist make it an adventure to buy things secondhand for better prices and good quality. I have become more into thrifting household items and spare boat parts since moving aboard – there is so much stuff everywhere, so why not buy secondhand if it is an option and accessible to you?
Are you ready to consume mindfully?
Please know that the things I’ve talked about in this article are entirely based on my lifestyle and what I have had access to. I realize that some “green” things are expensive, unavailable, or not realistic for others. I hope this post can at least serve as a spur to think more creatively about how each of us consumes, and find ways to give Mother Earth the love she deserves.