Reducing your waste begins with reducing your consumption. You don't need to go out there and buy every eco-gadget and gizmo to live a low waste life. In fact, you kinda need to do the opposite. BUY LESS!
But there are a few items that you really DO need, and you need to buy them new (but you don't have to buy them all right now.. just when you are ready). Here I have a list for you of the essential items that you need to buy to live with less waste - and guess what? It's a short list! There are only four of them! (and for men, only 3).
1. A toothbrush!
Do you remember your very first toothbrush? Well here's a scary thought... it still exists. As does every toothbrush you've ever owned. A bamboo toothbrush is a great way to start your low waste journey (and definitely not one that you are going to buy second hand!). Bamboo doesn't require any pesticides or insecticides to grow. They also don't require irrigation. This along with the fact that it only takes 4 years for Bamboo to fully grow, makes it an extremely sustainable resource. Bamboo toothbrushes are backyard compostable (except for the bristles) and generally the packaging is too! Check out The Eco Brush, who have offered a 10% discount to The Great Eco Challenge followers with the code GREATECOCHALLENGE.
2. Menstrual care
The fantastic news is that this is also an easy swap and you even have multiple options; a menstrual cup, reusable pads or period underwear (or a combo of two). There are also organic cotton tampons which are better than nothing, but still produce waste. To find out more about these options check out Eco-Challenge 35. All are easy to use and will save you money long term. When you are ready to make this swap, you can buy cups, period underwear and pads from Oh Natural (discount code ECOCHALLENGE for 15% off). Or check out some great NZ businesses; I am Eva Period Underwear, The Hello Cup and Whatakrakka Fancy Pads.
3. Shampoo and Conditioner bars
Give up the bottle and raise the bar instead! Have you ever counted the number of plastic bottles in your bathroom cabinet and shower? 'But I recycle them!' I hear you say. And that is way better than them ending up in landfill, or the ocean. But the truth is that when you recycle a plastic bottle, it doesn't make the problem disappear. That plastic still exists, just in another form. It also involves burning oil to melt it back don to create new products, and that's on top of the energy intensive processes involved in creating the plastic in the first place. To top it all off, current issues with China no longer taking some of our 'recycling' means that putting a plastic bottle in your recycling bin doesn't necessarily mean that it will be recycled.
But never fear... because solid beauty bars are here! These bars are not only plastic free, but they're generally more natural, gentle, cost-effective (taking into account how long they last) and convenient (great for traveling!)
I've tried out a few shampoo and conditioner bars, and there are lots of great companies out there. My personal favourite are Miabelle (use code GREATECOCHALLENGE for 15% off).
4. Safety Razor
Let's talk hair removal! It's something that we don't often give a lot of thought to, but with over 2 billion disposable razors thrown out per year in the US alone, maybe it's time we did. Have you heard of a safety razor? They’re generally made of steel, and the blades are replaceable (and recyclable). While the razor itself is a little investment, the replacement blades are dirt cheap, starting at around 25 cents each. Safety Razors can be used by women as well as men, and are a true zero-waste option.
If it's your first time using a safety razor, check out our blog (A Clean Shave - Safety Razors: the Verdict) for all the info and tips you need.
More things that you will probably need, but may be able to buy second hand/ borrow / make / repurpose something. Of course you are also allowed to buy them!
-Clothes! Second hand shopping is a great option here. I love the 'Everlasting: Recyled with Love' sales, and pick up some stunning clothes for an absolute bargain (plus all proceeds go to charity so everyone wins). I still like to treat myself to a new special item from time to time, and my favourite affordable,sustainable clothing company is Recreate, a New Zealand company with their very own sewing centre in the disadvantaged community of Dey Tmey, Cambodia, empowering people to protect their families, gain a lifelong skill and embrace hope for a better future. (15% off with the code GREATECOCHALLENGE)
-Wet bag - super handy for in your kids' kindy/school bag, or if go to the gym (25% off at the Sleep Store with the code REUSABLES)
-Reusable bags and Produce Bags - Make your own, check out Boomerang Bags and check out the fab produce bags from Earthware - made from repurposed plastic (10% off with code 'ecochallenge10'.)
-Dish Brush - you could repurpose something, or else check out the bamboo ones available (
-Cleaning products - try making your own multipurpose cleaner. Mostly fill a jar with citrus peels and top up with white vinegar. Leave in a dark place for around two weeks and you're good to go! Dilute 50:50 with water. There are lots of other great cleaning recipes online. There are also lots of Eco Store refill stations dotted around the country. Check out http://www.ecostore.co.nz/refill-stations to find your closest.
-Beauty products - you can try making your own - deoderant, face wash and moisturiser are all fairly easy and worth giving a go, or there are more and more sustainable beauty products on the market - way too many to list but Oh Natural are a great place to start looking.
-Compost bin/worm farm - make your own or buy second hand
-Nappies - 2nd hand cloth nappies or Little & Brave Compostable Nappies (Use the code 'thegreatecochallenge for 10% off for the next month) are both fantastic eco-friendly options.
-Hanky - 2nd hand, make your own
-Cloth wipes - make your own
-Reusable containers, wraps - shop your home, make your own, plus check out the range at the Sleep Store and the lovely beeswax wraps from Earthware.
-Pegs - check out bamboo or stainless steel
Some extras that are not essential but nice to have:
-Reusable Coffee Cup - these are really handy if you enjoy a coffee on the go, but you can always take a regular mug, make one out of a jar, or just dine in.
-Reusable drink bottle - shop your own home first as most of us have one (or 5!) in our cupboard, or just use a glass!
-Straws - Also really handy if you like straws, you can get lovely bamboo ones from Earthware, and there are also lots of Stainless Steel ones available. Alternatively, opt for no straw.
-BYO Utensils, also great for when you grap a bit on the go.
Whatever you do, please don't read this and then race out on an eco-friendly shopping spree!