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As a Seattleite who recently moved to Alabama, I was appalled by the lack of appreciation for sustainability. When I first moved here, I immediately noticed how small my recycling bin was. It went from the same size as my trash receptacle to barely the size of a medium moving box! When I called my local waste management to get a run-down of the local recycling procedures, I was taken aback by how little they actually recycled … no glass … no shredded paper … no compost … But, I quickly realized that just because I no longer lived in a green city didn’t mean that I had to abandon my efforts to minimize my negative impact on the environment. And, neither should you!
According to earthday.org, “Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day.” All around the world, from Seattle to Shanghai, people act on behalf of Mother Nature to preserve and repair our environment. Some choose to plant trees while others decide to pick up refuse on the side of the road. Whether you choose to organize a cleanup crew in your neighborhood or contact several of your elected officials concerning public policies of interest to you, the best way to achieve a more sustainable future requires that we first begin with ourselves.
So, here are five easy ways you can transform your current hair and skincare routine into one that is less wasteful.
REFUSE = BUY LESS STUFF
The best way to prevent waste is not to generate any in the first place! Consciously making the decision to refuse to consume does not mean that you somehow just stop generating trash altogether. It means that you actively choose not to consume certain items. For example, you may feel the need to buy expensive anti-aging creams every time you go to the mall. However, you may find that they just sit on your vanity unused and often go to waste. Knowing this, you may decide to quit purchasing them altogether so that you can prevent the amount of waste these products produce.
There are other practical reasons you can choose to make a conscious effort to refrain from buying certain products. Perhaps some of the products you buy are poorly made, use toxic chemicals, or are sourced from inferior materials. Maybe the item has a short shelf life or comes from a brand with questionable ethics. Whatever your rationale behind refusing to make certain purchases, the result is less trash.
Sometimes the best way to start a green lifestyle comes from appreciating the value of learning to do without certain unnecessary things and finding a way to make do with what you already have. This is something that I have committed to do this year by using what I already have in my beauty cabinet before I reach to buy something new.
REDUCE = SAY NO TO WASTE
Want to save money and the Earth’s resources at the same time? Then, the solution is simple. Only buy what you need! Buy things that have a long shelf life or that are locally sourced. Or, rent or borrow items that you will only have an occasional use for in the future.
I know a fellow hair enthusiast who has mid-back length hair and doesn’t own a blow dryer or flat iron. Like me, she only straightens her hair two to three times a year, max. When I asked her whether she made the decision to just go to a local hair salon, she said, “No.” So, of course, I was curious how she managed to straighten her long, natural hair without owning a blow dryer, flat iron, or utilizing the services of a professional. Her answer? She said, she just borrows a blow dryer/flat iron from her sister whenever she feels the urge to rock her hair straight. What a great, practical way to reduce waste and still fulfill a personal need/want at the same time!
Don’t have a sister who will loan out her hair appliances? Offer to share the burden of investment with a trusted friend. Offer a friend to buy a blow dryer in exchange for them buying a flat iron of equal value. Then, share! This saves you money and reduces waste at the same time, especially if you only occasionally straighten your hair. The point, here, is that we all create waste. But, when we do, we should try to make it as little as possible.
Instead of spending 20 minutes in the shower with the water running needlessly, do a little prep ahead of time! Prevent wasting water by making and mixing your pre-poo before you hop in the shower. Have all of your necessary products and tools (e.g., shower comb, shampoo, conditioner, etc) handy before you turn the water on. Consciously make decisions to reduce the amount of waste you produce.
Want other practical ways to reduce waste? Say no to excessive packaging. Avoid buying disposable/single-use items, or things that contain hazardous chemicals. Resist the urge to impulse shop or buy unnecessary multiples of an item. Buy reusable or refillable items. Buy in bulk or economy-size instead of several smaller items that will result in more waste. Buy only what you need. Less is more. By consuming less, we can reduce the amount of materials, toxins, and waste sent to landfills.
This is probably the hardest area for me to control. LOL. I tend to be a person who says, “I love this product. So, I should buy 10!” But, one way I’ve been working on reducing my waste is to buy my fave products in their largest size instead of buying multiples of the same product in smaller sizes. For instance, instead of buying several 8 oz. bottles of my beloved Lustrasilk S-Curl No Drip Activator like I used to do in the past, I now just buy one 32 oz. bottle. This is a simple but effective way to reduce personal waste.
REUSE = PASS IT ALONG
Ok. So, you purchased an item. You tried it. And, now it’s sitting in the back of your beauty cabinet abandoned. To avoid waste, try to find other uses for your unwanted items. Even if you don’t particularly like a product you might be able to reuse it in a new way. I did this when I first became natural. I was trying to use the same products I had when my hair was relaxed, and it just wasn’t going well! I found a simple way to repurpose my setting lotion in a way that was practical and allowed me to get the most bang for my buck. So, be creative, and find new ways to use old things. You are only limited by your imagination!
Can’t find a way to reuse something? Then, give it to a family member or friend who might have a need for it. This is what I did when a product just could not be incorporated into my skin or haircare regimen however hard I tried. If you no longer have a use for a product, it’s best to give it away to someone who does instead of simply throwing it away.
You can also donate items that are still in good condition (e.g., hair appliances) to your local thrift store. Or, you can repair broken items and resell them so that you can reclaim some of their value. By reusing what you already have or reinventing new uses for them, you can extend an item’s product life. Even perishable items can be reused through compost. The goal is to keep things moving and out of the landfill.
Before rushing out to the store to purchase new things, make the decision to buy as a last recourse. Extend the life of products by reusing them in creative, new ways. If there is absolutely no other use for a product, then you should recycle it.
RECYCLE = SAVE THE VALUE
If you can’t find ways to reuse an item, then preserve the value of the resource so that waste is minimized. By recycling things like paper, glass, and plastic, raw materials can be reclaimed that would have otherwise been thrown away. While recycling takes added effort compared to simply tossing an item in the trash, it has many benefits.
According to the National Recycling Coalition, every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees. (Every ton of newsprint or mixed paper recycled is the equivalent of 12 trees. Every ton of office paper recycled is the equivalent of 24 trees.) The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle is enough for a light bulb to illume for four hours. And, it takes 70% less energy to recycle plastics than it does to make it from raw materials. These savings promote reduced air and water pollution, and will help conserve natural resources to sustain the environment for future generations.
By taking the time to recycle, we can divert items away from landfills and significantly diminish our negative impact on the environment.
RETHINK = USE THE ENERGY
Still have leftover waste? Perhaps, it’s time to rethink how you use energy. Consider and question your consumption habits. For many environmental preservationists, there is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources. The tiniest piece of material can contain a huge amount of value. For example, residual garbage that is left over after everything possible has been refused, reduced, reused, and recycled can be used to make energy.
To make a difference, we must make a conscious effort to do so. We must begin by questioning our actions. I constantly try to ask myself some basic questions: Do I really need this product? Will I have more than one use for this item? Can it be recycled? If not, then I weigh heavily the cons of purchasing the item against my need or desire for it.
Read the labels of your hair and skincare products. Is the packaging made from a percentage of recycled materials? Does the ingredient list contain harmful chemicals? Is the company committed to reduced emissions in production or at least willing to incorporate renewable materials into their production? Is the product green certified? As consumers, these are all things we should consider.
By taking the time to invest in understanding our own personal consumption habits, we will become increasingly more self-aware of our effect on the environment. As we make more informed decisions, it will force businesses to be more responsible and provide them with an incentive to produce products that are more environmentally friendly. When we place a larger priority on the purchase of green products, we will be able to promote sustainable practices and prevent unnecessary waste.
While one of my long-term goals is to eventually use only green products, sometimes it’s not practical or feasible. For instance, green products are innately more costly. So, for naturalistas on a tight budget, only buying green may be financially impossible. But, just because you can’t buy every product you own from an eco-certified company doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swap out a few of the products you normally purchase for more sustainable ones. Instead of buying regular nail polish, buy varnish that is “3-free” (nail polish free of formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DBP) such as butter LONDON or ZOYA or “5-free” (nail polish free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor, and dibutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DBP) such as treat collection or knocked up nails. It can be as simple as that. The goal is to do what you can when you can. Remember, the smallest change can have the greatest impact.