Consuming with Care

Painting by me, of cliffs beside the ocean under a partly cloudy sky.

There’s a lot to be said about being environmentally conscientious. For a long time, I believed that it’s pointless to try on an individual level. After all, the main people to blame for environmental destruction are the ultra-wealthy and the corporations. My perspective has shifted over the years because I’ve been listening to environmental protectors and considering the impact of consumer demand.

Ideally, I’d like for things to change overnight and for our society to move on from fossil fuel dependency. However, that’s not how change happens. I’d also like to be free from the burden of capitalistic economics, but I’m realizing that it’s only possible to change things when I acknowledge reality. The reality is that things are not as they should be. I despise many aspects of how things are, and I’m learning to recognize that my small decisions as a consumer do matter.

My building unfortunately doesn’t offer recycling or composting, but some compostable products are still a good option because they will break down in landfills faster than plastic materials. The prices can be a bit higher for these products. However, I often save by buying in bulk. Another factor for me is that my partner suffers from frequent migraines, and strong synthetic smells, like bleach, ammonia, nail polish, dishwasher and laundry detergents, and even scented candles can trigger him. As a result, gentler cleaning products are necessary for us. So while we are making a choice to lighten our impact on the environment, it’s also a matter of having an accessible environment to live in.

In this post I want to spread the word about what products I’ve been trying lately. It’s a little different from other things I’ve written here. I’m very passionate about protecting the environment and I want to share what’s worked so far and what hasn’t. I hope that sharing a little bit about how this has impacted my own life will help others. If you want, feel free to check out these products. I’ll explain what I like about them. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, brands, or products – I just want to share what’s worked for me.

Paper Products

Paper products are a big contributor to paper waste, one of the causes of deforestation. I’ve been using toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissues that are made of bamboo. Because it grows faster than trees, bamboo is an ideal alternative for paper products. I also love how sturdy the material is. It absorbs liquid very well, comparably to more expensive tree-made paper products. The best deal I’ve found is with the company Cheeky Panda, and right now you can use this link to get a discount on your first order.

Food Storage and Cooking Products

Storage bags: I bought this set of compostable bags back in April, and I still haven’t gone through all of them. They are so handy for snacks, leftovers, and items saved in the freezer.

Parchment paper: I use Reynolds compostable brown parchment paper whenever I’m using a cookie sheet in the oven. I also buy these parchment sheets for the air fryer.

Aluminum foil: I try to use aluminum foil sparingly because it’s harsh on landfills. Still, recycled material is preferred, so I recently bought recycled foil from If You Care. The sturdiness and quality is exactly the same.

Cling wrap: I have two solutions for this that I really like. One is compostable cling wrap which will break down in compost piles or landfills much better than plastic. The other is beeswax wraps. These are more expensive so I only have a few, but they are great because they can be gently washed and reused.

Cleaning Products

Seventh Generation is a great brand because they are committed to sustainable sources. I love their disinfectant wipes because the natural lemongrass citrus scent doesn’t have the overpowering synthetic smell that a lot of other disinfectant wipes do.

Another really good brand is Aunt Fannie’s. I’ve been getting an All-Purpose Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, and Floor Cleaning Concentrate from this brand. They also have a version for hardwood floors, but my apartment has mostly laminate flooring.

To save plastic, some cleaners now come in the form of dissolvable strips. These toilet bowl cleaning strips are gentle and natural, and they dissolve quickly, getting the toilet bowl ready to be scrubbed out.

Finally, as a glass cleaner for mirrors and windows, I have enjoyed having this natural product from Better Life.

Soaps and Detergents

Speaking of dissolvable strips, that’s also what I use for laundry detergent. Just half a detergent strip cleans a small load of laundry, one for a regular load, or two for a heavy or soiled load. If I want an odor-ousting boost, I’ll add about half a cup of baking soda to the load.

For the dishwasher, we use Seventh Generation free and clear detergent packs. Not everything can go in the dishwasher, so for handwashing dishes, I use the liquid dish soap from the same brand. My most recent purchase is natural non-scratch scrubbing sponges, and I love that they are safe to use on my knives and copper-lined pots and pans without leaving scratches.

For hand soap, we went through several tries before we found something everyone liked. Seventh Generation has a dry soap that was too rough on the skin, and we also tried liquid refills that wasted too much plastic containers. We’ve been liking this plastic-saving solution: dissolvable refill pods for foaming hand soap. We use natural bar soap and vegan shampoo, and after trying a few different brands, we also found that we love the natural scent, feel, and invisibility of this Cedar and Red Sage deodorant by Every Man Jack.