Image: Ethical Unicorn
City living can often be one of largest barriers a person can face when it comes to sustainability. This seems backwards, as you’d assume a city provides more options and resources than being in the middle of nowhere. But, let’s be real, sometimes those options that provide sustainable alternatives require a 45 minute public transport commute (because big cities are sprawling and the traffic struggle is real) and those extra resources often look like a lot of shops providing convenient but unsustainable options just round the corner.
Let’s face it, living sustainably in the city can be hard, and waste is everywhere. So instead of going into an ethical crisis meltdown, let’s look at some long-lasting small switches you can make to reduce waste easily.
Before I started thinking about sustainability I was happily churning through a heap of unsustainable packaging and not so nice ingredients in deodorants I grabbed at the local store. I had never heard of an alum bar, but now I swear by them. When someone first recommended an alum bar they told me theirs lasted three years. I laughed, but after 6 months and no change in size I’m starting to believe them. An alum bar is a crystal like stone made of mineral salts that’s been used in men’s shaving for its healing and antibacterial properties for hundreds of years. To use it you simply run it under cold water and rub over your armpits, and it works by tightening pores and eliminating smells. Now to clarify I have a natural alum bar that’s advertised as a shaving product, I don’t have a crystal deodorant. Mine comes as a block in a small cardboard packet (easily recyclable) and nothing else. It’s the perfect lightweight, natural, waste free, stress free option.
Technically we should be getting a new toothbrush every couple of months. If you’re a busy city dweller like me this probably doesn’t quite happen. But next time your toothbrush starts to look a little questionable, why not opt for bamboo instead of nipping to the shops for a plastic? Bamboo is kind of a wonder material, being both a highly renewable resource and easily compostable when you’re finished. You can either buy in bulk to stock up in preparation or, even easier, sign up to a subscription service that automatically sends you a new brush regularly, making caring for your dental health and the health of the planet easier than ever.
Say goodbye to plastic food wrap, instead opt for wax wraps to keep your food protected and fresh. These reusable babies can last a lifetime, meaning that one investment saves you the consistent cost of buying expendable wrap that ends up in the bin; all they need is a simple rinse of water to be clean and ready to go again. While beeswax ones are making the rounds in the sustainable community, you can also find vegan versions made with soy wax, so there’s no reason to ever use plastic again. Also, they’re way prettier!
Shampoo and Conditioner
Another item that involves going through hundreds of plastic, non-recyclable bottles in a lifetime. Instead, why not try out a solid shampoo? If you live in a city it’s likely that you also live close to a LUSH, and you can probably smell it a mile off, who have a really extensive range of package free shampoo and conditioner bars. Solid shampoo and conditioner tend to last far longer for the amount you pay and they’re ideal for travelling, you just need a little tin to store them in and you’re good to go. If you don’t like the options at LUSH there’s also a ton of options available online.
Reusable Bottles and Coffee Cup
Single use plastic bottles and takeaway cups seem to be everywhere when you live in the city, especially when every other meeting is over food or coffee. There are a ton of sustainable options online when it comes to reusable bottles, and you’ll be surprised how many places you’ll find you can refill it once you have one. Try finding a stainless steel bottle, which is both durable and can be recycled when you’re done with it. For coffee a lot of cafes now charge less if you bring your own cup in (bonus!) so try and grab one made of compostable bamboo or recyclable glass to keep with you on the go.
A Menstrual Cup
Nowadays you can find these in nearly any pharmacy, or a few clicks away online. There’s not much to say on this, though they take a little getting used to you’ll never go back once you have one. They make life easier, they help you know your body better, they’re a heck of a lot cheaper and they’re oh so sustainable. Seriously, why did no one tell me about these sooner?!
A tip I repeat over and over when asked about sustainability is to start small and build from there. Small changes are the easiest to implement and actually keep going consistently in your life, whilst adding up to big impact over time. Instead of beating yourself up when you go for that convenient option after a long day, focus on making the small changes into habits and once you’re comfortable, you can look around for more opportunities to make a switch.
Living sustainably in the city can be hard, so give yourself the time and grace to change in a way that works for you, and you’ll get there!