by Sian Rowlands, Chief Storyteller & CEO Retold, a Dubai based, award-winning, reusable fashion start-up.
Over the last 7 years I have become increasingly aware of the impact my lifestyle is having on the environment, an inescapable side effect of owning a pre-owned fashion business. I was horrified by the amount of non recyclable, damaging waste I was personally responsible for – if you’ve never kept a weeks worth of (non-perishable) rubbish to lay out on the floor and look at; I would recommend it. Over time I have discovered new ways to decrease the waste I create and it has completely shifted my mindset, for the better. I’m not saying I am Zero Waste, it’s all a journey, but my view is that if we all make a few small changes it will have a HUGE, compound effect and that’s when BIG changes really can happen.
So, here are my tips on how to get started. It will most likely be too much to do them all in one go, so why not challenge yourself, take on one tip each week, no effort towards saving our planet is ever wasted!
1) Keeping hydrated – single use plastic water bottles are everywhere! A very creative marketing ploy from the 18th Century has created a global, multi-billion dollar industry which currently sees one million bottles being bought every single minute – that’s 1.4billion plastic bottles of water every single day! So, first thing to do is invest in a reusable bottle (I actually have 3 in varying sizes depending on what my day away from home looks like). If you’re happy drinking tap water (which I have been doing in the UAE for almost 3 decades!), then fill from the tap, and if you like it cold then keep a spare bottle in the fridge.
[Photo credit: @julesville_ as used on HydroFlask Instagram]
If you want filtered, you can consider bamboo charcoal which filters the water naturally without any chemicals (I have personally bought from:Here & Here). Another option is to have a water filter installed and simply fill up your bottles directly from the tap before you leave the house!
2) Caffeine fix – do you have a caffeine addiction and find yourself running into a coffee house once or twice a day? Or perhaps you have a home machine and work your way through the convenient capsules? There’s zero-waste solutions so you don’t have to quit coffee!
Did you know that not only do takeaway coffee cups come with a plastic lid, but they also have a plastic coating on the inside of the paper? Less than 0.5% of coffee cups and lids are recycled, so along with your reusable water bottles, you should also get yourself a reusable coffee mug that you can carry with you on the coffee run, or take 5 minutes of ‘me’ time and sit in the coffee shop and enjoy the moment, sipping from a mug!
If you’re an at-home capsule user there are a couple of options – I like the reusable capsules that you fill yourself with your chosen ground coffee. Alternatively, check out the newly launched Loose Unicorns (yup, we love their tongue in cheek branding too!) offering 100% biodegradable coffee capsules, which break down in just 12 weeks.
3) Carry on carrying on – Shopping bags are an easy switch to make, because you can simply pop a bunch of reusable canvas bags in your car or one of those small folding bags that just lives in bottom of your handbag, ready for you to whip out when you need.
Also, make sure you avoid being tricked into using all the plastic fresh produce bags as well. What I do is have one dedicated bag for my produce in which I put all the loose fruit and vegetables directly, have them weighed and get the stickers stuck to the outside of the bag (handy tip – this also saves you time at the checkout).
4) The Last Straw – glasses were designed to be drunk directly from, so really… do you REALLY need a straw? NO, the answer is no. So next time you go to the bar make you add ‘no straw’ to your order. If you MUST drink from a straw, there are 3 alternative materials; stainless steel, bamboo and glass. We actually sell reusable bamboo straws at the RETOLD boutique, so if you’re in Dubai you can grab a couple on your next shopping trip!
[Reusable bamboo straws available at RETOLD boutique]
5) Get Clean – Changing the way you clean your home will take a bit more getting used to but there are a couple of easy options. A brand called Common Good provide plant based, sulfate- , phthalate- , M.I.T.- and paraben-free cleaning products and I’m super excited for their Dubai launch in January, when you’ll be able to take your refillable containers to a number of their refill stations around town. Ecover offer something similar in the U.K.
Whilst not single use, plastic products like dish scrubbers are often seen littering beaches across the world, so make sure the next one you buy is a biodegradable option like these from EcoCocoNut
6) Cosmetics – If you haven’t already, now is the time to switch to back to good old fashioned bars of soap (there’s actually much less chemicals in these anyway!), I love the Camel Soap Factory ones, which are all handmade in Dubai from Camel Milk, Olive Oil and Essential Oils. Nuddy offer a fantastic option for here in U.K.
I have recently made the switch to shampoo and conditioner bars, which means I’m no longer throwing out the plastic bottles. There are many options globally I particularly like the way the Unwrapped Life ones leave my hair feeling.
[Detoxify shampoo and conditioner bars from @unwrappedlife – Photo credit to @unwrappedlife]
Bamboo toothbrushes have seen a rise in popularity, and local ocean-loving brand Azraq stocks them.
Reusable bamboo pads to replace cotton wool pads are fantastic – easily ordered from Souq.com, and I’d suggest getting a set with a washing bag so you don’t lose any to the evil laundry pixies!
So, there are my top tips for easily reducing the amount of waste you use, particularly single-use-plastic.
Small changes to your day to day will make a gigantic difference to our planet and you’ll feel great about it too.
Chief Storyteller at RETOLD