Sustainable Swaps

How to be a Smarter Consumer

“The realisation that we all have • to reduce waste if we have any
long term future on this planet
is a movement for our time.” — NopeSisters Co-Founder, Brittany • Cosgrove

Plastic pollution is a big issue in almost every country, whether it’s images of littered beaches, injured sea animals, contaminated water or food resources. Reducing our use of plastic is one of the most sustainable ways we can live our lives. This article will show you some • sustainable swaps. Some might work for you better, cost you less money in the long run and help you live a more sustainable lifestyle. This is your guide to living in • closer alignment with the natural world around us. These are small steps that can make a positive difference young people need to see in the world.

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The Components of a Waste Reduced Lifestyle

Reduce: Buy only what you need. Avoid marketed ‘green’ products, which tend to be overpriced and unnecessary. Avoid throwing away the plastic products you already own unless they have been used up. Choose sustainable replacements for these when you’re finished with them.

Reuse: Reuse what you have as much as you can before you decide to throw it away. Reuse single use items.

Local: Buy from local businesses who have honest descriptions on how they make and source their products. This way, buying will likely be cheaper. The more people who support locals, the more cheap and sustainable options will become accessible and affordable.

Compost: Food waste is a big problem. One important way to help is to compost or create worms farms.

Recycle: Wash the items before recycling. If one item is contaminated with food, the whole lot is sent straight to landfill. Items than can
be recycled are cardboard, paper, cans, glass, magazines and plastics numbered 1 and 2 (New Zealand).

Grow: As much as you can, in the outside space you have, grow what you can. This reduces your carbon footprint by up to 17 times. Plants, vegetables and flowers are all beneficial.

Become a Better Consumer

The biggest polluters come from the essential items we purchase. The solution is to buy these items for a more expensive upfront price which will last a much longer time: years or a lifetime.


An estimated 4.7 billion toothbrushes worldwide are made and disposed of every year. Each toothbrush lasts around 1,000 years. The easiest swap are bamboo toothbrushes, which are now usually available in supermarkets.

Two billion single-use plastic razors are thrown away every year. A swap to a metal safety razor is a big money saver even if they can come at an expensive initial cost. They are a once in a lifetime purchase and you only need to purchase replaceable razor blades. Once you get used to them they are preferable and result in less of those tiny cuts. In a lifetime, disposable razors will cost you anywhere from $1,780 to $7,777, whilst a safety razor will cost $350 total or $5 a year.

Other waste reducing and most effective options in this category include:

• Using a soap bar rather than soaps in plastic bottles.

• Cloth towels (instead of paper towels) and cloth napkins.

• Using reusable makeup removing cloths.

• Purchasing biodegradable dental floss and biodegradable cotton buds.

Food and Drink

A staggering 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016! The best swap is to go reusable. This includes stainless steel bottles or BPA free plastic bottles.

16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside and use plastic lids. Swaps include bringing your own mug or buying a reusable cup. It is actually becoming trendy to do so!

About one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. That is nearly 2 million every minute. Reusable bags for produce and general shopping are by far the best option. Taking your own reusable containers to the supermarket will also help you avoid plastic.

More than half a billion plastic straws are used every day around the world. If you want to use straws in your day to day life, there are several options: paper straws, bamboo straws, glass straws, silicone straws or metal straws. Refusing plastic cutlery is a good move as well.


Ordinary cleaning products like bleach and washing up liquid heavily pollute waterways and affect air quality.
The best swaps are to make your own cleaning products or buy from eco friendly brands. A big way to save on energy and water whilst washing and drying your clothes is to wash on a cold temperature, dry line your clothes or use wool ‘dryer balls’ which cut down on drying time.


Fast fashion is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions after oil. It exploits overseas and local workers, contributes to the decline of local manufacturing and is environmentally disastrous as it pollutes soil and waterways. Fast fashion can wind up costing you more than sustainable clothing as it wears out quickly. Swaps include buying second hand items or choosing more sustainable brands. You can also mend, recycle, donate, or sell your clothes to avoid sending them to a landfill.

Poverty and Pollution Period

Around the world, many girls and women cannot afford to buy menstrual products or safe menstrual products are not available to them. Poor menstrual hygiene can result in health issues such as toxic shock syndrome, reproductive tract infections and even cervical cancer. Girls who don’t have access to menstrual products are missing school even in places like the US, UK and New Zealand. If a girl misses school every time she gets her period, she is 145 days behind the others in her class.

The fact is that disposable menstrual products have both a hefty consumer and environmental cost. In New Zealand alone, 357 million disposable menstrual products are sent to the landfill annually. Each one can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Tampons and pads cost women almost $7,000 in their lifetime. A single menstrual cup, which lasts 10 years, can save up to $3,000 in that time alone. Considering that women typically menstruate for about 38 years, this is a significant saving.

Businesses are attempting to make these more accessible: Waā Collective offers subsidised cups for $20. Nirvana Phoenix’s Facebook business PAD-antic, sells reusable pads for $10 to $20. Dirty Hippie online shop sells efficient period underwear for $17.

To Conclude

We as consumers have a great deal of power to vote with our dollar and reduce the demand for material waste. As teachers and parents, you have a powerful influence and the potential to teach young people how to be future forward when it comes to growing a sustainable foundation in their lives. What can you swap this week and this month to help sustain our planet?

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Jess Ryan

Jess Ryan is a 19-year old high school graduate who is passionate about positive change in the world.