Opinion: Tips To Lessen Your Impact On The Environment While Reducing Spending

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It seems like everything is made out of plastic these days. It’s on our groceries, on our cars, and even a lot of clothing fibers are derived from plastic or crude oil. It’s been made literally impossible to avoid without drastic lifestyle changes like living “waste-free”. Sometimes, these changes can come with a large price tag.

Not every way we can reduce our impact on the environment requires spending much money, if any at all, though. Here are some college-budget friendly ways to reduce your impact:

  • Think twice before you buy that vegan leather handbag or faux fur jacket. It may seem like an animal-friendly way to accessorize, but when those items wear out, they’ll go into landfills where they may be hurting more animals than they were intended to help.
    Other fabrics to avoid: Polyester, Lycra, Nylon, Rayon, Taffeta, Organza.
  • Shop secondhand: When you hit the thrift store, you’re simultaneously keeping more items from being sent to the landfill and not supporting the sale of new items made from plastics and other harmful materials and processes. This means you’re helping to reduce the number of new items being manufactured, which start out being made in factories that may not be environmentally responsible. It also is a lot easier on your wallet. It may just require you to clean your new-to-you items when you get home.
  • That brings me to our next item. What are you going to use to wash your new items? A lot of soaps contain chemicals that are harsh to the environment. They require complex processes to be removed at the water processing plant, and some end up in our waterways, hurting marine life.
    Some chemicals to avoid include sodium laureth sulphate, methylisothiazolinone and triclosan, as well as various parabens, petrochemicals and ureas. Some more misleading ones that may not sound harmful are mineral oils and paraffin.
    Some environmentally conscious cleaning supply brands that you should be able to find locally and aren’t hard on your wallet include Seventh Generation, Method, Ecos, Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronner.
    Another thing to consider when buying soap is packaging. Soap bars are big in the “Waste-Free” community because they don’t usually use plastic packaging that requires being recycled. Recycling means going through another manufacturing process that may be polluting the environment to make it into another usable product.
  • One small thing that makes a big impact on plastics going into the landfill is switching out your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo or wooden handled toothbrush. In my experience, you can buy them for about the same price as a plastic toothbrush – sometimes less!

The number one biggest way to help the environment is taking a look at your consumerist habits. Take a look at the things you’re purchasing and ask yourself if there’s a less harmful product you can use. Maybe there’s an option that has paper packaging instead of plastic, or maybe the same item is available in the bulk section where you can use a reusable bag.

Column by Sarah Melcher

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