Yesterday I talked about veganism. In it, I mentioned two things that I’m going to carry on with today – environmentalism, and terrible people.
We all know that the planet is important – it’s the only one we’ve got – and we’re going a fair way to destroying it. We need serious changes, predominantly at national and industrial levels, to wind back the damage. That’s why zero-waste living is a growing movement (and one that gels neatly with veganism).
Unfortunately, the zero-waste movement has its own share of people who are elitist, highly critical, and totally unaccepting of the fact that different people have different limitations and abilities. I have literally seen one woman declare disabled people to be a waste of space because they don’t contribute but still generate waste. It’s not welcoming for people like me who can’t do many of the things that are more eco-friendly on bad days, such as chopping vegetables rather than buying packaged, pre-chopped produce. There’s a lot of challenges for us in a zero-waste life – buying in bulk in Australia is trendy rather than a norm, so it’s expensive and not feasible for us. Dumpster diving is for fit folks who can spend their evening moseying around shopping centres. Making tasty snacks from scratch is something we can’t always physically cope with. Reusable toilet paper might not be up to our bowel explosions.
So, what are some positive changes that people with endometriosis can make that aren’t really physically demanding?
1) Swap tampons for menstrual cups and pads for cloth
If you can manage it, things like the Luna cup are a great alternative to tampons. Made of flexible silicon, they are resuable, washable and come in different sizes. You just insert them, then pop it out when you use the loo, rinse it, and reinsert. It does have its downsides – if there is no sink handy, it is not a tidy process. However, the women who wear them often cite them as being incredibly comfortable compared to tampons, and they are definitely less wasteful. Sadly, these bad boys aren’t an option for me, as even tampons cause me bellyache. Other women with endo may experience similar problems.
There are a couple of alternatives to pads, too. Undies like Thinx are my preference, as I think reusable pads create more washing for us than we might need. However, if reusable pads work for you, go for it. The fact that they are a breathable natural fabric may also help reduce the incidence of thrush.
2) Swap normal cleaning products for vinegar, soda and other home-made alternatives
I love white vinegar for cleaning things. Most of the time I find it more effective than ordinary surface sprays, particularly when paired up with baking soda. I’m pretty sure I cleaned my first apartment’s bathroom almost exclusively with this combination, and it looked great.
Another good thing is that vinegar is easy to buy in bulk so there is less packaging, and you can get baking soda in cardboard from Woolworths. I then store it in a sealed jar and recycle the box.
3) Take bags with you
When I do make it to the grocery shop rather than using Woolworths’ or Coles’ online options, it tends to be a planned trip anyway because I need to conserve my strength, get exactly what I need and leave ASAP. That makes it easy to take my own resuable bags, despite recent furor to the contrary. I like to leave a few in the car if I have unexpected energy after work, too. You can even get tiny ones to fit in your handbag.
4) Grow it at home
I find gardening incredibly soothing, although doing it on a large scale is hard work physically. However, you can grow plenty of things inside or in small spaces. Herbs are typically the easiest, and it is so nice to have fresh herbs around rather than relying on packaged stuff. It motivates me to cook and makes me feel like I’ve achieved even more than just cooking a meal. Pick your favourite herb and see if you can grow it on your windowsill, balcony or garden. If you are coping ok with that, easier fruits and vegetables might also be within your power.
5) Get a bidet
If you can afford it, a bidet is a little luxury that is also environmentally friendly. You know those days when your bottom is just raw from cleaning up endless diarrhoea? Imagine how much more soothing a gentle stream of warm water would be. And you get to save the planet too.
6) Buy second-hand
I mean, I do this because I can rarely afford clothes first-hand anymore, but even if you can afford to splurge, buying second-hand is a great way to keep clothes away from landfill. Check facebook for a Buy Swap Sell group for your favourite brand. There’s thriving marketplaces for Review, Cue, Alannah Hill, Kitten D’Amour, Pin-Up Girl Clothing, Portmans and a whole range of others. Big designers attract big followings.
7) Have a handbag kit
The times you do go out, there are things you can do to make sure that you are being zero-waste on the go, if you have room in your handbag. A zero-waste handbag could include any of:-
- A hanky instead of tissues;
- A cutlery roll (a metal or wooden fork, knife and spoon in a little fabric container so that you can avoid disposal takeaway cutlery);
- A Keep-Cup for your favourite beverage;
- A metal, bamboo or silicone straw, if you are a straw-user;
- A little reusable bag.
8) Rethink your skincare
There are a multitude of recipes for home-made face masks, cleansers and moisturisers out there using only ingredients from your pantry. I haven’t gone that far, but I have introduced coconut oil as a make-up remover. Very effective. It’s also a nice little boost for the dry ends of my hair.
Consider a switch from bottled bodywash and hair products to bars, such as Lush or Ethique. They don’t really take any more in the way of effort, they last for ages and they still smell great.
9) Recycle properly
It may be tedious but in Australia it doesn’t take that much effort to separate recyclables from actual waste. Don’t chuck paper into landfill when it could be recycled into something new and shiny. Don’t chuck stuff that is clearly rubbish into the recycling and ruin everyone’s day. Just don’t be that person.
10) Encourage friends, sign petitions and raise awareness
Straws are a big hype right now and seem to be weirdly polarising. Everyone has heard that straws are bad. But do they know that the biggest pollutant in our oceans at the moment is discarded or broken fishing nets? Without ever leaving your computer you can start or sign petitions, write letters to politicians and share clever memes on facebook to get people on board with fighting for systemic change that will have a far greater effect that any amount of swapping and recycling we can do on a personal level. Be the change, but also ask other people to be too, including corporations and legislators.
Most of all, ignore the haters that say you aren’t good enough because you can’t swap your car for a bike and live in a tiny home growing organic kale. You do what you can with what you have. We are inherently involved with a medical system that generates vast quantities of waste because it has to for hygiene reasons. You and I, endo-brethren, will likely never live those instagrammable zero-waste lives with beautiful pantries full of mason jars with beans in them. But we can do our best, and everyone else can stick their criticism somewhere dark and smelly.
Do you have any zero-waste tips that I’ve missed? What changes have you managed to make to help the planet without hurting yourself? What do you say when people criticise you for “not doing enough”?
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