10 Tips for Zero-Waste Endometriosis

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:-

  1. A hanky instead of tissues;
  2. A cutlery roll (a metal or wooden fork, knife and spoon in a little fabric container so that you can avoid disposal takeaway cutlery);
  3. A Keep-Cup for your favourite beverage;
  4. A metal, bamboo or silicone straw, if you are a straw-user;
  5. 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.

bazaar-bottles-business-15964.jpg
THESE pantries, you know?

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”?

 

 

A Vegan with Endo

Trigger warning: diets and eating disorders

Yes, it’s your obligatory spot-the-vegan post.  I’ve mentioned that I’m vegan before, I know, but today I want to explain why and how it gels with my endometriosis.

I’ve been vegan for just shy of four years, and was vegetarian for maybe two years before that.  Veganism is a change that I would encourage everybody who possibly can to make.  I know that not everyone can.  For people will allergies or intolerances to common ingredients in fruits or vegetables, such as fructose, or someone with a thyroid problem exacerbated by certain plant foods, veganism may simply not provide the nutrients they need.  Someone with an eating disorder may find that the limitations on their diet trigger a collapse back into incredibly restrictive, unhealthy meal management.  Some people simply may not live in an area that allows them to obtain healthy vegan food.  However, that leaves a vast number of people who can.

I have three main reasons for my veganism, and I’ll outline them below.

 

1)  It is the healthiest diet for me

I’m not suggesting that a balanced omnivorous diet can never be healthy; quite the opposite.  However, I have high cholesterol.  Cholesterol levels are supposed to be a 5.5 to a 6.5 on the scale my doctor was measuring on.  I was a 6.7 as an omnivore, and got up to 7.2 as a vegetarian (because I replaced my meat intake with cheese and eggs, which are both full of the stuff).  As a vegan, my cholesterol is finally back down in a health range.  A vegan diet is naturally cholesterol free, so that’s no longer an issue for me.

A plant-based diet also cuts out many of the things that are bad under both the endo diet and the low FODMAP diet (predominantly red meat and dairy), so it helps me manage my endo very easily from a diet perspective.

Finally, a vegan diet almost guarantees nice, regular bowel motions.  Given that my bowel-endo can often result in constipation, this is a very good thing.  Seriously, 1-3 times a day is quite normal for vegans.  Try it.  Your colon will be shocked.

 

2) It is the cleanest diet for the environment

Climate change remains a hot button issue today, with the vast majority of scientists agreeing that the climate is changing and that humans are a major contributor.  It is estimated that livestock takes up about 18% of our emissions, according to a widely-cited 2006 study.  Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang estimate it actually accounts for around 50%.  The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations also cites livestock as being responsible for massive amounts of deforestation, soil erosion and polluted run-off.

Our seas are also being rapidly overfished, with the heartbreaking problem of bycatch persisting in gill net, purse-seine, long-line and trawling methods.  Sharks, dolphins and sea turtles are all victims of circumstance.  Aquaculture is no better, with 1 tonne of farmed salmon taking the equivalent of 3-4 tonnes of wild-caught to feed.

Yes, plant-based agriculture still costs land, but if we are using it all to feed humans instead of billions of livestock each year, that will be a far more efficient use of it, and it will take less space overall.  People like to say that overplanting soy is destroying the Amazon.  It is, but who eats most of the soy?  Cows, not vegans.

 

3) It is the kindest diet to animals

Yes, yes, I know that mice will sometimes get caught up in combine harvesters and eat pesticides, etc.  However, as I said, the majority of plants are already being grown to feed to livestock, so that is happening anyway.  By adopting a vegan lifestyle, you not only reduce the incidents of that, you avoid the animals that are being fed this mouse-bloodied plant matter from being killed as well.

This, I think, is the strongest point.  As mentioned, you can eat a healthy non-vegan diet.  You can fish and hunt sustainably to eat meat without relying on farming.  You can raise your own chickens in a sustainable way.  But the animals and their deaths are the core of veganism.  You cannot eat meat without animals dying.  You cannot use animal byproducts without taking something that is theirs.

To me, it doesn’t matter whether an animal is treated well in its life if it is going to be slaughtered a fraction of the way through it.  This article outlines why “humane” raising and slaughter is not an ethically sustainable position far better than I ever could, and I’d encourage everyone to read it.

I arrived at veganism through the animal branch, and my reasons boiled down to essentially these two things:-

  1. I do not believe that unnecessary harm is ethical.  It is not necessary for me to eat animal products to survive.  Therefore, harming animals is unnecessary.  Therefore, it is unethical.
  2. It would be incredibly selfish of me to take away an animal’s life – everything it has – for a couple of minutes of taste.  I cannot think of a more selfish thing I could do.  Even for things that could potentially be taken without harming the animal, such as eggs – I don’t need them, so why would I take something that isn’t mine?  If chickens were humans we’d call it theft.

Things like dairy and eggs, that by their nature involve the exploitation of the female reproductive system, also don’t sit well with my position as a feminist.  As a person with a grasp on logic, I also don’t love the weird disconnect between our treatment of domestic animals and livestock.  The underlying attitude is just overwhelmingly one of entitlement towards the bodies of others.  It’s an attitude I hate between humans, and I don’t like it any better between humans and non-humans.

 

These are my reasons at their most basic.  For me it is a decision I don’t regret – I am still sometimes overwhelmed with sadness at the cruelty against animals in this world, and this is one way my battered old body can protest against it and not contribute to it.

Unfortunately, there are bad actors in the vegan community.  There are those who thing animals are gods and humans are mud and will actively stamp on humans to help animals.  There are those who don’t care about racism, ableism, sexism or classism, etc, either in their vegan advocacy or in their lives in general.  There are those who think I must be veganning wrong because it hasn’t cured my endo, so I need to eat raw organic food only, or something.  Like feminism, I strongly believe veganism must be intersectional.  There is no point in fighting one sort of oppression if you don’t care about others – and after all, humans are animals too.

 

Are there any vegans amongst my readers?  What were your reasons?  Has your diet assisted your endo at all?  Let me know in the comments.