OPINION: Zero-waste hacks for your everyday life

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There are many simple ways to reduce your impact on the environment including buying in bulk and making your own goods. (Archive photo by Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

Last week I wrote an article on how you can reduce your carbon footprint. The tips and tricks were pretty basic and common for a lot of people to do, even if they aren’t trying to help the planet. I figured it might not be a bad idea to share some more advanced (but still inexpensive) ways to positively impact the planet!

1. Transition to shampoo and conditioner bars

This one was brand new to me, and honestly I had never thought about how washing my hair contributed so much to the waste polluting our planet.

More than 522 million bottles of shampoo and conditioner end up in landfill every year in the United States. Only 1 in 5 people actually recycle their shampoo and conditioner bottles. These numbers are staggering. There are incredible websites out there that sell shampoo and conditioner bars as well as refillable bottles or liquid shampoo and conditioner.

The transition to bars over liquid soap can be a little challenging, but it is pretty inexpensive and can be done. There are also a lot of recipes out there for making your own completely natural shampoo.

A lot of these recipes require many ingredients and may be a little pricey initially, but the products will last you a long time. You also have more control over what is going onto your hair. For me, that was all I needed to hop onto the homemade shampoo wagon.

2. Switch to a compostable toothbrush

According to Healthline, we should be switching out our toothbrushes every 12-16 weeks. That means you will go through about three to four toothbrushes every year.

Multiply that by the millions of people who live in the U.S., and that’s a substantial amount of waste. By switching to a compostable toothbrush, you don’t have to worry about where it will end up after you get rid of it. You can just remove the bristles and throw it into your garden or into a compost bin.

Even if you just throw it into your trash can, you can rest assured knowing that it won’t sit in a landfill for the rest of your life. While you’re at it, you can also buy or make your own toothpaste or tooth powder.

Again, some of these ingredients may be a little expensive initially, but over time they will pay for themselves. These ingredients will last you way longer than a single tube of toothpaste, and won’t produce any waste.

3. Stop buying packaged baked goods

I want to start this one off by mentioning that most things taste better homemade. Cake, sliced bread, tortillas, biscuits, rolls — you name it. This year I’ve gotten into making my own bread and it’s turned out great. It’s cheap, too. Did you know that you can buy twenty-five pounds of flour from Walmart for less than six dollars?

You can buy other ingredients in bulk for pretty cheap at almost any grocery store as well. All it takes is a couple of hours on a weekend and you have three loaves of bread to last you a couple of weeks.

Most of the goods you buy at the store are super easy and fun to make at home. You will create some waste by making your own food, but not nearly as much as you make by buying packaged bread. After you make your bread, skip the plastic bags or aluminum foil and buy a bread box. They’re pretty cheap depending on where you shop for them and you can get a ton of different styles and colors. They do a great job at keeping bread soft and moist but also avoid molding. They’re also big enough to hold tortillas, muffins, or anything else you make. They do take up a little counter space but it will definitely add a little glam to your kitchen.

4. Buy bulk whenever you can

This kind of goes with buying bulk ingredients from number three but the same rings true for other items as well. Instead of buying pre-shredded cheese, buy a big block and shred it yourself. It tastes just as great and you can store it in a large container or mason jar.

Don’t buy small jars or cans of sauces and soup — buy the largest size you can find and store the leftovers in a jar of some kind. Buying in bulk doesn’t only mean buying large sizes of items, it also has to do with how stores receive their items.

Some stores, like Hyvee or Whole Foods, buy things like flour, sugar, nuts, granola, raisins and candy in bulk. You can go there with your own jars or bags and fill up as much as you want for little to no waste. They also have bulk spices so you can just refill your spice jars instead of buying a whole new one. The prices are sometimes even cheaper than buying a plastic bag or container of it in the store. It even helps you keep track of how much you eat so you don’t contribute to the growing issue of food waste in America.

These are just a few of the ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint. By making these changes, we can get closer to sustainable living, one plastic bag at a time.

Rose Kroll is a sophomore in psychology. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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