Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.
By Kayla Robbins
Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.
It can seem like an impossible task at first, but once you set up a simple compost system and get serious about recycling everything you can, you'll cut your waste dramatically.
Once those systems are in place, you'll probably still have some trash to deal with. And remember, while recycling is better than sending something to a landfill, it's not perfect, and it's always better to refuse unnecessary items, packaging, etc in the first place.
Here are a few reusable replacements for some common kitchen items:
If you're someone who loves to sip sweet tea through a straw or slurp a breakfast smoothie during your commute, reusable straws are a great alternative for the disposal plastic variety that have been catching so much flack lately.
With more and more restaurants phasing out their plastic straws in response to customer backlash, having your own set to carry around is a good move if you don't want to give up that satisfying slurrrrp.
Reusable straws are becoming more and more mainstream and available in a variety of styles, colors, and materials. I love my stainless steel set, but there are also softer silicone versions for kids, glass straws that are like functional works of art in your cup, and even bamboo straws from bambu!
Most sets come with a cute little brush to make it easy to clean the inside thoroughly. For use on the go, a quick rinse in the bathroom sink usually works just fine.
Have you guys heard of these?
They're basically squares of cotton covered in a mixture of beeswax and resin. These simple ingredients combine to make a really awesome replacement for plastic wrap in your kitchen. You can use these wraps for covering bowls, wrapping up cheese, fruit, or that other half of your avocado. They can really do it all.
You can keep using and reusing them, rinsing with cool water in between uses. If they start to get a bit bare in places, you can even pop them in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes to redistribute the wax. Good as new!
They're way cuter than plastic wrap since they come in a variety of colors and prints. And once they come to the end of their useful life, they're fully biodegradable, and you can just pop them in your compost bin.
Earth Love has some cute ones to get you started!
Put aside the paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are softer, prettier, and more eco-friendly than their paper counterparts. And they really require no more care than simply throwing them in with your next load of laundry.
Buying a quality set of cloth napkins is an investment up front, but will save you money in the long run. Plus, you'll never have to scramble to make your table look presentable when you find out you'll be hosting some unexpected dinner guests!
Now, you may be thinking, "aren't tea bags biodegradable?" and for the most part, they are. However, some tea bags can have little pieces of plastic holding them together that are obviously not great additions to your compost pile.
Also, if you buy loose leaf tea in bulk, you can avoid a lot of the excess packaging that comes with tea bags. I've seen some before that were individually wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag that of course went inside a cardboard box that was itself wrapped in a thin layer of plastic. It's ridiculous.
Loose leaf tea typically comes in ONE bag, or even better, a reusable tin.
It really doesn't take any longer to brew, and once you get the hang of it, it can become quite a pleasant morning ritual.
You will need a little bit of equipment, though, and that's where the tea strainer comes in.
If you're making more than one cup, it usually makes sense to brew it in a teapot by putting the tea and the water right in together. To prevent leaves getting into your cup, just top your mug with a tea strainer before you pour the brewed tea. Mountain Mel's stocks a cute stainless steel strainer with a cutout moon and star pattern.
If you prefer to make it by the cup, the mug infuser from Mountain Mel's might be a better choice. Whichever method you choose, don't forget to compost your leftover leaves!
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By Allison Gardner
Under what conditions were your clothes made? More likely than not, slavery has touched at least part of the outfit you're wearing today.
According to the Global Slavery Index, roughly 40.3 million people were in slavery worldwide as of 2016, and 24.9 million of them were in forced labor. The GSI's latest report, which came out in summer 2018, expanded upon this research, breaking down the data to show the top five products most at risk of modern slavery.
Garments were number two on the list, coming in second only to technology.
Slavery in Fashion
The fashion supply chain is complex and expansive, meaning it provides a number of opportunities for slavery to flourish. It is estimated that roughly "100 pairs of hands touch a garment during its production," but audits are often limited to just first and second tier suppliers, meaning they typically fail to expose issues further down the supply chain. Each stage of production poses a new opportunity for worker exploitation and human rights abuses like slavery.
One example of slavery at the raw material level of the fashion supply chain can be found in the cotton industry. Often, weak protective services or poor governmental oversight leave people vulnerable to forced labor, but in some cases, the government itself is the perpetrator.
For example, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the fifth and seventh largest exporters of cotton worldwide, employ state-led forced labor systems of cotton production, according to The Cotton Campaign. For decades these systems have routinely forced citizens, adults and children alike, to leave their work or school each fall in order to participate in the cotton harvest.
The Uzbek and Turkmen governments have successfully practiced this abuse of their people by threatening, detaining, assaulting, and imprisoning citizens who refuse or who attempt to report the abuse. The profits from both countries' cotton sales remain solely with the governments.
After years of advocacy and political pressure from NGOs, this past year the government of Uzbekistan finally introduced legislation to address the state-sponsored atrocity. However, research has already shown that the 2018 harvest this past fall was still heavily reliant on forced labor.
[With the DoneGood Shop and browser plugin, you can quickly, easily, and affordably support hundreds of ethical and sustainable brands.]
Further down the supply chain, slavery also exists within the mills that spin cotton into useable material. The garment industry in India, for example, is known to have a major issue with forcing young women to work in spinning mills for little or no pay.
A system known as the "Sumangali Scheme" has been employed for years by spinning mills and garment factories in Southern India. Praying on economically disadvantaged young women in the north, factory recruiters offer them two to three year apprenticeship contracts with the promise of a lump sum of payment at the end.
For young women from poor families, this opportunity is often too good to pass up, as many of them hope to one day be married, and their families typically cannot afford a large dowry for them (sumangali in Tamil means "happily married woman"). Thus, this scheme provides factory recruiters with a mechanism to easily staff their facilities at a very low cost and appears to offer young women the opportunity to seek a better future for themselves.
In practice, however, the scheme has been shown to lead to a myriad of human rights abuses, including instances of modern day slavery. The young women are all too often subject to poor or unhygienic working and living conditions, frequently face discrimination and sexual harassment, and very often do not receive that lump sum of payment they were promised.
These are just a couple examples of slavery within the fashion industry, but there are undoubtedly many more.
A Complex Problem
Whether it's the fields where the cotton was grown, the mills where it was spun, or the factories where the garments were sewn, the industry is notorious for providing opportunities for exploitation.
If this upsets you, and it probably should, you might wonder who's responsibility it is to step in and fight slavery within such a complex industry.
Some might point to individual brands, arguing that they choose to work with factories and manufacturers that may or may not treat their employees well. Others may turn to the factory owner or recruiter who is directly imposing the conditions that can either support or exploit other human beings. Governments, particularly those that are uncorrupted, could also be the decision-makers.
In reality, though, there is one other group that shares the power to change this system. And that's us, the consumers.
What We Can Do
Our consumption drives a subset of an industry that relies on exploitation. And because of that, we can also become part of the solution.
This Fashion Revolution Week, we should all ask "Who Made My Clothes?" but perhaps a follow up question is also necessary: "What Am I Doing About It?"
As consumers we have power to change the fashion industry for good, but in order to do so, we must recognize our role and acknowledge our responsibility.
The first step will undoubtedly be educating ourselves, and fortunately organizations like Fashion Revolution provide us with ample resources to do that. But the second step will likely be harder; we will need to take action.
Each person's journey to conscious consumerism is unique, but at the very least, we can provide you with the tools to find brands who share your values. With the DoneGood Shop and browser plugin, you can quickly, easily, and affordably support hundreds of ethical and sustainable brands.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Cullen Schwarz
Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.
But while Americans generously donated $390 billion to charities in 2017, that number pales in comparison to the $130 trillion we spent on buying stuff in the same year.
How much of that went to huge companies that don't support your values-or worse, use their revenue to actively work against them?
Conscious consumers prefer to spend money with transparent companies that support the same causes they do.
And it really does make a difference.
Before we get to the impact, let's take a look at the who, what, when, where, and why of ethical consumerism.
Who is the conscious consumer?
Conscious consumers come from all walks of life and are represented across most age groups and economic brackets.
The simplest definition of a conscious consumer is someone who buys from brands that align with their personal values whenever possible or practical.
Of course, that broad definition leaves room for a lot of nuance.
Statistics show that the sustainable shopping sector is growing all the time, meaning more and more people are joining the ranks of conscious consumers.
These shoppers spend a combined $300 billion per year on ethical products, a figure which is growing by 10% year-over-year. That seems on track to keep increasing since 73% of millennials surveyed said that they're willing to pay more for sustainably-made goods.
One common belief that all ethical shoppers share is that it is possible to effect change by voting for your values with your dollars. And they're right!
What do conscious consumers buy?
The particular products that an ethical consumer buys vary greatly depending on the individual. They may be interested in environmentally sustainable products, cruelty-free ones, fair trade, organic, items made in the USA, or any combination of those and other factors!
Just as important as what a sustainable shopper does buy is what they don't buy. Experienced ethical consumers make it a point to avoid buying products from brands that harm the environment, test products on animals, fail to treat their workers fairly, or engage in other unsavory practices.
There is also substantial overlap between conscious consumers and minimalists. Many sustainable shoppers choose to lessen their impact- environmental or otherwise- by buying only what they truly need when they need it.
These are all valid ways to practice ethical consumerism and are most powerful when combined.
Because ethical consumerism is heavily contingent on the shopper's own personal values, there's no "right" way to do it!
When do conscious consumers shop this way?
In a perfect world, we would all buy ethical products 100% of the time.
But in reality, that's not always the case. Sometimes an ethical alternative can't be obtained on time, or at the right price, and sometimes it may not even exist at all!
Conscious consumers do the best that they can to shop with their values, but they understand that one impulsive Amazon purchase isn't reason enough to throw in the towel.
The great thing about ethical consumerism is that the more demand we create for ethically made products from great companies, the more supply there will be. So, shopping sustainably not only supports your values in the short term, but it paves the way for more similar options down the road!
Hopefully, one day, ethical options will be the default rather than the exception.
In the meantime, all we can do is what we can do. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and if you feel discouraged, remember this quote from Helen Keller:
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."
Where does the conscious consumer shop?
Well, we've built an entire website dedicated to answering this question!
But, in a nutshell, experienced ethical buyers shop with companies that share their values and put their money with their mouth is.
Ethical brands operate with sufficient transparency that their customers can clearly see how their purchases aid the causes that they care about.
As ethical consumerism catches on as a trend, more and more brands are wanting to hop on the bandwagon. That's great when these brands are really putting in the work to make their products and supply chains sustainable.
However, there are also bound to be some brands who want the glory without putting in the work. They make superficial changes to their marketing and engage in greenwashing to fool customers into thinking they're making ethical purchasing decisions when they're really not.
Even though the internet is a great resource for finding out what's the truth of a company's values and what's just hype, it can be exhausting to do extensive research each and every time you want to buy something.
That's why DoneGood exists. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to ethical shopping. All of our DoneGood approved brands are thoroughly vetted to ensure that they have substance and not just style, so you can shop with confidence.
Why do conscious consumers change their shopping habits?
Ethical consumers change their shopping habits because they believe that voting for their values with their money is important, and can influence change.
They want to make sure that all the money they spend is having a positive impact on the world, not just their charitable donations.
For a lot of conscious consumers, their introduction the ethical consumerism actually starts as a boycott of certain companies or brands they know to be harmful.
Finding out negative things about one company usually leads them to examine their shopping habits as a whole, and they may find that a lot more brands aren't worth supporting!
Once you've eliminated these bad brands from your shopping "diet," the next logical step is to fill in the gaps with ethical brands that share your values. Once you see how many amazing brands there are out there doing amazing work, you may never want to stop!
The Impact of Sustainable Shopping
Here it is, the big moment.
We've put in our dues sourcing the best products from brands who care about making the world a better place.
We've gone without that cute new dress from an unknown company and willingly paid more for everyday essentials made in a more sustainable way.
What do we have to show for all that?
Has it made a difference?
Voting with your dollar works.
Child labor rates dropped by one third between 2000 and 2012, and they've continued this downward trend since then.
According to the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report from Baptist World Aid Australia, 24% more fashion companies have committed to paying their workers a living wage, and 61% are investing in using sustainable fabrics.
56% of us have stopped buying from brands we consider to be unethical.
Executives are frantically piling into conference rooms to discuss their "corporate social responsibility."
Because that's what attracts conscious consumers, who are a large and growing portion of the general public.
The economic landscape is changing before our very eyes.
Companies are changing and even our culture is changing, all because of conscious consumers who have banded together in their commitment to shop according to their values.
The market will always be beholden to the demands of the consumers. If we, as ethical consumers, consistently demand ethical, sustainably made goods and refuse to settle for less, then that's exactly what we'll get. We've seen the proof already. Companies are bending over backwards to appeal to the conscious consumer, and they know there's only one way to earn their business.
The impact of ethical consumerism is huge, and it's only going to get bigger.
Won't you join us?
Cullen Schwarz is head of Good Thoughts, DoneGood.
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