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Sustainability – what does it mean to you? It can be a very broad and complex term, but for me, it means shifting to ethical and reusable resources for the betterment of society.

During the peak seasons of COVID, I spent a lot of time online shopping for clothes, buying items off of Amazon and ordering food online. I was shocked to realize how much waste was created in the process. One by one, I saw my Amazon, Zara and Aritzia packages stacking up on top of each other. We waste massive cardboard boxes, plastic containers and bags when these packages come in, and some of us don’t know how to discard them properly. 

Many people think that being “sustainable” is hard, and to be frank, it can be. It is not something that we can do overnight, but I learned that it’s the little steps that matter. Being sustainable doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing routine; a minor change in your lifestyle will lead to a greener environment.

Here are a few simple ways that you can become more sustainable.

  1. Switch out disposable cotton pads

There are so many reusable options that you can easily find on Amazon, Etsy, your local drugstores etc. Switching to reusable cotton pads is an easy way to eliminate waste as they absorb just as well as disposable ones and get the job done. They also come with a laundry bag, making them easy to wash. I used to use disposables to remove my makeup and exfoliate my skin every night, but I found that reusable cotton pads are even softer on the skin. They also save you a lot more money––think about how much you spend each month on cotton pads and multiply that by 12. In the long run, reusable cotton pads will slowly help you create an eco-friendly routine while saving extra money. Give it a try!

2. Use reusable cups for to-go drinks

I am a huge bubble tea addict so purchasing a reusable bubble tea cup was a great investment. They are awesome not only for bubble tea but for smoothies and juices as well; I love how they’re bigger compared to a standard glass cup. Although most shops currently do not accept reusable cups due to COVID-19, don’t let that stop you from getting one; you can still use it around the house and bring it to stores after the pandemic! Most reusable cups come with a metal straw as well so you don’t have to ask for one when buying drinks.

3. Try reusable menstruation products like absorbent underwear

Periods are the worst. Not only do you have to deal with all the emotional and physical discomfort, but you have to deal with the constant fear of leaking. This year, I stumbled across underwear for menstruation. I was very skeptical about the idea at first, thinking about the potential leaks or discomfort it could cause. After trying a pair for the first time, however, I instantly fell in love. The underwear is washable and reusable and can replace pads and tampons. They absorb extremely quickly, prevent leaks and provide the necessary comfort. If the idea of period undies doesn’t appeal to you, maybe a menstrual cup or reusable pads will?

4. Don’t ask for plastic utensils when ordering food to your house

Most of the time when we request takeout orders or deliveries, we are eating in the comfort of our homes. Since many of us have access to kitchen utensils such as forks, spoons and maybe chopsticks, get in the habit of not requesting utensils! Using your own will allow you to wash and reuse them as you please, compared to the one-time use of plastic ones.

5.  Bring a reusable shopping bag

Are you still paying for plastic bags at the grocery store? Why not leave a reusable one in your car? This is an easy way to carry your items while making a minor yet effective change to help the environment (and your wallet). There’s really no need to pay for plastic grocery bags when you think about it.

6. Buy a reusable water bottle

Cut down on plastic water bottles by purchasing a reusable bottle that suits your style. There are so many stylish and smart designs that keep your drinks either hot or cold for long periods. 

7. Find a new home or purpose for your old clothes

Donate any clothes you no longer wear or repurpose them into other items. My grandmother loves turning plain, basic garments into rags for cleaning around the house. Every time you decide to buy a new piece of clothing, get rid of an old one. Be realistic about what you would wear and what you would not.

Over the years, I learned that the road to sustainability doesn’t only consist of big steps like switching to a plant-based diet or wearing ethically sourced clothing. Instead, it can be making small adjustments in your routine to create an impact in the long run. Starting small is better than doing nothing at all!

Erica Su

Ryerson '24

Erica is a Creative Industries student at Ryerson University specializing in business and communications. During her free time, she loves to cook up a storm in the kitchen, play 8 ball pool, and re-watch her all-time favourite shows such as Selling Sunset.
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