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7 Easy, Budget-friendly Swaps for Sustainable Living

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The thought of being more sustainable can be overwhelming. Do I have to go zero-waste, get a compost bin and start taking my bike everywhere? But in reality, there are small changes we can all make together to take better care of the world. An estimate from the Be Straw Free campaign says that we use about 500 million plastic straws in the US every day, enough to fill over 127 school buses. People might have thought that their one or two plastic straws aren’t a big deal, but these choices, added together, made a huge impact. 

When we all resolve to make some positive changes in our daily lives, we make a large impact. Here are seven easy, budget-friendly swaps to help you live more sustainably!

Use a reusable straw

There are tons of options for reusable straws these days. Not a fan of metal? Try glass. Worried it will break? Try bamboo. A friend of mine carries a variety of reusable straws in her bag so that whenever she’s at a restaurant, she can forgo the plastic one.

Ditch the plastic bottle: use shampoo bars and detergent sheets

I think shampoo bars are a genius idea on so many levels. For one thing, good quality shampoo is already not cheap. But add in the fact that bottled shampoo is mostly water, and you realize that you’re buying diluted soap water. Shampoo bars contain the concentrated form of shampoo, so they last longer than bottles. They are also travel-friendly (no worries about leaking in your bag or having to pass TSA standards). Plus, you eliminate the plastic.
My favorite brands for shampoo bars are Ethique (which also offers conditioner bars and deodorant sticks) and Zero Bar. I also use detergent sheets from Sheets Laundry Club. Similar to shampoo bars, they are a concentrated form of detergent that you toss in the wash. No messy pouring or plastic involved.

Bring reusable bags wherever you go!

Several times, I’ve made a spontaneous shopping trip, only to realize I didn’t have reusables with me. Stock your car with some totes so you’re always prepared! 

Repurpose or donate old clothes

Society tells us that we always need the newest, greatest things and we often throw away what we don’t want or need. However, tossed clothes are likely going to end up in a landfill. Instead, try to repurpose clothes. Could you repair the item? Could you turn that worn T-shirt into a tie-dye creation or use it as a washrag? If the clothes are in good shape, could you donate them to Goodwill or a local charity? Many small-scale charities are in great need and would love the items you would otherwise have thrown away. 

Shop second-hand
An Instagram post from THRIFT on 46, a thrift store located in Sanford, Florida.

The fast-fashion industry is responsible for a massive amount of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. An article from Princeton states that “the fashion industry is currently responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.” That’s a massive impact! Buying from sustainable brands that minimize toxic dyes and synthetic fibers is a great solution, but these brands are often expensive, due to their careful sourcing and production.  

One way to reduce your environmental impact without breaking the bank is by purchasing second-hand. You might think that shopping second-hand means getting poor quality, “clothes-your-cousin-outgrew” items. But that’s not always the case! Many thrift stores offer popular brands of clothing; for instance, THRIFT on 46 sells designer brands from Target (and they also donate 100% of proceeds to Harvest Time International to support individuals in financial need). Also, thredUP, an online thrift store, offers basically all brands you could think of at incredible discounts.

Shop at the farmers’ market

Try heading to the farmers’ market on the weekend! Foods that have been grown locally have a smaller impact on the environment, while food in the supermarket travels an average of 1,000 miles first. You usually get a great price on fresh foods, and many local farmers use sustainable practices, like growing crops without chemicals and pesticides. A 2015 survey found that three out of four local farmers grow their crops according to organic standards. These foods are better for our bodies, our wallets and the planet!

Let go of consumerist culture 

Our culture says we always need to have the newest things, but we can make a more positive impact by purchasing mindfully instead. Don’t let society pressure you into buying things just to impress others or feel good about yourself. Purchase things you truly need, want and love. Buy things that spark joy and are made to last.

Sustainability looks different for everyone, but there are simple changes we can all make to take better care of our planet. Whether you are a pro at sustainable living, just curious or just starting out, I hope these ideas inspire you to practice more sustainability in your daily life.

I'm a 3rd-year UCF student majoring in communication sciences and disorders and minoring in psychology, aging studies, and linguistics. I volunteer at UCF Aphasia House and work at the Aphasia and Related Conditions (ARC) Research Lab, and I hope to become a speech-language pathologist someday! In my spare time, I enjoy learning about organization, productivity, and planning tools. I also love playing the piano, exploring local coffee shops, scribbling down scraps of poetry, and watching my favorite Netflix series.
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