I will be the first to admit that I have fallen major victim to the idea of convenience. More specifically, what is convenient to myself and only myself. This includes using non-reusable items like plastic straws and utensils whenever I eat take out and shopping at stores like Forever 21 and H&M for the cheaper prices, even if it means sacrificing the quality of the piece.
In our day to day lives we are much more wasteful than we think. Something spills? Clean it up with a paper towel and throw it away. Your toothbrush looking a little ratty? Throw it out and grab another plastic Oral-B toothbrush from its plastic packaging. Did you know that every plastic toothbrush you've ever used in all your years of life is still on this planet to this day. Plastic is one of the least biodegradable materials and it will continue to sit in landfills for many, many years to come. That is, unless, we all start to put a conscious effort towards reducing our waste, whether that be in purchases we make or the spending habits we break.
Now given the fact that many of us are college students its almost ludicrous to assume that any of us would want to willingly spend more money than we have to. The fact of the matter is, spending more money now on reusable items as opposed to one use items will actually save you money in the long run. Sure items such as Ziploc bags, paper towels and cotton rounds cost maybe two dollars a pop, but since they are one use items we tend to fly through them within the month, meaning eventually we have to make that trek back to the store to purchase some more. As time goes on you buy more and more and eventually you've racked up hundreds of dollars on items you only use one at a time. Making sustainable purchases such as washable bags over Ziploc bags, a pack of dish towels over paper towels, and reusable rounds over cotton rounds will last you for years and years without the need to be repurchased. Over time, this will help you save money little by little since you will be making one purchase instead of multiple. I mean come on, even bringing a reusable cup to Starbucks will help you save $0.10 on every drink you buy and stores such as Target, Whole Foods, and many others will discount your total purchase for bringing a reusable bag.
Purchasing reusable and recyclable items for everyday use is a big step to reducing your ecological footprint, but changing where you shop can also help. This is mostly true of the fashion industry, and fast fashion in particular. According to EcoWatch, "the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil." The fashion industry creates waste through its use of toxic dyes and its absurd amount of natural resources used from its attainment of the natural materials all the way through to the manufacturing, processing, and shipping. Companies such as Fashion Nova, Missguided, and Romwe are just a few of the most popular fast fashion brands to have hit the markets in recent years and their popularity stems from their up-to-date fashion trends and their budget friendly prices. These factors tend to blind the consumer as to what really goes on behind closed doors. According to the app Good On You, these brands have dangerously low ratings in terms of their environmental impact, their use of ethical labor, and their use of sustainable animal products like leather and wool. These factors make them key contenders in the contest of "who can create the most unwanted waste first." Understandably, most of the sustainable brands out there are not the cheapest in the world but again in the long run you will end up with pieces that are better quality, will last you a longer amount of time, and hopefully will be items that make you feel good about not contributing to the fast fashion refuse.
For a long time, about 18 of my 19 years of life, I was blinded by the convenience and cheaper price tag of non-sustainable products and clothing, but no more. I am tired of seeing statistics about how we are killing our planet with our extensive landfills, tired of seeing documentaries about how we are killing our wildlife with pollution that has the ability to be avoided. I have decided to set some goals for myself in order to help reduce the amount of waste that I produce myself and that I bring about with my shopping choices. I have already procured a set of reusable straws and utensils that I carry in my bag in case I go out to eat, a set of cheap dish towels to clean up easy spills and messes in my house, and both a set of reusable shopping bags and reusable coffee cups to save even more coin wherever I can. I have also set the goal to only buy staples for my wardrobe second hand, either through thrifting or consignment, and if I decided I wanted something new I would only purchase from brands that are transparent about the methods used to make their clothing. Hopefully in time more brands will make the switch to using more sustainable approaches when creating their products, refraining from making items out of plastic when necessary, and in the future we will be able to successfully reduce the mark we are leaving on this planet.