7 Day-to-Day Product Swaps to Make Today to Help Save the Environment

By: Malak Atwa

I hate to start this out this way but unfortunately, it’s the only way I know how to start; with the pandemic and everything going on in the world today, a lot of people – myself included – have forgotten about their carbon footprint and their excessive usage of plastic and a lot of things that are very damaging for this planet. Instead of taking the time to shop eco-friendly in the supermarket, we tend to lean towards whatever is available – due to limited stock in supermarkets – and whatever we can afford because ever since the coronavirus, some people have been struggling financially. Today I’m here to help you become a little greener, without exhausting your thoughts or wallet. 

Plastic Bags < Organic Cotton Bags

This goes without saying, but when you go grocery shopping it’s better to bring your own bags instead of using the plastic bags in stores. Even if the bags are marketed as “compostable”, “recycled” or “eco-friendly”. Re-use old bags, repurpose old fabric or clothes into tote bags, or just use cloth bags and containers.

Get some lovely totes from Urban Earthlings.

Cotton Balls < Washable Rounds

Something you probably didn’t think of – don’t worry, neither did I – is that being eco-friendly doesn’t just mean metal straws and reusable water bottles, it means leaving less waste and cotton is waste. You can only use it once and after that it becomes trash and you can’t repurpose it, it’s not biodegradable and they do not decompose. Once you’re done taking off your makeup those cotton rounds get thrown in landfills to never be used again. Instead of constantly wasting your money on cotton rounds you can buy washable rounds. They are a lot gentler on your skin and cheaper for you because you don’t have to go buy new ones every few weeks. Not only are you saving the planet, but also taking better care of your skin.

Mainstream ‘Care’ Brands < Local Health/Care Brands

Instead of buying from mainstream global brands that operate within unsafe environments and whose beauty/care products are harmful to both you and the environment, consider shopping local instead. We’ve got at least a couple of local brands that have amazing all-natural, affordable, and sustainable products. Brands like El-Haj Arafa, Kawket Bodycare, Black Lotus, Nefertari, etc. Shop local and sustainable guys, for ourselves and our environment. 

Tea Bags < Tea Strainers

That’s right even by just drinking tea you’re creating waste and leaving and a carbon footprint. You can replace single-use tea bags with a tea ball or tea strainer and start using loose leaf tea. Paper tea bags are full of toxins, pesticides, and dioxins, and they are known to cause cancer in animals that have been exposed to them. By mixing a tea bag with hot water you are making a toxic drink that can very seriously damage your immune system. Not to mention, many tea bags are chlorine bleached and made of non-biodegradable materials. So get yourself a stainless steel tea ball or tea strainer and opt for buying loose leaf tea for a toxin-free tea. Again, better for your health and the environment.

Parchment Paper < Silicone Mats

Since everyone is discovering the kitchen as a fun space all of the sudden because of lockdown, I thought it would be a little reckless if I don’t mention this. Parchment paper (wara2 el zebda), not all but some, are bleached and contain dioxin which is very bad for you. Instead, you can use silicone mats for baking and such. Again, because you’ll only need one or two, you’d be saving a ton of money and unnecessary waste. A bonus: these mats are non-stick. You don’t need to oil or grease them which will automatically cut back your fat consumption.

Packaged Products < Bulk Buying

Buy more items in bulk and bring your own jars, containers, or produce bags instead of buying items with lots of packaging. It is such an easy and economical swap to make. Because you can see the portions you are buying, you get to save a lot of money. So many packed foods are filled with air and contain chemicals and preservatives that are unhealthy and these packages cost more. This is such a big swap for avoiding waste and plastic consumption. If you do not have a bulk food store in your area, then simply try to buy the largest size of whatever you’re shopping for. Buying the largest size means you will have to buy the item less frequently, and therefore will use less packaging in the long run.

Fast Fashion < Second Hand/Ethical Fashion

Buying second hand can be hard because it seems like there are barely any second-hand stores available to shop at, however, there are some clothing brands that produce sustainable and ethical clothing pieces and/or offer a sustainable collection. It is a bit harder to find, and it can sometimes be a little on the pricier side, but you can find affordable pieces too. Another thing that you can do is repurpose old clothing or even attending/hosting a clothing swap with your friends and family. There are many vintage stores all over cities in the SWANA/MENA region, you just have to look for them. Also, there are second-hand clothing markets held everywhere, like Wekalet El Balah in Cairo.

It may seem like a lot but they’re all very small steps that you can take one day at a time. Once you get into the habit of making those changes, it’ll be a part of your lifestyle. Yes, you are one person. Yes, one person can (and does) makes a difference. It always starts with just one person. Everything you try to do to help the environment, actually helps.

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