There’s so much that teens can do to offset some of the damage humankind has done to the planet. Believe it or not, with a few simple zero-waste swaps, you too can feel like you’re actually making a difference!
Most people waste hundreds of toothbrushes throughout their lives. In the US, it’s estimated that if we switched them out every three to four months, we’d throw away over one billion of them every year.
Even worse, many of those toothbrushes cannot be recycled effectively due to the composite plastics used to make them. So, the toothbrushes end up in the trash, adding to the growing piles of waste suffocating our planet.
There is a solution, though. With a zero-waste toothbrush, you’re all set on making our planet a better place to live on. These toothbrushes are typically made of bamboo, which is actually a very sustainable source that grows fast. The harvested plants get replaced in about two years only. Plus, once the brush is no longer usable, you can repurpose the handle or dispose of it in a composting bin. It will return to the soil within six months.
Now, every teen girl loves her hair, so using a quality shampoo and conditioner is a must these days. However, since those come in pesky plastic bottles (which heavily contribute to overall waste), let’s switch to some zero-waste options.
Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from here. Shampoo bars are all the rage now and a clear favorite of other eco-conscious teens for a few reasons. They are much more concentrated than regular shampoo, so they last quite a while. The bars usually come wrapped in compostable paper packaging, so there’s very little waste. Better still, there’s a bar for pretty much every type of hair out there — curly, pin-straight, fine, oily, and more!
Another option is to go for refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles. Some brands offer 100% recyclable aluminum bottles of these concoctions. Once you run out, you simply send the bottles back for a refill.
Body Care and Beauty
Obviously, soap already comes in bars, so you can easily make the switch from liquid soap without overthinking it (look for recyclable packaging, though!). Similar to shampoo and conditioner, you can also find refillable bottles of body wash and add a few extra points to your zero-waste efforts.
Zero-waste deodorants are a thing, too. Brands try to cater to eco-conscious individuals by not only using ethically sourced ingredients but also packing the deodorants in compostable cardboard tubes. Zero-waste makeup is another option. Makeup brands that are looking to reduce the damage we’re doing to our environment pack their products in reusable or biodegradable packaging and offer refills to their customers.
Finally, we have to mention that time of the month. Yes, periods are inevitable for girls. However, there are actually ways to adopt a more zero-waste approach in that area. We discard an obscene amount of pads and tampons every year (about 7 billion tampons and 12 billion pads in the US!), so switching to a menstrual cup could be a fine solution.
Once you understand how to use these and care for them properly, they will last you for years. Alternatively, you can try other reusable period products, such as period underwear and reusable pads.
The fashion industry may seem dazzling, but we mustn’t forget that it’s responsible for putting our planet in danger. For one, its carbon emission rate is staggering, accounting for a whopping 10% of annual global emissions. The industry also uses a ton of water to make clothing — 93 billion cubic meters of it. And even worse, all of the stages of the value chain include some form of water pollution.
We also contribute to waste by relying on fast fashion brands and throwing clothes away once they rip, don’t fit anymore, etc. Those clothing items then end up in landfills, polluting our planet further. Some of them get burned too (again, not great for the environment).
Luckily, a cool outfit may be just around the corner in your local secondhand store. Trends come and go, so with only a bit of effort and a good eye, you can find gems that someone else has discarded and give them a new life! Plus, there’s always a chance of scoring some great vintage pieces there, which you can then combine with the clothes you already own into a brand new statement outfit!
Drinkware and Foodware
When it comes to zero-waste eating and drinking, one of the easiest swaps these days is to get a reusable stainless steel or bamboo straw. Small brands know that teens are interested in a zero-waste lifestyle, so you can find these in a range of colors and even packed in small storage bags for easier use on the go.
Another option is to cut out plastic water bottles entirely and get yourself a stainless steel bottle. These too come in a range of designs, so it won’t be hard finding the perfect one for you. Plus, you can usually use them for both hot and cold drinks!
Finally, while at school or out and about, you can also have some (plastic-free!) zero-waste meals. There’s no reason to use plastic lunch boxes anymore — after all, they deteriorate fast anyway. Instead, you can get a stainless steel, bamboo, or glass box that can easily last you for years.