The current COVID-19 pandemic is sending the world into a panic frenzy as communities resort to social distancing and nations limit travel in an effort to contain the spread. In many places, like here in Thailand, masks are running out almost everywhere. Last week I helped one of my neighbours sew 20 of a thousand masks which were going to be donated to a local hospital. A few people then asked me for a pattern, so I thought it would be good to make one and share the love. So here it is…
While it is important to keep yourself and other safe and protected during these times, we also need to consider the planet, which is, and will still be our home once we get past this global crisis.
Surgical masks are still the most protective barriers, but since they are single-use they create a lot of waste and have been reported to be washing up on beaches across the region.
I wanted to see if there were any good sustainable alternatives to single use masks.
On doing some reading and found this article that compared various materials for making D.I.Y face masks and rated them based on effectiveness and breathability. Cloth masks made from a cotton blend can be quite effective and reducing exposure to the virus, and they are also breathable. The article suggests using pillowcase and cotton t-shirt material combination.
I created a D.I.Y reusable face mask sewing pattern which allows for the insertion of a filter which makes it great for long term use and for both those who may be sick, or just trying to keep themselves protected. You can insert a folded paper towel, a dried wet wipe, a surgical mask or a filter cartridge if you want to add extra protection. To sew the pattern together, I made a sewing instruction sheet and I am working on creating a video tutorial too.
Have you ever tried, tasted or done something for the first time and wondered how you lived your life up to that moment without it? Well, that is the best and only way I can describe how I feel about my menstrual cup.
Periods are not something we like to talk about and so often we don’t. We just kind of try figure it out as we go, and if we are ever daring enough to try something new, we do, without much hoo-haa about it, because ” Aint nobody got time for that!”
But hear me out. I recently made a switch to using a menstrual cup from using tampons for my period and I cannot express how amazing it has been. I don’t know why I didn’t know about this sooner, but I’m glad I made the switch. I wasn’t unhappy using tampons, I always have, and my period has for the most part been regular and not too inconvenient, apart from the migraines that come with them, so I didn’t ever feel the need to look for alternatives.
However, as I began to question what was in the products I use, and what I put in my, or exposed my body to, I began to wonder if super bleached cotton was potentially seeping toxins into my body over the years. Not to mention the waste using tampons creates; if we do some quick math, that’s 4 tampons a day, 4 days a month, 12 months a year. That’s 192 tampons a year!
That means that since my first period, I had used about 3072 tampons. That is a little crazy if you ask me. Considering you can use each cup for up to 5 years; so that’s about 1000 tampons. Considering this, it was an easy switch for me. Physically, it was a little bit more work, but by the second cycle, once I had mastered “the folding” it wasn’t cumbersome at all.
Using a menstrual cup has given me much more freedom during my period. I feel empowered and safer knowing I am not exposing myself to harmful chemicals. It is also convenient, saves me time and money and is easy to keep, use and clean.
With climate change being one of the biggest trending topics globally, we should all be aware that making an impact for good starts with each one of us choosing to “be the change”.
While you may not be able to solve climate change on your own, we each can make a difference by making choices that prioritise the health of our planet.
The 6 R’s of sustainability, which go beyond the catchy “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are:
There are probably more than two thousand and twenty ways you can be more sustainable, here are 20 ways you can start to “be the change you want to see in the world”.
Practice minimalism – Buy only as much as you need. Avoid being lulled by consumerist culture and only purchase items that real add value to your life.
Read labels – Empower yourself by knowing where your products come from, how they are made and what is in them, this way you can ensure that your purchases and values are aligned.
Switch to sustainable alternatives – There are hundreds of companies and products that focus on sustainable alternatives for almost anything you decide to buy. For example for hygiene products use a bamboo toothbrush and non-plastic floss, go “old school” by shaving with a safety razor, and use eco-friendly soaps and shampoo bars or you can switch to a menstrual cup instead of pads or tampons. Using a menstrual cup has given me much more freedom during my period. I feel empowered and safer knowing I am not exposing myself to harmful chemicals. It is also convenient, saves me time and money and is easy to keep, use and clean.
Plan ahead – Being intentional about your actions is at the crux of rethinking with a sustainable mindset. If you can plan your choices, activities, purchases and how you spend your time and money, you are more likely to avoid impulsive actions based on “convenience” which are often not the most sustainable; e.g. bagging your groceries in a plastic bag at the 7-Eleven because you didn’t carry a reusable bag because you didn’t plan to make that stop.
Avoid single-use products – In a world focused on convenience we generate massive amounts of waste through single-use products such as plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, straws and beverage bottles. Instead, you can refuse these items and opt for reusable, biodegradable or recyclable options such as glass, cloth, food-grade silicone or stainless steel options.
Refuse giveaways and “freebies” – Often times we are offered and given items we don’t want, need or use. These are the most common items for marketing and promotion. By refusing to take them you save the use of resources and save the business money, a double win.
Go digital – Paper uses trees, we need those trees, so why not go paperless for your bill, subscriptions, literature and whatever else you can opt for digital versions of.
Unplug – Natures resources are finite, so using less of them makes a significant difference. While it seems everything we use is plugged into the grid, you can save energy by turning it off when you aren’t using it. Nature gives us sunlight, so work when the sun is up, sleep when it’s dark that way you use less energy for lighting. Also remember to unplug yourself. Observe the weekly Sabbath, reconnect with nature, renew your spirit and step out of the worldly consumerist culture to focus on cultivating a meaningful relationship with your creator and those around you through reflection and service.
Share/ Borrow – We don’t all need to own one of everything. By forming a community with those around you, you can split your carbon footprint by buying in bulk to use less packaging and save money by carpooling or using public transport or by lending and borrowing occasion-specific items such as tools, decorations, appliances or subscriptions.
Opt for less packaging – A lot of the time we don’t need the packaging and it goes straight into the trash, and who knows where it may end up. By opting for less or no packaging, or eco-friendly packaging where you must you save on resources used overall.
Be water-wise – Water is one of the most valuable resources on this planet, and though seemingly abundant, fresh clean water is more scarce than most of us realise. So when you can save water, please do. Take shorter showers, fix leaks, use low-flow water fixtures and don’t let the faucet run.
Eat less meat – while going vegan is a stretch for most people, myself included, switching to a diet that is mainly plant-based is not only healthier for you, but for the plant too. I have recently transitioned to being vegetarian, but I started with cutting out certain meats, then not having meat on certain days, #meatless Monday, then only having meat once a week and now it is off my plate.
Use or make natural products – the more chemicals we use, the more toxins we expose ourselves and the environment. By choosing to use products that have less chemicals in them and are made from natural ingredients, the healthier both us and the planet will be. You can easily make a lot of your own products such as cleaning and beauty products with ingredients already in your kitchen.
Buy second hand – I love salaula shopping (thrifting) so this one is something I’ve always done for my clothing and home-wear. Buying second hand reduced the demand of production of more “new” stuff and so you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money while still getting what you need. Remember, buy less choose well.
Reuse and repair your stuff – this is something we seem to have forgotten is possible. A part of something breaks, we throw out the whole thing. If we repaired our stuff, we would need less new stuff to be made, and if we couldn’t repair it, maybe we can find a new use for it, or parts of it.
Sort & Recycle your waste – While it would be ideal if we could all be zero-waste, the reality is that not many of us are even close. But this should not be discouraging because even as you generate waste (we almost all do)we can still do good in this area too. By sorting your waste and recycling it, you ensure that it ends up in the right place and is more likely to actually get recycled. Separate wet from dry and divide your dry into what can be recycled depending where you live.
Compost food waste – You can use most of your wet waste (biodegradable scraps) to make compost to add it to the soil for your garden and plants.
As Zero Waste Chef Anne Marie Bonneau put it:
Plant more trees – While using your compost to grow your own veggies is a great start, you can plant more than just edibles. Team up with friends or find an organisation in your community and plant more trees. Remember trees are the earth’s lungs.
Support sustainable businesses – While we often promote recycling, we aren’t often as enthusiastic about using the stuff we make from recycled products. By opting to purchase from socially and environmentally responsible brands and stores that use recycled materials you can create a market that encourages recycling and close the loop. A win for the planet.
Buy local – Our carbon footprint is higher when we ship, fly, ferry and drive products from where they grow or are made to where we buy them. When possible, shop at local markets, health stores, and choose local products to reduce the impact of your purchases on the planet while supporting the community around you. Its a win, win, win.
So from the list above, choose a few ways in which you will strive to be more sustainable and “be the change” the world so desperately needs.