Back in September, during Zero Waste Month, I wrote a post about how we can put our sewing skills to good use towards a more sustainable lifestyle. I had so many ideas for that post that I had to leave out a few for a follow-up and guess what, now’s the time for that!
Single-use plastics continues to be the topic du jour, especially since the European Parliament has recently passed on legislation to ban plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds by 2021. In the previous post, we talked about why the big 4s of single-use plastics (bags, bottles, cutlery, straws + added bonus of coffee cups), and how we can tackle them using our sewing skills. But there are more things we can do with our sewing machines + fabric to cut out on single-use items from our lives and benefit the environment.
As I have mentioned before, one of my pet peeves are single-use items, especially plastics, but I try to avoid anything that gets used once and then thrown away. I’ve pretty much banned the big 4s through using reusable containers (and cloth bags and metal straws), but I’ve realised that there are many more areas in my life where I could make a difference. Some of the alternatives I can even sew myself! Here are a few ideas.
Disposable makeup removal pads alternative
I wear a little bit of make-up on most days, but even if I don’t, I like to clean the daily grime and pollution that come with living in a big city. So that means cleansing my face every evening. I can’t even begin to think how many disposable make-up remover pads I have used since my teenage years. I used to through a bag of 50 every month! And they get used once and then dumped right in the bin.
But what’s the problem, they are cotton, so they are biodegradable, right? Well, if you happened to see Tracey Dooley’s documentary a few weeks ago on the BBC, you might have learned that cotton is an incredibly thirsty plant that comes with a lot of other environmental and social issues. It’s indeed natural and biodegrades, but making cotton items that are meant to be thrown away is a terrible waste of resources. It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of cotton, so even my 1g cotton pad takes 20 litres of water just for the cotton to be grown, not to mention its processing, like bleaching, to make them snowy white. Yup, pretty scary, right?
But luckily, I can sew my own alternatives really quickly. I had a big pack of organic cotton samples that I had requested a while ago and that just sat at the bottom of a drawer. So they were the perfect material to use for my pads, saving on waste on all levels. But of course, you can use any kind of fabric scraps that you have hanging around. It’s a very quick and easy job, and you can use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine or the overlocker. If you are using the overlocker, you can try a multicoloured thread, like Andrew from SewAndrew uses for all his projects. You can get the thread on Amazon. I used some orange thread I had in my stash.
Here are a few tutorials if you want to start making your own.
A great tip I saw somewhere was to have a lingerie bag hanging somewhere in your bathroom and just put the reusable pads in it after you use them. When it’s full, you can just throw them in the wash with your whites inside the bag.
Here’s a tutorial for a lingerie bag, because, guess what, you can sew one of those too!
Wet wipes make-up removal alternatives
Another make-up related culprits are the disposable wet wipes. I use them when I travel and I don’t have enough room to carry liquid make-up remover. But they are even worse than the cotton pads, as they are partially made of polyester, as well as cotton. Even the ones that are marketed as ‘flushable’ because they are made from cellulose (trees), take a long time to decompose and can release microplastics into the waterways. Many people still flush wet wipes down the toilet, which causes massive issues within the sewage systems (I’m sure you might have heard of the Fatberg in London sewage system). They can even end up in our waterways and change the shape of riverbeds.
You can, of course, replace the wet wipes with the above pads, but if you want something a bit bigger, here are a few tutorials for cloth face towels.
Whether you decide to replace wet wipes with reusable products or not, please, please, please, DO NOT EVER throw them in the toilet, no matter where you are in the world. In fact, never throw anything in the toilet other than toilet paper (and not even that in some places!).
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Menstrual products alternatives
I know this is quite a delicate subject, but I have been wanting to talk about periods and how damaging feminine hygiene products are for the environment for a long time on the blog.
No classic menstrual products are biodegradable, especially pads, which are made of plastic, or the applicators for tampons, which also cannot be recycled.
I switched to moon cup over a year ago and it was a total game changer. Do send me a message if you’d like to know more (saving those who don’t the gory details). It felt so good to reduce a major contribution of my personal disposable waste. However, I realise that it is not for everyone, but luckily, there are reusable alternatives for pad users as well, some of which you can also sew yourself (and it’s a great scrap buster too).
Here are a few tutorials (there are loads more available)
Also, I’m adding a tutorial for dry/wet bags, to carry them around.
Even if this might not be the right solution for you, you can still use your sewing skills for good! I would urge to check out the charity Days for Girls that asks sewers to donate their time and expertise to make reusable menstrual pads for girls that do not have access to them. Read more on their website. Great small project to take on and a fab scrap buster!
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