Eco-lumn: China is Refusing Our Trash: Here’s What You Can Do to Reduce Waste

At Blush and at FIT, sustainability is a major cause we care about. Eco-lumn (a play on the words eco and column) serves to inform our readers on the ongoing changes and advances within the sustainability movement within our community, and throughout the world.


Our country has never had a successful system for large scale recycling, so we sell our trash and recyclables off to other countries, mainly China. And, if there’s one thing Americans are great at, it’s creating waste. Now that China and other countries are refusing our recyclables, we are being forced to face our failed waste management system.


Right now, recycling companies don’t know what to do. Some are stockpiling the waste, waiting and hoping for new policies or new buyers to come along, which looks quite unlikely. However, the majority of these companies are just sending its recyclable items to sit in landfills. 


So what can we do, as individuals, to help? It all comes down to reducing our waste and our carbon footprint. As daunting as it seems, it’s not as big of a change as you think, and has been done for centuries of human life. Afterall, plastic was only created in 1907. While some of our generation’s greatest innovators try and conjure up new technology to create reusable alternatives, let’s look back towards previous ways of life, before plastic, and before the consumer boom in the 50’s that led us to where we are now.


It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to live zero-waste existences. We just millions of people trying to do it, imperfectly. It’s time to take responsibility. With lots of research, I composed a list below, of essential, sustainable items that anyone can use in their daily life to reduce waste. 


Snapseal Kenton Travel Mug

This travel mug is leak proof, and keeps your beverage hot for hours! I’ve used this before, making tea at 7am and having it still warm by noon. 


Hydro Flask Water Bottle

These water bottles are popular for good reason, your drink will stay cold for up to 12 hours, and there are different lids sold depending on if you want a wide mouth opening, or a straw. 


S’well Water Bottle

An alternative to Hydro Flask, S’well makes a more traditional water bottle shape with a smaller mouth opening. 


Simple Modern Classic Tumbler and Straw 

This cup is perfect for any juices, smoothies, Starbucks or coffee runs. In my experience, cafes or smoothie places will happily accept these to put your beverage in, and most times employees thank me! 


GOpure Pod Water Filter

This little device helps provide you with clean water no matter where you are! Pop it into your water bottle and let it filter your water when you’re in a pinch.


Zero Waste Store Reusable Silicone Sandwich Bag

I was skeptical about how practical these would be, but bringing snacks in these instead of bulky tupperware containers is a game changer.


Windspeed 3 Piece Flatware Set

Keeping this small container with you assures you can deny single use plastic utensil you are offered, and makes eating on the go or traveling easier. 


Organic Cloth Napkins

A simple swap, yet again. I love these because of their versatility; they work as a napkin, tissue, or even a make-shift makeup wipe in times of need.


Klee Utensils & Food Storage Containers

These are some non-plastic containers for your meal preps and snacks. Stainless steel truly will outlast any plastic containers. I love that these have clasps to assure no leaks in my bag. 


Flexcup Discovery Kit 

I cannot recommend these menstrual cups enough. Tampons, even organic cotton, can absorb the good bacteria in your vagina. And, if your body is sensitive like mine, this can cause yeast and/or other infections. I recommend this kit from Flex because it’s easy to use, and comes with two of their “discs” which are perfect for a transition into using a menstrual cup. Once you get the hang of it it’s second nature, and you NEVER have to worry about buying menstrual products again! Especially with the reusable cloth pads from zero waste store. 


Zero Waste Store Wet Bags 

These wet bags are the answer to using cloth pads while you’re out of the house all day long. While they are perfect for used pads, they work for dirty cloth napkins, and really any item that has been soiled and you want to keep sealed up until you can wash it or hang to dry. 


Note that all of these things products are investments, meaning they are meant to last for a long, long time. The prices may seem scary at first, but when you think about the cost over five or ten years, you’re absolutely saving money in the long run. In other words, you’re being sustainable.


This doesn’t mean you should throw away your perfectly good tupperware, or full boxes of pads and tampons. I find that now, when I run out of something, my goal is to replace it with a more sustainable option. This works better than just buying a whole bunch of items and tossing the rest. The progress is slow, the change is gradual, but the impact is huge.