Everyday Environmentalist

Use Less

"In the interest of not spending my kid’s college fund on good-smelling beauty products, I became conscious of the quantity of products I use."

-Sherry Crawley, marketing and communications director for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia


By Sherry Crawley

It all began with a $12 bottle of shampoo.

It smelled good. Buying it gave me that smarmy, eco-superior feeling. Recycled bottle. Dye free. Bought at a hipster-chic market. Surrounded by organic bean sprouts and all kinds of stuff made out of hemp.

Imagine my disappointment when I took my inaugural shower with my new shampoo, only to discover its watery consistency and un-foamy-ness required a couple generous handfuls to wash my hair.

If I’m being honest, I knew I couldn’t financially sustain buying $12 bottles of shampoo anyway. Those of us trying to live more earth-friendly are bombarded with advice on what products to buy, but they can come with a hefty price tag. 

So in the interest of not spending my kid’s college fund on good-smelling beauty products, I became conscious of the quantity of products I use, and I am encouraging others to do it too.

Start by taking an inventory of products you use: shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cosmetics, hand soap, mouthwash… it’s more than you think.

After you are aware of what you use, the fun begins.

  •  See how little of something you can get away with. Swipe deodorant just once or twice, use a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste, and spare a few squares of bathroom tissue.
  • I’m convinced product bottles are designed to dispense half a cup of lotion or shampoo. Pay attention to packaging. I have found that a pump dispenser makes it easier to use less.
  • Just skip it. I condition my hair every other day. I buy moisturizer with sunblock so I use less overall.

Don’t stop with personal care products – this way of thinking can be applied to cleaning products, baby care and many other consumables.

  • My husband jokes that greener cleaning products are “made of dolphin tears.” While I doubt this is true, those products can seem less effective. But try something new from time to time — I use a more eco-friendly dishwashing soap because it works better than traditional brands.
  • I’ve made the switch to cloth napkins. They don’t add bulk to my laundry and they take “paper napkins” off the shopping list.
  •  I’d love to claim that I used cloth wipes and diapers for my son, but a working mom can’t do it all. I do use baby wipes sparingly, take it easy when squirting bath products and take every opportunity to talk to my child about using less.

Are we going to save the planet by conditioning our hair less? Well, no. But an increased awareness of our habits can have greater effects. Maybe you can think more carefully about the quantity of stuff you buy in general, from clothes and toys to electronics. Perhaps your new, skimpier consumption perspective can motivate you to carpool, try out a car share or combine your errands.

I can’t always afford to make the very best choice for the environment when it comes to the things I need, but I can at least respect the natural resources that went into creating them and use them sparingly. And with the money you save, you can choose to support causes that do something for our communities and the planet.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy.


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