Ashleigh Carden Revive

Guest Blog: “Not a single bottle of water” – Ashleigh Carden

It started with a New Year’s resolution, just over a year ago – “in 2020 I will not buy a single bottle of water”.

It seemed like a sensible goal, one that I could realistically achieve, and one that nodded to the niggling feeling in the back of my head that I was not living with integrity, walking the talk or practising what I preached. Now looking back, although it meant a few thirsty afternoons, I did achieve it. I didn’t know then, but what started as simply saying no to bottled water led to many more changes in my life over the course of 2020.

One by one, I introduced more sustainable ways of living into my life. I now take my own bags and produce bags to the store, wash my hair and body using bars instead of bottled soaps, use a reusable razor where the only thing you dispose of is a metal blade, get bamboo toilet paper delivered carbon neutrally to my doorstep, take care to recycle my plastic waste and have ditched plastic wrap for reusable wax wraps.

It wasn’t until August 2020 that I landed the job of my dreams working for Conservation Volunteers Australia, focussing on #SeaToSource, a huge nation-wide project tackling ocean litter – now I’m more inspired than ever. What I’m doing may seem like a lot, but believe me when I say this didn’t happen overnight. I feel very privileged to be able to make these changesbut what I think is most important is doing what you can, and not beating yourself up for not being perfect.

Here is what I found over my waste reduction journey in 2020! 

Supermarket bags: This seemed like a no brainer to me, and I’m not just talking packing bags. One of the best purchases I made this year was my own produce bags. Most supermarkets where I live (TAS) still have plastic bags for your fruit and veg, and as soon as I bought my own it became alarmingly obvious how few people do not (that is always the way). One set of bags has lasted me around 7 months so far and they’re showing no signs of wear and tear. The breathable fabric is much better for storing the produce, and it’s better for the environment than even the biodegradable bags found in the most forwardthinking of supermarkets. In fact the biodegradable bags often need special conditions in order to actually break down, and end up in land fill anyway. I wanted to encourage everyone to get a set of these. They look cool as well which is a bonus. 

Shampoo bars, conditioning bars and soap: When I used to think of soap, I thought of a 3-pack of cheap chemicals. But these days, if you spend a little more or look a little harder for a bar of soap, you will be amazed at what you can find. Soap can feel like luxury my friendsThe environment will be thankful that you have made the swap from polluting bottles (bonus points if you buy soap packaged in paper instead of plastic). But what I really wanted to talk about was shampoo and conditioning bars, this was quite an interesting jump for me. I was hesitant at first, but I haven’t looked back since first trying them around six months ago. They’re a bit more expensive to buy, but I’m only recently on my second shampoo bar and first conditioning bar. I have a sensitive scalp but managed to find a sensitive brand that suits me, and I’m glad to give head and shoulders a rest. Shampooing and conditioning my hair with bars takes a little longer than with conventional shampoo but to me it feels like selfcare and I enjoy the feeling I get when I look around the shower and see zero plastic, knowing I’m doing my part for the environment. Which brings me to my next point – my reusable razor. 

Reusable razor: I’m going to be real here, I have had a few more cuts since purchasing this razor. The lady in the razor shop said it could be because of the type of razor I have. Apparently razors that butterfly open and twist close are not as stable as 3-piece and 2-piece razors which fully come apart – something to keep in mind if you are looking to buy, however, please speak to a professional about this! Being the stubborn person I am, and because sustainable purchases are not sustainable if you chuck them out to buy new ones, I stuck with it and have mastered shaving without nicking my skin. It is worth it in the long run, and I’m still on my first box of blades that worked out at 16 cents per blade. That beats the exorbitant prices they sell those plastic-filled gimmicky disposable razors at! 

Let’s talk toilet paper: I started ordering my toilet paper online after I saw the toilet paper at work, 1. Had great (paper) packaging, 2. Supported charities doing awesome work overseas, 3. Makes TP out of bamboo and not trees (a much faster growing and sustainable resource). The best thing is they deliver it to my door carbon neutrally and for a great price. There are plenty of companies who operate on this model and are doing good in the world, so what are you waiting for? Leave that plastic covered bog roll on the shelves.  

Soft plastics recycling: Maybe I’m late to the gamebut you can recycle a lot more than what your council provided bin allows. With a little time and consideration, you can recycle soft plastics too. All you need to do is collect, clean and dry your soft plastics and drop them off at your local drop off point – mine is my local shop although most supermarkets have soft plastic recycling stations. They turn the plastics in to all manner of things which is an awesome program to be a part of! Other recycling hacks include collecting all your small metal pieces (lids, bubbly cork foil /wires, scrunched up tin foils and other steel items) into a metal container (e.g., milo tin) before recycling as these are usually too small for the machines to pick up and end up in landfill, collecting batteries and disposing of them at recycling centres and of course reusing items wherever you can. 

Wax wraps: I’ve found these wraps can’t replace glad wrap in all cases, but I cannot begin to count the metres of plastic wrap it has saved me from using. The only thing I have needed to use plastic wrap for in the last few months was for wrapping pizza base dough for the freezer, and maybe wax wraps would have worked! Next time I’ll test one to find out. Every other time I used plastic wrap was because I did not have enough of the wax ones. *adds wax more wax wraps to the shopping list*. After 5 months of use, one of the wraps (my biggest and most often used one) is looking worse for wear, I think it is because one time I washed it in hot soapy water when you are not supposed to. As with everything else, it is a learning curve, just check the care instructions of the wraps you buy as there are a few different types. 

That is just some of what I have learnt on my sustainable journey so far, along with eating less meat, starting a worm farm, and most recently, planting my own herbs and some vegetablesI am proud of myself, and it is not because I am perfect – far from it, but I am happy with the steps I have taken this year. I have shrugged off the expectation of being one of those people who ends the year with a tiny jar filled with 6 pieces of rubbish and just focussed on doing what I can.  

If this is something that interests you, my advice is to start and learn as you go. Find people to follow on social media who inspire you – there are heaps of wonderful people out there willing to share information! And other than that? It is one step at a time.

My new year’s resolution this year? Avoid fast fashion! Clothes are super cheap for a reason – if you are not paying, someone else is, whether that’s the environment, or the people in the supply chain. For me this is going to be a lot harder than not buying bottled water, but I think I can do it! I respect that everyone is on their own sustainability journey and for some, fast fashion is the only way they can afford to dress themselves. I am not talking to you; I am talking to the people who are lucky enough to have a choice.  

Choose to start the journey! 

P.S. Whatever you decide to do, do not buy bottled water it is literally free from the tap. No brainer!