World Environment Day: 15 essential environmentally friendly products everyone needs in their lives
From reusable shopping bags to cloth nappies and compostable coffee pods, make these easy switches for a more sustainable lifestyle
Every June 5, World Environment Day is celebrated. This has been going on since 1972, when the UN initiative was first launched in a bid to engage governments, businesses and people to address pressing environmental concerns.
We've come a long way since then, and matters of sustainability are becoming ever more prevalent. And while we can't have much of an impact without strong governmental policies in place, said policies won't change anything if we don't individually make an effort, either.
Here are 15 products that everyone needs in their life, to make it that little bit more eco-friendly and reduce that all-important carbon footprint.
This does not have to simply extend to your shopping bags – there are many other ways to work these into your life.
For example, pick up some for produce, often made of cheesecloth, to load up on those fruit and vegetables without the need for endless flimsy plastic sacks. You can also get bulk food bags, for some more heavy-duty grocery shopping. There are even reusable bread bags, so you can rest easy when you head to the bakery for fresh loaves, and don’t forget zip lock or freezer bags made of silicone.
There are some aspects of life when a reusable bag just won’t work. For instance, when you’re walking your dog and need to clean up after them, this is not something you’ll want to recycle. You can, however, instead opt for a compostable waste bag. Earth Rated sells scented bags made of recycled content, and you can find these for Dh29 (roll of 120 bags) at PetPro.ae.
Taking out the trash is another activity you might want a compostable bag for. Thankfully, these are widely available across supermarkets in the UAE.
It’s a fairly common site nowadays to see people with reusable water bottles and coffee cups, but if that’s not you, then it’s not too late. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties to choose from on the market. If you want to be truly sustainable and health-conscious, avoid any BPA-laden plastic options.
You might want to pick yourself up a reusable straw, too. Stainless steel ones are available all over, from Amazon.ae to Crate & Barrel, and they often come with a straw cleaner as well.
For those who use a razor as part of daily life, consider ditching the plastic-laden disposables and instead opt for a safety razor, which are all the rage these days (even though they were popularised in the 1900s).
There’s a myth that these are more dangerous, when it fact they’re perfectly safe, as there’s a protective device between the edge of the blade and the skin.
They’re typically made of a corrosion-resistant blend of steel, so are durable and sustainable. You can find these fairly easily, with plenty of options on Amazon.ae.
This is one of the easiest switches you’ll make. As the average person uses about 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime, it’s important to find an eco alternative.
Today, you’ll find bamboo toothbrushes alongside regular, plastic varieties on supermarket shelves across the UAE. Bamboo has been found to be one of the most sustainable alternative materials to plastic, so this is a simple fix.
But it’s not your only option – you can also opt for an electric toothbrush, with reduced waste thanks to their smaller disposable heads. You still have to dispose of the bamboo ones every three months; they can be composted, though.
Let’s consider the facts: the average woman has a period for more than 2,500 days of her life (about seven years); they will also dispose of approximately 11,000 sanitary products in a lifetime, many of which end up in oceans or a landfill, according to figures for the US by Safecosmetics.org. Yet, about 90 per cent of these items are made from plastic, and so they are not biodegradable.
As awareness is raised, however, all that is changing. Now we have more options to keep that time of the month environmentally friendly. From pads and tampons made of environmentally friendly materials to cups and even period and leak-proof underwear, there’s something to suit everyone.
Check out brands such as Modi Bodi (has its own website in the UAE), GingerOrganic (available on kibsons.com) and DivaCup (can be found in leading supermarkets).
Going zero waste in the bathroom is not as difficult as it used to be. You can buy solid shampoo and conditioner bars from brands such as Lush, for example, and you can even ask them for reusable packaging.
With toothpaste, you can switch to natural tablets that come in cardboard packaging, which are available from Shift Eco in the UAE. For deodorants, try creams that come in glass jars or compostable paper packaging (also from Shift Eco).
Swap out plastic cotton buds to swabs made with bamboo, paper or wood, and cotton balls for reusable bamboo cotton or fabric pads. You could even try your hand at making your own face products – there are all sorts of recipes out there on the internet for a variety of skin types.
For more on decreasing plastic use in the bathroom, click here.
Chances are, you’ll have a water cooler at home or it’s possible you’re still drinking from 1.5-litre plastic bottles. One way to be far more eco-friendly is by buying a filter, which will reduce contaminants when you’re drinking tap water.
You could opt for a jug, by brands such as Brita, which can be filled up and popped into the fridge. Another option is to get a filter fitted to your tap, so you can enjoy fresh water at all times. For both, you will need to change the filter cartridge every few weeks, depending on your model.
Compostable coffee pods and reusable tea infusers
Are you a coffee addict? Is that Nespresso pod one of the first things you reach for in the morning? Then you’ll be pleased to know you can easily make this activity environmentally friendly by switching to compostable pods. You can find Nespresso-compatible ones online from various brands. In the UAE, Coffee Planet also creates its own range of biodegradable capsules, with Arabica beans from Italy, France, Brazil and Peru.
If you’re more of a tea person, then a loose tea infuser is a must. Teabags are commonly made using plastic, and so are not at all good for the environment, but nowadays you can buy sachets made of biodegradable materials, or simply opt for loose tea that you can strain in an infuser that only needs to be washed and reused.
E-reader or used books
Traditionalists might not like to hear it, but physical books can be a drain on the environment. E-readers are not exactly issue-free, either, as the materials used and manufacturing process aren’t exactly eco-friendly, and neither is the amount of energy it uses, but if you buy one and use it until it dies (that is to say, don’t upgrade when a snazzier one comes out), then it’s much better than buying new books, particularly when you consider that millions of trees are torn down in order to make them (and thousands just end up destroyed or in a landfill, anyway).
If you want to be a real tree-hugger, then buying second-hand or recycled books is the way forward. Even if you just swap with friends, it’s a step in the right direction.
Regular, brand-name cleaning products are actually terrible for the environment. Many surfactants used biodegrade slowly, or even into more toxic chemicals, which is particularly bad for marine life. Ingredients used can also affect water quality, especially those containing phosphorus or nitrogen.
So one of the best things you can do is buy eco-friendly cleaning products. There are a range of brands available throughout the UAE’s supermarkets, most commonly Ecover, but if you want to go one better, then buy local and check out The Botanist, a home-grown line of plant-based, chemical-free products made with essential oils and packaged in glass bottles.
Even better, you could simply make your own – there are plenty of recipes available on the internet for home-made cleaning solutions.
Sponges, brushes and cloths
Alongside cleaning products are your dishwashing utensils that sit at the kitchen sink. Many of us go through numerous packets of sponges every month, but there are alternatives we can use. The Good Karma Co, for example, sells an eco dish brush set with four types of brushes made from bamboo and plant fibre bristles. These can be used in the kitchen or bathroom, and can simply be disinfected after use.
Cotton cloths and eco-friendly sponges (made of fabric or recycled materials) are also available to buy online.
Also don't forget to pick up planet-friendly dishwashing liquid, which is sold in the supermarkets alongside the chemical-filled stuff.
Glass containers and jars
This might seem like an obvious one, but seeing as our supermarket shelves are loaded with plastic containers, it’s worth mentioning that glass ones are much better for the environment. The former might not be single-use plastic, but it has been proven these products are simply not good for our environment or our health. And that includes those takeaway containers you’ve been refusing to throw away (for good reason).
Glass is a safer option, as it’s non-toxic and heating it won’t caused potentially harmful chemicals to infiltrate your food. It’s also far more durable.
If you grow your own plants, then it might be time to get a composter. Compost is used to fertilise and improve soil, and is commonly comprised of plant and food waste. Most of us have that in abundance, and so it’s handy to get a device that allows you to turn your vegetable, fish and meat scraps into mulch to breed more life.
One of the most popular ways to do this is via a Bokashi bin, which you can find in the UAE at My Green Chapter. It turns your table scraps into a rich fermentation liquid and base for compost, and the bins are odourless and often small enough to slide under the kitchen sink.
Parents might want to think about ditching the disposables and opting instead for reusable nappies (or diapers for the Americans).
Not only are they far better for the planet (an estimated three billion are thrown away in the UK every year, says recycling charity Wrap), but they’re also far easier on the wallet, as the average baby goes through thousands before they’re potty trained, and softer varieties reduce nappy rash.
In the UAE, one of the go-to spots for reusable nappies is Eggs & Soldiers in Dubai’s Time Square Centre, but you can also find them online, on shops such as First Cry.
You can also pick up reusable wipes (the amount of these parents go through outnumbers nappies considerably) and a wet bag to keep soiled nappies in while you’re out of the house.
Updated: June 6, 2021 12:56 PM