Radical Self Care


May 20, 2019

In March, New York City banned singular plastic bags. “These bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Living without plastic bags may be a new experience for many. Black folks tend to have an abundant supply of plastic bags in their households — it’s almost like tradition, with many uses, not just for groceries but a variety of reasons, including shower caps. Plastic though is far more harmful to humankind than most people know. Plastic releases harmful chemicals into the soil, which can seep into the ocean, and therefore the ecosystem of the world. Humans make 288 million tons of plastic a year, and unlike paper, metal, glass, or wood, it does not oxidise or biodegrade. This means that plastic never actually goes away. Now plastic is found in rivers, oceans, and soil, pervasively contaminating the environment. Therefore, it should come as no shock that New York has banned plastic bags (scheduled to begin in 2020), as they’ve been banned in other states, and in over 120 countries throughout the world.

Environmental Wellness is an important element in radical self-care. Producer and recording artist Pharrell Williams referenced the effects of plastic a few years ago when he became art director of Bionic Yarn, a material engineering company that takes recycled plastic bottles and turns them into high quality fabric. Merging wellness, activism, and fashion, Pharrell, and many other celebrities, have created a positive impact on the environment with different zero-waste practices and environmental wellness.

So, how can you begin to live a more sustainable life without plastic and waste? The popularity of a zero-waste lifestyle has grown faster than anyone could have predicted. Zero-waste is a philosophy and mode of living that encourages us to redesign our habits to reduce (and eventually eliminate) the amount of waste we create in our daily lives. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need to send trash items to the landfill, the oceans, and other places where waste is dumped. Zero-Waste encourages us to be mindful of the amount of trash and waste we create by making changes in our daily lives that prevent waste production.

Here are five zero-waste tips:

  • Swipe out that plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush: Bamboo toothbrushes are eco friendly because they are recycled. Most material on bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable. The only difference between a bamboo toothbrush and a plastic toothbrush are the materials that it’s made from.
  • Trade in those tampons and pads for a menstrual cup: Most major tampon and cotton brands use a combination of bleached rayon, conventional cotton, and contain plastic. Tampons are often made of Rayon, a material associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition where staphylococci bacteria (staph) enters the vagina through the bloodstream. Tampons may also contain harmful chemicals like asbestos and chlorine, and the average pad contains the equivalent of four plastic bags. By switching to a menstrual cup, you can eliminate plastic and have a safer and healthier period. Studies show that those who use menstrual cups experience lighter bleeding and less cramps.
  • Thrift and only buy what you need: Thrifting is an excellent way to contribute to the environment and wellness. Rather than wasting further resources, you reuse. When you buy only what you need you allow yourself to reduce the waste you are creating.
  • Compost your food: Composting reduces landfill waste. Instead of throwing food, you compost your natural food wastes, contributing to the protection of the environment by helping to enrich the soil which helps the entire ecosystem.
  • And of course, use tote bags instead of plastic bags: Tote bags are much cuter than plastic bags, and healthier for yourself since plastic is full of chemicals. You can use a tote bag for a lifetime, which eliminates so much waste. When you go to the grocery store, take your tote bags with you, instead of always having to accept grocery bags.

A zero-waste lifestyle is a personal evolution comprised of small steps taken to make big changes in your life and the world around you. By being intentional and mindful about the way we consume and produce waste, we create a healthier relationship with the Earth. Plastic consumption may be a habit for Black people, but generational healing begins with breaking those habits and implementing better ones. These better habits will produce a sustainable future for ourselves and for generations to come.

Satya bio pic

Words by Satya, a global wellness leader, spiritual yoga and meditation teacher, and the Founder of Women Of Color Healing Retreats, the first wellness retreat for Black women.