How Easy is it to Switch to Reusable Products? – Making the Change (“The 5 P’s”)

Now that we’ve dissected the arguments which might stand in the way of you switching to reusable products, let’s now discuss how to go about making the actual change. There are five steps, “The 5 P’s”: simple to remember and easy to apply!

1. Prioritize. Now that you’ve taken a good look at your lifestyle and consumer choices, you probably have a whole list of products which urgently need to be replaced with more sustainable options. I know, I do! That list can be intimidating, to say the very least: food packaging, paper towels, toiletries, toothbrushes, cotton rounds, menstrual products, baby diapers, wet wipes, disposable razors – need I go on? 

To make things less overwhelming, I started by focusing on products we regularly use which we could immediately and easily replace with reusables. I bought bamboo toothbrushes, a menstrual cup, a stainless-steel water bottle and razor, as well as a reusable coffee filter. Fortunately, I was already in the habit of using reusable shopping bags (though sometimes I forget to bring them with me), and since I don’t order much takeaway or coffee to go, I didn’t worry too much about those products. 

Now that those things are in place, I have redirected my focus to the changes that take more time and effort, such as sewing reusable cotton pads and paper towels, and making beeswax food wraps. I’m also researching how to make environmentally friendly toiletries and cleaning supplies which I can store in reusable containers. So you see, you don’t have to do everything at once. Start with the changes which come most easily to you – and the rest will gradually follow!

2. Don’t Procrastinate. Making the switch to reusables can seem like a monumental task. There are a few ways to go about dealing with it: 1) sticking your head in the sand, denying that you have a “waste problem”, 2) waiting for the “perfect” moment to transform your current lifestyle into a sustainable one and not doing anything substantial until that moment comes (spoiler alert: it won’t) or 3) making small, consistent changes which can be realistically implemented on a daily basis, all the while staying patient with yourself. 

Personally, I’d go with number 3, though number 2 is (shamefully) my modus operandi. This past weekend, for example, I managed to sew a few reusable cotton rounds and make some oat milk from scratch… after having put it off for quite some time. I had to drag myself out of my perfectionist comfort zone to do so – but it was worth it! I promise that the satisfaction you will derive from manifesting your good intentions will be immense, so don’t procrastinate when it comes to making the switch to reusables. Your conscience – and the environment – will thank you. 

3. Be Practical. When it comes to introducing the first reusables, it’s important to be practical about it. Like I mentioned earlier, focus on changes you can make immediately and easily. You should be able to realistically incorporate new reusables into your daily routine. The more difficult or inconvenient it is to do so, the more likely it will be that you give up and resort back to your old habits.

4. Be Persistent. Old habits die hard. This is also true when making the switch to reusable products. Society won’t make the transition easier since the collective consciousness is not yet ready for a shift of this magnitude. Using reusable products challenges consumerism, which is an international pastime and at the centre of the global economy – that is one tough system to be up against. Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, find support amongst like-minded people like I did by seeking out Zero Waste Europe. For more inspiration and encouragement, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter

5. Be Patient. After all is said and done, change takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Every little step you take is a step in the right direction! 

Start your Zero Waste journey today by taking part in The People’s Design Lab contest. Help us decide which badly designed products desperately need a new sustainable makeover. Your influence as a consumer can sway manufacturers and policy makers to adopt and implement more environmentally friendly designs, encouraging the growth of reusable products. The contest ends on November 23rd (Buy Nothing Friday), so vote now to ensure that your voice is heard! 

Ruth Wachsmuth is a global citizen, inspired to write about matters close to her heart. She lives in Germany with her husband and son.