There are any number of reasons that people can come up with not to act and spend on a sustainable lifestyle. Separating recyclables from the rest of the trash can be a hassle — the city may not offer curbside pickup of recycling on your street. You may live somewhere without widespread recycling infrastructure in the first place! Living zero waste seems like it would require a painstaking amount of attention to detail; making your own health and beauty products seems impossibly “out there” (although, if you found yourself making bread at any point during this pandemic, ask yourself whether it’s really that hard). But positive changes like these are really more within reach than ever before: from supply chain to durability in your household, Public Goods’ health, beauty, and lifestyle products are making it easier than ever to clean and maintain everything from your wardrobe to your skin and the kitchen sink.
A lot of your spending patterns might be based on the misconception that in order to make your lifestyle more sustainable, and do so without too much extra effort, you’ll have to spend a lot more money. The truth is that while you may have to shell out a few more dollars in the short term, the long-term return on investment will make your money do more for you and the planet, especially on products you only need to buy a few times a year.
Think about the last time that you bought body soap. Shampoo. A washcloth. Dryer sheets. You might not even be able to recall where they came from, or why you started buying one brand over another. These aren’t the world’s sexiest purchases, so they may not even enter into an assessment of your lifestyle’s footprint: these buying habits and preferences may never before have entered your mind when thinking about a sustainable lifestyle. So long as we focus on exciting new technology like electric cars, or programs that allow you to offset the carbon emissions of that cross-country flight you just took, small efforts — a few times a year, not even daily — can easily fall by the wayside.
The difference between drinking from a single-use plastic water bottle and a reusable bottle? Incalculably small in the face of global climate change. Storing your leftover food items in reusable wax-based wraps, instead of plastic wrap or cling-film? Practically pointless.
But consider something: while we may not all be able to afford an electric car or install solar panels on our houses, we can all make small, cheap changes that, in the long run, could add up to substantial and profound positive effects. If there’s anything we can learn from the pandemic and the tumultuous year it has caused us, hopefully it’s that the actions each and every one of us takes on a daily basis truly matter. In the same way that we quickly came to understand individual approaches to public health, we can re-evaluate our approach to sustainability. It’s true that large corporations, governments, and similar bodies need to adopt and commit to more rigorous standards, but institutional change is not possible without small-scale, individual change. Waiting for them to change their approach while continuing to buy their products is an inconsistent strategy, to say the least.
Believing and accommodating the idea that convenience is king, in everything from the products we buy to the spaces we occupy, is the very behavior that landed us in the middle of a climate crisis that, amidst everything else going on, we have a chance to reverse. The observable benefits of clearer skies in our cities and cleaner waterways while we all stayed at home is, despite the way it was depicted in a lot of media, not a miracle — it was the direct result of people doing what was required of them in the moment. It’s not realistic or ideal to expect people to stay home until the planet heals, but as record numbers of online sales show us, disposable income exists even in difficult times. While you may not think of money spent on essential products as disposable, you are effectively disposing of whatever funds put towards plastic shampoo bottles, single-use dryer sheets, and dirty sponges once you throw them in the trash. There is a way to turn disposable income into sustainable investments, even with products as small and seemingly inconsequential as these household staples.
Think of any major investment you might make on a lifestyle product: it makes more sense to buy a more expensive mattress that will last longer (i.e., is more sustainable) and is more comfortable, rather than buy a cheap one you may need to replace within a short time. The same goes for durable footwear, clothing, technology, or even a house or car. But why not apply the same logic to all the products you use every day, even the less expensive ones? For example, Public Goods wool dryer balls can last up to 1,000 loads — that’s a lifetime of laundry compared to the number of loads it might take to deplete a standard size box of dryer sheets. Moreover, they typically reduce drying time by increasing the flow of warm air between clothes that would otherwise stick together. Made biodegradable, fragrance free, cruelty free, and all natural, even when it comes time to throw them away and replace them (should that time ever come), you can rest assured that you saved hundreds, if not thousands of minutes of energy that your dryer was using on a regular cycle. On top of all this, your clothing will have none of the chemicals typically added to dryer sheets, additives that can sometimes cause skin irritation.
There are similar chemicals in many mass-produced factory soaps and shampoos: the founder of Vermont Soaps, Larry Plesent, struggled with rashes and even hair loss for years from typical store-bought products. Even after trying every name brand recommended to him, he still could only associated showers with pain and discomfort — the exact opposite of what everyone wants, right? When he skeptically bought farm-made, goat milk soap at a county fair, he was amazed to discover that it gave him no rash. After doing a bit more research to find more farm-made soap, he had similarly positive results with another bar after years of constant irritation. The scientific method took over from there, and in his curiosity, he established a brand and method of soap-making that goes into the Public Goods shampoo bar. Besides the fact that it’s naturally made and free of irritants, it also lasts three times longer than conventional bottled shampoo — and just imagine the ease of taking it with you on a trip. Never again will you have to buy a travel bottle of liquid shampoo, or end up buying the full-sized product when you arrive at your destination, cursing your forgetfulness.
And when you’re on the go, it’s incredibly useful to have versatile products that can solve several issues without taking up the space in your baggage. The woven agave in the ayate washcloth from Public Goods is long-lasting, easily cleaned, and has a naturally coarse texture that makes it a versatile addition to your carry on: use it for anything from exfoliating your body to scrubbing away stains from your kitchen wares or clothes. You can be certain that any money you spend on a sustainable Public Goods lifestyle product will be repaid many times over by their durability and ease of use — best of all, rest easy knowing that they are naturally sourced and represent a small, but significant, investment in our planet’s future.