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Friday 15th November 2019

Saving the planet is bankrupting me

Cotton breast pads – a sustainable but expensive alternative to face wipes

I’m sat in my Mickey Mouse pyjamas in a grump because for the fourth night in a row, I’m dragging a reusable cotton breast pad across my face.

It’s been two months since I embarked on finding an alternative to disposable cotton make-up removing pads, and I’m on my fourth ‘reusable’ product in the hope that THIS is the one that works.

I work out that in the last month, I’ve spent £85.45 on reusable skincare products (by comparison, a packet of Sainsbury’s basics cotton pads is only 80p, let me tell you) and suddenly, I realise that saving the planet is slowly but surely bankrupting me.

But of course, money is no excuse when it comes to saving the planet. When my vegan friends question why I’m buying an 89p hamburger from the McDonald’s saver menu, what am I supposed to say?

“Oh I’m sorry I can’t afford an £8 Acai Bowl…THE PLANET IS DYING!”

And so will I if I spend £8 on lunch every day and not have enough money to eat in three weeks time.

It gets to a point where living sustainably is so financially overwhelming, you want to give up.

I must forget that I’m £500 into my overdraft, that I have a £4,000 tax bill to pay, and that at some point in my lifetime I’d quite like to buy a house; because somewhere in the world something is melting/dying/eroding.

I’m not cynical, I believe all of the above is happening. You only have to watch David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II to see the sheer amount of plastic waste floating around in the sea. I know that as a consumer some of my habits need to change, and that’s why I made a commitment to myself to live more sustainably – but, my God, it’s costing me a fortune.

Last month I invested in a reusable coffee cup (£12), went on an eco #MrsHinchMadeMeDoIt #HinchHaul (£31), and bought two menstrual cups (£42.98 – yes, okay, it was my fault for buying the wrong size in the first place but I can hardly sell the spare one on eBay).

I even visited a plastic-free-put-your-nuts-in-a-brown-paper-bag-shop; it was only when browsing that I discovered 1kg of caster sugar costs nearly three times as much as it does in a supermarket – I nearly choked on the coffee in my ‘Ecoffee’ cup! Work that out with your weekly shop and you’re tripling your food bill. Who can afford to do that?

It gets to a point where living sustainably is so financially overwhelming, you want to give up. Everywhere you look there’s something you’re doing that you shouldn’t be and the answer always involves money.

Okay, I’ve bought reusable make-up removing pads, but what about my disposable razors, what about my disposable toothbrushes? It’s a financial/ethical nightmare and, as much as I want to, I can’t afford to single-handedly save the planet.

Everywhere you look there’s something you’re doing that you shouldn’t be and the answer always involves money.

So what’s a girl to do when all she wants is to live sustainably without spending the small lump sum that’s locked away in her Lifetime ISA?

Lead a financially and environmentally-friendly life, that’s what.

I started researching things I could do for free that would still make an impact.

I’ve started buying bars of soap instead of liquid hand wash, I take canvas tote bags to the supermarket instead of buying plastic ones, and I’m now the proud owner of a free compost bin (check your postcode to see if you’re eligible)!

Living sustainably is for the privileged and without a decent pay packet it’s really hard to make sustainable changes that will benefit the environment. I hope one day it’ll be affordable to buy pasta and rice in brown paper bags but, in the meantime, don’t get overwhelmed by the financial burden of saving the planet. Do what you can afford to; be aware of your waste and try to make small and free changes to your daily routine.

Oh and if you want any second-hand breast pads, you know where to find me.

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Emma Real-Davies

Emma Real-Davies

Presenter, podcaster and writer, Emma is struggling with freelancing, struggling with being sustainable and struggling generally.

1 Comment
  1. Being sustainable is easy and it’s what most people do to save money. If it is bankrupting you, then you are an idiot. Being sustainable means going without, you didn’t need to go for the most expensive items. You are going with a trend, trying to ‘look good’ by being an aesthetic sustainable person. Not an actual sustainable person. Use a flannel, it’s weird you are using breast pads.. There are reuseable cups for 90p you chose to go for expensive items.. You are bankrupting you, not sustainability. The world is literally dying from people’s lazy choices and you bad mouthing trying to make smart choices is disappointing.

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