Every Wednesday I pull my garbage or recycling bin to the curb.
They’re heavier than I’d like, and so are my thoughts about the amount of waste I’m producing.
I try really hard to be sustainable in my purchases — Swedish sponges instead of paper towels, beeswax wraps instead of plastic — but it’s not easy when everything we buy seems to come with extra stuff.
My husband and I were fortunate to be able to purchase a house a few years ago and between the slow-motion mini renovations, more surfaces to clean, our new puppy and weekly takeout orders (to support local restaurants!), our Toronto abode yields a lot of waste. Some things can be recycled, but many not.
How can you not like a brand that’s planet-caring, anti-plastic and, conveniently, aesthetically pleasing?
As the co-founder of an environmental startup (thanks for reading the Good News Blog, btw), no one sighs louder than me at the doggy bags, empty plastic cleaning bottles and packaging from online purchases that fills my bins.
Obviously the algorithm has been listening, because not long ago, I was served an ad for Better Basics, a Vancouver-based company with an M.O. of #doingbetter about reducing single-use plastic waste via their line of non-toxic personal care and cleaning products.
I loved what I saw and was immediately ready to join the fan club. How can you not like a brand that’s planet-caring, anti-plastic and, conveniently, aesthetically pleasing?
The problem with "wishcycling"
What is wishcycling?
Wishful recycling, or wishcycling, is a fairly new term for a very long-standing problem.
It’s when people optimistically toss items into their recycling bin that really shouldn’t be there — things like a greasy pizza box, a wire coat hanger from the dry cleaners or a takeaway coffee cup that looks like paper but is actually lined in plastic.
Why is wishcycling a problem?
Part of the problem is that this creates extra work (and costs) down the line — somebody, somewhere, has to sort things out.
Worse, these items can end up contaminating a whole batch of recyclables, meaning things that could be recycled have to end their lives at a landfill instead.
Why is recycling plastic a problem?
And then there’s the fact that plastic is a lot less recyclable than metal, glass and paper — and that’s if it even gets to the right place. In Canada, a 2019 Environmental and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) report estimated that only about nine percent of the plastic we dispose of actually gets recycled.
Where does the rest of it go?
About three-quarters goes to landfills, where it spends many, many centuries slowly emitting greenhouse gases and leaching chemicals into groundwater. Some may wind up overseas or in the seas (globally, at least 8 million tons annually). And some might get incinerated, sending plumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
My visit to the Better Basics website also taught me that the average household tosses about five cleaning bottles every month. And that, on average, personal care, home and cleaning products make up 60 pounds of plastic waste.
As someone who loves to scrub and shop, these stats left me feeling seen, but not in a good way.
Better Basics: on a mission to create a 100% plastic-free company
Many good ideas stem from a need or shift in your own life. And that’s how Better Basics began.
Founded in 2020 by two friends feeling overwhelmed by their own household waste, the women-led team offers a collection of sustainable products thoughtfully and ethically produced, sourced and packaged. Nothing you buy from them has bubble wrap or plastic bags.
They’re transparent about their goal of becoming a 100 percent plastic-free company and are working to remove the minimal plastic that remains in two of the products in their lineup.
What plastic substitute materials does Better Basics use?
So if there’s barely any plastic, what’s holding the goods?
Compostable paper packaging with a minimal plastic bladder so the liquids don’t soak through. Each one of these paper jugs saves four plastic bottles. Plus, the company is committed to donating one percent of their revenue to environmental causes.
I related to their story and wanted to support them because I believed in what they were doing. Also, you have to smell the soaps!
“One of our missions is to make living an eco-friendly lifestyle more accessible”
Why Samantha Rayner founded Better Basics
I chatted with co-founder Samantha Rayner, who has had an ebb-and-flow relationship with low-waste living throughout her adult life and understands the struggle.
“One of our missions is to make living an eco-friendly lifestyle more accessible,” she says. “The concept of zero-waste is nearly impossible, so we want to provide small behavioral shifts that are easy to adopt. We want people to know that they don’t have to be perfect. Sustainability is a daily choice that’s empowering but doesn’t need to be overwhelming.”
How does the Better Basics refill service help you reduce plastic bottle waste?
Part of that daily choice to put the kibosh on plastic is opting for their easy refill service.
With non-toxic body wash, dish soap and all-purpose spray, once you figure out your household’s cadence, you can live your life on autopilot with re-ups automatically shipped to your door. I’ve been using all three of their cleaning products.
They’re pretty enough to keep on the shelf my dad made me from a salvaged tree on our family farm, and I’m really liking them. (There are other brands out there offering similar product lines, too. I haven’t tried Shark Tank-famous Blueland yet, but I like that they send dissolvable tablets to add to their reusable bottles, if you’re keen to try something a bit more concentrated.)
“The average person uses 1,500 plastic bags a year and 150 water bottles”
Of course, our daily plastic consumption goes beyond cleaning.
“The average person uses 1,500 plastic bags a year and 150 water bottles,” says Rayner. “That’s a lot for one person, but there are such simple things that can be done to shift this behavior.”
She suggests signing up for refillable cleaning products (obvs), stocking up on a few high-quality and stylish cloth bags you’re excited to tote, spending an extra 30 seconds in the produce aisle to find the tomatoes not wrapped in plastic, and keeping your travel mug by the door with your keys so you won’t leave it behind.
Start reducing your use of single-use plastic with these household essentials
A perfect starting point for embarking on your new doing-my-best sustainable life, Better Basics carries everything from bamboo dish brushes with coconut bristles and heavy-duty cotton market bags to sleek, refillable stainless steel soap dispensers and reusable water bottles, travel mugs and the cutest insulated food jar.
I’m excited to see where this company will go and to explore more sustainable products, keeping in mind that it’s about doing better, not being perfect. (So I won’t feel so bad about the takeout that’s on the way.)
If you’d like to try Better Basics, Samantha is offering Goodside readers a special discount code: BBxGoodside. Plus, follow them on Instagram at @betterbasicsco.
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