This year, one of the major changes I wanted to make to my life was to be more mindful of the waste that I create, and in particular how much plastic I use.
As we’re all (hopefully) aware of by now, single-use plastic is a scourge on our environment, but the buck doesn’t stop with disposable cutlery and plastic straws.
All plastic has to come from somewhere.
Plastic takes a huge toll on our environment and resources, both through its creation and its wastage. Regardless of how many times plastic is used, it will, one day, find its way to landfill once its quality degrades to the point where it can no longer be used to make a profit.
It isn’t just about plastic waste going to landfill, though.
Today I want to talk about the changes that I’ve made in the hope that I can help some of you work towards reducing how much waste in your own lives.
While plastic waste in landfill is a huge issue in the modern world and there’s lots of discussion around how to reduce your plastic consumption, it isn’t the sole waste problem in play.
Food waste is still a huge issue across the world.
The average UK household wastes £430 of food of year – which seems crazy to me! We’re spending our hard-earned cash on food we’re only going to throw away – how does that make sense?
Another issue that perhaps isn’t talked about as often is the role that clothing plays in the waste cycle.
On average, it takes 7,600 litres of water to create a single pair of jeans, and the average person will wear that for only 2.2 years before sending it to landfill.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and lycra do have a longer life span, but not only do they take plastic to manufacture, with each wash they shed thousands of microplastics that cannot be caught by the filters in your washing machine or at water treatment plants, meaning they’ll end up in the ocean.
Recently, scientists have stated that organisms in the Marianas Trench have been found with microplastics in their stomachs – and they no longer believe there is any part of the planet remaining that is unpolluted by plastic waste.
With every hobby comes the consumption of more products, and therefore, more waste.
Pole dance is no exception to this. We’re always buying new clothes, new heels and grip aids, and that’s just for classes! On top of that we’ve got to travel there in the first place, keep our skin conditioned with scrubs and moisturisers, eat to fuel our energy expenditures, and many of us also cross train with other classes or do stretching sessions at home. Some things generate more waste than others.
So, what can we do to reduce our impact on the environment?
Well, this year, I set a few rules for myself that might help give you an idea of where to start.
- Buy as little new plastic as possible.
- Where I can’t avoid plastic, buy plastic that has already been recycled.
- Where I can’t get things packaged in or made with recycled plastic, use plastic that can be recycled, or that I can reasonably expect to reuse over multiple years.
In theory, at the end of this process, you should be only sending plastic to landfill where it is unavoidable.
In addition, we started being mindful of how many new products we purchased. As a household we’re pretty frugal – we tend to use things until they fall apart anyway – but we’ve started keeping each other in check when we get tempted to buy new things we don’t necessarily need.
How does this translate to pole dance? Read on…
Incorporate plant-based proteins into your diet
With meat getting more and more expensive, not to mention the environmental concerns that come with red meat consumption, I started buying in more Quorn and plant-based meat substitutes to stock the freezer to use a couple of nights each week.
My partner is a huge carnivore and to keep up with his weightlifting routine needs a good amount of protein throughout the day, which normally takes the form of chicken.
Having a good stock of plant-based proteins in the freezer has helped reduce how much waste our household produces in multiple ways.
- Instead of wasting the plastic trays that meat comes packaged in, which can’t be recycled in our area, Quorn comes packaged in plastic that can be recycled with carrier bags.
- We can cook Quorn from frozen, so I always have something to fall back on if I forget to defrost something for dinner. This has reduced how many takeaway meals we buy on the average week, so we’ve improved our diet and avoided the waste packaging from takeaways – win!
- Having a handy supply of Quorn in the freezer means we’re less likely to head to the local supermarket to top up on meat midweek – both reducing our plastic consumption and avoiding the temptation of getting some cheeky snacks and beer while we’re there.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still nights where I want to eat real chicken. I’m not necessarily adverse to eating meat, although we try to do so as ethically as we can.
Instead of sourcing our meat from supermarkets, I now pick up my meat from the local butchers who source their meat from nearby farms.
Still, every little counts, and as long as Quorn and other meat substitutes work for us, we’ll keep going down that route a couple of nights a week.
Stock up the freezer with fruit and vegetables
I am massively terrible at wasting fresh fruit and veg. Is it just me, or does it go off quicker now you’re an adult and buying it yourself?
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I bought a bag of onions and actually used all of them before they started going gross.
Obviously, this level of wastage isn’t ideal. Not only are you throwing away your hard earned cash, quite often fresh fruit and veg are packaged in materials that can’t be recycled, so not only are you sending (what was) perfectly edible food to landfill, you’re also contributing to the plastic problem.
To combat this, we’ve cut back what fresh fruit and veg we order depending on their lifespan.
For vegetables, we’ll typically only buy what we know we’ll eat within a few days of the shopping being delivered, and any fruit that’s left over at the end of the week now goes into overnight oats for the next week – or I’ll throw it into the garden for the wild birds.
We’ve also always got a huge variety of pre-chopped frozen veggies in the freezer that are easy to chuck into anything we’re cooking.
Our go-to is spinach as you can add that to pretty much anything without it changing the flavour, so it’s super easy to add to curries and omelettes to up the amount of protein and iron in your meal.
As we’re both massively lazy when it comes to cooking during the week and prefer to make as little mess as possible so we can spend less time washing up and more time watching Netflix or playing games together on Steam, frozen veggies are AWESOME.
You can pretty much just chuck them into whatever you’re cooking and you’re good to go, so you don’t even need to use more pans.
Our stock typically consists of nuggets of chopped spinach, stir fry veg, chopped mixed peppers, peas, chopped red onions, sweetcorn, edamame beans, and broccoli, so we have plenty of variety without worrying about it going off before we get chance to eat it.
As an added benefit, the plastic that these frozen veggies come in can be recycled with carrier bags too, so you’re avoiding the single-use plastic trays, film and bags that a lot of fresh veggies get packaged in these days.
Check your supplement supplier
Both myself and my partner have protein shakes every day to make sure we’re getting enough protein to fuel our hobbies.
Both of us stock up with Myprotein as we find they have the tastiest protein powders, not to mention a range of protein-based treats like mug cakes and pancakes that we like to indulge in every now and again. Their sister company, Myvitamins, is also the best place I’ve found to get supplements from, both for price and quality.
A great thing about Myprotein is that they have a ‘zero to landfill’ policy at their manufacturing plant and head offices, as well as making sure they make good use of as much recycled or recyclable products in their packaging.
If you’re buying supplements, it’s worth checking with your supplier whether they have any policies like these in place, as well as what they’re doing to reduce the amount of single-use plastic they use, make and sell.
Make your own snacks
We’re all well aware of how important it is to make sure you have a snack before pole class to keep your energy levels up.
I love the convenience of cereal bars or protein bars for this, particularly the super chocolatey protein bars that taste like chocolate bars but have like 30g of protein in them. What a time to be alive.
Unfortunately, the wrappers on these still can’t be recycled.
Not only that, but a lot of these bars have high levels of sugar and/or fats that, while they taste good, aren’t necessarily the best nutritional choice. This is why I moved exclusively to more ‘natural’ bars like Nakd and Eat Natural to avoid any added sugars while still getting the nutritional and energy benefits from fruit and nuts.
However, while this is a good nutritional choice, it still doesn’t eliminate the wastage completely.
I still have a few bars left in the cupboard, but I’m starting to phase them out in favour of bananas. While they don’t fill my stomach for as long – I have to eat them about 15-30 minutes before class otherwise I’ll run out of energy, compared to bars that I need to eat about an hour before otherwise I’ll feel sick during the warm-up – they’re a more natural source of nutrients, less stodgy, and even better their packaging is biodegradable!
Depending on how much time you have to dedicate to food prep you can find tons of recipe ideas online, from no-bake energy balls to baked protein bars. I love these crunchy oatmeal, peanut butter and honey bars, and they’re so simple and quick to make.
I’m still on the hunt for good recipes for homemade protein bars, as I have a huge jar of perfectly good vanilla whey that I’ve got no use for currently. If you have any recipes you love that use vanilla whey, hit me up!
Move away from meal kits
I’m a lazy cook and a foodie.
I love eating well, and eating tasty food from around the world, but when I come home from work or pole, I want food, and I want it FAST.
So, I love meal kits.
In particular, I love those kits that come in two or three parts – the ones for curries and teriyaki chicken and things like that where they have whole spices you toast before you add the sauce. They’re my absolute favourite, but honestly, I just love having quick flavourings in the house. If I can get dinner done in under half an hour and it’s super tasty, it’s a win.
Unfortunately, as these meal kits are primarily packaged in plastic, we have to pass them up.
Jarred sauces are super useful to keep in stock because glass is widely recycled. It’s not the same as a three-part Korma kit, but it’s still tasty.
However, there is a solution on the horizon!
I came across this awesome list of spice blends you can make at home with spices you probably already have in your kitchen – at least, if you’re anything like me and buy a ton of spices for one recipe, and have no idea what to do with the rest.
Admittedly, it isn’t the widest list, but it’s a great start for stocking your cupboards with.
There’s also a bunch of awesome recipe ideas and information over at The Spruce Eats if you follow the link above, which can certainly help reduce your reliance on meal kits and learn how to make awesome curries yourself.
Do your grocery shopping online
This might, at first, seem a little counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
We both HATE going to supermarkets. It’s easily an hour or two out of our day we can use doing more productive things (or playing video games, most likely). Plus, we’re both terrible for impulse buying snacks and alcohol, so we always end up buying more than we can carry home.
Grocery shopping online is just waaaay more convenient for us, and £60 a year for our delivery pass is more than worth it when you weigh up how much time it saves.
We buy our groceries online from Sainsbury’s, and exclusively book the ‘green’ delivery slots – that is, slots where the delivery van is already in the area – so it’s more fuel efficient.
It definitely saves having multiple cars on the road where one van can deliver shopping to multiple houses in a single hop.
Since the carrier bag charge was introduced in 2015, it is automatically assumed on our online shopping that we don’t want carrier bags, unless we pay an extra 40p to get them.
So, when our shopping turns up, the only things that are bagged are cleaning products, raw meat, and frozen goods.
We simply carry the trays up that the shopping comes in, dump them in the kitchen, and take them back to the driver. Quick, easy, and most certainly the lazy option.
The bags that we can’t avoid with the shopping get stored for use as bin liners around the house if they’re in good condition, and if they’re not they head straight for our bag destined for the carrier bag recycling point. Those flimsy fruit and veg bags go straight in there too, as I haven’t found another purpose for them yet.
As another added bonus, we’ve found we’re spending less money on groceries each week as we’re less likely to impulse buy stuff we don’t need – and snacks that aren’t good for us.
Plus, we can get the shopping done in around fifteen minutes, instead of spending hours in the supermarket!
Skin and Hair Care
I’m a huuuuge Lush addict, and have been since I was young.
Having a Lushy bath felt like a treat as the bars made the water so soft and smell of sweets.
As I grew up I started experimenting more with their other products – shampoo bars, bath bombs, shower gel, etc. – and found a BUNCH of products that I love.
I swear my hair is never better than when I use Lush shampoo bars.
When we started being more mindful of how much waste we generate, it became pretty clear that the bathroom was the worst room in the house for single-use virgin plastics. Shampoo bottles, conditioner, moisturiser, cleanser, all that stuff piles up.
So I convinced Nick that we should switch to Lush once all of our plastic-wrapped lotions and potions ran out.
The great thing about Lush is not only is everything they make made with all-natural ingredients, their range of naked products – products with no packaging, essentially – has increased a ton over the past few years.
Almost every aspect of your normal shower routine is now covered by plastic-free skin care and hair care options.
The stuff that still needs to be packaged often comes in plastic tubs that not only are made of recycled materials and can be recycled in conventional recycling, but if you wash out and take five of them back, you’ll get a fresh face mask for free.
If you’re curious, these are the products that I 100% recommend (minus bath bombs, because there’d be too many to list here):
- Seanik shampoo bar
- Sugar Daddy-o conditioner bar
- Aromaco solid deodorant
- Scrubee body butter
- Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar
- Charity Pot hand and body lotion
- I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles reusable bubble bar
- Hair Doctor hair treatment
- Banana Skin naked facial oil
Re-purpose empty grip containers
Some of us get through more grip aids than others, but at some point, we’re all faced with the same end point – an empty bottle, or tub, or tube. Not all of these are recyclable either, unfortunately. So what can we do to make sure they don’t end up in landfill?
I’ve scoured the internet and found some awesome ideas for re-purposing your old tubes and tubs, but couldn’t find many ideas for using old Dry Hands bottles. We figured they would be the perfect size for travel-size toiletries bottles for your next trip – once you’ve washed them out, obviously!
Find eco-conscious pole wear companies
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Polehog and will recommend them to anyone, but now I can go one better in my unpaid advocacy in shouting about the fact that they’re going fully green!
Polehog have always been a pretty green company.
All of their products are handmade at their home in Skegness, UK, and are never delivered in plastic packaging. In fact, the only part of their packaging that can’t be recycled is the tiny little tag that attaches the label.
At the start of the year, Polehog announced that they were purchasing a building for their operations and aiming to go as eco-friendly as possible.
Already they’ve talked about cladding the building in a composite material made from recycled hardwood and recycled plastics, so we can’t wait to see what other steps they take.
Sell and Trade
Us pole dancers are like magpies – we see something shiny and it has to be ours!
Whether that’s new pole wear, new heels or a new costume for photoshoots, it’s easy to get caught up in the lust for the newest, shiniest thing that our favourite brands bring out. There’s something in a pole dancer’s DNA that craves to be stylish and bright.
That does mean, though, that we can often end up with more pole wear sets than we’ll ever wear, piles of bright leggings and enough heels to never wear the same pair twice across a month of pole lessons. Often, we have stuff stashed away in wardrobes that we’ll never wear again, whether it’s costumes that we’ve bought specifically for a photoshoot or custom made costumes for competitions.
Obviously, the first solution is to avoid any unnecessary purchases. As much as we may want new pole sets and heels, unless you’re going to be wearing them regularly, it’s just not worth spending the money on them. I have three pole sets and a one-piece I bought for a showcase piece that I cycle through regularly, with the exception of my velvet set that’s a little too warm for summer.
That’s perhaps not what any of us want to hear, but it’s true, and it’s better for your wallet if you’re not caught up in every trend going in our little community.
What do you do, though, if you already have a ton of stuff and want to downsize?
Well, the first suggestion is to sell what you don’t love.
Facebook groups like Pole Dance Garage Sale are a great place to list the items you don’t want, and if you’re lucky you can always catch a bargain.
If you don’t have many sets to begin with and want to freshen up your pole wardrobe, you could always try and organise a trade, which is an awesome way to feel like you’ve treated yourself without actually spending any money – or much of it.
Use a plastic-catching wash bag
Something I’m looking into for the future is using a Guppyfriend washing bag to catch all the microfibres that are released by synthetic fabrics that would ordinarily end up in our water systems. With most athletic and pole wear being made of synthetic fabrics like polyester and lycra, and most pole wear needing to be washed in a delicates bag anyway, this is a potentially great way of hitting two birds with one stone.
This is something I need to do more thinking about as it apparently works best if you have other fabrics in with the bag to avoid imbalance in the drum, but if you’ve given it a go or have any alternatives please let us know.
Repair, Recycle, Upcycle
Finally, the best thing to do at the end of the life of any clothing you don’t want is to send it to a charity shop to make sure it stays in circulation.
But, if the fabric is torn and no longer useful, it’s best to take your old activewear to your local fabric recycling point so it doesn’t (hopefully) end up in landfill.
If you’re a regular heels wearer, we’d recommend checking out this awesome blog post from Peach Lee Ray about caring for your Pleasers.
As we talked about in our Pleasers post there’s plenty of things you can do to take care of them during practice, but it’s inevitable our heels will one day break irreparably, the finish will wear off, or we’ll just want to move on to a new pair of heels and retire the pair of Old Faithfuls.
An awesome idea we came across thanks to Chloe Hood of Hoodlum Fang was upcycling old Pleasers into plant pots for your studio or home practice space.
Or, you could hang the pair you’ve worn the finish off on the wall as a trophy to remind you of how far you’ve come in your pole journey.
Of course, if you’re a little more philanthropic, why not consider donating your unwanted pole wear or heels to a beginner, for studio use, or just as a random act of kindness?
TL;DR: There’s a ton of options out there to help you be a little more eco-friendly while still smashing your goals.
Hey, was this post helpful? If it was, please consider buying me a coffee. I use a filter machine at home with a reusable filter and all the coffee grounds feed the plants, so you won’t even be funding more plastic going to landfill!