Self-Wellness VS. Environmental Wellness

What is wellness even?

Wellness is defined as the “state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal” or as urban dictionary puts it, “wellness can be found often in those that are morally straight, giving, and rich.” Retail therapy has been around for a while, but now we tend to refer to it as “wellness”. In the past few years we have seen a huge rise in self-care and wellness products. From face masks, CBD products, collagens, protein bars, personalized vitamins, face and body wipes; all things we are told we need to make our lives better, all wrapped in pretty and well-designed PLASTIC. 

Why is plastic such a big deal?

When we first started to use plastic for things like toys, radios, kitchenware and food storage, the plastic was reused. In the 1950’s we see a rise in plastic packaging and single-use plastic and it has since snowballed into a world of quick, easy, and cheap consumption. We have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic with only 9% being recycled and 12% of that being incinerated, the rest of that plastic exists somewhere in the world. We have been using plastic for about 60 years but it takes about 400 years for a piece of plastic to degrade. It’s estimated there is about 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste in the world. We have never seen a world with this much plastic waste and it’s overwhelming landfills which is why about “8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year” (National Geographic).

Let’s do some quick plastic math. You only get 1 iced coffee a day but along with that coffee you’re also getting a plastic cup, lid, and straw. Thats 5-7 coffees a week, 20-28 coffees a month and 240-336 iced coffees, plastic cups, plastic lids and plastic straws a year. When you’re saying “Oh, it’s only one!”, think about the millions of other people who might be saying the same exact thing. 

Why is the “wellness” industry obsessed with plastic?

Everyone strives to be the best version of themselves - or at least we say that - and the wellness industry plays off of that. Companies have capitalized on our pursuit of “wellness” and our laziness. This personalized, plastic-wrapped, bag of vitamins, subscription will change your life. Your skin care routine is too simple, this cream, spray, and serum will make you feel better. Buy it all at a click of a button. While the political climate, regular climate, and overall state of the world seems so out of our control we are encouraged to take care of ourselves with retail therapy. The problem? The packaging. 

Take a second to think about the amount of times you touch plastic in a day. How much of that plastic do you use for less than an hour or even half an hour before throwing it away? Where do you think that plastic goes? It’s a huge privilege to not have to think about where this waste goes, it’s time to wake up and think about it! We owe the people who don’t have the privilege to not know where their waste goes, the planet, our oceans, and ourselves to care about where our waste is going and how much of it we are making. While I’m a big proponent of treating yourself and self-care, it’s hard to ignore the marketing and packaging in the “wellness” industry.

Why I moved away from “wellness” and started to live a lower-waste lifestyle.  

Well, are you mad about plastic yet? Good! It’s not our fault that we use so much plastic. As consumers we have products pushed onto us left and right. Who doesn’t love a free sample? As consumers we also have the power to talk with our wallets. We can choose to support companies that have the best interest of their customers and the planet in mind. For me, it took a while to realize that the wellness industry was playing off of my insecurities to sell me more products. While I am in no way saying I’ve solved the problem, I’ve decided to work against this idea that we need to buy more new stuff to make ourselves feel better. Rather, I have tried to make myself feel more fulfilled with supporting smaller, local businesses, buying secondhand or making my own low-waste items. 

The concept of living a low-waste lifestyle isn’t radical or strange, its a lifestyle we all lived less than 100 years ago. As technology has skyrocketing in the last few decades so has the products available to use and our mass consumption of these products. I want to encourage you to evaluate your impact on the environment. Take a look at your weekly recycling bin, what’s filling it up? Is there a way you can reduce the packaging of those items? It can be overwhelming to recognize plastic waste in the world because it is everywhere but it’s time to stop ignoring it. Small changes like bringing your own cup or jar for coffee will set off a chain reaction in your life. I sometimes get funny looks when I ask for my coffee in an old peanut butter jar but I hope the people giving me those looks think about why I am carrying around this old jar. When I begin to get overwhelmed by my impact on the environment I try to translate that into excitement to learn more about the low-waste movement. 

As Grlwhocooks, I get a lot of my happiness and wellness from cooking and eating. A well balanced meal can do more for your gut health, skin and mental health than most pills or serums. I feel most empowered when I am able to leave the produce section with my reusable mesh bags filled, tote bag in hand, and a recipe in mind.