why you shouldn't throw things out in the name of sustainability

In this sustainability sphere of the internet, something I feel that isn’t said often enough is, quite simply, don’t throw things away in the name of sustainability.

When I write about ethical fashion I always say that the most ethical clothes are the ones you already own. The same runs true for all other aspects of your home – the most sustainable items are the ones you already have.

There seems to be some eco-pressure, perhaps stemming through social media – to have beautiful ‘sustainable’ homes where not a scrap of plastic exists. This popular zero-waste account certainly makes it feel that way, and I also freely admit that I share the bits of my house on the blog and Instagram that are the most “on brand” with Moral Fibres. The reality is that there are things in my house that don’t fit in with the eco-friendly ‘aesthetic’, but actually are sustainability superheroes and don’t get the attention they deserve.

To name but a few:

  • In my kitchen drawer, you’ll find swathes of tomato stained and oil stained Tupperware tubs. Rather than throw them in the bin and replacing them with “eco-friendly” metal or glass tubs, you bet your life that I am using those tubs until they reach the end of their life. We are replacing them as they break, with glass ones, but I fully expect to have some plastic Tupperware until I’m 85. I don’t care how nasty the old plastic ones look – the most eco-friendly thing to do is always use and reuse what you have.
  • In a related category, we have heaps of plastic storage boxes, some bought a decade ago, that I’m not prepared to throw away simply because they are made of plastic. I’m using them and proud, but going forward if we need to buy any more will look for alternatives.
  • Likewise, plastic utensils. We have some. I’m not replacing them until they break.
  • Under my sink, you’ll find a collection of plastic carrier bags. These enter our life through one way or another, but again, these boys get used and used again. Apparently, plastic bags should be used four times in order for it to be more environmentally friendly than a single-use plastic bag. Meanwhile, paper bags need to be reused 3 times, and cotton bags need to be reused a staggering 131 times before they are more environmentally friendly than a single-use carrier bag. I reuse and reuse and once they are done I’ll use then for landfill waste.

I could go on about home my house isn’t visually some kind of utopia of sustainability, but I don’t beat myself up about any of these. It’s easy to be led to believe that living completely without plastic is the pinnacle of sustainable living, but in truth, you can’t shop your way to sustainability. Things like flying less, and eating a more plant-based diet, will have a more positive environmental impact than binning perfectly good Tupperware for things made from more sustainable materials.

By all means, switch to more sustainably produced alternatives when items need replacing, but in the meantime use your old plastic Tupperware with pride, tomato stains and all. Reuse any plastic bags that come your way. Don’t feel any guilt – you’re doing a super job, even if it isn’t particularly photogenic.