Sustainable living with a chronic illness

Words: Laura from Rockability Spoonie and Katherine from The Reluctant Spoonie

When you live with a chronic illness your medical appointments, expenses and managing your daily symptoms will always be on your mind, so sustainable living may not be your top priority. Just because you can’t go plastic free because all your medication comes in a single use packet, does not mean that you are left out of the sustainable living conversation. The easiest way to start living a more sustainable life is to buy less and repurpose what you already have. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, but did you know that it is actually a hierarchy? In the first instance you should reduce what you buy, in the second you should reuse what you have and finally you should recycle the things that you no longer need.

Here are some easy ways that you can incorporate sustainable living into your daily life:

Sustainable Period Products

Most women rely on tampons and pads during their period which were the only options a few years ago. However, tampons and pads produce a lot of waste especially plastic applicator tampons. Nowadays, there are many options for people when they are on their period such as period underwear and menstrual cups. These items cost more than a pack of tampons, but will last a lot longer, making them a more sustainable option. Period underwear may be the best option if you have vaginismus and were previously relying on pads. Reusable cloth sanitary pads are also a more sustainable alternative to disposable pads and attach to your underwear with wings and a popper fastening. Menstrual cups take time to learn how to use and you may have to buy a few to find one that is right for your shape. Menstrual cups also require careful sterilising to avoid infections, but most are easily sterilised in boiling water after use. Many women who previously relied on tampons report finding the switch to using menstrual cups easy.

Here are a few brands to check out if you want to make the switch from tampons:

Flux Undies

A UK based brand that makes period underwear in a range of styles and some even open on the side. The only downside is that they come in a limited range of colours.


TOTM is another UK based company that specialises in organic and sustainable period products. They sell menstrual cups in a range of sizes as well as organic tampons and pads.

Cheeky Wipes

For washable sanitary pads, check out Cheeky Wipes for a range of sizes and styles. You can also find reusable pad on Amazon or Etsy. If you’re crafty then you could even sew your own.

Reusable Straws

Straws are a godsend for those with disabilities that affect their jaw such as EDS or those who cannot hold a cup easily. Single use plastic straws can cause harm to marine wildlife when they are dumped in the ocean. Reusable metal or glass straws are a good alternative if you need to use a straw for health reasons and many of the come with a pouch and cleaning brush, so you can take them everywhere with you. However, you should not feel bad if you still have to use a disposable plastic straw for health reasons. Many reusable straws do not bend at the right angle for use when lying down. There are many other ways that you can help the environment.

There are many types of reusable straws to choose from glass, metal, silicone, paper and even bamboo. Check out for a wide variety of reusable straw options to choose one that suits your lifestyle.

Reusable Water Bottles

For those with forms of dysautonomia, like POTS staying hydrated is key and it is all too easy to buy single

use plastic bottles of water when you’re out. Not only is this bad for your wallet, it is also bad for the environment. There are many options available for reusable water bottles and some are even insulated so they can keep your drink cooler for longer. As someone with POTS, I never leave the house without my water bottle. If you find yourself in a pinch and must buy a bottle of water, make sure you recycle the bottle when you’re finished.

Eco-friendly Toilet Paper

For many sufferers of chronic illness digestive issues are part of the package. This is doubly the case when you suffer with Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and even Coeliac Disease.

When you are going to the toilet regularly and definitely more often than is considered ‘normal’ you want a toilet paper that is going to be soft on your bottom and not cause irritation. A lot of the supermarket available toilet papers that are made from recycled paper have a rough texture. They also tend to be on the thin side meaning you are at a greater risk of getting a mess on your hands.

Step in Who Gives A Crap – I have been using their toilet roll for the last six months and it is amazing. We experimented with both recycled toilet paper and bamboo made toilet paper and I liked both. However my husband has Asperger’s and really struggles with the texture of toilet paper and as he preferred the texture of the Bamboo that is the one we use. It has a nice thickness and so there has been no tearing, has caused no discomfort or irritation on days when I have had to use a lot, and each roll lasts a nice length of time too. We are a family of five and have a rolling subscription of 48 rolls every three to four months.

Also in addition to all the actual paper being eco-friendly, each roll comes wrapped in paper for hygiene, this paper can then either be recycled or we use it for the kids to use as drawing paper. They are also working hard to eradicate all plastic in their packaging all the way down to the tape they use on their cardboard delivery boxes.

The cost is slightly more, for 48 rolls of Andrex you are looking at £29, for 48 rolls of Who Gives A Crap Bamboo toilet paper the cost is £40. However as I don’t drive and carrying toilet roll from the shop is a nightmare I think the ease of just signing up for a subscription and knowing my toilet paper will arrive on my doorstep is worth it.

If you use this link to order your first box you will receive a £5 discount, and I will too. Then once you;ve ordered you will be rewarded with a link you can share with your friends so that you can both receive a £5 discount. Win win for you, me, your friends and the environment!

In conclusion

Trying to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible is hard. There is no denying that. We unfortunately live in a world that has been designed for ease without the impact on the environment being considered. Yes I believe we all have our duty to try and make changes. However when you have a chronic illness that isn’t always possible and you should never feel guilty for that.

Our lives are hard enough each day and unless pharmaceutical companies get on board with reducing their plastic usage we will never be able to go fully plastic free.

For many of us we are unable to work or we are on low incomes, there is a definite cost implication to using eco-friendly products and this has to be factored in.

This article is not meant to make anyone feel guilty for not being in a position to reduce your plastic usage or make more sustainable and eco-friendly choices. Our purpose is to present ideas and alternatives that will allow you to make more sustainable and eco-friendly choices as and when you feel able to.

You can find a wide variety of water bottles on Amazon and I would recommend Sistema or King Du Way bottles for those on a tight budget.

Ready Meals & Prepared Veggies

There is no denying that cooking healthy and nutritious meals takes time and energy. When energy is a finite commodity for you each day it can become all too easy to let your diet suffer. Ready meals and prepared vegetables can be literally lifesaving as it helps those without the energy to cook from scratch to have healthy nutritious meals. The problem is that these nearly all come wrapped in some sort of plastic. So what can be done to help eliminate the plastic problem.
If you are able to batch cook once a week or month, or see if there is a friend or relative who can help you. Along with batch cooking you could also try pre-preparing your veggies or making salad jars and storing them in the fridge for the week ahead. Reusable glass and stainless steel containers are all available online, and now there are even silicon food bags to store and freeze your home made ready meals.

However this isn’t always possible and that is ok, so what can we do if anything when it comes to ready meals and our pre-prepared veggies? Well there are tinned and jarred varieties of most vegetables however these are often not as healthy and nutritious as there fresh and frozen alternatives. Sadly though the fresh & frozen vegetable situation appears to have no fix to make it sustainable, so as consumers, the only thing we can do is add our voices to others who are trying to raise awareness of the situation.

The situation with frozen meals and ready foods isn’t as dire and I was able to find a number of manufacturers who are working on making their packaging as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.

Charlie Bighams –

Are a UK based brand who create a wide range of meals that are available at most supermarkets. The cardboard and plastics used in their packaging is recyclable. The wooden trays they use aren’t able to go in your recycling bin but can be fully repurposed.

By Ruby –

A small UK based company who offer home delivery of frozen ready meals, they work really hard on making all of their packaging as eco friendly as possible, even down to the wool they use as insulation. They are currently offering 20% off of your first order using code NEW20.

Higgidy Family Kitchen –

Another great UK family business that you can find in your local supermarket. Offering a range of pies that can be stored in the fridge or freezer.

Share this post?

Leave a Comment