It’s no secret that our less sustainable choices affect our own health and that of the planet. We produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single use – that is, it is only used for a few moments but has been on the planet for hundreds of years. And studies have shown that all of the plastic that holds our food, beauty products, and beyond has a negative impact on our health. But did you know that there are a lot of green product swaps that can make a big difference?
That plastic bag you tossed home after a quick commute from the store? According to Waste Management, it is one of 14 billion used in the US each year.
I’m generally environmentally conscious, but for the past year I’ve really tried to think better about how my habits affect my wallet, my health, and the planet in general. Most of us are guilty of putting leftovers in plastic bags, and often a quick swipe of a paper towel turns out to be ten. What is so difficult about reaching for this glass food storage container or using the washable dishcloth? It’s easy to believe that making more sustainable decisions will be expensive or painful, but the reality is that once you’ve taken out the swaps and become used to using them, money will actually be saved. Plus, my preferred sustainable practice doesn’t cost anything at all – with what you already have.
As I slowly swapped my former disposables, I saw that a more sustainable lifestyle really doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are small changes that anyone can make! Read on for 10 accessible and easy eco-friendly product swaps you can take for a healthier home and planet.
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1. Swap plastic bags for snack containers or washable bags.
This is one of my all-time favorite eco-friendly products. There are now so many reusable containers and bags out there that you can really find one that suits your needs and aesthetic. The mere thought of how many plastic bags I used throughout my childhood dinners makes me shudder. Hundreds and hundreds! This simple exchange has a huge impact on the environment. My current favorite reusable bins and baggies right now include bento boxes, stasher bags, and snap glass dishes. Use for sandwiches, leftovers, veggies, and pretty much anything else you can think of!
2. Exchange plastic film for beeswax film.
This sounds kind of crazy at first, but listen to me. You can replace anything you normally keep in plastic wrap or wrap with reusable beeswax wrap. It’s my go-to place for fancy cheeses and avocados. Only eaten half an apple? Wrap it in beeswax. It keeps food fresh and lasts an insane amount of time. You can even use it to keep bread from getting stale. Tip: Be sure to wash it in cold water, as hot water can cause the beeswax to become a little chunky and lose its effectiveness. My preferred options are Bees Wrap, Navega Beeswax Wrap, and Lilybee Wrap.
3. Swap your takeaway coffee mug for one you bring from home.
Nobody is asking you to give up your daily coffee habit here! Given that plastic coffee lids go straight to a landfill and paper cups cannot be recycled once they get dirty, a travel mug is the way to go. There are tons of nice options available these days at various prices so it doesn’t break the bank to make this easy swap. Best of all, most coffee shops give you a small discount if you bring your own mug. I have this cute terrazzo mug from W&P Designs, but I also love the Yeti travel mug and the swell option.
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4. Swap cotton balls for washable rounds to remove makeup and apply toner.
Washing your face at the end of the day can feel like the most daunting task at times, but it just has to be done! You can just as easily enhance the experience (while protecting the environment) by switching your daily cotton balls and facial tissues to washable rounds or towels. It’s gentle on your skin and great for the planet. I like these organic cotton pads instead of face towels, sunny face rounds, and simple cotton rounds.
5. Swap disposable cleaners for refillable, environmentally friendly products.
We love the idea of refilling our cleaning bottles over and over again. Check out brands like Branch Basics (my favorite), Blueland, Public Goods, and Grove Collaborative. The great thing about refillable cleaning products is that you will know exactly what is in them when you use them. You don’t need to wonder if something is sneaking in without your knowledge that could potentially harm the planet or your own health. And honestly, they’re just more aesthetic.
6. Swap out plastic straws to bring your own (or skip one altogether).
Fortunately, there seems to have been a pretty quick consensus over the past few years that there really is no need unless you are part of the disabled community that requires the use of plastic straws. That said, sometimes a drink with a straw just feels special. Metal options are a great eco-friendly product swap, but silicone straws are also available if you prefer. You can even get special metal straws for Boba drinks. There is really no excuse for this!
7. Replace plastic water bottles and refill a reusable one.
A reusable water bottle is not only good for the environment and your health, but also a great way to encourage even hydration! I like these gorgeous bkr glass water bottles and a hydroflask is great for a hike or a workout, but this isolated Klean Kanteen is basically my emotional support water bottle. I use it for both cold and hot drinks, they stay fresh for hours.
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8. Swap plastic bags for reusable canvas and product bags at the grocery store.
I’m ready to bet that you have a tote bag with 20 other tote bags somewhere in your house. If you have a car, toss it in the trunk so it’ll be ready for use next time you visit the grocery store. If you’re a city dweller, try keeping some in a closet in the entryway, hanging on a door handle, or wherever you put your wallet near the front door so you can remember to scoop one out on your way to the market. Plastic bags are more than toxic and pile up quickly. Nowadays every brand carries tote bags so you can be in high fashion, represent your favorite museum or bookstore, and much more. And don’t forget to bring your own product bags too!
9. Exchange dryer sheets for dryer balls.
Some eco-friendly product changes are more intuitive than others, and it definitely took me some time to understand the dangers of dryer sheets for both myself and the environment. They can be responsible for eye irritation, allergic skin reactions, migraines, and asthma attacks. Not to mention the fact that as single-use items, they’re just as damaging to the environment as they are to my bank account. Wool dryer balls literally last for years and give you pretty much all of the benefits of dryer sheets with no toxicity. They even come in cute rainbow colors. They are an affordable and easy investment.
10. Swap paper towels for recyclable bamboo towels or a washable towel.
Did you know about the existence of paper towels? This was one of my favorite discoveries of the past year. These washable towels, usually made from microfiber or natural cotton, are a great alternative to paper towels. You can roll them up to resemble a paper towel roll, just without the waste of a paper towel. You can even make it yourself if you are smart. If you’re really excited about the idea of using towels for certain types of clutter, consider using recyclable bamboo towels! They’re a more environmentally conscious alternative than the generic paper towels that are available at most drug stores.
Do you have favorite products that have made waste reduction a little easier?
This post was originally published on January 21, 2020 and has been updated since then.