EASY EVERYDAY SWAPS THAT MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE FOR THE PLANET
Transitioning into a more sustainable lifestyle does not have to be a huge overhaul in which you throw out all your plastic junk and spend thousands of dollars on more sustainable alternatives. Ain’t nobody got the time – or the money! – for that. Instead, it can be a gradual and conscious transition.
Getting acclimated to a low-waste lifestyle could maybe mean one sustainable swap a month, a week – it all depends on the pace you’re willing and able to go. The number one rule of switching to a low-waste lifestyle, of course, is to finish what you already have. There is no need to chuck all your plastic shampoo and soap bottles into the garbage even though they’re full. Use everything you can until it’s done; do your best to get rid of them consciously, and then when you’re ready, make the swap.
We wanted these swaps to be easy, useful in your everyday life, and most importantly, not at all overwhelming. Below you’ll find a list of all the sustainable swaps you can make, but as mentioned above, please don’t feel the need to do it all in one day. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then you sure as anything cannot save the planet in one day. The list below goes room by room of your house, so feel free to use it as a checklist as you take the next year (or maybe even two!) to make more conscious decisions with what you purchase, how you run your home, and ultimately, how you live.
Ready for some easy, everyday swaps you can make to better the planet? Keep reading!
The kitchen might just be the biggest beast you tackle during your switch to a more sustainable lifestyle. So much waste comes from the kitchen, after all. Think about it: While you’re cooking there are inevitable food scraps, then there’s leftovers, you use a few paper towels to clean your hands after handling the food, everyone uses paper napkins at dinner, and of course, dish soap, hand soap, and dishwasher pods all come wrapped in plastic.
Not to mention the packaging of food isn’t sustainable either. And not just the packaging when you buy it – we are also talking about wrapping up leftovers. Things like aluminum foil, Saran wrap, and plastic sandwich baggies all seem necessary and sanitary, but their overall impact on the planet is harmful.
The good news is 30 percent of all domestic waste is biodegradable. That means 30 percent of the waste you make will break down naturally – as long as you give it the opportunity to.
Ready to start re-thinking your kitchen? Keep reading for easy, sustainable kitchen swaps.
Aluminum-Aluminum foil or tinfoil came on the market in the early 1990s, but it was not until 1948 when the first pre-formed, all-foil food packaging containers appealed to nuclear families and housewives. According to the Aluminum Association, tinfoil thrived as a product throughout the 1950s and 60s and was used to wrap up leftovers, take food to go, to cook with, and so much more. Thing is, once it’s used, it gets thrown out.
Compost- Remember how 30 percent of domestic waste is biodegradable? That’s where your compost comes in. Some cities actually have composting facilities that all residents are entitled to use. Look up your area’s composting regulations online and you might just be lucky enough to have a composting company come to your door bi-weekly to pick up your compost.
If that’s not the case for where you live, composting is still an option. You can either start a compost in the backyard if you live in a wooded area or have a lot of space. If you would rather enclose your compost or live in a smaller space such as an apartment, you can consider buying a compost bin. You throw any biodegradable matter (egg shells, all vegetable and fruit food scraps, meat scraps, etc.) into the bin and simply walk away. The bin will work its magic and transform your garbage into soil.
Do this and 30 percent of your domestic waste isn’t harming the planet at all. It’s helping it.
Brown bag lunch- Say goodbye to the brown-bagged lunch. If you have children or are accustomed to packing your lunch each day, you’ll want to invest in a reusable lunchbox and some glass or stainless-steel containers. (#NoPlastic, am I right?) Consider buying an aluminum, reusable lunchbox or a bento box with compartments that makes planning lunch easy.
Reusable cup-This one technically falls under the “on-the-go” category, but since cups often live in the kitchen, it fits fine here, too. One pro tip is to keep a reusable cup in your car and one in your kitchen at all times. That way if you stop at Starbucks while you’re out, you’ll still have a reusable cup on you.
Here at Healthy Human, our stainless steel cups are insulated so that no matter what kind of drink you pour in them – hot or cold – your beverage stays whatever temperature it is supposed to.
Reusable water bottle-We have a vast array of reusable, stainless steel water bottles here at Healthy Human. Carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times is our number one pro tip when it comes to leading a more sustainable lifestyle. If you have one on you all the time, you’ll never have to buy plastic-packaged bottle water again!
Water filter-Speaking of water, most water filters are made with plastic, which begs the question: How effective (and sustainable) are they really? Good news is you can go the all-natural route with a charcoal filter. It’s simply a charcoal stick that you plunge into your water; it naturally strips the water of toxins as charcoal binds to the negative ions in toxins. Most charcoal sticks can purify up to a gallon of water.
Sponge-Sponges are pretty gross. They are super porous, which means they can hold on to a lot of bacteria, mildew, and build-up. Because of this, we have to throw sponges away pretty frequently. But if you switch to a more sustainable alternative – a silicone sponge – then you don’t have to worry about any of that. Silicone sponges are not porous, so they don’t hold onto bacteria the way traditional sponges can.
If a silicone sponge isn’t your thing, try a wooden bottle brush.
Dish soap-Dish soap, like most soaps, usually comes in single-use plastic packaging. Have that packaging bite the dust by buying bar soap – yes, bar soap for your dishes! – instead. Try this Vegan Dish Washing Block Soap and use your silicone sponge or wooden bottle brush to really lather it up.
Dish detergent-Obviously, if you can avoid using the dish washer it’s going to be better for the environment (and your water or electricity bill, too). But we understand – people are busy, parents are super busy, and sometimes the dish washer saves everybody some time and effort. That being said, you’ll need some kind of detergent pod, right? Try Dropps – a zero-waste company that makes soaps and detergent with plant-based ingredients, compostable packaging, and no plastic whatsoever.
Cleaners-Bet there’s a ton of plastic under your sink, huh? It’s all those different cleaners and bleach and Clorox bottles. Here’s a little secret: You don’t need any of that stuff! The single-use plastic packaging is bad for the environment, the chemicals inside those solutions are bad for the environment (and your health!), and the world would overall be a happier place if we just nixed it all.
Need a zero-waste swap in its place? Try Blueland, a cleaning subscription service in which you buy three reusable bottlesonce, then pay $2 for the biodegradable cleaning tablet refills. One tablet goes into each bottle – a bathroom cleaner, multi-surface, and glass cleaner – and then you just add water to make the cleaning solution. Never buy harsh, single-use cleaning products again.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous, of course, you could make your own cleaning solutions. Buy a reusable glass amber bottle and fill with white vinegar and citrus peels. Bam! – your own at-home, zero-waste cleaner.
Napkins-Say goodbye to single-use paper napkins. Cloth napkins are no longer reserved for fancy restaurants or when your in-laws come to eat, and you use the dining room. You can buy cloth napkins or even make them out of fabric or fabric scraps.
Paper towels-“Unpaper” towels are the more sustainable version of paper towels. These are typically made from bamboo and can be washed infinitely after each use. One roll can replace up to six months of single-use paper towels.
Plastic baggies- So. Unnecessary. Stasher Bags take the place of single-use sandwich baggies and come in a variety of sizes and colors. These reusable, washable bags are made out of silicone. They are thicker, which means less chance of spillage and they can also go in the microwave and in the freezer.
Plastic cutlery-Again, this one might qualify for “on-the-go” but it works here, too, especially if you’ve been previously packing plastic, single-use cutlery for work lunches or in your child’s lunchbox. A reusable cutlery set made from bamboo or even stainless steel will really help you avoid plastic flatware whenever you’re away from home.
Saran wrap- Beeswax wrap is a catch-all; it replaces the need for both tinfoil and Saran. Beeswax wrap is reusable for up to a year, can be washed, and can be used for just about anything – to cover containers of leftovers or to wrap up a fruit or veggie!
Teflon pan- Teflon is toxic and not good for the environment. Turn in your Teflon, non-stick for a cast iron skillet and you won’t have to worry.
Grocery store plastic bags:First thing’s first, always bring a reusable tote (or seven!) to the grocery store. Use these to store all your purchases instead of a single-use grocery-store plastic bag.
For produce, you can use cotton or mesh reusable bags instead of the single-use plastic bags they provide at the store. You can reuse and wash these infinitely. You can also opt to buy in bulk to cut out some unnecessary single-use plastic packaging. Just bring a glass mason jar to the bulk section of your local store and fill it up.
Straws- Lastly, straws. This is likely the swap you’ve been hearing about most. Nowadays, there are silicone straws, stainless steel straws, plastic reusable straws, and even glass straws. You can find a3-pack or a 5-pack of stainless steel straws on Healthy Human.
Air purifier:This is not necessarily a swap per say, but one of the best things you can do for your home, the planet, and your indoor air quality is to go plant-lady crazy!
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our homes can house three to five times more pollutants than the outdoor air. This study recently done by NASA found that houseplants have the ability to purify indoor air at amazing rates
NASA recently found in a study that spider plants, Boston ferns, bamboo palm, devil’s ivy, snake plant, and so many others are effective at removing bad toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from our indoor air. These chemicals have been linked to increased risks and health effects such as headaches and eye irritation. (Um – maybe that’s why you suffer from allergies so bad?!)
If you kill every green living thing you look at, you can also invest in an air purifier.
Linens:We’re not saying you should ditch all your recently-bought, expensive bedding. But if you are in fact in the market for new bedding and/or linens, try to go the sustainable route.
Bedding is also an issue of toxicity as it has a high likelihood – depending on the material – of being treated with pesticides. Anything labeled wrinkle-free or permanent-press likely has been treated with harmful pesticides and even formaldehyde. Look for bedding with the “organic” labeling, but more specifically, the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Greenguard Gold and Global Organic Textile (GOTS) standards are great indicators that your bedding is healthy, non-toxic, and made in a Fair-Trade way.
Wondering which materials are best? Linen is generally a good option, as it is made from flax. Flax grows quickly and needs much less water than cotton to grow. Other sustainable materials include bamboo, sateen, percale, and wool.
Mattress:We hate to say it but even your mattress could be problematic. If you are in the need for a new mattress, then consider purchasing as sustainable and non-toxic an option as possible.
Conventional mattresses often contain polyurethane foams, a petroleum-based chemical. They are also often treated with flame retardants and other toxic adhesives that lead to the release of volatile organic compounds, VOCs. Your mattress could not only be hurting the planet, but it could also be making you sick.
Look for a mattress made of entirely natural materials – 100 percent natural latex, certified organic cotton, bamboo, wool fiber, or even rubber. Anything constituting as a “blend” runs the risk of being sprayed with pesticides or made in a non-Fair-Trade way.
Ear swabs-Many brands of ear swabs are unnecessarily made with plastic when they can just as easily be made with cotton. Try switching to cotton-only swabs (as these are compostable) or invest in a reusable stainless steel pick.
Period stuff-Periods are so not sustainable. At least the way we’ve been having them. Conventional tampons are pads are not only single-use, but they also could potentially contain loads of harmful chemicals and toxins that we willingly put against or inside our bodies monthly. It’s gross to even think about!
Make your period more sustainable by trying out a menstrual cup, which can be used for years and years! Most women only need 3-4 menstrual cups in their lifetime, saving thousands and thousands of pads and tampons from making their way to the death sentence that is the landfill.
Another sustainable period option is period underwear – also known as Thinx. Thinx are literally just absorbable underwear that work to absorb your period, rather than catch it like a cup or tampon. Depending on the style you choose, some of these washable and reusable undies can hold two regular tampons’ worth of blood and can be used for several years.
Toilet paper- Toilet paper is actually doing a lot of harm to the environment, though most of us flush it down and don’t think twice about it. Invest in a bidet attachment (because rinsing first means less of a need to wipe!) or try sustainably-made bamboo TP like the subscription service Who Gives a Crap. Their TP is 100% recycled and made with sustainable alternatives like bamboo tissue.
Floss- You swipe it between your teeth once and then chuck it. So useful for our gum and teeth health, but so, so bad for the environment. Dental Lace is a more sustainable alternative, as it’s a plastic-free floss that comes in a glass jar.
Toothbrush- Go the bamboo toothbrush route as these brushes can be composted at the end of their lives. Just note: Most bamboo brushes still use plastic bristles, so you’ll have to remove the bristles by hand before tossing in the compost.
Another option is this all-silicone toothbrush, which is great for people who prefer electric toothbrushes. Even the bristles are silicone and while it’s a bit pricey, you will never have to buy another toothbrush again. Remember: Silicone doesn’t hold onto bacteria, mildew, mold, and other yucky things the way other materials do. (We learned that from silicone sponges!)
Tissues-Who Gives a Crap also makes sustainable, recycled tissues, but if you’re into a more reusable alternative, you could always make tissues out of old fabric, new fabric, or even t-shirts.
Razor-Never buy a plastic razor again. Safety razors are made from stainless steel and are basically tanks. They are durable, reusable, sustainable, and the only thing you need to keep buying are the metal cartridges. The Leaf Razor will last you a super long time and allows you to recycle the steel razor blades after you’re through with them.
Body wash/shampoo/conditioner/hand soap- All soap can essentially be swapped out with bar soap. For shampoo and conditioner bars, you can check out big-time stores like Lush or stop by a local health or natural store that makes them. Of course, you can also make them yourself using a few at-home ingredients. If you do choose to make your own bar soap, we recommend avoiding lye, as it can be toxic if swallowed or ingested.
Dryer sheets- Swap out single-use dryer sheets (often laden with microplastics) for wool dryer balls. Wool dryer balls can actually make your clothes dry faster, which means less dryer time. The planet and your electric bill will thank you! To make your clothes smell extra nice, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the dryer balls before the cycle.
Laundry detergent/softener- A mixture of castile soap and white vinegar is a perfectly sustainable and non-toxic alternative to conventional laundry detergents and softeners. There are plenty of other swaps, too – like you could use soap nuts to do your laundry for instance – but castile soap and vinegar seems to be the easiest. Half a cup of castile soap makes your laundry smell great and an additional ½ cup of white vinegar added to the rinse cycle really cuts through any resounding dirt and grime.
For an added sustainable punch, wash your clothes in a washing bag like this one from Guppyfriend. Washing bags reduce the amount of microplastics that come off your clothes and into the water. Those microplastics can travel to our nearby waterways and cause damage, so using the bag ensures that it be caught before it gets the chance.