You’ve heard about global warming. You’ve seen the devastating impacts of plastic on the ocean and environment. You’ve witnessed bags drifting in the wind. So, it’s easy to see why most of us feel overwhelmed. However, there are LOTS of actions you can do to help: Pick up litter, consume less meat, and make simple swaps in your daily life to items that produce less waste. Investing in reusable and toxic-free products allows you to utilize them for years, lowering your overall impact on the environment while simultaneously making your home (and body!) healthier. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 simple and eco-friendly swaps that I’ve made in the past year.
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1. Reusable Bags
Let’s start with the most obvious: reusable bags. This is probably one of the easiest eco-friendly swaps to implement, as most of us already have tote bags laying around, we just need to remember to use them! Whether it’s shopping for weekly groceries or the farmer’s market, you should always have at least 2-4 large reusable bags on-hand or in the car. By keeping them in the car by default (and somewhere in sight, so you remember to grab them on your way out!), you never have to settle for plastic bags in stores.
I really enjoy this adorable yet sturdy burlap bag for all types of grocery shopping:
While you’re at it, don’t forget reusable produce bags. I own both mesh and non-mesh produce bags, which can be cleaned in-between each use (either by hand or using the gentle cycle in the wash). My favorite part about the bags below is that they include tare weight tags on each individual bag, allowing you to deduct the weight of the material from your total purchase cost!
2. Stainless Steel Straws
Ever since I found out that 500 million straws are discard every single day, I decided enough was enough. Because of their flimsy makeup, plastic straws cannot be recycled, making them one of the worst cases of single-use plastic in the world. Ethically speaking, I really believe that straws should solely be available for handicapped and disabled people. When you stop to think about it, why else do we “need” straws? We don’t, we’re simply used to them. So while I proactively ask for “no straw” at restaurants, I always make sure to keep a few reusable straws in my car as an eco-friendly alternative.
I purchased two sets of these straws for my boyfriend and myself a few months back, and we love them. The set comes with 3 food-grade stainless steel straw options, a cleaning brush, and a waterproof-bag. Since the straws come in various sizes, this set is ideal for both small and large iced coffees, teas, and smoothies on the go. (And if you’re worried about the straws being too cold or harsh on your teeth, they even come with removable silicone tips.)
If you are as much a lover of all things boba and smoothie as I am, be sure to invest in a couple more larger-sized straws in case the one above gets dirty.
And finally, if you are looking for alternatives to stainless steel straws such as glass, be sure to check out the amazing selection and mission at Simply Straws.
3. Travel Silverware
This swap is by far the easiest to implement, because all it takes is a change in mindset. For example, going to work? Just pack your own silverware from home! If you want a set specifically dedicated to traveling, check out this one, complete with chopsticks:
What I’ve realized sneaks up the most on people on this journey is the undeniable convenience of single-use utensils. (For example, picture stopping by your local ice cream shop. You decide to order a scoop of ice cream in a cup… All of a sudden, what do you need? BAM! A spoon.)
To mitigate this, I invested in a multi-purpose spork. I purchased this one from Amazon and simply threw it in my waterproof straw bag from above, and voila! Whether it’s a quick stop for ice cream or food, there are no more excuses for single-use plastics. (The coolest thing about this eco-friendly utensil is that it even doubles as a can and bottle opener!)
4. Glass Everything
Most people are aware by now that plastic contains BPA, which mimics the hormone estrogen and can wreck havoc in our bodies. Even if a product states that it’s BPA-free, it most likely still contains BPA’s twin sister, BPS, another estrogen-mimicking compound. (*) So, to be safe than sorry, simply switch over to glass and stainless steel alternatives whenever possible.
Since I started making my own homemade nut milks this year, I knew that I wanted non-toxic and airtight containers for storage. After much research, I invested in these Bormioli Rocco Quattro Stagioni Italian-crafted 1-liter bottles. The size is perfect for the amount of milk I make—not too big, and not too small—, and the quality is made to last! (You can also use these bottle to store cold-brew coffee, ice teas, and even kombucha.) I am obsessed with these bottles and would recommend them to anyone!
Another switch I made was from plastic to glass food containers. Not only are glass containers safer and more eco-friendly, but these are made from borosilicate glass, which makes them durable and safe for the microwave, oven, and even the freezer.
5. Travel Mug/Tumbler
I know that many people are set in their morning routines, especially if it involves indulging in coffee on your commute into work. So, while I personally prefer to make my coffee at home, there’s no reason why you can’t eliminate the travel cup you receive (and later throw away) and make your morning a bit more eco-friendly.
Most companies, Starbucks included, even encourage you to bring your own personal tumbler to receive your morning coffee, and might even offer you a small discount. (From personal experience, this whole process runs a lot more smoothly when you know the exact size and/or ounce weight your cup holds. That way, an unassuming barista can process your order more quickly!)
So, if Starbucks is your coffee location of choice, I recommend investing in one of their vacuum-sealed, stainless steel tumblers. (I received one as a gift one year, and it’s been a great to-go option. For reference, the tumbler holds 12oz of drink, which is equivalent to their ‘tall’ drink options.)
If you are impartial to travel mugs and enjoy taking your own coffee to go in a simple mason jar, check out this lid that converts any mason jar you might have on-hand into the perfect top for sipping.
6. Reusable Water Bottle
Right up there with straws and plastic utensils, plastic water bottles are not only a hazard to the environment, but they’re a hazard to your health. Not convinced? According to GoPure, “whenever you drink out of a plastic bottle, you risk ingesting the chemicals used to make the bottles. This is particularly common with older water bottles and/or those that have been exposed to heat. BPA and other plastic toxins…can accumulate in your system over the years, leaving you prone to a variety of health problems [including various cancers as well as liver and kidney damage].”
So, quit consuming the glorified, toxic water and be sure to bring your own filtered water from home wherever you travel. I personally love my stainless steel S’well bottle and find that it’s the perfect size for traveling, work, and yoga. (I’ve linked the 17oz bottle below, but they have 25oz bottles as well if you prefer one with a larger capacity!)
7. Reusable Storage Bags
Another culprit that sneaks up a lot when trying to be more eco-friendly is the convenience of plastic storage bags, especially for things like snacks and meal prep. Luckily for you though, there is an easy swap for those as well: reusable silicone storage bags! This pack comes in 3 different sizes and is made with food-grade silicone (without any BPA, BPS, BPF or PVC)! It even comes with a convenient stand to help you fill and dry the bags more easily.
8. Beeswax and/or Silicone Covers
If you are a frequent user of plastic cling wrap, then it’s time to save the earth (and some money) by investing in some reusable covers. Beeswax wrap is an eco-friendly and reusable way to keep fruits and vegetables fresh throughout the year. I support Bee’s Wrap, whose product is hand-made in the U.S., produced from organic cotton, and infused with sustainably harvested beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin.
In need of reusable covers as opposed to wraps? Check out these silicone stretch lids by Unwasted, which promise not to leach any nasty chemicals into your leftovers. They’re made from FDA (US) & LFGB (Europe) approved, BPA- free platinum grade silicone and fit both round and square shaped containers.
9. Bamboo-Cotton Makeup Remover Rounds & Cloth
These two purchases alone have kept hundreds of makeup remover pads, towelettes, and cotton balls out of the landfill from my house. Now, just imagine the impact if everyone else did the same…
I use these organic, white bamboo-cotton rounds every night with a toner during my nighttime routine. Because they are white, I choose to use these strictly for my toner, and a darker-colored microfiber towelette (below) for washing off makeup (since it will most likely become stained). At the end of the week, I simply plop these pads in their included washable bag and throw them in the wash. And just like that, they’re ready for another round of use (pun-intended)!
And for my makeup remover cloth, I chose this one:
10. Compost Bin
My final pick is limited to those have the space and ability to utilize an outdoor compost bin. Composting is an amazing eco-friendly option because not only does it reduce your overall waste output, but if you garden or own plants, it can provide you with natural and nourishing fertilizer. (According to Recyclenow, composting at home for just one year can offset the gases that your washing machine produces in three months! )
This farmhouse style compost bucket can be kept right on your kitchen counter to collect leftover veggie and fruit scraps as you cook. Not only can it hold over a gallon of scraps, but it includes an integrated charcoal filter to naturally block odors and flies. It’s a win all around!
Obviously, you then need a place to dump the scraps in order to compost them. My family and I have been using a high-volume bin similar to the one below for a few years now, and it works great. It’s simple, durable, and does the job. (Our garden has been loving it too!)
Tip #1: Whenever you can, buy in bulk! Buying in bulk means less packing. (i.e. Instead of buying individually-bottled soaps for each of your bathrooms, buy a reusable glass soap dispenser and purchase the soap in bulk. I personally buy a 32-oz bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap and simply dilute it.)
Tip #2: When making purchases on Amazon, be sure to select the option during checkout to ship your items together. This ensures that your items will arrive in less packing and boxes as opposed to shipping things out right as they’re available. You can also contact customer support to ask for less plastic packaging in your order. Check out this article from MyGlobalMuse for more tips on ordering from Amazon more sustainably.