10 Effortless Sustainable Swaps to Be More Eco-Friendly
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Over the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard more and more about climate change and what we need to do to combat it. But as normal people, the idea of that seems out of our hands and overwhelming. However, zero waste living has been on the rise and is slowly becoming a more acceptable and accessible lifestyle. The practice of sustainability has become more important, and more common than ever before - but we still have such a long way to go.
Unfortunately, we’ve normalized single-use items and they’ve since become the convenient, yet wasteful, standard. We don’t realize it, but most of the everyday products we use are disposable and are piling up in landfills. Individually, we consume much more than can even begin to comprehend. We have the power to be more conscious as consumers and we need to start taking advantage of that. By educating ourselves on the impact of our consumption, we can begin to be more mindful of harmful repercussions.
By this point in time, most of us are aware of the basics: straws, plastic grocery bags, and plastic water bottles. But it’s time to take it a step further in order to reduce our carbon footprint. If you’ve been looking for a few ways to live a more environmentally-conscious life, these ten swaps are undeniably easy and you won’t even notice a difference in your daily routine!
1. Plastic Toothbrush vs. Bamboo Toothbrush
Not only are traditional toothbrushes made of plastic, but they also contain harmful toxins and materials such as crude oil and rubber, which ends up going into our oceans and landfills. It’s estimated that 1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone - that’s equivalent to 50 million pounds of toothbrushes in our landfills (and don’t forget oceans) annually where they will remain for hundreds of years. By making the switch to a bamboo toothbrush, you’re choosing the compostable and biodegradable option free of harmful materials.
2. Wax Paper / Parchment Paper vs. Reusable Baking Liners
Baking papers like these seem harmless at first glance; however, they’re treated with acid and coated with silicone during production for stability and heat resistance purposes, making it nonrecyclable, and noncompostable in addition to being single-use. Reuseable baking liners/sheets are the best alternatives for these types of products as they can be used repeatedly and work the exact same.
3. Dryer Sheets vs. Dryer Balls
Dryer sheets are another wasteful item that seems to go over our heads. Not only do dryer sheets contribute to landfill waste and air pollution, but they also contain harmful chemicals that are bad for the environment and our health. While the best thing you can do is hang dry your clothes and forego the dryer entirely, if you can’t live without dryer sheets, try switching to dryer balls. They can be used to 1000 times and are a much more eco-friendly product.
4. Face Wipes vs. Reusable Cotton Rounds
Makeup remover wipes are the perfect example of normalized waste. For one they’re single-use, and they are not biodegradable, with some makeup wipes taking up to 100 years to break down in landfills. There are plenty of sustainable options when it comes to makeup removal. For one, there are reusable cotton rounds - all you have to do is throw them in the wash along with your towels. Another great alternative is the Makeup Eraser, one of these costs around $20 and is equivalent to 3,600 wipes - saving you money while saving the planet.
5. Plastic Baggies vs. Reusable Sandwich Bags
Did you know that the average American throws out 500 plastic Ziploc bags each year? The normalization of the plastic baggie is absolutely absurd; while some brands are in fact recyclable, the vast majority of consumers don’t take the extra step of rinsing and drying the bag out in order for it to actually be recycled. There are so many other options yet we choose convenience over longevity. From reusable silicone bags to glass Tupperware and bento boxes - the options are endless.
6. Plastic Wrap vs. Beeswax Wrap
Once again, another kitchen product easily made sustainable, saran wrap. It’s totally possible to live without plastic wraps! Wrapping your food is never a good idea, especially considering the chemicals found in plastic that can get into our bodies and cause negative effects. Beeswax wrap, which is easily moldable is just as versatile as traditional saran wrap and far more eco-friendly. Food huggers and linen or cotton bowl covers are great alternatives, as well.
7. Paper Towels vs. Reusable Cloth
This one should be a no brainer, but surprise surprise, it isn’t. Compared to the rest of the world, The United States consumes an incredibly disproportionate amount of paper towels. In 2017, around $12 billion was spent on paper towels globally and the US accounted for $5.7 billion. In second was France, but get this - they only spent $635 million.
Nowhere in the world will you find single-use products as prevalent as they are in America. The average American household used 1.5 - 2 rolls of paper towels a week and can spend up to $182 a year on the wasteful product. By simply switching to reusable cloths, you’ll spend around $20-30 and they can be washed and reused for years to come.
8. Paper Coffee Filters / K-Cups vs. Reusable Coffee Filter
Coffee filters are another daily single-use item that is far too common (hello all you caffeine lovers). A reusable coffee filter does the same job, just in a less wasteful, more sustainable way. They even have a Keurig adapter that lets you use the ground coffee of your choice. With an option for each type of coffee machine, there’s no reason not to make the switch.
9. Standard Razor vs. Safety Razor
Think about all of the razors you’ve gone through in your lifetime … probably too many to count. Standard razors not only drain your wallet, but their frequent disposal is also encouraged. And while they can technically be recycled, no consumer is going to go through the process of breaking it down so that it can be. Safety razors are a great way to cut down on plastic and can provide the same close shave - if not closer than the plastic counterpart. And get this, they’re gender-neutral! They’re the same price for everyone. Ladies, no more paying more than the male version for your products. By switching to a safety razor you’re being more sustainable and also saving money (and avoiding the pink tax).
10. Shampoo Bottles vs. Shampoo Bars
It’s estimated that more than 552 million shampoo bottles are dumped into our landfills each year. Shampoo bars are a great way to cut down on the everpresent plastic in your bathroom. When mixed with water, these ultra-concentrated bars create a gentle cleansing shampoo that doesn’t strip your hair of its natural oils. Most shampoo bars don’t contain SLS/SLES, sodium laurel sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate, and other harmful chemicals that shampoo bottles secretly hold.
Of course, never purchase a product you already have. The most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have then make the switch when it’s time for a restock. We cannot consume our way to a sustainable world. If you’re still looking for more ways to live more sustainably, these are a few great websites that sell an endless supply of eco-friendly alternatives.
Next time you’re at the store, if there’s a more eco-friendly option of whatever you’re looking at, such as one made of recycled materials, consider opting for that one instead. If we’re not voting with our dollars, then real change will never come about.
We hope that this list inspired you to take a few extra, simple steps towards making the earth a cleaner, greener place. Even if you chose to implement a few of these, you’re making a tremendous difference in the long run. Comment below which of these sustainable swaps you’ll be making!