We are almost through Plastic Free July, so I’m sharing some of my favorite, more sustainable alternatives to everyday items. If you’re looking to start a low-waste journey of your own and switch to more eco-friendly products, here are 20 swaps my own family has incorporated into our lives:
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
– Vincent Van Gogh
A great way to ditch plastic packaging and paying for water is opting for a bar soap instead of the liquid pump kind. It’ll get you just as clean, typically lasts longer, and can be bought handmade, locally, organic, and in small batches.
- Shampoo & Conditioner.
Try no packaging bars! A concentrated block of solid shampoo or conditioner allows you to again avoid plastic bottles and paying for water. I adore my solid shampoo and conditioner, and one bar lasts me on average 6 months before it needs replacing, and I love that I am using natural products (bonus: my hair is so soft and smells so good).
- Shopping bags.
Stash a few reusable totes in your car for when you need to get groceries or hit the shops. No need to use plastic bags that will end up in a landfill or in waterways. Some states and cities have even introduced plastic bag bans in recent years. Yay, legislation!
- Coffee cups.
Bust out your reusable mug next time you’re grabbing caffeine on the go — no need for a paper cup with plastic lid (or plastic cup with plastic straw if you’re an iced coffee kinda person) that will be in the trash within an hour, but polluting our planet for the next 450 years. Just order confidently and hand it over like a planet-loving boss! (pro tip: it helps to know how many ounces your cup holds when ordering).
- Plastic water bottles.
If you’re still buying packaged water, get yourself a cute refillable water bottle instead; save money and the environment. Not a fan of tap? Invest in a reusable bottle with a filter! One of my favorite quotes about bottled water is this: “Bottled water companies don’t produce water; they produce plastic bottles.” I had never though about it that way, but we all should.
Try an organic loofa, bamboo dish brush, crochet hemp scrubby, or even a good ol’ fashioned cotton washcloth. Conventional kitchen sponges are essentially made from oil-based plastic, and impregnated with bacteria-killing agents, dioxins, and formaldehyde that negatively impact our planet.
- Paper towels.
Instead of paper towels made from trees and wrapped in plastic, use kitchen towels to tidy up, wash, and repeat. I like to keep a drawer full of kitchen towels, many of which we’ve made from old baby towels or bath towels. I have a small bin under my sink where I place dirty ones, and then I do a load of laundry when that bin is full.
- Produce packaging.
Say no to those flimsy rolls of plastic produce bags (that I can literally never get opened; I always try both sides and can never slide the edges to open up — it’s very embarrassing). Bring a few reusable produce bags or just skip them all together. No shame in putting a few apples and a head of broccoli directly into your cart; everything should be getting washed once you’re home anyway. Look for the loose items rather than pre-packaged bags of produce. Check out the farmers markets, too, for more package-free options! (It seems like it’s been a bit more challenging to get foods plastic-free due to the covid pandemic, so don’t feel guilty if you’re doing your best. Small steps, and safety first).
Freshen up those pearly whites with toothpaste powder instead. No plastic tube or cap, made with more natural ingredients, can be refilled in a glass or metal container, and you only need a little bit. This one takes getting used to, but give it a try next time you run out of conventional toothpaste!
- Plastic toothbrushes.
Swap it out for a bamboo brush. Dentists say toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months, so that’s a lot of plastic sitting in the landfill! When it’s time for you to replace yours, I encourage you to try bamboo! It’s a much more sustainable material, and they even make fun kids toothbrushes for your little ones.
Okay, don’t freak out when you read these next two words: menstrual cup. It lasts about 10 years, you only have the change it every 12 hours, it’s the environmentally friendliest option out there, saves you a TON of money over the course of your cycles, and is way more comfortable and convenient than any other product I’ve used. I 100% believe every woman should use them if she is able. I consider very few swaps to be “life changing,” but this one truly is. I promise you won’t go back.
- Plastic bottled cleaning supplies.
Invest in some glass bottles you can reuse and refill with concentrates or homemade cleaning sprays. No need to pay for water, and there are plenty of safe and effective cleaning solutions out there that carry far less toxins and hazardous chemicals, and that don’t sit in plastic.
- Bottles of lotion.
Lotion is something I don’t buy anymore; reading what goes into beauty products can be down right scary, and I try to avoid toxic ingredients when I can because I know it’s much better for my skin in the long run. Coconut oil is truly magic, and I’ll leave it at that.
- Phone cases.
This is one I feel like gets overlooked a lot, but we all want to protect our tiny super computers! Sport a cute compostable and eco-friendly alternative to a plastic phone case. There are a bunch of great products out there that are sustainable and fashionable!
- Toilet paper.
More-so about conserving our forests, but don’t forget that TP usually comes wrapped in plastic, too. Try a greener brand, or go all in with a bidet (It’s more effective and feels so fresh and nice. We prefer a bidet sprayer to any toilet paper we’ve used).
- Coffee pods:
If you can’t live without your Keurig, get a reusable k-cup to avoid landfill or ocean pollution, and the harmful effects that can happen due to plastic being heated. Try a conventional coffee maker with eco-friendly filters, or my personal favorite, a French press. Ahhhh, I can smell the organic fair-trade aromas now!
- Expensive exfoliants.
Microplastics have adverse effects on humans and animals, both absorbing and giving off chemicals and harmful pollutants that stay in the environment. Many cosmetic scrubs and exfoliants use microplastics as an ingredient. Experiment with organic options, or make your own! Coconut oil, coffee grounds, and brown sugar is my shower go-to.
- Plastic straws.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the hype around plastic straws. Avoid this commonly used plastic product by sipping through a stainless steal or bamboo straw, or just turn down straws all together if you are able.
- Tea bags.
Most tea bags are made from natural fibers, but they still use plastic to seal them. Try loose leaf in bulk and a cute, little tea diffuser. I love making my own herbal teas, or shopping local for new teas to try — the flavor is usually much better with loose leaf teas as well!
- Laundry detergent.
Those big old plastic jugs can be a thing of the past if you’re willing to try powdered detergents. I love being able to use natural, safe ingredients that perform well and come in plastic-free packaging. It lasts me longer and I’m a sucker for a fun tin container that takes up 1/8th the amount of space in my tiny laundry room (closet).
Well, that’s that! I want to sincerely thank you for reading this post – there are a lot of great swap lists out there, and I appreciate you taking the time to check out mine. If a lot of this seamed straight forward to you, I’m glad! I hope you found some new ideas as well, and if you have anything you’d like to add to the list, please comment. If you have any questions about specific brands of products we use, I’d be happy to answer any questions on that as well! Remember that the most sustainable choice is to use up what you have before buying new, so plan accordingly as you start introducing swaps into your own life!