Take a walk around any grocery store or superstore, and you’ll find the bulk of what’s sold contains unnecessary amounts of waste, whether that waste is in the packaging of the product or the product itself or both. It’s no wonder our homes are filled with plastic and various items made from unrecyclable mystery materials. That’s what’s sold to us by mainstream retailers. You’ll see signs for fifty percent off of a plastic scrub brush, a $2-off coupon for synthetic sponges, or a pack of 100 cute, summer-themed, plastic straws on clearance. Maybe you read online a certain product is the best, and you simply can’t resist running out to try it.
While it’s easy to blame ourselves for the plastic and waste crisis our world is facing, the truth is, we haven’t always been shown alternatives. Sure, going green has been in for quite some time, but sustainable products aren’t exactly on every shelf at the store (yet), and not every single company is rushing to switch to more sustainable methods.
So for those who are still wondering what alternatives are out there for your daily needs, here are ten sustainable swaps for common household products:
1. Natural wooden/bamboo brushes
It’s estimated that a billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the US. So let’s think about this: when you add in plastic toilet brushes, plastic hairbrushes, scrub brushes, etc., that number only grows to nearly immeasurable heights.
Swap your plastic brushes for natural wooden or bamboo brushes, so when you’re done with them, you can compost them instead of adding to the crisis.
2. Natural fiber yoga mat
Isn’t it one of the most ironic things that an item we use to help us become more present, more conscious, and healthy is made of PVC, the world's third-most common synthetic plastic polymer?
If your goal during yoga is to better your mind, body, and soul, do the earth a favor and let it also reap the benefits.
3. 100% natural sponge
Natural sponges replace plastic sponges in the kitchen, bathroom, and whatever other tasks you use sponges during, such as cleaning, washing your car, etc.
Just one natural sponge can replace over a dozen plastic sponges or loofahs, and they can be tossed right in the washing machine to be cleaned for reuse. When your natural sponge has served its purpose and is ready to be tossed, simply compost it and complete its life cycle on the planet.
4. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Mainstream companies are now starting to produce packaging-free shampoo and conditioner bars that are highly-concentrated and last way longer than your average drugstore brand. Find what works best for your hair type, and cut down on the dozens of bottles you discard on a yearly basis for just that one need.
5. Stainless Steel Reusable K-Cups
Keurig may be totally innovative in many ways, but the result has produced a massive amount of waste. In fact, it’s been estimated the number of K-Cups that have been trashed is enough to wrap around the entire planet 10 times.
This simple swap — or switching to a stainless steel French press that doesn’t require filters — drastically reduces your daily waste.
6. Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray
Plastic ice cube trays need to be replaced often due to splits and cracks from moisture and cold temperatures. Stainless steel won’t lose strength or shape, offering an alternative that pretty much never has to be replaced.
7. Bamboo Clothing Hangers
A study of trash in the Gulf of Mexico found plastic hangers among other common plastic garbage. They break easily, and thus, wind up in the trash easily. Swap for sustainably-harvested bamboo hangers instead. If they break, you can compost them so they turn into soil.
8. Plastic-free or tree-free toilet paper
It’s actually nearly impossible to find plastic-free toilet paper, and when you really sit and think about that, it’s a pretty horrifying reality. You’re putting synthetic fibers in your most sensitive areas daily.
An Australian company called WhoGivesACrap started manufacturing toilet paper from bamboo and sugarcane, meaning you can finally track down something healthy both for you and the planet. Seventh Generation also offers recycled toilet paper wrapped in recyclable packaging.
9. Rubber Lint Brush
If you have pets, or if you just frequently wear black, chances are you’re using multiple roller sheets to get off all that lint and fur. While it’ll cost you a bit more upfront than a pack of plastic rolls, rubber lint brushes are comprised of natural rubber for the bristles held together by copper to a wooden handle. They can be washed and reused over and over again and never have to be replaced.
10. Wool Dryer Balls
Wool dryer balls are not only far more sustainable than single-use dryer sheets, they also shorten drying time by up to 20%, reduce wrinkles, and can be reused for up to 1,000+ loads. You can scent them with whatever essential oil you wish and leave in the dryer for your next load.