It’s finally April (aka, Earth month), the beautiful time of year that reminds us that sustainability is sexy! And while my own personal efforts to make strides in this area have been slow at times, and even slower during the pandemic, there is no better time than the present to start making positive changes. I know that during the pandemic, I was buying more items in plastic packaging; simply because going to the farmers market wasn’t an option, and I was always in a frenzy trying to get in and out of the grocery store so quickly, I often grabbed produce in plastic bags. It is what it is. But now that we are making our way through the pandemic, and we’ve all seen how precious life really is, my hope is that we can all take smaller steps and be committed to sustainability, not only for our own lives and enjoyment on planet Earth, but for our generations to come.
And while living completely zero-waste can be hard, there are little actions that we can all take to help reduce our waste and support the environment, and behold – these swaps will actually end up saving you money in the end!
With so many options available to us now, it may seem a little difficult to decide where to start. But in this post, I’ll be rounding up my 10 favorite sustainable swaps that you can make this Earth Day and beyond!
Whether you’re brand-new to sustainability or already involved in your journey, here are my favorite swaps that you can make that can help to save you time and money, all while saving the environment.
Quite possibly the Ziplock bag’s prettier twin sister, Stasher Bags are an easy, plastic-free, sustainable swap for conventional plastic bags. These silicone bags come in a variety of fun colors and sizes, and can be used for everything from food storage to makeup storage to a catch-all pouch for your purse. After switching over to Stasher Bags completely, I have saved so much money from eliminating the need to constantly be buying Ziplocks. I also love that you can throw the Stasher bags in the dishwasher and reuse them! It makes this swap truly so easy to get behind, especially for those of us with more busy lifestyles.
I’ve linked the 4-pack that I highly recommend; that way you can try a variety of the different sizes and use them for different purposes!
Have you ever ended up in a situation where you’re cleaning up after dinner, getting ready to wrap up leftovers to stick in the fridge, and realize that you’re out of cling wrap? Trying to scramble and find an alternative (or even worse, attempt to reuse old cling wrap) is never fun. Not to mention, it goes into the garbage quicker than we can even use it. But thankfully, there’s a sustainable alternative to traditional cling wrap.
Bee’s Wrap is a sustainable cling wrap made from- you guessed it- beeswax! The blend of organic cotton and beeswax creates a tight seal over food, and the non-plastic material means that you can wash it and reuse it over and over again. Once you’ve worn them out, they can go straight into the compost bin, making them the perfect alternative to traditional cling wrap. Here’s the link, be sure to stock up!
I’ll admit: for years, I was someone who took off my makeup with an oil cleanser and a disposable cotton pad. While convenient, those cotton pads are actually lined with pesticides, not only making them non-compostable, but also potentially damaging to the skin. An easy swap for these are reusable organic cotton, bamboo, or flannel rounds. These rounds can often be found in packs of 5 to 25 and come in a variety of different colors and prints. Plus, once you’ve used them, all you have to do is throw them into a laundry bag and toss them in with your next towel load. I recommend these; they work great and come with a convenient laundry bag, making cleaning a breeze.
Real talk: I’ve never heard anybody say that they love pads. The itchy, plastic maxipad we all know (and probably don’t love) not only contains chemicals that can irritate our sensitive parts, but also piles up in the landfill real quickly.
Thankfully, there’s a much more comfortable and cute alternative to pads: period underwear. You may have seen this new, sustainable “trend” all over Instagram, and for a good reason. Period underwear is not only comfy enough to want to wear, even when you aren’t on your period, but can also sustain a “flow” that is too heavy for traditional pads. Brands such as Thinx, Sustain, Knix, and Rael all make their own versions, although Thinx has the widest variety of sizes, capacities, and colors.
Did you know that you can get many of your favorite pantry staples without the plastic? Grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Berkeley Bowl (for Bay Area natives!) offer large “bulk” sections where you can find everything from flours to collagen and even tea, sans the packaging. All you’ll want to do is make sure you weigh your jars before you fill them (this is also called a “tar”) and then, fill the jar up with whatever bulk item you’d like. Weigh the jar again, subtract the tar, and checkout as normal! You’ll want to make sure you write down the item number associated with the bulk item (this can usually be found on the container), but some stores will tag your jars for you.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy brand new jars in order to do this! You can simply reuse old pasta sauce jars, jam jars, or anything that you already have in your kitchen. Just be sure to clean them before reusing, and bring a whiteboard marker so you can label them after you fill them up!
And if you do want to purchase your own reusable jars, I recommend having a variety of Mason jars on hand at all times. For bulk shopping for things like flours and rice, I love the 32 oz size. And for things that I don’t use that much of, the 16 oz size is perfect.
You might’ve heard about the “Save the Turtles” campaign, especially if you spend a lot of time on Tik Tok. But, how does this connect to straws? The sad reality is that plastic straws oftentimes end up in our oceans, which can lead to sea animals, like turtles, accidentally mistaking them for food. Thankfully, many companies (like Starbucks, for example) have eliminated plastic straws completely or have opted for a paper replacement. And while paper is great, it’s still single-use, so not quite as sustainable as we’d like.
That’s why metal and glass straws are the way to go! Not only are they easy to wash and reuse, but if you go the metal route, you can even buy collapsible ones that shrink down to fit in your pocket. It’s a super easy way to stay sustainable while on-the-go!
One of my favorite joys in life is getting a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop. There’s something about having a cup of coffee made for you that makes it taste *that* much better. However, I don’t love the single-use coffee cups and the waste that they create. While some shops now offer compostable cups, many coffee shops actually have cups that are lined in a non-recyclable plastic, therefore sending the cups straight to landfill.
A super easy replacement for a conventional, single-use coffee cup is a Stojo! Their silicon cups are dishwasher safe and come in a variety of different colors. Plus, they collapse into themselves, so once you’re done with your coffee you can collapse the cup and throw it into your bag! And in my experience, coffee shops never have a problem with putting your drink into your own cup. In fact, some places will even give you a discount on your drink when you bring your own cup! I don’t know about you, but saving waste and money is a win-win for me.
While eliminating waste is great, let’s work together to combat the real enemy here: the toothpaste stuck at the bottom of the tube. You know it’s there, but you can’t get it out, and in the time it would have taken you to brush your teeth, you had to hunt for a pair of scissors, cut open the tube, and dig your brush into the toothpaste. Sound familiar?
Toothpaste tabs are the perfect solution for eliminating waste AND the pesky toothpaste tube problem. Plus, they’re travel-friendly, too. All you have to do is pop a tab into your mouth, bite, and brush with a wet toothbrush. It may sound a little weird, but once you get used to it, it becomes so much easier than conventional toothpaste. Also, you can often buy toothpaste tab refill packets that come in compostable packaging, so you can refill your bottle every time, instead of throwing it out! Try them!
Another sustainable swap that you can implement at the grocery store. Instead of using those plastic produce bags that get thrown away as soon as you get home, switch to reusable cotton or mesh produce bags! Not only is it just as easy to put your produce in a reusable bag, but as soon as you get home you can put the bag right into the fridge. And, many of them are resealable, so there’s no need to break into a plastic bag to just get a small amount of produce at a time. Here’s a great starter pack option.
To be honest, I think wool dryer balls are the better alternative to dryer sheets. Oftentimes, we need two or more dryer sheets per load to get our clothes to smell how we want them to, and even then, it may not be enough. But with wool dryer balls, we can eliminate the waste from traditional dryer sheets while also creating our own custom scents for our clothes. Just pick an essential oil or two that you love, put a few drops on the dryer balls, and toss them into the dryer! They also help to eliminate static (just like traditional dryer sheets) and because wool is so absorbent, they can reduce drying time as well. This brand is our household favorite, and they are organic, too!