As we start I want to remind you, this isn’t about throwing away all your products to buy new fancy items. Take things slow, buy as needed, and don’t feel the need to be perfect and overwhelm yourself. You can check out one of my previous blog posts, Biggest Zero Waste Mistakes, this will give you more of a background on what we are aiming for.
All of the items listed can be found locally new or used, if not do your research and look around to find other sustainable options. This is about using what you have, being creative and finding alternate choices for what we can to help this pollution crisis we have gotten ourselves into.
As we go room by room think about how many plastic bottles of each product you have used over the years and how many other families use these products everyday. Now, think of the impact you will make on not only the environment but your health and even your wallet.
Do you really NEED these products in your life? Are there more sustainable options to choose from? Are we not switching or making changes for our own selfish need?
Trash bags – Plastic bags to throw away our plastic waste. Amazon does sell compostable bags. Friendly reminder, biodegradable is a verbiage used to put on packages so we think they are earth friendly so we are more likely to buy them. Everything can biodegrade after a certain amount of time – even if it’s 400 years. Compostable is the word we are looking for when buying certain items.
Grocery bags – A basic conversion I hope you’ve already started! Plastic grocery bags are one of the easiest things to avoid. I started my collection from hand me down tote bags, goodwill finds and the free bags businesses given out at marketing events! I have trained myself to remember 3 things everytime I go shopping – my keys, my wallet and my grocery bags.
Reusable water bottles – An easy and basic change, stop using single use plastic water bottles. I can guarantee you already have some in your cabinets, if not local thrift stores usually have a stock of reusable water bottles. I promise you there are water fountains of some sort where ever you go to refill your bottle.
Reusable mugs – You don’t have to give up your morning coffee run. But you can give up using their single use cups by bringing your own coffee mug. Both Starbucks and Dunkin give discounts when you bring your own mug, it’s a win win.
Ziploc bags – There are a few zero waste options: reusable silicone bags, beeswax wrap, mason jars, plastic Tupperware, or stainless steel containers work. There are also silicone bags and certain containers you can freeze food in.
Straws – There are a variety to choose from: Thicker bamboo straws are better for smoothies and shakes, some people prefer stainless steel straws while others prefer silicone reusable straws. Make sure you get a pipe cleaner to clean them properly too.
Dish sponges/rags – Drop the single use dish sponges and ratty single use rags. There are reusable options for whatever your preference is at most local stores. I’m more of a rag person myself as sponges tend to hold more bacteria. I just use what rags I have on hand that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve also seen stainless steel cleaners and bamboo brushes that are reusable and practical.
Dish soap – I haven’t made this change yet because a little soap goes a long way, I put my soap in a oil dispenser and it conserves dish soap so much. I’ll buy eco friendly products in bulk if I can but I haven’t found anything simple on completely avoiding plastic here (Free surprise to first person who has a plastic free option for this!)
Paper Towels – There’s something cool going around called “unpaper towels” which are reusable paper towel rolls. I think they work pretty well from what people have said, I haven’t used them myself. Simple rags work well in place of paper towels.
The Extra Mile: If you haven’t started composting I recommend you at least look into it. Here is a quick easy post on how you can compost no matter where you live, wrote by the owner of my local zero waste store!
Habit changer: When out buying your weekly groceries make note of what you are buying. Are there better plastic free options you can buy? Are you buying your fruits and veggies packaged in plastic? Be careful what you buy and check your options.
Detergent – You can make your own easily with three cheap inredients, you can also buy locally or online from someone who makes their own. There aren’t many plastic free options available at the grocery store unless you buy powder detergent in cardboard boxes.
Dryer sheets – I personally don’t use these, I looked into finding options and found: reusable dryer sheets are available, I found some DIY recipes, adding some vinegar into the wash has the same effect, or using dryer balls. Dryer balls can help reduce your drying time which also helps reduce your energy usage.
Extra: If you are able to, hang clothes on clothes line or over railings. This not only helps with energy usage but the sun is an amazing natural stain remover.
Habit changer: Try to buy your clothes (or anything) used by thrift shopping, swapping with friends, online groups or apps like Poshmark. It can be a great way to get name brand clothes and products at a great deal. If you want to buy your clothes new, try to go for ecofriendly materiel’s – a lot of our clothes contain plastic materials and certain manufacturing of materials are bad for the planet. Make sure your dollars are supporting fair trade and sustainable manufacturing if you buy anything new.
Toothbrush – This is one change I made pretty quick with this new journey. I bought the entire family bamboo toothbrushes. Remember, every toothbrush you’ve ever used is still out there and your parents, and your grandparents, etc. multiply that by everyone elses family and you get a whole lot of toothbrushes sitting out there with all the other plastic. Bamboo toothbrushes work just as well as plastic and cost about the same (less if you buy in bulk like I did.)
Toothpaste – You can make your own there’s a great recipe here on Going Zero Waste blog that we use. She’s also a great zero waste role model and has useful tips. There are toothpaste options you can buy online in glass instead of plastic. Glass and metal are much easier and more practical to recycle than plastic.
Floss – You can buy floss containers made of glass instead of plastic.
Shampoo and conditioner – Bars! There are so many shampoo and contioner bars made from natural ingredients and plastic free packaging. Also plenty of DIY recipes on hair wash if you’re willing to try your own.
Soap – This was something I didn’t have to switch, I was already using bar soaps prior to converting products but I am more conscious about ingrideints as well. Palm oil is something to be watched out for as palm oil is a huge problem in deforestation.
Toilet paper – What the crap? That’s actually the name of an eco friendly toilet paper company. Seriously, companies are coming up with eco friendly versions of everything, consumers just need to get on board!
I also read a zero waste blog about a woman who sewed some fabric and reused bathroom wipes. If you have the stomach and time to clean toilet rags more power to you!
Qtips – Bamboo cotton qtips are on the market, we are still working through our old plastic qtips.
Face wash – This also has a few options – bar soaps, face wash sets in glass bottles from companies like BioClarity, and DIY recipes. I mostly use a bar soap now but I have tried some DIY recipes.
Cotton pads – I was excited to make this change. I used to use witch hazel a lot to wash my face (not anymore since I can only find it in plastic bottles) and I would buy two things of cotton pads a month. I can’t sew so I went on etsy and found someone down here in Florida who could make them. I got 10 pads for $12 and they came in all different cute designs. I always have them clean and that’s using usually two a day. They are great for washing your face and great make up removers.
Razors – Ditch the plastic and get yourself a stainless steel razor. There are companies out there who give discounted rates if you send in your old razor blades for new ones.
Tampons/Pads – Check out my blog post on a personal review of Menstrual Cups. If you’re uncomfortable with cups there are also period panties and reusable pad inserts. Remember there is no ONE solution, just find what suits you best while still keeping the environment in mind!
The Extra Mile – We still have a stockpile of plastic bags and my boyfriend still brings some home every so often. We do put them in our bathroom trash cans but most the time we are able to dump the contents into the main trash without having to throw the plastic bag away as well. Most the contents are paper products and qtips so it’s easy to dump in the main trash to prevent the plastic bag from making its way to the dump.
Wipes – Something easy to make yourself. I have a post on the immunity wipes I make. This is another big money saver for me personally, not buying 15-20 dollars a month in Clorox wipes has added up over the months.
Glass Cleaner – Another easy DIY cleaner with vinegar and water. Essential oils are great for making your own cleaners but they aren’t needed. I only bought Lemon and Lavender when I first started and slowly added what I wanted/needed over time.
Toilet Cleaner – You can make your own pretty easily, I found a few DIY recipes. There are some powders cleaners sold in cardboard packaging just make sure what you use for cleaners the ingredients are environmentally friendly.
Making all your own cleaning products isn’t for everyone though, remember some of these products may be sold locally at zero waste shops, craft or green fairs, etc. There are always more ecofriendly options as far as packaging and ingredients. Just making small changes as far as what brand you buy at your store still helps make a difference.
Dish Washer Powder/Tabs – Powder is super easy and cheap to make especially in bulk. Again there is powder with better ingredients sold in cardboard boxes at a lot of stores. Just compare your current product with other options available.
Extra tip – use your old plastic cleaning bottles to put your homemade cleaners in, prevents the plastic from getting in the landfill and helps you save money!
Office and School
Paper – It’s really needed for school and even work, writing things down is the best way to remember for long term. I use journals and calanders all the time. It’s what you buy and buying only as needed. Things like cutting out meat or plastic bags help the envirment more than using a few spiral notebooks a year, especially if it’s from recycled paper.
Pen’s, Markers, Highlighters– There are plastic free pen options but of course use what you have on hand. For most of us this isn’t something we buy often anyways. There are people and facilities who take old pens, markers and highlighters that can be used for art or try to recycle. I also learned Crayola has their own recycling program where you can send in their old supplies and they will reuse and dispose of properly. Something great you can take to your kids schools.
Ecosia – If you haven’t heard of Ecosia you are missing out on helping the envirment. Every time you “Google” something “Ecosia” it to help save the planet. They plant trees and use profits to bid on land to save it from things like coal mining and deforestation.
Work Supplies – Some of us have jobs where we have to use certain things we don’t have control over. Always try and make some suggestions to your leadership in regards to certain things you can change, even just adding a recycling can help with plastic waste.
Diapers – Cloth diapering is an environmentally and cost effective parenting win. Cloth diapers can have multiple adjustments with inserts so they grow with your child as is and the inserts really help with diaper changes.
Wipes – My daughter was so sensitive to baby wipes I had to use a spray bottle and wash clothes for the first 3 months or else she would break out in a red raw rash. Wipes for the most part aren’t “bad” for the environment from my understanding but it is something to think about as they are all wrapped in plastic. This is something I found buy the refill bulk boxes. Less packages and I can just refill my wipe containers.
Toys – Cut out bringing in the extra plastic junk toys that just end up laying around the house. It’s a waste of resources and money. Used toys are a great option especially for younger kids, put it in a gift bag and they won’t know the difference! There are plenty of parents always willing to sell/get rid of toys and always a huge stock at most consignment shops. Think more experiences then anything when buying for older kids – music lessons, invest in a hobby they love, tickets to an event, etc.
That’s what I have for you for now! Basic household products and habits you can change in your everyday life to help cut down on plastic pollution, which ultimately helps oil consumption and water usage. In a couple weeks I’ll have a special Christmas edition for you all!
There’s no one answer but there are solutions. We can be held responsible and accountable for our choices. We know we have a pollution problem, let’s start doing more about it, together.