Sometimes the fight against climate change can feel overwhelming. The huge corporations that refuse to adapt can feel untouchable, and policy changes are happening too slowly. One small way to exert some control is to make everyday lifestyle changes that contribute to a more sustainable future. For me, making small changes in my home helped re-energize me to continue advocating for a cleaner, safer planet. Below are some examples of alternatives I use or am looking forward to trying, with links included to make it that much easier to make the switch! *Note that links to products are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute endorsements of said products.
In general, these suggestions are reusable, non-plastic, and zero waste alternatives. Some tips as you make switches are to use up what you have now—cut plastic tubes open to get out all remaining product—and recycle packaging as you can. Also consider supporting local businesses to cut down on fuel required for shipping items from afar.
In the kitchen, you can swap:
- Plastic-based sponges for a refillable dish brush or plant-based eco-sponge.
- Bottled dish-washing soap with a dish-washing soap block.
- Aluminum foil and plastic cling wrap with beeswax wraps or vegan wax food wraps—you can also DIY these products!
- Single use plastic straws with metal, glass, bamboo, or compostable ones.
- Paper towels with reusable towels and dish cloths.
- Traditional grocery shopping with alternatives that cut down on plastic and food waste, such as Zero Grocery and Imperfect Foods. Of course, shop local when you can!
Around the house, you can swap:
- Cleaning products that come in plastic containers with products like Blue Land that come packaged as dissolvable tablets. (A way to be even more eco-friendly: Use spray bottles you already have for dissolving refill tablets, saving money and giving new life to those plastic spray bottles.)
- Regular laundry and dishwasher detergents with eco-friendly and waste-free detergents.
- Fabric softener and single use dryer sheets with dryer balls—just make sure your dog doesn’t think these are new tennis ball toys!
- Paper towels (yes, for a second time) with cloths and towels. Unfortunately, microfiber towels are not a great substitute because they are made of plastic and can introduce microplastics into the water system when laundered. Also, from personal experience, these alternatives are especially handy when pandemic panic-induced shortages mean cleaning an entire three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for sub-letters with no paper towels available for miles.
- Single use cleaning products like mop pads, wet wipes, and duster refills with reusable alternatives like washable dusters and mop pads. Unfortunately, most mop pads are made of microfiber, so also consider switching to traditional string mops or Cuban-style mops.
In the bathroom, you can swap:
- Traditional makeup packaged in plastic with makeup that comes in refillable or compostable packaging—such as Elate Cosmetics or Meow Meow Tweet. Some makeup brands offer recycling programs, such as MAC and Lush. They also have incentives for recycling your empty packaging, such as free lipstick or face masks!
- Paper products with more eco-friendly alternatives made from bamboo such as bamboo toilet paper, rounds, makeup removing cloths (those throw-away wipes are also not great for your skin!), and beauty swabs.
- Regular toothpaste with a zero waste product such as toothpaste tablets
- Disposable razors with a metal razor—no more overpriced, throwaway cartridges.
- For those who menstruate, traditional sanitary pads and tampons with a menstrual cup or period underwear—these options are also more cost-effective.
Other eco-friendly lifestyle changes:
- Avoid single use plastics! Bring reusable bags to the grocery store, look for products that aren’t wrapped in plastic, and carry your reusable straws around—and actually use them.
- Cut down on car emissions! If biking, walking, or public transport aren’t an option, try carpooling (during non-COVID times).
- Find out if your local waste management offers composting options, or find an independent composting site near you.
- Skip the dryer now and then by hanging up your clothes to dry—this saves electricity and lengthens the lifespan of clothing.
- Say no to fast fashion! Buy second-hand clothes when you can. If your local thrift shops are not an option right now, check out resell sites such as Poshmark. And if you are buying new, check brands’ standards and look for ones that have sustainable and ethical manufacturing processes.
Of course, all of these suggestions are just a start. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope it offers a starting point to make small daily changes. Happy swapping, and please share your own suggestions in the comments!