There’s a common misconception out there that making your lifestyle more environmentally conscious requires a complete overhaul of everything you do and use. But making more sustainable choices can be as simple as changing dishwasher detergents, buying refillable cleaning products, and shopping brands that use recyclable packaging. Small steps can lead to big change, especially when everyone contributes. The best part? While these switches are better for the environment, they’re usually better for us and our wallets in the long-term, as well. We call that a win-win-win.
But before you get ready to make the change, it’s best to lay the groundwork of your environmentally conscious new lifestyle. For starters, be prepared to be bombarded with a barrage of terms like eco-friendly, sustainable, and green, and know that they aren’t synonymous. Here’s some basic definitions:
- Green: This is the most basic term when it comes to environmentally-friendly products and tends to be overused and even misused by brands just to get consumers to purchase. If a product label just says it’s “green,” it’s probably not all that environmentally friendly in comparison to regular items.
- Eco-friendly: In the truest sense of the word, eco-friendly means that a product doesn’t harm the planet. From production to packaging, these products are consciously sourced and made.
- Sustainable: Sustainability takes a broad prospective on more than just environmentally conscious choices. Companies that produce sustainable products focus on less environmental waste, but also on social benefits, as well. You’ll see many of these brands have charitable actions in addition to environmentally friendly ones. Out of all the terms listed, sustainability by far includes the hardest criteria for brands to achieve.
In addition to making more environmentally conscious shopping choices, there’s plenty of other easy ways you can help the planet—without even spending a buck!
- Most obviously, pay attention to your electronics usage. Did you know you can purchase an energy usage monitor that’ll tell you exactly what appliances are your biggest consumption culprits? If you don’t want to spend the money on one, though, you can track your household usage via your monthly power bill. Make an effort to turn off appliances when not in use, and cut down on how often you use them. Do you really need to run the washing machine just for one shirt, or will a hand-wash do instead?
- Consider buying second-hand when you can. Remember when we said that many environmentally conscious choices are also good for your wallet? Here you go. This can go far beyond thrift shops and rummage sales. Sites like Luxury Garage Sale, The Real Real, and thredUP all sell high-end, luxury name brands at a fraction of the price because they’re lightly used. You can also rent clothes via sites like Rent the Runway (yes, they offer everyday clothes in addition to formal wear).
- Another simple change that your wallet will appreciate is not wasting food. Food waste contributes massively to the detriment of the environment through the release of wasted shipping resources and carbon dioxide emissions in landfills. Start taking stock of what’s in your pantry and save up a few go-to fridge clean-out recipes that make use of literally anything and everything you have on hand (pro-tip: get the whole family involved in this one! Ex: homemade pizza where everyone picks their toppings). Also, eat those leftovers! Trust us, the planet and your wallet will thank you.
- Consider composting! For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear composting is those massive turning compost bins for your yards. Contrary to popular belief, those aren’t necessary. You can compost just as easily with a small bin placed in your kitchen or freezer. Bonus: compost makes wonderful fertilizer for your garden. Which brings us to our next point…
- Start a garden. Yes, being environmentally friendly can be as simple as getting out in the garden. Whether you plant your own vegetable garden, a few trees, or even just some pollinator plants, all plants take in CO2 and release oxygen, which is always beneficial for the planet.
And with all that, you’re ready to start your new environmentally friendly journey!
Reusable Storage Bag
It’s estimated that Americans alone use around 100 billion plastic bags every year, about 365 per person, so swapping out plastic one-time use bags for reusable silicone bags is a simple but impactful place to start when it comes to making more eco-friendly choices. Stasher bags come in a variety of sizes and colors and are easily tossed in the dishwasher to clean.
Swedish Dish Cloths
Dish cloths > paper towels. When it comes to being environmentally friendly, reusable products are the name of the game. Of course, any dish cloth is better than a paper towel, but we’re partial to these as they’re easy to wash and reuse, but when you’re done with them, they’re biodegradable.
Reusable Bamboo Paper Towels
If you’re looking for a reusable cloth that has a feel that’s more similar to paper towels, then these bamboo towels are for you. They come on a convenient roll and are thinner than many other reusable cloths, so far smaller and more flexible when wet.
Reusable Metal Coffee Pod
Single-serve coffee makers definitely make mornings easier, but those plastic coffee pods are terrible for the environment. Cut down on your plastic use without cutting out your coffee addiction by switching to a reusable stainless steel pod that you fill with your own grounds. Yet another bonus: it’s cheaper in the long run than the plastic alternative.
Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags
This might just be the easiest swap on the entire list. We all know plastic bags are bad for the environment, so bringing your own to the grocery store is a simple switch that positively affects the planet. Many reusable totes we find are flimsy, but these hefty bags are durable and can pack more than their weight in products.
Misfits Market Subscription
Or consider ditching the grocery store all together and getting a subscription to an eco-friendly delivery service like Misfits Market. They’ll deliver your groceries straight to your door and select produce that has slight aesthetic defects that normally might be looked over at the grocery store.
Grove Collaborative is a hub of eco-friendly and sustainable products, including both their own line of goods and outside brands they carry. They’re both plastic and carbon neutral, meaning any waste they create they offset. They sell glass spray bottles as well as cleaning concentrates for just about every surface in your home, but we’ve found that this multi-purpose cleaner is an impactful and easy place to start.
Yet another plastic you can completely eliminate in your household use—plastic wrap. Bee’s wrap is a plastic wrap alternative made of cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and plant oils that can be reused for up to a year. Simply warm the wrap with the heat of your hands to create a breathable seal, then wash wish soap and cold water when you’re done using it.
100% Recycled Paper Bath Tissue
This toilet paper is made from 100% recycled paper, but that doesn’t mean it lacks softness or strength. It’s 2-ply, compatible with septic, RV, and low-flow systems, and comes in 100% recycled plastic packaging.
Dishwasher Detergent Pods
If there’s one thing I’d be hesitant to give up in my cleaning product arsenal to be more sustainable, it would be my beloved dishwasher detergent pods. Most eco-friendly detergents I’ve tried either don’t clean effectively or leave a gritty residue on dishes. These pods are different because they use oxygen-based bleaching and enzyme agents to fight stubborn stains without leaving residue. Consider me a convert.
Laundry Detergent Sheets
The problem with most liquid, powder, and pod laundry detergents: they take up so much space, and not just in your laundry room. From the plastic many of these detergents use to package the product to the transportation pollution caused by shipping, regular detergent is extremely inefficient when it comes to protecting the environment. These little strips cut down on shipping space by multiple times while still providing an effective clean that smells fresh and clean and is gentle on sensitive skin.
Wool Dryer Balls
File dryer sheets under yet another single-use product that has an even better eco-friendly alternative. Wool dryer balls are free of the harsh chemicals that some dryer sheets contain and can be used for years before needing to be replaced. Miss the fresh scent of your beloved sheets? Add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil to the dryer balls to get the same effect.
Bamboo Wooden Spoons
Obviously purchasing wooden or metal cooking utensils is better than plastic, but each can come with their own problems. Metal utensils can’t be used on non-stick cookware, and most wooden utensils are a hassle to clean. These bamboo utensils are safe to use on any pan and can be popped in the dishwasher when you’re done.
Stainless Steel Compost Bin
As we mentioned before, composting is one of the most eco-friendly changes you can make in your everyday life. By simply composting your food waste instead of tossing it into the trash, you save transportation pollution from shipping your waste to a landfill, and you reduce CO2 emissions. Bonus: You get great garden fertilizer! This kitchen scrap holder uses both an air-tight lid and a charcoal filter to eliminate any smells, until you can get the scraps to your backyard composter.
Countertop Electric Composter
If you can’t have—or don’t want—a backyard composter, or you just don’t want to wait several weeks for kitchen scraps to turn into compost, consider the Lomi. It’s an electric countertop device that will turn a day’s worth of scraps into soil for your pots or garden in a matter of hours. Just fill it up, hit the friendly button on the front, and wait for the beep. No fuss, no muss!
Iceflow Flip Straw Water Bottle
If you still haven’t ditched plastic water bottles, move that to the top of your to-do list. Beyond just the single-use plastic, factor in transportation pollution to the grocery store and to the landfill, and you can officially consider these to be a top culprit of household waste. Reusable water bottles are far more environmentally friendly, as a top-quality one like this option from Stanley will last for years.
Yet another plastic water bottle alternative are insulated tumblers. If you prefer drinking from a regular cup and straw, consider this your best option. If you really want to cut down on your waste in general, not just for your household, bring one of these with you any time you eat out and use it instead of the cups the restaurant serves.
Reusable Silicone Straws
Not into the idea of lugging around a tumbler or water bottle all the time? At least consider packing one of these silicone straws. These get our top vote as they open, making cleaning an absolute breeze.
Collapsible Travel Cup
If you prefer a cup with a sippable lid for your hot drinks, then snag this one. It collapses into a small disk when not in use so it’s also incredibly easy to travel with.
Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. If there’s a reusable alternative to a single-use product you use regularly, then make the switch! These bamboo makeup remover wipes can be used with micellar water, face wash, or just water to gently clean the face and then tossed in the washing machine to use again. They even come with a mesh pouch you can use to contain your clean or dirty pads.
Deodorant might not be the first thing you think of when you consider living more environmentally friendly, but this refillable deodorant makes it so easy. The compostable container is able to be reused time and time again, while the refills come in biodegradable paper. Not only is it an eco-friendly choice, but Humankind has made their deodorant sustainable by offsetting their carbon emissions through investing in forest preservation projects.
Safety razors are by far the most eco-friendly shaving option, but anyone who’s used them knows there can be a slight learning curve due to the fact that these razors don’t pivot and bend like the plastic counterparts you’re probably used to. This option is an investment on the front end, but there’s practically no learning curve thanks to double-edge blades and a pivoting head. It also comes with 10 blade refills, so you’ll be stocked for quite a while.
Whitening Toothpaste Tablets
So why is regular toothpaste bad? Well, for starters, the obvious plastic packaging. Next up, you’re probably using too much toothpaste (a pea-sized drop is plenty), meaning you’ll need to repurchase more often, which equals more transportation pollution. These toothpaste tablets use nano-hydroxyapatite, a fluoride alternative developed by NASA for astronauts to brush their teeth in zero-gravity environments. If it’s good enough for astronauts, it’s good enough for us.
I imagine when most people think of shampoo bars, they imagine a similar feeling to soap bars—drying and harsh. But that couldn’t be less true with ethique’s shampoo. While each bar is environmentally friendly and comes in a compostable box, they’re formulated without soaps, parabens, and sulfates, aka the drying ingredients that give you that squeaky-clean feeling you might not want on your scalp. We also love that they offer a wide range of bars for different hair concerns, including an extra-mild shampoo for kids. Need conditioner, too? They’ve got it in bar form, as well!
Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Body Wash
Remember what we just said about the squeaky-clean, drying feeling bar soap can leave you with? Some people’s skin can tolerate it, in which case bar soap in recyclable packaging is a totally suitable and eco-friendly option, but for those of us who break out in itchy bumps just thinking about that, then this will be your new best friend. It’s sulfate-free body wash and provides a gentle clean through the use of oils and magnesium. It comes in 100% recycled plastic packaging, making it eco-friendly, too.
Hydrating Body Lotion Concentrate Bar
This might be one of the most unique eco-friendly skincare products we’ve seen. Ethique’s lotion concentrate comes in their compostable cardboard box and is added to boiling water to make a 11.83 fl oz bottle of lotion that you can put into a reusable dispenser.
Reusable Cotton Swabs
Okay, hear us out on this one. This reusable swab replaces up to 1,000 regular cotton swabs, saving so much transportation pollution from the single-use products. To clean it, simply wash with a mild soap and warm water.
Boonboo Cotton Swabs
If you’re not ready to fully make the switch to reusable cotton swabs, then these bamboo cotton buds are an eco-friendly alternative to regular swabs as they’re biodegradable.
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