10 easy eco-friendly swaps
Most people think that being eco-friendly requires major lifestyle changes, but that is just not so. There are easy eco-friendly swaps and low waste practices that can have significant impact, especially with more widespread adoption. I got increasingly concerned about the large amount of plastic in my everyday consumption, so 6 years ago I started on a sustainable journey. The first step of any sustainable journey is to think reusable! Below I discuss10 easy eco-friendly swaps that you can easily adopt starting today!
Reusable tote bags vs. single use plastic bags
All the plastic that ends up in landfills takes about 100 years to decompose. Also, it is apparently more difficult to recycle plastic bags, as they tend to get stuck in the recycling machines. So please avoid them as much as possible and opt for reusable totes as an easy eco-friendly swap for plastic. Many totes on the market today are made from recycled materials, making them an easy eco-friendly choice compared to plastic bags. Earth Hero has a wide selection of great totes but you can easily get totes from your local grocery store.
Tip – if you do have plastic bags from big retailers don’t fret, take them back to the store, many big retailers will recycle them for you.
Reusable water bottles vs. single use water bottles
According to The Washington post, a typical American consumer dumps 100 plastic bottles in nature every year! By skipping bottled water and using reusable water bottles and water filters, your eco-conscious choice will help save marine life by keeping plastic out of ocean and keeping bottles out of landfills! It will also save you money when you carry your own water from home that is free instead of buying bottled water!
Tip: Get a bottle that can easily fit in your bag. I like the Klean Kanteen bottles and have actually owned one for the last 6 years! Klean Kanteen bottles come in a variety of sizes.
Make your own coffee at home/reusable coffee cups vs. disposable coffee cups
Disposable coffee cups are harmful to the environment. An Environmental Audit Committee report found that 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK and only in 1 in 400 of them are recycled. That’s only 0.25% of 2.5 billion coffee cups that are recycled, with the balance ending up in landfills. You will also save trees by skipping disposable coffee cups.
Tip: Get a cute reusable coffee traveler mug that you would be happy to show off and use! Keep an extra reusable traveler mug in your car for spontaneous coffee purchases.
Shorter showers vs. long steamy showers
Taking shorter showers is an easy eco-friendly swap. The average shower is a little over eight minutes long, but according to The Washington Post, about 20% more time is wasted before even getting into the shower. Many people have the habit of leaving water running while finishing up chores, sending emails, or while waiting for water to heat up. For a standard shower head, every minute wasted equates to 2.5 gallons of water and this water is usually hot, so there is energy loss as well!
Tip: Don’t turn on the shower until you are ready, set a timer on your phone to help you manage time or listen to two of your favorite songs if you have speakers in your bathroom, or take a lukewarm shower so you’re out much faster lol, which by the way is better for your skin.
Reusable food wraps vs. Plastic food bags
My first eco-friendly swap for plastic 7 years ago was to stop purchasing plastic food containers and using glass containers to carry my sandwiches/lunch to work but there are lots of other less bulky options. I recently had a chance to review bees wrap which is a natural eco-friendly swap for plastic sandwich bags in a blog post. I love bees wrap because you can wrap your sandwiches in it, wrap it around fruits or use it as a replacement for clingfilm to cover your bowls. Other great options are reusable food bags. Stasher bags are a popular reusable alternative to plastic sandwich bags. I use them for my kids snacks. You can actually steam veggies in them!
Reusable Straws, skipping using a straw vs. Plastic Straws
According to the Huffington Post, in the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That’s about 3million pounds of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day. Yes you read that right! Everyday! Using a reusable straw or skipping a straw can have significant positive environmental impact.
Tip – When ordering a drink at a restaurant, ask for it without a straw. A convenient way to carry a reusable straw with you is to use a reusable straw sleeve Cleaning reusable straws takes some getting used to but they often come with a cleaning brush that cleans well.
Bar soap vs. Liquid body wash
Bar soap is an eco-friendly swap for liquid body wash. The first obvious reason is because of the packaging. The plastic bottles and pumps for liquid soap are avoidable waste. A study also found that we tend to waste more soap when we use liquid soap because we tend to use more than what we need. Liquid body wash is also heavier to transport thereby has a bigger carbon footprint. A bar of soap, on the other hand, can be bought with a small wrapper or sometimes entirely without packaging. It can last longer too, with one study finding that we are likely to use about six times more liquid soap every time we wash our hands than we would with bar soap. My family has not used liquid soap for years!
Reusable period products vs. disposable period products
Consider more eco-friendly reusable period products like washable sanitary pads, menstrual cups, period panties as an eco-friendly swap for single use/disposable period products. the average consumer discards around 11,000 tampons alone, creating around 331 pounds of waste in their lifetime. All this waste ends up in landfills.
Tip: Some options my take getting used to but don’t give up! its worth your effort and flexibility. I like the diva cup and period panties. Period panties and reusable pads are actually quite comfortable because they cause less friction than conventional plastic pads.
Reusable alternatives vs. Paper Towels
According to Terrapass, a climate change publication, paper towels cumulatively have significant carbon footprint. The production of paper towels can hurt the environment. Producing paper towels requires things like trees, chemicals, fuel, water, and electricity—contributing millions of metric tons of CO2 annually. While manufacturing causes many issues like pollution and the reduction of natural resources like trees and water, the disposal of these towels is also an issue. A good eco-friendly swaps for power towels include cloth napkins, reusable paper towels, microfiber cloths and Swedish dish clothes.
Tip: I have been mostly paper towel-free for a year now. It is possible, just do it! I love unpaper towels, they are really similar to paper towels but just washable and reusable. I hand wash mine but you can totally throw them into the washer!
Home Cutlery vs Plastic Cutlery
According to city of stockon waste management, plastic utensils aren’t recyclable for two main reasons. The first reason being that their skinny shape. When plastic utensils end up at the recycling facility, they tend to either fall through or get stuck in the machinery that sorts objects into groups of the same material. Most machinery can’t handle items smaller than 2-3 inches around, and utensils are so skinny that they fall through the equipment. Second, plastic utensils vary in plastic type. They’re commonly made of plastic #1, plastic #5, plastic #6, or bioplastic. Because they are identical in shape and size, the different types of plastic make them very difficult to sort correctly . Carry your own little cutlery kit with you. It’s worth the effort. When ordering takeout, ask them to not include plastic cutlery.
Tip – This can be challenging eco-swap at the beginning as you may feel awkward carrying your own cutlery but keep at it till it becomes habit.
One last sweet bonus eco-friendly swap! Use an ice cream cone instead of a cup!
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