Trading your single use consumer goods for multi-use, sustainable solutions.
There is nothing better in my book than being outside, connecting with nature. And so I have always had a strong desire to protect the environment around me. I even went so far as to study environmental geoscience in college and have spent the majority of my career working in environmental finance and sustainability communications.
Assisting corporations and businesses in their environmental practices may be my career, but I also take steps in my personal life and consumer choices to live sustainability. Ironically, during this pandemic, those simple swaps have particularly come in handy while resources, cleaning supplies and paper items have been more difficult to acquire. Using reusable items has saved me many unnecessary trips to Target, the grocery store or the pharmacy—reducing my exposure and risk to the Covid virus.
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite swaps and how to acquire them. These are products that I find easy to incorporate into my routine—if it’s not a simple swap, I find I don’t use it! I have so many that I could write many posts on this topic, but here are just a few of the products I love!
Baggies be gone
The average American uses 500 food storage baggies per year, according to Design Life-Cycle, leaving our society with quite the trash problem. Recently, alternatives to these single use plastics have evolved, making it a breeze to switch from single use baggies to reusable alternatives. One of my favorite alternatives are Stasher® bags. Using high-quality silicone, Stasher bags come in various shapes and sizes and pinch closed, just like a traditional baggie. They are dishwasher, microwaveable and freezer safe, and completely reusable. They have been a lifesaver for meal-prep! While the silicon can occasionally pick up scents and colors from foods, Stasher offers these nifty ideas for combating that issue, making these a great lasting option to be done with baggies.
Think about single-use plastic wrap. You maybe cover a bowl of leftovers or wrap up a half a lemon, and then in a couple days that plastic wrap goes right into the trash where it will stay piled up in a landfill where it can release harmful toxins like dioxin into the atmosphere, says National Geographic.
An easy and elegant swap for plastic wrap is beeswax paper. Bee’s Wrap®, a company out of Vermont, offers organic cotton sheets doused with natural beeswax. The sheets conform to any shape, just like your plastic wrap, and come in a variety of sizes and styles. I wrap it over bowls, plates, leftover lemons, anything. Then I simply wash it with soap and water, let it dry, and it’s ready to reshape and use again. This is a great alternative to single use plastic.
I’ve noticed that while the sheets do last a very long time (think years), eventually the wax starts to deteriorate so they will need to be replaced occasionally. With so many fun patterns to choose from, it can be fun to acquire new styles!
Bamboo “paper” towels
Bamboo as a self-regenerating grass grows and can be harvested significantly faster than timber for paper. It has been difficult to acquire paper goods during the Covid pandemic, and bamboo “paper” towels are a great solution. The individual sheets are machine washable and absorbent like paper towels. You simply use sheets as you would a paper towel, wash them in the washing machine, and they are ready to be used again. While these products don’t last forever and the sheets will deteriorate over time, one bamboo roll can replace months worth of rolls of single-use paper towels. I purchased this roll from Grove Collaborative, but you can also find many different varieties and roll sizes on Amazon.
How many little cotton circles do you use to apply toner or remove makeup? In my skincare routine, I go through 3 to 4 a day. That’s a lot of cotton! Again, bamboo alternatives are a great solution, using less water and pesticides than traditional cotton farming, according to Yvette Hymann for Good on You.
I ordered Wegreeco Reusable Makeup Remover Pads from Amazon. They are just as absorbent as cotton rounds, and even a bit softer on your face. You can apply your toner or makeup remover directly to them and use them just as you would a cotton round. Then simply pop them in a laundry bag, and wash them in the washing machine. I throw them in with my weekly clothes laundry. One tip: nail polish does tend to discolor these, so I have a specific set just for nail polish removal. I ordered two sets so that I always have some in rotation and they come with a simple laundry bag for washing.
Living that sustainable life
I hope you find these simple swaps useful. I’m trying to think of this time during isolation as a way to simplify, refocus and be thoughtful about my environmental choices. We have a great opportunity here to take the time to reset our habits, slow down and appreciate the simple things. For me, that’s appreciating nature and all it has to offer. Whatever I can do to make our planet last just a little longer, I’m making it my goal to try.
Have other sustainable swaps you love? Comment below!