9 Easy Swaps for Everyday Household Items

Switch to these replacements and say yes to sustainable living!

Mar 5, 2020

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Did you know that we produce enough waste per year to fill 822,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools? Don’t be overwhelmed - you can make a difference when you reduce your carbon footprint. It’s already happening. Some 68 percent of millennials are now buying eco-friendly products regularly, reports coffee blog Gourmesso. A good place to begin is at home. Here are some inspiring, environmentally-friendly alternatives to nine of the worst waste offenders we all use.

Reusable coffee cups

If you grab a take-out coffee on your way to work, you may be using 240 disposable cups a year, not to mention the cardboard sleeves, plastic lids and plastic stir sticks. The problem here is that coffee cups are lined with polyethylene and cannot be recycled.

Bring a travel mug to your coffee shop and ask them to fill it. They may give you a discount on your morning mocha because you’re helping them save on packaging.

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Eco-friendly bags

With one trillion plastic bags consumed globally, plastic is everywhere. Made from petroleum, plastic bags can take over 100 years to decompose.

When you go shopping, use reusable cotton food bags, a canvas bag or backpack to transport your items.  Or, buy eco-friendly cassava bags. When you’re in the produce section, refuse to use the store’s bags and place fruits and vegetables in your own recyclable bags.

If you like to take a sandwich to work, use silicone bags or reusable biodegradable bags. There are also reusable cotton fabric sandwich bags that can be placed in the dishwasher. As for garbage bags and dog waste bags, make sure they are biodegradable and certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).

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Water bottles that last

Did you know that Americans buy over 50 million plastic bottles each year? Even with plastic recycling bins, over 90 percent of these bottles are dumped in landfills reports Gourmesso.

The simple solution is to buy your own reusable water bottle. Just make sure it is BPA free as bisphenol A has been linked to breast and prostate cancer.

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Shavers with refillable blades

Some two billion razors are thrown out in the US each year and most end up in landfills. To make things worse, single-use razors have plastic handles and come in plastic packaging.

Buy a shaver that takes refillable blades and is made from recyclable materials or ship the used razor to be recycled and repurposed. Or invest in an electric shaver.

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Avoid packaged food!

Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging in the US gets recycled, the Plastic Pollution Coalition reveals. Plastic is not the only non-recyclable perpetrator. The oil from your pizza renders the box unrecyclable, and the same goes for oily potato chip packages that are lined with a metallic plastic. Over-packaged Pringles chips contain five non-recyclable materials including a metal base, plastic lid, tear-off foil top, silver foil lining and cardboard sleeve too.

Take-out orders alone produce 269,000 tons of plastic, not to mention Styrofoam. As Styrofoam must be placed in specialized recycling machinery, it usually ends up as landfill. 

When you order take out, bring glass containers for your food. Even better, stay away from the snack food aisle and cook more meals at home. Your scale will thank you and the environment will smile.

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Eco-friendly plates and cutlery

The 100 million pieces of plastic utensils used daily by Americans will take over 1,000 years to decompose report the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

The solution here is simple: buy either bamboo or eco-friendly products. Or stop buying disposable items. If you bring lunch to work, take along cutlery from home, or buy a spork (combined spoon and fork). And when you order food, tell the restaurant not to include a disposable set with your order. As for disposable paper napkins, opt for fabric napkins that you can wash at home.

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Recyclable diapers

New parents will use about 2,500 disposable diapers in their child’s first year of life, reports Diaper Planner.com.

Say no more. Choose green recyclable diapers or save money and the environment by switching to cloth diapers.

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Reusable feminine products

Diapers aside, some 12 billion sanitary pads and seven billion tampons fill the dumps every year, report One Green Planet, not to mention the plastic applicators and packaging.

Choose a tampon that is applicator free. The best solution is to buy a reusable menstrual cup or washable sanitary pads. They are healthy for the environment and for you as they don’t contain the dioxins found in most feminine products.

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Loose-leaf tea

If you like to throw your tea bag into the compost, think twice. Each tea bag is made from 25 percent plastic. The plastic polymer found in tea bags helps them keep their shape and prevents them from falling apart in boiling water. Not only is the polymer disruptive to our endocrine system, the tea bag, staple and string do not decompose.

Buy loose-leaf tea and a stainless-steel tea infuser to enjoy the benefits of tea without harming the environment or your health. Green Child Magazine reports that loose-leaf tea also tastes better as the ground leaves are larger than those found in regular tea bags.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.