With climate change a major topic of discussion, single-use plastic has been a hot topic in recent years. Despite this added focus on recycling and reuse, the amount of plastic thrown away grows by the year. The average American throws away an estimated 185 pounds of plastic per year. What does make it to the recycling bin doesn’t always actually get recycled.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use on a daily basis in your home. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly and compostable products on the market these days, you’d be surprised how many items you can make yourself. We rounded up a list of plastic-free and eco-friendly substitutions you can make in every room of your home.
Read on to learn how to start your journey to a zero-waste home!
- Gardening: Growing your own food is the best way to cut down on the unnecessary plastic packing found around most fruits and vegetables. You can even use the soil from your compost to help your garden grow faster.
- Outdoor furniture: Plastic furniture is common in back yards, but metal furniture offers greater or equal durability with less environmental impact.
- Yard scraps: Instead of bagging all your leaves in plastic trash bags, add some to your compost or pick up compostable paper bags to use for proper disposal.
- Cotton balls: Washable bamboo and cotton pads are great alternatives to single-use versions, and you can buy them in bulk for less to avoid running out before you’ve had time to wash the used ones.
- Deodorant: Removing toxic chemicals from deodorant has been a popular trend for some time now, but even natural deodorant containers use plastic. Opt for a liquid or stick deodorant in a glass container that can be recycled easily.
- Floss: One of the more expensive swaps on this list is silk floss. Switching to a glass container can make a difference, even if you flip between silk and plastic floss inserts. Water picks are also a great long-term option for those looking to take care of their teeth and the environment at the same time.
- Hair dye: Henna is a natural alternative to dark-hued hair dyes. Plus, it comes in a solid form, free of plastic packaging.
- Microbeads in face products: These tiny plastic beads are everywhere, as they are used in many beauty products as a scrubbing agent. However, they aren’t filtered out in the sewage system and make their way into our oceans. Look for the “zero plastic” label or download the Beat The Microbead app to make sure you avoid microbead-filled products.
- Razor: Before plastic razors were invented, metal razors were all the rage. Thankfully, new technology helps prevent rust so you can switch to metal razors without fear. Some brands offer to recycle your used, metal razor head when you need to swap it for a fresh one.
- Soaps: Liquid shampoos, conditioners and body washes with plastic containers are wasteful and unnecessary. Switching to bar soap is a great alternative, and eco-friendly brands like Lush provide top-of-the-line shampoo, conditioner and body wash bars that will help you cut down on plastic use in your shower.
- Tampons: Tampons bad for the environment and the risk of TSS is enough to make anyone switch to a better product. Silicone cups are reusable, environmentally friendly and leak-proof so you can move comfortably and spend less money during your next period.
- Toothbrush: Most municipal recycling plants cannot properly recycle plastic toothbrushes. Unless you send your toothbrush to a special plant, it will likely end up in the landfill. Look for bamboo toothbrushes that can be composted or go with a motorized version that allows you to recycle your old brush head when you send away for a new one.
- Toothpaste: Tubes of toothpaste take up a lot of space in landfills, as they are nearly impossible to recycle. Switch to water-activated toothpaste tabs to cut down on plastic usage. They are easier to travel with, as well!
- Furniture: If you are looking to mix up the decor in your bedroom, shop second-hand give plastic furniture and decor a second life.
- Lotion: Packaging used for lotions and other beauty serums contributes to the estimated loss of 18 million acres of forests each year. Pick up a lotion bar or go DIY and concoct your own to help combat this growing issue.
- Sheets: Most fabrics that are used for bedding contain polyester, a form of plastic. Consider bamboo or 100% cotton sheets during your next bedroom upgrade to make your bedroom an eco-friendly oasis.
- Tissues: Wrapped in plastic, Kleenex and other facial tissue brands are no friend to the environment. Instead, keep handkerchiefs on your nightstand and wash them after a few uses.
- Chair covers: In order to save nice dining room chairs from stains and other issues, many people turn to plastic covers. However, there are plenty of reusable cloth and linen slipcovers available to match a variety of decor styles.
- Napkins: Much like paper towels, paper napkins can easily be replaced with a more eco-friendly option. You can find cloth napkins in any size and color in most grocery stores, and they can be washed and reused again and again in place of paper towels.
- Plastic plates/cutlery: To help save the environment during your next gathering, look for compostable, naturally made plates and utensils. Options made from bamboo, sugar cane and palm leaves won’t break the bank.
- Tablecloths: Linen can be used in lieu of plastic table covers, and you can mix and match textures and colors to spruce up the decor.
- Cleaning supplies: There are plenty of DIY tutorials for natural cleaning products out there, no matter your cleaning needs. Pick your favorite and use glass spray bottles to keep your cleaning routine green.
- Cling wrap: Preventing leftovers from expiring early is important, but you don’t have to rely on cling wrap to do the job. Beeswax wraps and cloth food covers are both great options, and you can even make a beeswax cloth yourself!
- Coffee: The Keurig changed how people make coffee, but also changed the landscape of our landfills. Consider switching to a regular coffee machine with a reusable filter. If you can’t part with the convenience, pick up a reusable coffee pod and fill it with your own grounds before inserting it in the Keurig or coffee machine.
- Foil: Silicone baking mats are a great replacement for foil, and they can be used in high-temperature ovens as well as in the freezer.
- Food waste: You might not think that food scraps use plastic, but they take up valuable space in your garbage bags. Creating your own at-home compost bin can you use fewer bags each week and save plastic in the long run.
- Grocery bags: Switch to reusable cloth or microfiber bags to take with you to the grocery store. You can even get smaller mesh bags to store fruits and veggies instead of the traditional plastic bags.
- Paper towels: The average home goes through two rolls of paper towels a week. And while it’s not as bad as plastic, paper waste can still add up. Pick up some hand towels and reusable dishcloths for cleaning, drying and tidying up.
- Plastic Tupperware: While convenient, plastic containers don’t last forever and can potentially leak toxic chemicals into your food when heated. Pick up glass Tupperware to help your food stay fresher for longer.
- Trash bags: No matter how much you compost and recycle, there are still items that will need to get thrown away. Make the switch to compostable trash bags or skip the bag altogether, making sure to compost food scraps and dry any wet trash before throwing it away.
- Straws: Bypass plastic straws completely, or switch to silicone or metal straws that can easily be washed and reused.
- Water bottles: Instead of sending your kids off to school with plastic water bottles, pick up a water filter (you can get one to store in your fridge or attach directly to your faucet) and some reusable glass or metal bottles. The water will stay colder for longer without compromising cleanliness.
- Plastic bags: No matter if you are looking to pack your children's lunches or store something in the freezer, plastic baggies have been a staple in kitchens for years. Thankfully, freezer- and dishwasher-safe silicone alternatives are readily available.
- Dryer sheets:Wool and silicone dryer balls are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional dryer sheets. However, each has pros and cons. Wool dryer balls can be scented with essential oil to freshen your load, but silicone balls are much more likely to reduce static cling inside your dryer.
- Laundry detergent:You can make your own laundry pods with a few simple ingredients for as little as $0.75 per pod, avoiding the use of plastic packaging in traditional liquid detergents. While it might take a bit more effort than picking them up at the store, this move can help you protect the planet and your bank account at the same time.
No matter how substantial the swap, each change you make to reduce single-use plastic can have a positive impact on the environment. Though these changes may add up, these eco-friendly products are designed to last for years so you actually save money in the long run. And while you focus on saving the environment, let us worry about saving your home in case of a fire, break-in, or natural disaster.