As a traveler, a mom-to-be, and someone who loves the outdoors, I have an obvious investment in the future of our planet. I’ve written a number of articles on the importance of reducing our waste (instead of just recycling: WHY I HATE RECYCLING) and I have mentioned a number of sustainable brands I believe in to help us get there.
Y’all, I am by no means living a 100% plastic-free or sustainable life (I have way too many clothes in my closet to say that), but we can all take little actions and use our purchasing power to support ethical companies instead of wasteful ones.
However, I want to make it very clear that the biggest and most important change has to come from large companies and policymakers doing the right thing for Mother Earth. That is why it is so important to be involved in local politics and select leaders who believe in climate change and who do not roll back environmental regulations. We need big change and we need it quickly and that HAS to come from the top.
In the meantime, our best course of action as consumers is to support brands that are fighting the good fight and providing plastic-free or waste reducing solutions.
Below are a number of #simplysustainable solutions that you can easily incorporate into your everyday life. Some products may cost a bit more than you are used to—products that rely on ethical labor practices, sustainable production processes, and non-plastic materials usually are. But some solutions should SAVE you money since you won’t have to keep rebuying materials that you’ll simply throw away.
For the Kitchen
Instead of Plastic Wrap, Use Beeswrap
“Cling” plastic wrap is one of those things that cannot be recycled because of the chemicals used to make it stick. So, every roll of plastic wrap we purchase will be on this planet forever.
Instead, save yourself the chemicals and the cost by getting reusable covers! There are so many options now, you can definitely find one that works for you!
I’ve been using Beeswrap because it’s organic, natural, and I love the cute patterns.
Or try silicon stretch top lids from Mighty Nest.
Instead of plastic sandwich bags, use Lunchskins
Send your kids’ lunch with them in these cute reusable bags instead of the plastic ones that will probably never get recycled. While this type of plastic is technically recyclable, 90% of plastic never ends up getting recycled—there’s just too much of it. That’s why it is so important to eliminate waste from the start.
I love Lunshskins because they offer adorable reusable bags of all sizes. And the best part is—you can wash them in the dishwasher! They even have recycled paper options for those times you might need the convenience of something disposable. Plus, they are a small company, which is always great to support!
Order here: Lunchskins
Instead of paper napkins and towels, use cloth
I am a little surprised this hasn’t caught on more. Paper napkins and towels are literally one of the biggest wastes of money and resources.
Plastic isn’t the only waste problem—we use a TON of paper and paper production requires a lot of water and, of course, cutting down trees.
We have one roll of paper towels for emergencies (cat barf and drying off raw chicken, mostly) and it has lasted us for a YEAR.
Otherwise, we use cute cloth napkins and old towels. Why purchase something just to throw it away? Cloth is more absorbent anyway, more attractive, and wayyyy less wasteful! It’s kind of a no-brainer.
We bought our cloth napkins from local women in Africa, but really you can get them anywhere!
Cute boho option from Etsy
For you Anthropologie lovers
I also highly recommend Swede Cloths for cleaning up the counters. I LOATHE sponges--they are "germ factories" as my mom likes to say. Swede cloths dry completely and can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine. Plus, they come in tons of cute patterns! I love them! Swede Cloths
Instead of buying plastic water bottles, use a Corkcicle
I’m going to say it—plastic water bottles are THE WORST. Not only do they contain chemicals that are harmful for your health, but about 42 BILLION water bottles are purchased in the US alone EACH YEAR—and 70% of those water bottles are either incinerated or dumped in a landfill.
As a country with the luxury of clean, running water, this is somewhat unacceptable.
These beauties are great for keeping cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot! Plus, they come in a variety of fun colors AND in stemless wine glasses. This is my preferred brand, but there are plenty of others out there.
For the Bathroom
Instead of toothpaste, use Bite bits
Over 1 billion toothpaste tubes are thrown into landfills every year. Bite bits are awesome for a number of reasons—they divert plastic from landfills, are natural, and do not test on animals. Plus the founder, Lindsay McCormick, is a small business owner who seriously kicks butt. Bonus if you also get a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one!
Shop here: Bite Bits
Bite has their own bamboo toothbrushes now, but I also purchased these from Amazon:
Instead of toilet paper, Give A Crap
No, I’m not going to suggest you use “the family cloth” (but if that’s your thing, more power to you). But I am going to suggest a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional TP.
Most toilet paper is made from virgin forests—aka really old forests that harbor tons of biodiversity. So, when you purchase most toilet paper (or paper towels or napkins), you are most likely supporting companies that cut down ancient trees literally to be flushed down the drain, affecting tons of wildlife.
Who Gives a Crap makes toilet paper from bamboo—a far more sustainable crop that requires a lot less water to produce. In addition, they donate HALF their profits to build toilets in countries where they don’t have any. Did you know more people in the world have cell phones than actual plumbing?
We use this toilet paper and it’s great! Plus, it isn’t wrapped in PLASTIC when you receive the delivery.
Who Gives a Crap: https://us.whogivesacrap.org
Instead of shampoo bottles, use a bar
Our showers are filled with plastic bottles—and almost all of them can be replaced with non-plastic alternatives.
I’ve tried a few different shampoo bars and conditioning bars for my hair. My current favorite is HiBar. It’s salon-quality and great for your hair because it doesn’t have any harsh sulfates or parabens in it. I also wanted a conditioner that would leave my hair feeling soft and this bar DELIVERS. Their bars are natural, almost all vegan, gluten-free, and not tested on animals. Plus, it is WAY easier to pack for travel!
Order here: https://hellohibar.com
Instead of soap bottles, use a bar
Another easy way to replace plastic in your bathroom—just don’t buy bottles of soap. Bars are just as effective and usually contain less harsh chemicals.
Once again, there are tons of options to choose from. I love these delightfully scented soap bars from Crate61 in Canada that you can order on Amazon!
Instead of cotton pads, use reusable makeup rounds
I used to feel so guilty throwing away cotton and paper products whenever I removed my makeup (which was every day). Not to mention it is not cost effective AT ALL!
So I found some reusable makeup rounds that I can wash between uses. I also ordered myself the Makeup Eraser that helps remove makeup easily with just a reusable cloth and water (though there are plenty of knock offs). Links below!
Instead of traditional hygiene products, use organic products
In a woman’s lifetime, she will use over 10,000 feminine hygiene products. And most of these products are made with chemicals and resources that can take up to 500 years to biodegrade. Not to mention, they can contain harmful chemicals for our bodies.
Oi is a company that started in New Zealand that certified organic cotton – free from chlorine bleaching, synthetics such as rayon and polypropylene, toxic chemicals, dyes, fragrances and lubricants.
Check them out here: Oi
Instead of diapers, use Dypers
As a soon-to-be mom, I have been concerned about my baby’s inevitable carbon footprint. To preemptively reduce the massive impact each human has on the planet, we have opted for second hand clothing and mostly second hand items for our impending bundle of joy.
But what to do about diapers? The EPA found that “disposable diapers account for 7 percent of nondurable household waste in landfills. Except in very limited cases, disposable diapers (regardless of what they claim) won’t compost or biodegrade in a landfill.”
While we aren’t ready to commit to reusable diapers, we found an awesome alternative!
Dypers are made from responsibly sourced and sustainable bamboo without chemicals, parabens, or dyes that can be harmful for your baby. They can also be composted and the company participates in carbon off-setting measures for shipping the diapers directly to your door.
They also have baby wipes with just 5 ingredients: “Viscose From 100% Bamboo, Reverse Osmosis Purified Water, Glycerin (hard to say, but non-toxic and used in the food industry), Aloe Extract, and Love (this one we put in for free).”
I loved using their service on our baby registry because friends and family could opt to provide a month’s worth of diapers that would be delivered to our door when we were ready.
Check them out here: https://dyper.com or help us out by using our affiliate link here.
For the Closet
It is estimated only about 1% of donated clothing is actually recycled.
Confession time: as someone who loves fashion (and online shopping), this is not always the area of sustainability where I shine. It is especially difficult to solve the clothing waste crisis on an individual level since the problems are incredibly complicated and ingrained in the industry.
As individuals, the best thing we can do is avoid “fast fashion” and select pieces that we are going to keep in our closet for a long time. So if you don’t love it, leave it. Otherwise, serious pressure needs to be placed on the garment industry to fix their harmful environmental processes. So, get out and vote, y’all!
In the meantime, here are some brands in my closet that are making some strides in the eco-friendly fashion front.
Totally adorable shoes made from recycled water bottles! Rothy’s says they have diverted over 50 million water bottles from landfills. They are a little pricey (ethical fashion is a bit more expensive—gotta pay fair wages to workers and for sustainable environmental practices!), but you can get $20 off with my referral code.
Ethical Leisure Wear
Each of these brands strives to make sustainable and fair practice athleisure. I personally love all of them!
Pact Apparel—the most affordable option for basics. Plus, their clothes are super soft! https://wearpact.com
Girlfriend Collective—super cute workout clothes that celebrate body positivity and use recycled water bottles and fishing nets to create their workout wear. https://www.girlfriend.com/collections/all?view=two-col
Alo Yoga—fashionable yoga apparel that is accredited as being 100% sweatshop free. They are based in LA and utilize sustainable energy practices to create “eco-aware” clothing. https://www.aloyoga.com
The Reformation has absolutely BEAUTIFUL clothing and I love their incredibly detailed website section on sustainability and ethical labor practices. It is pretty expensive so I can only buy things from here when they are on sale.
Shop second hand or rent!
Y’all, there ARE a lot of great second hand options where you can get some really cute pieces. OR if you need something for a one-time event, you can even rent trendy pieces that you normally couldn’t afford! Below are some links!
ThredUp—the largest online consignment and thrift store. https://www.thredup.com/?tswc_stay=true
Rent the Runway—the premier online designer rental company https://www.renttherunway.com
LeTote—a clothing rental company, so you have new outfits all the time! https://www.letote.com
This is obviously just a start to the ways you can incorporate ethical, sustainable products into your everyday life. I will keep updating the list as I try new products. The great news is that none of these suggestions are prohibitively difficult. Most are an easy switch and will actually make your life better! You will be exposed to fewer toxic chemicals and you will probably save money in the long run. And who doesn’t want that?
Let me know if you have any other suggestions of products I should try! Sustainability is a journey and we can all always strive to do a little bit better, though we will never reach perfection. While I wait for the day that the larger community wakes up to the importance of protecting our environment, I will continue to try to advocate as best I can on a personal level for this beautiful planet that I love.