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Have you recently been drawn to eco-friendly living? Wanting to shift to a more sustainable and earth-friendly lifestyle, but you find yourself just… a little bit lost on where to start?
Maybe you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by all the options and buzzwords… zero waste! Biodegradable! Sustainable!
It’s a lot. I know. Trust me, I’ve been there. And after years of slowly converting to a lower-waste, more eco-friendly lifestyle, I can say that I’ve tried so many different sustainable swaps. With all the options, it’s always hit or miss. I always read as many reviews as I can find, and then cross my fingers and hope the reviews don’t lead my astray.
Unfortunately, as you can imagine, that’s not always the case. It’s all trial and error, and what works for one person might not necessarily work for everyone.
WHAT ARE SUSTAINABLE SWAPS?
If you’re new to eco-friendly living, a sustainable swap is a product that is used to replace an item- typically a single-use, wasteful item– in your house. Think about all the things most people use and throw away almost every day. Zip-lock bags, paper towels, drink bottles, q-tips, saran wrap, makeup wipes, tin foil… the list goes on and on and on.
Just about anything like this you can think of, there is probably a sustainable swap that exists for each product.
Now in comes the confusing part. There are countless options for each sustainable swap. Different brands, different materials, different price points. The list of eco-friendly swaps is a vast and ever-growing one. (Which, I mean… I’m not complaining. It’s amazing that so many companies out there are aware of the need to shift to longer-lasting, less wasteful everyday products. I’m here for it!).
While this is amazing, it can still be confusing and overwhelming for people trying to start a lower-waste lifestyle. If you find yourself not knowing where to start or what products to buy first, you’re not alone.
Sustainable swaps that are actually worth it
(in my opinion, of course)
Throughout all the swaps I’ve tried, there are some I find myself suggesting over and over again. Ones that are tried and true and have lived beyond my expectations. They not only work just as well (if not better) than their single-use counterparts; but also save me a lot of money in the long run.
I have compiled my five absolute favorites into this blog post for you. All of these are easy, affordable, and readily available in most stores near you, or even on amazon.
Here we go! Grab a cup of something warm and yummy, and your favorite pen and notebook. Then get ready to jot your favorites down so you can get started on your eco-friendly journey today!
1) Flour Sack Towels
I will shout it from the rooftops until my lungs are sore- these are my favorite sustainable swap ever. They’re easy to get your hands on, cheap, long-lasting, and so versatile!
Getting right to the point, they are a cheap and easy alternative to paper towels.
Most of us use paper towels for many things in the kitchen. Wiping counters, cleaning messes, and wiping down our kiddos after a meal. Paper towels have become a staple in our society in so many ways. BUT, although they’re paper… they contribute to so much waste in landfills. In the US, we currently use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year- and that number is growing.
You might ask yourself- well… if they’re paper, don’t they break down in landfills and go back to the Earth? Unfortunately, while paper towels DO biodegrade… that doesn’t matter much if they’re stuck in a non-biodegradable plastic garbage bag.
All in all, paper towels aren’t great for the environment. But have no fear!! Flour sack towels are here.
They’re super absorbent sheets of white cloth- you can get a 12-pack here for $19– and they work on just about everything.
My favorite way to use them is to cut the big sheets up into 4 or 6 pieces and then set them in a cute basket on my counter. Then, throughout the day, I use them just like paper towels! If I want to wipe down the counters, I just grab a flour sack towel out of the basket and wipe away. Gotta clean mac n cheese off my kids’ faces? Cool, grab a FST from the basket and get a-wiping. You get the picture.
To make this even more convenient, I have a bin underneath the sink, and whenever we’re done using a cloth, we put it in the basket under the sink. Every couple of days, I take the basket and wash them all. Then we have fresh paper towel replacements! Save some trees and landfill space. AND, after only a few months, your pockets will thank you too when you don’t have to buy paper towels on your next grocery run.
2) Cotton rounds for Face Cleaning
Disposable makeup wipes are not only horrible for the environment- they’re also just not great for your face in general. Most dermatologists agree that they shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence due to the impact they can have on your skin over time.
Besides that though, they’re just so wasteful and there are so many great alternatives! Amazon alone has hundreds of reusable makeup cleaning pad options, and they’re popping up more and more in stores now, too.
I’ve tried a few, and hands down my favorite and the ones that have lasted the longest are cotton bamboo rounds like these. Instead of makeup removing wipes, I cleanse my face daily with this using face soap and water, or micellar water, and they’ve worked great for me for years now!
I’ve also tried ones that were microfiber and supposedly removed all traces of makeup, but honestly, I hated the way the microfiber felt on my face- these cotton/bamboo ones feel a million times better.
My favorite part is that they come with a little bag that you can store them in. I keep mine in a cute small basket on my bathroom counter, and then I put the dirty ones in the bag they came with so I can wash them all together and don’t lose them in the wash.
Most of the alternatives are pretty affordable, too- keep in mind that although they are more pricey than the disposable wipes, you’ll only have to buy these ONCE- then, for years to come, you won’t have to worry about buying makeup wipes ever again. So worth it, and SO much better for the environment!
3) Foldable Reusable Bags
Reusable bags are the best thing ever. In some countries and states, plastic bags are being phased out and aren’t even regularly given anymore- which is amazing, in my opinion. Plastic bags are, as you could imagine, absolutely awful for the environment. They’re extremely wasteful and most of the time, they can’t successfully be recycled, so they end up in landfills for years and years. They can also be pretty harmful to wildlife, as well as creatures in the ocean.
All around, while convenient, I think we can all agree that plastic bags suck.
Reusable bags are a cheap and easy alternative- most stores now offer reusable bags for purchase near the checkout, and each one typically holds a lot more than the disposable counterpart.
For me, reusable bags make shopping and bringing in groceries so much easier. While sometimes it can be a pain to remember to bring your bags with you, the payoff of knowing you’re making a positive difference for the environment is so worth it.
I have owned many reusable grocery bags in my day. Big ones, small ones, zipper pouch ones, insulated ones- but hands down, the ones I always make sure to keep on me are foldable ones like this. They are SO easy to just shove in your purse or diaper bag, so you know you always have one or two on you.
They’re also really easy to put away and store, as you just shove them back into their little pouch when you’re done using them. They can also be thrown in with your laundry, so the easy-to-clean aspect is convenient too!
There are a lot of different options for bags, and my #1 tip for them is to have a system in place. I have a few tucked away in my car for spontaneous grocery runs, I ALWAYS have at least one foldable one in my purse, and then the rest I store in our pantry, on a hook inside the door. This way, it’s super easy for me to just grab them on the way out when it’s time to hit the grocery store.
4) Reusable Water Bottle and a Water Filter
Okay, technically that’s two things, but.. they go hand in hand so I grouped them together.
I know clean water is very much a privilege, and some people have no choice other than to use bottled water. However, if that’s not the case for you and it’s safe to drink the water in your area, I can’t recommend enough buying a decent reusable water bottle along with a water filter.
We have used Brita filters, Zero Water filters, and currently trying out a Berkey- but regardless of the brand, getting a water filter is such a great way to save money (and help the earth) versus buying bottled water.
Cutting out disposable bottled water can be hard if that’s what you and your family are used to, BUT, you’d be surprised at how much money you can save by making this change. You can even thrift reusable water bottles pretty easily, making them even more cost-affordable!
(Studies out there are also showing more and more how much microplastics are in most bottled water… it’s so creepy to think about)
5) Shower Caps for Food Storage
Now, this one might sound a little crazy.
But… hear me out.
Saran wrap is super wasteful, but we have to admit that there are some times when it’s needed in the kitchen. Whether you’re trying to store leftovers, let some bread rise, cover something to bring to a friend’s house or a potluck… There are so many instances where it comes in handy.
There are a lot of alternatives. Beeswax wraps, silicone stretch lids, the list goes on and on… I have tried at least four alternatives, and none of them worked well. A couple of the circular stretch lids worked, but it’s only because I had round glass storage bowls that were the same size as the lids were… for pretty much everything else, they sucked and didn’t fit or stay on right.
Enter: the shower cap
It sounds ridiculous, I KNOW, trust me. But they work so well in replace of saran wrap. I bought a cute pack of shower caps on amazon and have been using them for about 6 months now, and it was one of the best choices ever. Not only are they machine washable, durable as heck, and so much better for the environment- they also have so many cute options! These are the ones I have, and I’m obsessed.
This is such a killer idea that the other day I was walking around in Walmart, and I noticed the Pioneer Woman “bowl cover set” and my jaw dropped to the floor because this woman, too, has noticed how well they work in place of saran wrap and is profiting off of the idea. I don’t blame her honestly, because it’s genius.
So, if you have some shower caps lying around (or you see a cute one next time you’re at the store)… Try it out in the kitchen. You’d be surprised!
And… there you have it! I have tried so many sustainable swaps over the years no doubt, I’ll make more blog posts in the future about this, so stay tuned!), but these are my five favorites so far.
I hope you have found at least a couple of ideas in this post that inspired you or convinced you to finally take the plunge and start making a few eco-friendly changes in your home!
If you have any questions or comments, or want to know more, leave a comment down below and I’ll get back to you soon!
Can’t wait to talk again,