10 Products to Switch to Make Your Home Greener
Many of us have experienced big changes in our daily routines this year, and while there’s definitely a pull to “get back to normal”, there’s also a growing sense that our old normal just isn’t good enough. If you’re planning on seizing the opportunity to change old habits for newer, greener ways of living, you’ll want some quick wins to stay motivated. Here are 10 everyday household products that can easily be switched for greener alternatives that make for a more eco-friendly home and a happier, healthier planet.
1. Plastic wrap for resin and beeswax wraps
I made the switch from plastic wrap to reusable resin wraps a few years ago and couldn’t be happier! Beeswax wraps or resin wraps are made with natural fibers (typically cotton, hopefully organic) coated with a non-toxic waxy resin that is food-safe. Scrunch these wraps in your hand for a moment and the slight heat helps the wrap stick to itself, so you can create a good seal when wrapping food.
These wraps are great for covering leftovers (wait until the dish is cool), wrapping sandwiches and snacks for picnics, and keeping fruit, cheese, and other perishable foods contained in the refrigerator without plastic.
Between uses, give the wrap a wipe down and rinse with a little gentle, eco-friendly dish soap and cool water. Hot water and harsh soap strip the resin, shortening the life of the wraps. Used again and again, these wraps can last for years, helping you avoid sending tons of plastic wrap to landfill and recycling each year.
2. Dish soap
Conventional dish soap contains a plethora of unpleasant ingredients that can be harmful to your hands, harmful to your general health, and can upset waterways and aquatic life. Ditch the detergent that contains “fragrance” or other unnecessary additives that can hide all manner of chemicals you don’t want to have in your home and use an eco-friendly formula instead.
By law, companies don’t have to reveal all the ingredients in dish soap. Look, then, for companies that make a point of being transparent, and check the ingredients and products against a handy database like the one maintained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
3. Disposable razors for a safety razor
Did you know that if you shave daily or nearly every day, you could rip through 50 disposable razors every year, around 2,400 razors over your life, or about 1,200 pounds of trash? And, let’s face it, most disposable razors do end up in landfill because the mix of metal and plastic is hard to separate, which makes razors expensive to recycle.
What’s the alternative? You can save the planet and save yourself some money with a quality safety razor and replaceable blades that can be recycled. Safety razor blades cost a fraction of the price of a disposable razor, come in a lot less packaging, can be collected and then recycled and eventually rust down and naturally decompose without damaging the environment. And the safety razor itself, if good quality, could last your whole life and be passed down to the next generation.
4. Bottled water for a home water filter
I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with fantastic natural water, but I’ve certainly lived in places where tap water did not taste good and gave me pause for thought. If your tap water isn’t tempting and you find yourself amassing bottles of filtered water, consider installing a home water filtration system.
A whole home system can make sure the water coming out of all your taps and even your showerhead is safe and potable, or you can opt for a cheaper, portable, easy to install countertop water filter system. Either way, you’ll save money and do your bit to save the planet by ditching the bottled water and filling up a reusable bottle at home instead.
5. Plastic floss for compostable dental floss
It might seem too small to matter, but dental floss really adds up to an environmental nightmare. Typically made of waxed nylon, coiled into a plastic box, dental floss is petroleum-derived like plastic and takes many decades to break down, potentially harming wildlife along the way as nylon threads are tear-proof, meaning they make a good trap for aquatic animals and birds.
Switch your troublesome floss for biodegradable floss made with corn fiber coated with candelilla wax, or one of the many other green floss options now available. Fully compostable and usually packaged in a reusable glass jar or cardboard box, this simple switch makes even the smallest daily habit more eco-friendly.
6. Paper towels for cleaning cloths
Paper towels are handy to have around, especially if you have kids and pets at home. But those towels use up resources, including a lot of water, are typically bleached, which isn’t good for you or the environment, and are extremely wasteful as they just get tossed in the trash after a single use. And don’t let the greenwashing of bamboo products fool you. Bamboo is a tough fiber that has to go through a toxic chemical process to become soft enough to make toilet paper, paper towels, or clothing.
What’s the alternative? Reusable cleaning cloths! This zero waste solution is also a great way to repurpose worn out clothing and old hand towels or bath towels. Cut old textiles into squares as needed and simply throw your cleaning cloths in the laundry after cleaning up spills.
7. Disposable cotton pads for reusable wash pads
Whether you use them for removing makeup daily or just use them occasionally to remove nail polish, disposable cotton rounds or cotton balls are a big waste of resources. Conventional cotton is one of the most heavily pesticide sprayed crops and uses up huge volumes of water, only to be bleached and treated with other chemicals before it makes its way to you and then into trash.
Save yourself money and take care of the environment with a one-off investment in reusable organic cotton rounds. Perfect for applying or removing makeup, cleaning your face, removing nail polish, or as a soothing poultice when soaked in tea and refrigerated, these rounds are sustainably made, can be composted at the end of their life, but will last you for many years when properly cared for.
8. Natural loofahs in place of dish sponges
Most dish sponges and brushes are made with plastic and create a warm, moist haven for germs to grow. Inevitably, that leads to the sponge or brush becoming too gross to use and ending up in the trash.
Loofahs are a great alternative. They are a renewable product, growing on vines and naturally a bit abrasive, making them perfect for scrubbing and scraping at food residue on dishes (or for exfoliating in the shower or bathtub).
9. Glass snapware
You’ve spent hours making a delicious meal and are lucky enough to have some leftovers for the next day, but when you go to package things up… all you have are plastic containers. These containers can leach undesirable chemicals into your food, especially if it’s fatty or acidic, are a big waste of the planet’s resources, and take hundreds, if not thousands of years to break down, causing problems for the environment at every step along the way.
Step up glass snapware! Versatile, non-toxic, durable, and great for use with all kinds of food, glass snapware can be used to freeze food, reheat leftovers, and are microwave safe and dishwasher safe. Double them with wax wrap covers and you’re about as eco-friendly as it gets!
10. Menstrual management products
Finally, if you menstruate, you might use tampons, pads, and liners to manage your flow. In addition to exposing your nether regions to potentially toxic chemicals and plastics that contain endocrine disruptors, all those products add up over a lifetime. Just one tampon user alone can go through 9,000–10,000 tampons during their lifetime, which amounts to 300 pounds of period-related products.
What’s the alternative? Menstrual cups are a great choice for many people and come in a range of sizes and shapes, made with non-toxic silicon that collects menstrual fluid instead of absorbing it. This is far healthier for the vaginal canal than an overly absorbent tampon. Menstrual cups will usually last two to five years, or longer in some cases, making them much more eco-friendly too.
Reusable pads made with organic cotton offer good backup when using a menstrual cup or can be used on their own. There are also period panties available that have built-in absorbent liners. Simple to use, and available in a range of sizes and designs, period underwear has come a long way in recent years and is definitely worth looking at again if you dismissed it a decade ago!
(1) Flow. The Cultural Story of Menstruation. Elissa Stein and Susan Kim. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009.