April 3, 2024

CultureMarkets & Free Enterprise

5 Easy Places To Make Environmentally Friendly Swaps

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

All-or-nothing thinking is a negative thought pattern that makes us view the world as binary, with one of only two possibilities in front of us. It is a sort of cognitive distortion that can be paralyzing, especially when you are trying to create positive change in your life. And, in the world of environmentalism, it is heard in comments like these: 

“I got rid of all the plastic items in my house this weekend and swapped them for sustainable options!” 

“I rely on so many single-use items that I could never live a sustainable life.” 

“I don’t have time to go through every single thing I use and find an environmentally friendly substitute so I am not even going to try.” 

And so the list goes on. But we don’t have to fall victim to all-or-nothing thinking—there are ways to start building a sustainable life right where you are, in a slow and affordable manner.

The environment is often best served by using up what you have before buying something new and sustainable. But, for when you are actually looking to make a purchase, here are five really easy places to make environmentally friendly swaps: 

Household Cleaners

Almost every house has an abundance of cleaning products. Laundry detergent, dish soap, dishwasher powder, and all purpose spray are just a few of the things used in my home. But there is now a sustainable option (and usually much more than just one option) for nearly every household cleaning product. 

Swap your laundry detergent for something that doesn’t use harsh chemicals or plastic packaging, and do the same with your dishwasher powder. (These two products can often even be bought in bulk to put in your own containers.) Check out a dish soap block and sustainable brush instead of that bottle of Dawn. Find an all purpose spray that comes in sustainable packaging or get a glass spray bottle and make it yourself (which is what I do and is incredibly simple). 

Napkins and Paper Towels

We stopped buying napkins and lots of paper towels for our house a long time ago. Instead, we keep one roll of paper towels around and only use on the nastiest of messes so it lasts a long time. We use cloth napkins and rags everywhere else around our house, and it saves an incredible amount of money while also reducing single-use waste. 

Bulk Bins 

If you shop at a local grocery store or a store like Whole Foods or Sprouts, you’ve likely seen the bulk bins where you can use your own containers to purchase by weight things like nuts, legumes, rice, oats, and more. As you use up your traditionally packaged pantry staples, consider buying from the bulk bins with reusable containers going forward. Pro tip: If you don’t want to frustrate a cashier by having them weigh all your heavy jars or bins before filling, I have found that very light produce bags work perfectly here and barely add to your total price at all if their weight is not subtracted. 

Oral Hygiene Products 

Roughly 20 billion toothpaste tubes are thrown away every year, and that doesn’t even begin to account for the other oral care waste (floss, toothpaste boxes, toothbrushes) that also go to landfills. But there are too many awesome sustainable options out there for us to stick to options that create a ton of waste. My personal favorite company is Bite, and using toothpaste tabs has been such a great and easy swap. Bite and other companies like it also produce waste-free mouthwash, low-waste floss, and compostable brushes and packaging. 

Shampoo and Conditioner

Finally, when you run out of your current shampoo and conditioner, why not try a sustainable option? We live in a golden age where there are plenty of options for your hair that are good for the planet. I personally love shampoo and conditioner bars, but you can also buy sustainably packaged hair products or refill your containers at a local no-waste store. 

There is no need to be overwhelmed or to fall into an all-or-nothing trap when you are beginning a sustainability journey. Every step forward will build you an environmentally friendly life and serve the planet.