7 Easy Eco-Friendly Product Swaps You Can Make Today

The health of the Earth has received a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. In 2019, the gravity of the climate crisis specifically became a widespread topic of conversation with September’s Global Climate Strike and teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg being awarded the prestigious title of TIME’s Person of the Year 2019. But the reality is that a few dedicated individuals won’t be able to save the planet all on their own. Tiny, tangible efforts made by all of us, however, can collectively make a tremendous impact. Luckily, there are some simple product swaps you can introduce into your daily routines that can help make taking care of our home easier than ever.

  1. 1. Substitute plastic snack bags with glass jars or reusable bags. 

    Stash some pistachios, pretzels, or another snack of your choosing in a glass jar when you’re on the go to and from class. A 2018 National Geographic study reveals that Great Britain’s Royal Statistical Society found that 91% of plastic never gets recycled. Yes, you read that correctly! Replacing single use snack bags with glass instead is an excellent way to start distancing yourself from plastic. If you prefer something that isn't breakable, never fear! There are also cloth resuable snack bags available for purchase. 

  2. 2. Get innovative with your beauty routine.

    There's a lot of buzz about sustainability in fashion, but have you ever considered how much waste the beauty industry produces? Savannah Trimble, a senior at Marist College, became passionate about living a more eco-friendly lifestyle when she bought her first Lush shampoo bar. She says this led to her thinking about other ways to reduce her waste. “I now use bar soap and shampoo bars and a stainless steel razor so I don’t have plastic in my routine in the shower,” Savannah says. “I am quite proud of that and highly recommend [it].” In addition, trading in your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one can also help reduce plastic waste. Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming more popular and are available for purchase at retailers including Target and Marshalls or on Amazon. Another way to reduce plastic use in your beauty routine is to begin using bamboo hair brushes. These brushes are just as functional as those made of plastic, but they won't harm the enviroment. 

  3. 3.  Say no to plastic shopping bags and use reusable bags instead.

    Time to put some of those dozens of canvas tote bags we all have lurking in the back of our closets to good use! The plastic snack bag isn’t the only culprit that contributes to the surplus of plastic that never gets recycled: those pesky plastic shopping bags are partially to blame, too. Luckily, there’s a painless (and inexpensive!) swap: cloth reusable bags. Brianna Coba, a senior at Marist College, says, “I always try to bring reusable bags with me and use those, especially in place of plastic bags since those are extremely bad for the environment.” Savannah is also a fan of bringing reusable bags when she goes thrift shopping!

     

  4. 4. Kiss your traditional plastic phone case goodbye.

    If you’re in the market for a new cell phone case, consider purchasing one that is made out of recycled materials or is biodegradable. There are several companies that were founded around the concept of creating functional products that are also earth-friendly. One of these is Pela Case, which sells biodegradable phone cases, as well as other accessories. Bonus - Pela even ships its phone cases plastic free! Other companies with similar missions include Eco Fashion by Wilma and Nimble, which offers cases made out of recycled plastic bottles.

  5. 5. Don't forget your reusable cup! 

    Sometimes some of the simplest swaps are the most important. Think about how many cups of coffee or tea you drink per year, and then consider how much plastic waste you could eliminate by simply bringing along a reusable cup. Savannah says, “I like to carry around a reusable straw and a reusable cup! I like to do this because I feel less wasteful knowing that every single time I get coffee (which is a lot, especially for most college students), I am cutting that many plastic/plastic-lined paper cups out of the garbage and making an impact.” She also notes that being sustainable is good for your wallet. “You also get ten cents off any beverage at Starbucks when you bring your own cup,” Savannah adds. Though ten cents might not sound like much, those dimes add up!

  6. 6. Implement sustainable practices at home. 

    Think about how many cups of coffee you make in your Keurig each semester when you're cramming for finals, trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of studying. Probably a lot, right? Luckily, reusable K-cups are available so making yourself a cup of coffee doesn't come with an enviromental cost. Another way to limit your plastic consumption at home is to begin using eco-friendly cleaning products. Over the span of a year, cleaning products can account for a lot of plastic waste. Companies such as JAWS, Just Add Water System, can help change that. 

  7. 7. Use eco-friendly products when traveling.

    With a few product swaps, travel becomes less enviromentally taxing. One way to help the planet is by using a luggage tag made out of repurposed vinyl from billboards. The company that creates these products, Rareform, states that, "Over the past six years we've processed 2 million pounds of vinyl that's destined for landfills." Bonus: they're super chic and will help you spot your bag quicker on a luggage carousel! Sign us up. You can also bring reusable utensils for meals on-the-go so you don't have to deal with any single use plastic. 

Both Brianna and Savannah have taken steps to become more eco-friendly because they believe it to be essential for helping our planet. “Although our actions may seem small, every effort counts to protect the environment,” Brianna says. Savannah agrees. “Being sustainable, to me, is so important because every little action adds up,” she says. “We can all reduce our plastic waste, reuse, and speak up against climate change injustices. I think it's crucial for everyone to at least try to make an impact, whether it's skipping a straw, or taking shorter showers, or walking/biking instead of driving short distances.” 

While it can be difficult - and perhaps a bit unrealistic - to entirely eliminate plastic from your everyday life, starting small with these simple swaps will set you on the right track to live a more environmentally conscious, sustainable life. As Anne Marie Bonneau, owner of Zero Waste Chef, says, “We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

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