Sustainable Swaps

Sustainability can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re like me and want to do everything you can to help the environment, only to end up overwhelmed. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as it seems! Many people have already swapped out common single-use plastic in their daily routines like water bottles, coffee cups, straws, and grocery bags for reusable alternatives, which is a great place to start. 

However, the easiest thing you can do to start your sustainability journey is actually to use up what you already have! The focus of sustainability should not be on purchasing products or how much you are spending on them, but rather, what you choose to spend your money on. Once you finish using the products you already own, then you can choose to invest in products that do not harm the environment. Here is a list of swaps that I have made that you can make too to be more sustainable!

Safety razors instead of plastic disposable ones!—Disposable razors are a major culprit of single-use plastic many people do not even think of. While safety razors come with a large initial monetary investment, you’ll save a lot more money in the long run but not having to constantly replace the entire razor head. Lisse is a woman-founded brand that has a rose gold safety razor and the brand Leaf has a great starter kit for their safety razor which has a pivoting head, making shaving easier than typical safety razors that have a stationary head. You can also send your used blades back to Leaf and they will recycle them for you, since safety razor blades are not recyclable curbside!

Original Illustration by Megan Charles for Her Campus Media

Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face cleanser, and deodorant bars instead of plastic bottles and containers!—While plastic bottles are curbside recyclable and able to be made into other bottles, they still contribute to the growing amount of single use plastic that is produced. This is where bars come in! Bars can be packaged without plastic in compostable materials and companies such as Lush and Ethique make bars for anything you could need: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, skincare, even deodorant! Ethique has completely plastic-free packaging, while Lush offers products in tubs made of recycled materials, as well as some products that are completely package-free! You can also return 5 empty Lush pots to your local shop for them to recycle and mold into new pots through their closed-loop recycling system—and you’ll get a free face mask in return. Meow Meow Tweet is another brand that offers natural deodorant sticks in biodegradable packaging, as well as cream in glass jars. You can also support small businesses by finding bars on Etsy - just be sure to check how they package and ship them! 

Lush

Toothpaste and mouthwash tablets instead of traditional packaging!—Toothpaste is notorious for being sold in plastic tubes that cannot be recycled, and mouthwash is also sold in plastic packaging. Toothpaste and mouthwash tabs solve that problem by being free of plastic packaging! Plastic toothbrushes cannot be recycled either, but they can easily be replaced with beechwood and bamboo brushes that are compostable. Bite is a woman-founded business that offers bamboo toothbrushes, both toothpaste and mouthwash tabs, and dental floss—all packaged without any plastic! Georganics is another brand that sells plastic-free toothpaste in three forms: as paste, as tablets, and even as powder. They also offer mouthwash tablets, beechwood brushes and dental floss, all free of plastic. After you get a jar of their toothpaste tabs, you can purchase refills in plastic-free and compostable packaging, or better yet, repurpose a jar you already own and fill it with the refill pack!

Smiling woman wearing flower crown Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

Reusable silicone bags and compostable beeswax instead of single use plastic wrap and bags!—Plastic wrap is a pesky form of single use plastic that cannot be recycled, just like plastic sandwich and snack bags. Beeswax wraps work just like plastic wrap and can be used to cover or wrap food, except they can be rinsed and reused multiple times before being composted! Silicone bags are also a reusable alternative for plastic bags that can be rinsed and even thrown into the dishwasher. Abeego is a brand that has natural beeswax wraps, and Stasher is a company that offers silicone bags that are both dishwasher and microwave safe. There are also lots of different colors and sizes to choose from!

Trader Joe'S Reusable Bag Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

Reusable paper towels, napkins, tissues, and cotton cotton rounds instead of their single-use counterparts!—Although not made of plastic themselves, paper products are almost always sold in plastic packaging, not to mention that they are a single-use product. Cotton cloths and rounds are a great alternative since they can be washed and reused multiple times! Getting 20-30 cloths and a set of cotton rounds will replace tons of single use paper products in the long run. You can just throw them in the wash with your towels when they get dirty and use them again and again! The best part is that you can make your own with old cloth or if you would prefer a non-DIY method, you can just buy a pack of them like the ones from Marley’s Monsters. If you are not ready to switch out your paper products just yet, you can also compost them to prevent them from sitting in landfills!

bathroom-towels Nordstrom

Menstrual cups or period-proof underwear instead of pads and tampons!—Pads and tampons are sold in plastic packaging and usually have plastic applicators, all of which are thrown in the trash. They also can come with lots of unwanted chemicals too, which are bad for not just the environment but for your body too. Menstrual cups are an alternative that is better for you and the world! Saalt sells a cup made out of a reusable silicone that lasts for up to 5 years, eliminating countless amounts of plastic waste. Period-proof underwear is another alternative that has emerged in recent years. It gives you the protection that pads and tampons provide, but without the added chemicals or plastic! SheThinx offers different pairs designated for your flow, and they also have a wide variety of both styles and colors.

going braless HCM Design

Wool dryer balls and detergent sheets instead of typical dryer sheets and laundry detergent!—Dryer sheets have multiple harmful chemicals in them and are made of ingredients that cannot be composted or broken down at all. In a similar way, some liquid laundry detergent has chemicals that are not good for your skin, and almost always comes in plastic packaging. Wool dryer balls are a great and natural alternative for dryer sheets, since they are made from sheep’s wool. Just be sure to get yours from an ethical source! Liquid detergent can be replaced with dissolvable sheets or even tablets. Blueland is a company that recently released plastic-free detergent tablets. They also offer plastic-free dishwasher tablets, natural powder dish soap, and cleaning products!

a person sits crosslegged on the ground folding laundry, including jeans and shirts which sit in piles before them Sarah Brown | Unsplash

Once you have used up the products you have and are ready to make environmentally-friendly swaps, these are some great places to start! The key is to look for packaging that is plastic-free, biodegradable, recyclable, or can be repurposed, and also take a look at the ingredients list for ethically sourced ingredients, which are better for both the environment and your body! 

Finding sustainable brands to support for these swaps can be difficult because of the amount of greenwashing that is prevalent in marketing today, not to mention that the initial investment of some of these products makes it difficult for people to even be able to make these swaps. This article is in no way an effort to make people feel as though they have to purchase products in order to help the environment, as overconsumption actually furthers the problem. Instead, I hope this acts as a basic guide for those looking to begin incorporating more sustainable practices into their life, as well as provides information on how we can be more sustainable in our daily lives!