If you’re trying to live sustainably in 2020, there are tons of easy swaps that can make your life more environmentally friendly. Reducing plastic waste is a crucial problem for today’s environment, and whether it’s recyclable and biodegradable phone cases or sustainable fashion, there are plenty of eco-friendly substitutes for the plastic products you use every day.
Since going completely zero waste can be daunting, we asked for advice from Danielle Jezienicki, the director of sustainability at Grove Collaborative, a flexible, recurring shipment service for tons of environmentally friendly products.
“In truth, there is no such thing as throwing plastic ‘away,’” Jezienicki says. “Plastics, be that your ChapStick or your toothbrush, take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to decompose into harmful microplastics that work their way into soil, water and, ultimately, all forms of life.”
When it comes to simple solutions, Jezienicki says her favorite kinds of swaps provide elegant solutions that get you out of a wasteful system. One of her favorite examples is sustainable laundry. By replacing plastic detergent bottles with reusable and recyclable products, you’re cutting tons of single-use plastic out of your life. Just make sure you’re looking for laundry detergent that’s free from harmful chemicals and added fragrances.
Jezienicki also recommends washing with cold water and drying for less time to ensure carbon and energy savings. Ahead, Jezienicki walks us through her eco-friendly tips and tricks for laundry, cleaning products and more.
Auto-Dosing Laundry Detergent Dispenser ($17.95; grove.co)
“Our reusable glass laundry vessel is actually a beautiful product that enables one-handed pouring (hello, moms, I know you appreciate this one!) and is the last laundry container you will ever need,” Jezienicki says.
Ultra-Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent ($9.95; grove.co)
This concentrated liquid allows you to use much less detergent than you normally would, making this bag last longer than traditional options. The detergent comes in three natural scents, plus these detergent bags are 100% recyclable so you can reduce your plastic waste.
Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent Pods (starting at $24; dropps.com)
These detergent pods come in a 100% recyclable, repulpable and compostable cardboard box. Plus, the pods are compatible with all machines, made without any harmful chemicals and naturally scented.
Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls ($16.95; amazon.com)
Reduce drying time by simply throwing dryer balls in with your next load, making the drying process shorter. These balls lower energy use, make your clothes super soft and are reusable so you won’t have to throw them away like dryer sheets.
Laundry Swaps ($26.90, originally $36.80; grove.co)
You can also purchase a sustainable laundry starter kit from Grove, which includes detergent, a dispenser, a stain remover spray and a wrinkle remover spray, all safe to use and better for the environment than what you normally pick up at the store.
Cleancult Complete Liquid Laundry Bundle ($49.99, originally $64.94; cleancult.com)
Cleancult sells reusable glass containers along with proprietary cleaning solutions made with coconut oil and other plant-based ingredients. This bundle can revamp your laundry routine with a container, four detergent refills in plastic-free cartons, a silicone funnel and three wool dryer balls.
Blueland Laundry Starter Set ($18; blueland.com)
Blueland uses dissolvable tablets that turn into everyday cleaning products, in turn eliminating single-use plastics from your routine. This laundry starter set comes with a steel tin and 40 laundry tablets that you can drop right into the washing machine for a fresh clean.
Tru Earth Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent ($16.95; amazon.com)
Another plastic-free option, Tru Earth’s laundry strips dissolve in the washer to provide an easy alternative to traditional detergent. Plus, the strips are lightweight, making them a great pick if you have to go up and down flights of stairs or around the corner to the laundromat.
Cutting down on paper
While Jezienicki loves the simplicity of alternative laundry solutions, there are other areas of the home where sustainable switches are more pressing. The biggest swap she thinks everyone should make is reducing the use of paper products.
“They are massively problematic in terms of their contribution to deforestation,” she says. “Switch from traditional products (toilet paper and paper towels) to recycled or bamboo alternatives such as Grove’s Seedling.” Using materials like bamboo reduces deforestation, since bamboo grows much faster than trees.
Besides paper products, Jezienicki recommends examining your life for any wasteful products you use a lot and trying to replace them with more eco-friendly options. Check out some of the handiest swaps:
Tushy Classic Bidet ($89, originally $109; hellotushy.com)
One way to drastically reduce your paper waste is to cut down on toilet paper. A simple solution is to make the switch many made during quarantine and invest in a bidet. This bidet from Tushy is easy to install and will change the way you go to the bathroom forever. Trust us: We tried it ourselves and loved it.
Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper (starting at $30; us.whogivesacrap.com)
3-Ply Jumbo Roll Tree-Free Toilet Paper ($15.95; grove.co)
Made from 100% responsibly grown bamboo, this toilet paper is soft and sturdy. Plus, it’s safe for septic tanks and comes in plastic-free, fully recyclable packaging.
Seventh Generation Toilet Paper ($27.58, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
This toilet paper option is made from recycled paper with no added dyes, inks or fragrances. It’s also septic-safe and comes in 100% recyclable packaging (yes, the plastic wrapping is recyclable too).
Bambooee Reusable Bamboo Towel ($12.99, originally $15.99; amazon.com)
These reusable paper towels are made out of bamboo, so once you use one, you don’t throw it away; you just wash it. Machine-washable up to 100 times, they’re long-lasting and super absorbent.
Swedish Dishcloth Cellulose Sponge Cloths, 10-Pack ($19.95, originally $24.99; amazon.com)
Swedish dishcloths have been popping up all over the internet, so much so that we just had to try them ourselves. The super-absorbent, reusable cloths are good for cleaning, scrubbing and anything else you’d use a normal paper towel for.
Who Gives a Crap Tissues, 12 Boxes ($16; us.whogivesacrap.org)
Another household paper product that’s easy to replace is tissues. This alternative from Who Gives a Crap uses bamboo for a strong and soft tissue that’s made without harming trees.
The easiest switches to make
“The easiest switches are the things you are excited about because you have found a solution that works for you or solves another problem,” Jezienicki says. Think bamboo toothbrushes, soap bars, stasher bags and more. We followed Grove’s advice and came up with some of our favorite switches.
The Dirt All-Natural Tooth Powder, 3-Month Supply ($19.99; amazon.com)
Instead of using normal toothpaste that comes in plastic packaging, try this tooth powder. All you have to do is tap a damp toothbrush into the powder, then brush like you normally do. We know it sounds weird, but it’s a really good swap for the plastic toothpaste tube you use every day.
Davids Natural Recyclable Toothpaste ($9.95, originally $12; amazon.com)
This premium, natural toothpaste comes in a metal tube, so once it’s cut open and rinsed, it can be recycled. Even the box and the little plastic cap are 100% recyclable.
Stasher 100% Silicone Reusable Bag ($11.99; amazon.com)
These silicone reusable bags replace plastic ones. Available in varying sizes, they’re perfect for storing a quick snack or bulk food. “The other thing I love is carrying a stasher bag with me to the farmers market or out to eat, for leftovers,” Jezienicki says. “It folds flat and creates zero waste or recycling — plus you have a snack on hand!”
Redecker Tampico Fiber Dish Brush ($11.99; amazon.com)
Did you know sponges are actually made from a form of plastic? And not only do they take a long time to decompose in a landfill, but washing dishes with a sponge releases tiny microplastics into the water. Ditch the traditional sponge and opt for this tampico fiber dish brush instead. It’s made of materials that can be composted and recycled, and when the brush hairs wear down, you can easily buy a replacement head.
Full Circle Bamboo Dish Brush ($7.07, originally $8.30; amazon.com)
Or you can opt for this more compact bamboo dish brush with bristles made from recycled plastic. Its ergonomic design fits right in your hand so you can scrub even the most stubborn dishes.
Annvchi Travel Camping Cutlery Set ($7.63; amazon.com)
If you eat out and use a lot of disposable plastic flatware, why not try these reusable stainless steel alternatives? This pack comes with a knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks, two straws and a straw cleaner, all in a nifty case so you can bring it everywhere you go.
Beeswax Food Wraps ($18; amazon.com)
Handcrafted in Vermont, these beeswax food wraps can replace plastic wrap. Store fruit or loose food, or cover a bowl with these wraps. They’re washable, so you can reuse them before you eventually throw them in the compost.
Earth Junky Produce Bags ($19.95; amazon.com)
Instead of taking single-use plastic bags from the store for your produce, try these reusable produce bags. This seven-piece set comes with an assortment of muslin and mesh bags for varying sizes of produce.
18-Ounce Yeti Rambler (starting at $39.15; amazon.com)
Using a reusable metal water bottle reduces the need for plastic containers. Dishwasher-safe and made with double-wall vacuum insulation, this water bottle can keep your beverage cold all day. Plus, it was our runner-up for the best water bottle of 2020. We loved its durability and ability to keep drinks cold all day.
20-Ounce Hydro Flask Coffee With Flex Sip Lid ($34.95; hydroflask.com)
Hand your local coffee shop a reusable bottle instead of taking a paper or plastic cup you’ll throw away. This Hydro Flask coffee cup is vacuum-insulated and made with long-lasting stainless steel.
Brush With Bamboo Toothbrush, 4-Pack ($16.99, originally $17.99; amazon.com)
This soft-bristled brush is plant-based and organic. Instead of sitting in a landfill or floating in the ocean, the bristles and the packaging can be recycled, and the handle and the bioplastic wrapper can be composted.
Vikings Blade Stainless Steel Razor ($28.97, originally $42.97; amazon.com)
Switching to a stainless steel razor is a great way to get rid of the unnecessary waste of plastic disposables. The single blade provides just as close a shave, and since the razor is made from Swedish steel, it’s built to last a lifetime. The replacement blades are also stainless steel so they can be recycled when worn out.
Biodegradable Dental Floss With Refillable Glass Holder ($9.99, originally $12.99; amazon.com)
If you floss (which you really should), here’s a great replacement for the normal plastic strings. The 100% silk floss is waxed and has a mint flavor. The packaging is recyclable and the floss is compostable.
Rocky Mountain Barber Company Wooden Comb ($11.99; amazon.com)
Wooden combs are an easy switch from their plastic counterparts. This anti-static, no-snag, handmade comb is crafted out of pearwood and is fully compostable.
Desert Breeze Wooden Hairbrush ($36.50; amazon.com)
With a pearwood handle and boar hair bristles, this sturdy hairbrush is all natural. Made in Germany by a shop with a 100-year history, this brush is a great sustainable alternative and compostable.
Aspen Kay Dead Sea Mud Soap Bar ($9.45; amazon.com)
Instead of buying plastic bottles of body wash, try using a soap bar. There are tons of all-natural options, but we love this one because it’s organic and chemical-free. It’s made with Dead Sea mud, charcoal, shea butter and other natural ingredients.