Being an eco-friendly and sustainable household has been growing in popularity daily, but the current crisis may force some of us in that direction more quickly than we would like. I have compiled a list of simple items to switch out as you move towards being a more sustainable and eco-friendlier household. Some changes may have you thinking, “Duh, why didn’t I do this before?” and some may have you saying, “No way, Jose.” We are not a fully eco-friendly household and will most likely never be, but there are things we have switched out simply because the switch saves us money in the long run and was the smarter choice.
- Paperless towels: These are easy to come by and are usually made out of bamboo, cotton or flannel. Support small businesses and buy them on Etsy with your choice of color edging or make them yourself.
- Linen napkins: Why did we ever get away from linen napkins? Did we think they were too much of a hassle? Too dated? Personally, I need these! My daughter loves to climb on the table, pull out all the paper napkins, and crumble or rip them up. This is another one that you can find on Etsy or make yourself.
- Silicone snack bags: Reusable snack bags have been around forever — they just weren’t made out of silicone. I remember seeing my mom wash and reuse the plastic storage bags all the time. Now that silicone ones are available, stock up, because they are more durable than the plastic ones. I recently received some for Christmas and LOVE them! I’ve also discovered gallon-sized ones to use in the freezer.
- Shopping bags/produce bags: Growing up in Europe this was a staple, so when the trend arrived in America, I remember thinking, “I’ve been doing this for years.” If you shop at Aldi, you should invest in some reusable bags or better yet, get a shopping basket; you won’t regret it. They are also handy for everyday use and can easily be cleaned. Mesh produce bags are making waves and I may get some because the plastic ones at the store frustrate me, and I never use them anyway.
- Beeswax wraps: Marketed as the natural alternative to plastic wrap, they are becoming more popular by the day. They are usually washable, reusable, and compostable. There are lots of DIYs on the internet if you’re handy; if not you can find them on Etsy too.
- Reusable water bottle: Stop buying bottled water, get a water filter for your sink or fridge, and fill your own bottle. Worried about not having access to filtered water at work? See if your workplace can get a filter or water cooler for the office; it just may encourage others to drink more water and bring a refillable bottle.
- Travel mug: Do you buy coffee every day from a coffee shop? Why not use a travel mug instead and save a paper cup? Starbucks used to take $0.10 off your order if you brought your own mug.
- Feminine products: There are several alternatives to the traditional pad or tampon on the market today. The menstrual cup is gaining popularity and has apparently been around for a while. You can learn more about the cup in Jama’s post or from my friend Jess over at Providence Moms. Personally, menstrual cups scare me a little. Cloth pads are another option making its way up the charts, but you need to have the stomach to deal with washing them. These can be found on Etsy and from companies that also make cloth diapers. If you don’t want to make the jump to either of the options already mentioned, you can find cotton pads and tampons more readily available in store.
- Cloth diapers: Cloth diapering isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. Our family jumped on the bandwagon primarily to save money. We use disposables when going out and for nighttime, but we don’t use as many as we would have without cloth diapers. Cloth diapers these days are so much easier than what they used to be when our parents were diapering. Bamboo disposables are also becoming more available and are compostable.
- Garden: I know this isn’t a household item, but it does help the environment. Planting flowers, especially those native to Tennessee, will help the bee population, which in turn affects the eco-system. Planting a vegetable garden will help cut down on your grocery bill, give you fresh produce, and contribute in many unseen ways to the world around you. If you don’t have the space for a vegetable garden, you can plant a container garden. You could even shop local produce at farmers’ markets or sign up for a CSA that will in turn encourage the farmer to produce more and impact the environment.
There are so many more items that I haven’t named and more added every day. Things like shoes, reusable coffee filters, cotton facial rounds, toothbrushes, toys, sunglasses, trash bags, bread bags, rings, pens, linens, rugs, clothes, shampoo, cutlery, and on and on and on. I’ve even seen bed sheets dyed using vegetables. My suggestion is to start small and then take one step at a time. But once you change, you won’t go back. Or you might.