Single-use plastic has caused a real environmental catastrophe, with a snowballed effect that eventually winds up as microplastics in our oceans and even in ourselves. But when you turn to a shelf, a wall of plastic products is all you seem to find. However, you can live a more sustainable lifestyle free of single-use plastics. Want to challenge yourself and create a plastic-free home? Once you know what to look for, it’s relatively easy! But if you’re looking for a great place to start, swap out these 11 household items for a more sustainable alternative.
By the team at Pela Case
Say goodbye to those single-waste plastic cell phone covers. Instead, protect your smartphones with compostable phone cases made from biopolymers and flax shive. That way, when you upgrade to the latest and greatest model, your phone case can be thrown in the compost, breaking down with veggie scraps, too. Not only can you find sustainable phone cases, but Apple Watch bands and AirPods cases, too.
One billion toothbrushes are thrown away each year in the United States alone. And most of these, as you might guess, are plastic, which takes a long time to break down. So when your bristles finally become too frayed to clean teeth properly, make sure you throw out your compostable bamboo toothbrush instead. Better yet — use it as kindling for a camp bonfire. The only caveat? Most bamboo toothbrushes still have plastic bristles, so you’ll have to pull them out with pliers.
Replace that soft, fluffy toilet paper with a sustainable alternative made from renewable materials such as bamboo and recycled paper. You can also try a bidet attachment, which is designed to spray water after you’ve taken care of business. While it still requires a square or two to pat yourself dry, it’s no comparison to the amount of TP typically used.
Plastic wrap or Saran Wrap — or whatever you want to call it — is only going to be thrown away as soon as you eat what’s in it. Luckily, there are several sustainable alternatives it can be swapped for. Consider using a reusable beeswax wrap instead or even just a glass container. Feel like taking on a new DIY project? Make your own beeswax wraps at home using repurposed, old sheets or clothing.
Without getting into all the harmful toxins and ingredients that wind up in your body and beauty products, did you know that the hard plastic containers of these products alone are a huge waste problem? From bottled shampoos and conditioners to makeup cases and perfume vials, once you’re done, these items just wind up in the trash. Instead, choose and reach for sustainable alternatives like compostable deodorant tubes, container-free hair soap and body soaps or even simply make your own face and body scrub.
For people who menstruate, there are sustainable alternatives for your period products. So the next time your flow starts, be prepared not with a tampon but with a menstrual cup and/or a pair of period panties. However, while these are solid options for that time of the month, if you prefer the traditional method, you can seek out our plastic-free menstruation products as well.
Ditch the disposable coffee cups and bring your own. It’s one of the easiest swaps you can make and it cuts down on both paper and plastic. While a standard coffee cup is made from virgin paper pulp (in other words, newly cut trees), it also has a plastic-lined interior that is not so easily biodegradable. So instead, take a reusable coffee container to the cafe. Alternatively, just let the barista know you’ll drink it there and request a mug.
Like coffee cups, disposable cutlery and straws are also wasteful, single-use plastics that could be easily remedied. The next time you call in and pick up a takeout order, kindly let them know they’re unnecessary and that you have your own. In place of these items, bring along an easy-to-wash bamboo or metal cutlery set, complete with a foldable cotton envelope that keeps them contained and clean in your tote or purse.
Takeout containers are another story entirely — some plastic while others are Styrofoam. But while you can’t convince a restaurant to take your home-brought container back to the kitchen to retrieve your meal, you can encourage them to try and make the switch to compostable to-go containers.
Kitchen sponges and scrubs, at least the scrubby section, are made from polyester and nylon. Sadly, these materials derive from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels. They are also non-recyclable and non-biodegradable to boot.
The good news is that you can choose not to contribute to our oil dependence, swapping out these cleaning products for eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives like a loofah or walnut-based sponges instead. An added advantage? Not only are they compostable, but these materials dry faster and last longer. You can even microwave and kill built-up germs and bacteria.
Do you consistently use wet wipes to clean up kids and disinfect surfaces in a jiffy? Well, sorry to break the news, but wet wipes are actually made from polyethylene plastic, which only degrades enough to break down into microscopic fibers. Eventually, these fibers make their way to our oceans, which then release microplastics that have been found in not only marine life, but the fish we eat. So, if you insist on using wet wipes, at least choose a sustainable brand that uses compostable and biodegradable organic cotton infused with plant-based essential oils.
Picking up after your pooch’s business is just part of being a pet owner and fur parent. But that doesn’t mean you have to use petroleum-based and single-use plastic baggies, which are essentially the same as a grocery bag. The next time you take your dog for a walk, also take along a more sustainable doggie bag alternative made with a biodegradable cornstarch-based material that’s guaranteed to compost once it winds up in the landfill.