Disposable, or single-use products, account for a massive amount of the waste rapidly filling our landfills and recycling centers — so what can we do differently?
As countries around the world start instituting new regulations and programs that limit waste production, people everywhere are looking to reusable (and practical) alternatives to disposable products.
The process of moving to zero waste is a long and challenging one in today’s world — but by swapping out even just one of these products each month, you’ll be moving steadily in the direction to lessen your impact on landfills and live more sustainably.
1. Plastic Wrap — Use Bee’s Wrap Instead
Even though plastic wrap is pretty thin, it’s still a product of petrochemicals and still takes years to break down in the landfills. It’s also not recyclable.
If you need an airtight, flexible seal for things like produce, meats, cheeses, and sandwiches, give a beeswax food wrap like Bee’s Wrap a try instead.
Made of 100% biodegradable ingredients, this reusable food wrap wipes clean, sticks to itself, and conforms to the shape of food, just by using the warmth from your hands.
2. Ziploc Bags — Use Reusable Sandwich Bags Instead
If you’re addicted to those little plastic sandwich bags, it’s time to find an alternative that you can continuously reuse.
Reusable sandwich bags are an easy solution, and are pretty darn cute, too. If they wear out, you can easily repair them with a needle and thread. They’re airtight and waterproof, so you can use them to pack wet lunches without worry.
Though most reusable sandwich bags are still made of some kind of plastic or nylon to keep them moisture-proof and make them last, since they’re continuously reused, they solve the problem of plastic bag waste.
3. Feminine Products — Try a Menstrual Cup or Cloth Pad Instead
Not only are feminine products incredibly wasteful when you consider the packaging and plastic applicators, but they’re cost prohibitive and those that don’t use organic cotton are employing one of the number one pesticide consumers in the world.
Menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads are rising in popularity, thanks to their costs-savings and major reduction on waste and unknown ingredients. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors — and in the case of pads, materials — and are comfortable and easy-to-use (once you get past the brief learning curve).
4. Disposable Diapers — Use Cloth Diapers Instead
Although they are not for everyone, cloth diapers have come a long way since rubber pants and complicated folds — and are officially as easy to put on as a regular diaper. They save money, they’re free of mysterious, rash-causing ingredients, and of course, they cut back drastically on the amount of waste in landfills.
It doesn’t just stop with cloth diapers, either. There are reusable cloth wipes, wet bags for home storage, and even travel-sized wet bags to keep odors and messes discreetly contained on trips and errands.
You can learn more about just how easy cloth diapering is these days here.
5. Water bottles — Get a Filter and a Glass/Stainless Steel Bottle Instead
We’re all likely aware that plastic water bottles are a huge and unnecessary burden on our landfills and are a massive consumer of petroleum-based plastics, and yet, they still fly off the store shelves.
I mean, I get it — people want filtered water, and they want it conveniently. One bottle isn’t enough, they want it all the time, on-demand. But there’s a way to make bringing your own water convenient, and so much kinder to the environment.
Start with a great filter, not one that just removes tastes, but one that actually removes fluoride and trace minerals (you can always add them back in if you want). I’m a huge Berkey filter fan myself.
From there, don’t just limit yourself to one 32-ounce water bottle — get a couple days’ worth of bottles that you can rotate when one inevitably disappears under a seat in your car.
If you can’t afford to buy a half dozen stainless steel or glass water bottles, get crafty and re-purpose glass juice bottles instead. R.W. Knudsen makes some great juice, and their bottles are great for keeping water handy all day.
6. Coffee Filters — Try a silicone One or Rethink Your Coffeemaker
Sure, coffee filters are biodegradable, but we use them every single day, and they’re still made out of trees and the energy required to power factories. End the single-use madness with a permanent coffee filter. Ekobrew even makes a reusable stainless steel K Cup for all of your Keurig fans out there!
If you can’t find a reusable filter for your coffeemaker model, consider taking it a step further and moving towards a plastic-free coffee making setup instead — we cover it extensively in this blog post.
7. Paper Towels — Try Cloth Towels Instead
Paper towels, even when made of recycled materials, consume a massive amount of resources in production. Cloth paper towels are cost-effective, reusable, tougher, more absorbent, and can even be DIY.
The Unpaper Towel makes sets that even snap together and fit on a traditional paper towel holder! You can get them here.8. Shopping Bags — Start Stocking up on Reusables
Americans use more than 100 million plastic shopping bags every year and only 5% of them get recycled. Plastic bags make up over 10% of the trash found on U.S. beaches, and it’s estimated that they take centuries to decompose.
Reusable shopping bags cut down drastically on plastic bag waste, the energy usage required to make them, and the tremendous burden plastic waste is currently putting on the world’s oceans.
Take the first step and buy a reusable shopping bag every time you go to the grocery store, or support a small business and buy some reusable shopping bags made of upcycled materials, like this one from FeedBagTote.
9. Toothbrushes — Try Biodegradable Ones
Bogobrush is a company I’m quickly beginning to fall in love with, and easy to see why.
This U,S,-based company makes two kinds of toothbrushes: one out of recycled plastic and one made out of a special blend of bio-composite material. Not only do you get to choose which toothbrush you prefer, but when you buy one, Bogobrush gives one away to someone in need. Pretty amazing, right?
Though the bristles of their biodegradable toothbrush are technically not compostable, they can be removed with pliers so that you can throw the handle into the compost pile. And let’s face it, it’s a heck of a lot better than a whole plastic toothbrush going into the trash every few months.
You can find the Bogobrush toothbrushes here.
10. Straws — Go Stainless Steel and Never Look Back
If you’re the kind of person that cannot and will not drink anything without a straw, it might be time to look for a less wasteful option. Stainless steel straws are slick, easy to clean, cheap, and easy to keep in your purse for a night out.
Get them in various lengths and diameters so that regardless of the situation, you never have to toss a plastic straw again. You can find some here.
11. Razors — Try a Safety Razor
I know, these all-metal razors look really scary if you’re used to the little plastic numbers with five teeny blades, but they are the best solution to the plastic waste problem created by disposable razors.
Safety razors use just one blade with an angle adjuster to determine how close of a shave you really want. There’s a small learning curve to using one, but you wind up with a much closer shave, and absolutely zero waste (the blades are recyclable).
You can get a safety razor and start learning how to shave in a whole new way here.
Not keen on the idea of trying a safety razor? Baby steps! Stick with what you know and stock up on some disposables made from recycled plastics by Preserve. The handles of these razors are recyclable and they use an all-natural lubricating strip.
12. Family cloth — Dare to Go There
It’s not for everyone, but reusable toilet paper is growing in popularity across the US as people look for a less wasteful method of doing their business.
There’s no doubt that reusable toilet paper, or “family cloth” saves on the production costs of toilet paper and the waste therein involved. So is it doable for your family?
You can read a firsthand account here. If you’re bold enough to give this one a try, let us know how it goes. Yes, that pun was intentional.)
13. Dryer sheets — Try Wool Dryer Balls Instead
The purpose of dryer sheets is to reduce static and lightly scent laundry as it dries. However, for those of us still using dryers, the inherent waste and chemical cocktails are becoming all too difficult to ignore.
Forget the monthly expense and forget having no control over the fragrances in them.
Wool dryer balls:
- Reduce static
- Reduce drying time by 30-50%
- Gently soften clothing
- Produce no waste
- Are 100% natural
- Won’t irritate your allergies
If you want to add a bit of scent to your drying cycle, just put a few drops of your favorite essential oils on your dryer balls, and set them loose in your dryer with your clothes.
You can get wool dryer balls here.
14. Swiffer Pads — Go Reusable
I have a Rubbermaid version of the popular Swiffer mop, and I love it. The reasons I bought it were:
- I could put whatever cleaning solution I wanted in the reusable cleaning container
- The pads were washable and reusable
Swiffer pads create a lot of waste, but if you’ve already got the mop, there’s no need to get rid of it. Lots of crafty people have answered the call for less wasteful solutions to the disposable cleaning implement line, and have come out with everything from cloth Swiffer mop pads to reusable duster pads.
15. Takeout containers — bring your own!
Styrofoam is a tricky consumable — despite it being foam, it’s actually more durable than plastic, and can last thousands of years before even beginning to break down. Those endless takeout containers sit for millennia in our soil, made up of toxic materials that consume petroleum reserves to produce — it’s just bad news all around.
It’s hard to get into the habit of remembering, but start bringing your own takeout containers with you instead. Keep them in your car, and then grab them before you even walk into the restaurant. Make sure to let your waiter know you have them, so that they don’t break out the clamshells for you.
Plastic tupperware works just fine, but if you’re trying to avoid plastic, I really love these stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic (careful, it’s easy to go on a shopping spree there).
Reducing Household Waste, One Purchase at a Time
Avocado Green Mattress was built around the idea that, simply put, we can do better. We can buy greener products, we can produce less waste, and we don’t have to spend a fortune doing it. From our recycled steel springs to our 100% polyurethane-free design, every part of what we do here is designed to create a brighter, more sustainable future by design.
Don’t look at this list and let yourself be overwhelmed — bookmark it, and come back to it once a month. Print it off and stick it on your refrigerator, and tick one thing off at a time as you slowly make these changes in your life. Every little bit helps, and we’ll all make much more progress if we remember that big changes happen in small ways.
Read more about our mission to create a more sustainable world here.
Which disposable item do you find the most difficult to give up? Will you give one of our solutions a try? If you to, tag us on Instagram or Facebook with @avocadomattress.