All the Sustainable Swaps That I Wish I Made Sooner (And Some That Just Didn’t Stick)
My efforts to live a greener lifestyle have turned into a slew of hit-or-miss attempts at habits made mostly in the past year. I’ve shared my (un-sponsored, un-partnered, un-influenced) reviews of these efforts here, in no particular order.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: I’m very fortunate to have the option to choose alternate, more sustainable options. It’s important to take note that a lot of folks don’t have the opportunity to purchase the “greener” choice, and that’s totally okay. This is my experience of trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, including some products or habits that I’ve loved, and some that didn’t stick as well as I’d originally hoped.
Leaf Safety Razor
I would be lying if I said I didn’t wince at the price tag when I initially saw the beautiful, aesthetic advertisement for the Leaf Razor ($84 USD). I had been served many (many) an Instagram ad for the product, and eventually caved when I realized that I had been purchasing plastic, disposable razors once every few months, and then simply throwing them in the trash.
After much hemming and hawing, I opted for the black finish (though the rose gold was so tempting). This was my first experience buying a safety razor, and the blades are replaceable (available for purchase through their website 50 blades for $12, and I believe you need 5 blades at a time). I will note that since my purchase over a year ago, some of the black paint has started to flake off, revealing an unappealing silver gleam underneath.
Overall: I’m happy with this purchase (read: sale) and look forward to replacing my blades soon. I’d recommend, though wish Leaf would make the paint more durable.
Composting Kitchen Scraps
I started my first vegetable garden last year, and so the idea of being able to utilize my kitchen scraps to grow better vegetables was genuinely exciting (btw, the garden was fabulous and I’m excited for round two this year). I assembled the tumbler immediately (easy) and got tumbling.
There was a lot of research that took place shortly thereafter about what I can compost, the best ratio of green to brown materials, timelines, and so on.
Overall: I will never not own a composter again. It keeps my trash from smelling, is better for the environment (keeping food scraps out of landfills, where they will have trouble breaking down), doesn’t get in the way of things and overall just feels like the right thing to do.
Reusable Water Bottle
If you’re not carrying around a Nalgene or Hydroflask everywhere you go at this point in the game, I dare to ask how much water you’re actually consuming. Are you okay? Are you about to pass out from dehydration?
I’ve been carrying a water (lovingly dubbed “emotional support water bottle” by the internet) around for at least a decade, and I truly feel so out of sorts without one. Here’s some data on how much plastic we save by using a reusable water bottle.
Overall: a lifestyle.
Reusable Chemex Coffee Filter
This was an unexpected love of mine. I purchased a Chemex coffee maker around three years ago, because I love coffee, and because they’re so pretty sitting on your countertop. I also purchased this metal, reusable coffee filter at the same time, and haven’t purchased anything to filter my coffee in three years. Doing the math out, I make about 3–4 pots of coffee per week (I think I have a 6 or 8 cup Chemex). That would mean I would have gone through around 500 paper filters during that time, and while the cost is about the same for that amount of filters (at $9 per box of 100, that’s $45 worth in the past 3 years), I’ve successfully kept those 500 filters from landfills or who knows where. That’s a win in my book!
Overall: I would recommend this product over paper filters, though the cost is not anything to spill your coffee over.
Bite Toothpaste & Bite Floss
Once again, I was introduced to Bite toothpaste via an Instagram ad. It’s offer was an eco-friendly alternative to a traditional tube of toothpaste: little bits that had either recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging. They offer a subscription service for around $8/month (different flavors available, but I’m a mint girl when it comes to things like toothpaste and ice cream).
I’ve had Bite for about a year now and have enjoyed many things about it: you feel good when you get the package in the mail. “Ah, here’s my eco-friendly toothpaste.” You feel like Mother Nature herself. The flavor isn’t as sweet as traditional toothpastes, which also makes me feel as if the flavoring is closer to being “natural.” Additionally, they’re stored in this cute jar on your bathroom counter that reminds you that you are, indeed, an eco-friendly warrior. One thing worth noting: make sure you keep the lid on fully at all times, or the bits will turn a bit yellow from oxidation (and will be ruined if any of your shower steam gets in there).
After I tried the toothpaste, I decided to try the Bite floss as well, given that normal floss isn’t compostable, and theirs was. Once again, it came in an adorable little glass jar, and looks the part. I was soon disappointed in my Bite floss, as dental hygiene is a priority of mine, and I felt that floss would break often and I’d end up using more than I really need to. I switched back to regular, non-compostable dental floss and have felt like my teeth and gums are cleaner.
Overall: I’m very happy with the toothpaste but would pass on the floss.
On the topic of dental hygiene, I also switched out my toothbrush to this biodegradable one. To be honest, I still need to do more research on if this toothbrush is compostable as opposed to biodegradable. Additionally, we have yet to see a toothbrush with biodegradable bristles, just the actual toothbrush. So in order to properly “dispose” of this toothbrush, it’s my understanding that you have to remove all the bristles with a pair of plyers prior to… doing whatever it is you’re supposed to do with this when you’re done.
Overall: this feels like I’m being sold a subscription-based service where I don’t need one. Wouldn’t really recommend but not awful. Needs further developing.
Reusable Tote/Produce Bags
Mi amor! I couldn’t say enough good things about my reuseable grocery store bags. I use regular tote bags for everything, and use these cute produce bags for my (you guessed it) produce. I hate those flimsy, single-use produce bags when you just need a couple potatoes and a lemon. If anything, it just angers me to see how much of our produce is wrapped in plastic when I’m at the grocery store, but that’s a different conversation entirely.
Overall: YES! Functional, cute; I’m obsessed.
I cannot believe that I wasn’t presented with this option for menstrual products until I was 28 years old: behold the amazing menstrual cup. This is healthier for women, requires less maintenance, is less expensive, and is substantially better for the environment. I truly feel that B.P. (Big Period) doesn’t want us to find out about cups for the fear of losing one metric ton of money per year.
Overall: everyone has a different experience, but I will truly never be going back.
Getting a Library Card
Ah, the unexpected eco-ally: the library card. After realizing that not only was this substantially less expensive (read: it costs $0 to have a library card and the average paperback in 2022 is anywhere from $14.99-$16.99 per book) than impulsively buying every book I might want to read when I get the time, it also occurred to me that driving to my local library to rent books meant that I wasn’t shipping books from all over the world to take up space on my living room shelves until I eventually donate them. Not to mention, the library has a world of resources available to folks besides books (e-books, computers for use, Wifi, and more).
Food for thought: this article on the eco-impact of books.
Overall: highly recommend — for reasons that are more than being eco-friendly!
Bar Shampoo, Conditioner and Soap
I switched to bar shampoo, conditioner and soap when I thought about how many plastic bottles I was using every couple months. Even though they get recycled, isn’t it better to not buy them at all in the first place?
I have really enjoyed using both the shampoo and conditioner from HiBar, though found that because I have a lot of hair, the conditioner took a long time to work into my hair, which caused me to take longer showers and waste more water. The shampoo is a joy to use and I really enjoy it!
For soap, I started buying bars of soap in Whole Foods and putting them in these washable soap bags. When my soap runs out, I simply run them through the washing machine and they’re good as ever.
Overall: would recommend the bar shampoo; and if you don’t have Rapunzel-length or super thick hair, also the conditioner. Recommend washable soap bags!
While expensive, I cannot express how shocked I was to find that the lettuce I grew in my garden was still crispy three weeks after cutting it and putting it in my Stasher bag. These reusable silicon bags are perfect for storing produce in the fridge, hiking snacks, sandwich bags, and even storing my electronics or cables when we travel. I’ve also used them to keep my phone water-proof when out kayaking. I have loved them enough that I’ve gifted sets to my parents, who also love them.
Overall: worth the investment overall, though I believe there are non-brand-name alternatives that work just as well.
I purchased some adorable, reusable cloth napkins while I was at a shop called Green House Goods in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Mine have little bees on them and are folded neatly (most of the time) in my cabinet with my plates and bowls, so that I remember to use them.
I use these napkins all the time and am weirdly comforted that if we ever have a paper towel shortage, I will at least have these cute napkins that we can use over and over again. One thing worth noting: I got mine in a very light, ivory-esque color and while I love the design, some things (namely egg yolk) don’t ever seem to fully come out, no matter how many times through the wash. I’d recommend a darker color if it’s available.
Overall: highly recommend, if you’re going to use them.
Blueland Eco-Friendly Household Cleaning Products
I purchased these tablets and bottles last year after trying to cut out most of the plastic from my life. I enjoy the thought process behind them, and do feel that they work well. One thing I did notice is that I used one a lot quicker than the others, so I’m waiting until I’ve used all three to order replacements. Additionally, one of my spray nozzles broke pretty quickly — so not sure on how they’ll hold up over time.
Overall: If your goal is to use less plastic, these are a great alternative to traditional plastic bottle household cleaners.
There are also other sustainable habits that I partake in (bicycle commuting, growing my own vegetables, bringing silverware with me, avoiding buying seasonal decorations, picking up litter in my community, avoiding fast fashion when possible, etc.) but thought these were the more unique points that folks might like to know about if they’re considering making some sustainable switches.
Additionally, there are a lot of claims that living a more sustainable lifestyle is more cost-efficient. While I have found this to be the case in most cases, there are absolutely exceptions to this. The most eco-friendly thing we can do is research what we’re buying, why we’re buying it, and asking ourselves if there is a better alternative for said purchase. This Earth month, consider your impact, and which switches are worth it to you — even if they don’t stick forever.