Many common household products are not good for the planet. They may contain harmful chemicals that end up in our waterways, or they may be made from materials made by big polluters. Fortunately, there are excellent eco-friendly alternatives. Here are 11 of the best common household products you can find with sustainable options.
1. Reusable alternatives for paper products.Reusable paper towels herfive trees, and they are more durable and absorbent than standard paper towels. Reusable pads are inexpensive and easy to make yourself, even without a sewing machine. Swap disposable disinfectant wipes for homemade disinfectant liquid and rags made from old cotton t-shirts.
2. Reusable food storage. Instead of packing your son’s lunch in disposable plastic sandwich bags or plastic wrap, opt for a reusable storage cube or resealable silicone sandwich bags and small plastic snack containers. Beeswax wrap or glass storage containers can be used for leftovers or storing cut produce.
3. Compostable disposable items. If the situation calls for disposables, try to select the options that will do the least harm. Styrofoam cups do not biodegrade and plastic plates generally cannot be recycled. In many municipalities, a recycling symbol at the bottom does not necessarily mean that the red disposable plastic cup is actually recyclable. Often that mug still ends up in a landfill. It is now common for retailers to offer compostable plastic cups or biodegradable paper plates and bowls. Cutlery can be made from bamboo or corn plastic which can go in the compost bin with food scraps.
4. Ecological laundry products. The laundry detergent sheets have no plastic packaging and the cardboard packaging is biodegradable. These easy-to-use solubles laundry detergent sheets are efficient and space-saving. Instead of disposable dryer sheets, try reusable dryer balls made from sustainably harvested wool, bamboo/hemp blend, silicone, and more. Dryer balls reduce static electricity and you can add essential oils to give your fluffy laundry a fresh scent. Dryer balls also save energy by reducing drying time.
5. Homemade cleaning products. Some of the most used natural cleaning products are probably already in your pantry: white vinegar, baking soda, sea salt and lemon. White vinegar can be used to clean mirrors and glass, or use it in your bathroom to prevent mold growth. Baking soda can be used as a gentle but effective scouring powder for cleaning the tub or kitchen sink. Lemon juice can be used to clean everything from electric kettles to taps to floors. You can also mix lemon juice with olive oil to make homemade furniture polish.
6. Eco-friendly spray mop. Instead of using a spray mop that uses disposable pads and harsh chemical cleaning solutions, try a version that uses a reusable microfiber pad. Some options include a refillable reservoir that you can fill with your favorite natural or homemade floor cleaning solution. When you’re done mopping, toss the reusable pad in the wash and repeat.
7. Homemade bar soap in small batches. The large-scale manufacturing process of bar soap can lead to pollution of our soils and waterways. However, there are many handmade soap brands that use all-natural ingredients and do not pollute during their small-batch process. Find these makers at your local store, health food co-op, farmers market, or arts and crafts fair.
8. Organic cotton washcloths and towels. Organic cotton is a luxurious and functional material for bath linen. Washcloths, hand towels, bath towels and bath sheets are all widely available in organic cotton. Treat yourself to a soft and absorbent organic cotton bathrobe and feel good knowing you’re doing something good for the planet.
9. Rechargeable batteries. Batteries aren’t going away any time soon. It seems like we still need batteries for everything. Our children need batteries for their walkie-talkies and remote control cars; our TV remotes use batteries; and often your mouse or keyboard is running on battery power. Instead of buying disposable batteries, buy a set of rechargeable batteries with a charger. Rechargeable batteries are available in AA, AAA, C, D and 9V.
10. Energy efficient lighting. LED bulbs have come a long way since their release. They are now available in many different wattages, but be sure to compare the equivalent wattage to the wattage of the incandescent you wish to replace in order to get the appropriate amount of lumens. LED bulbs are available in a wide range of color temperatures, shapes and sizes. Edison-style LED bulbs were once lower quality, with a distinct yellow tint to the filament, but they’ve also evolved in technology and look more realistic with a soft, warm glow.
11. Dispose of pests safely. Instead of toxic insect-killing chemical sprays, which can be harmful to pollinators, wildlife, and pets, you can use food-grade diatomaceous earth in a garden duster to rid your plants of unwanted pests. You can also dust around your house and in your lawn to deter ants and other insects. You can also protect your plants with organic pest control sprays, which use different bacteria and fungi to prevent your plants from being damaged by common garden critters. At home, you can apply essential oils like cinnamon or eucalyptus around window sills and baseboards and on doorsteps to deter house-loving insects.
Whether you go big and replace all the incandescent bulbs in your home with LEDs, or start small in to changehas a sustainable laundry detergentevery step you take towards sustainability brings us that much closer to a healthier planet for all.