When we start to take notice of how much lasting household trash we’re generating, we realize that the amounts aren’t small and can be greatly reduced with a little bit of planning. Every little bit helps, so we start looking for simple swaps to make that reduce our impact. Here are seven ways to reduce environmental burden that we generate in our homes, with simple trades that work as well or better than the chemical-laden or single-use versions.
1. Instead of: Disposable zip-top bags
Use: Reusable silicon zip bags
Disposable zip-top bags are convenient and have hundreds of uses. But, think of how many you use over the course of a year for snacks, packed lunches, food storage, travel, organization … the list goes on. It adds up to a lot of plastic trash.
Swap them out for reusable silicon zip bags. They can be pricey, but buying one or two at a time a few times a year can really build your stash and gradually cut down on your plastic waste. Eventually, you’ll use reusable storage bags almost exclusively.
2. Instead of: Buying new furniture
Use: Secondhand finds
New furniture isn’t always environmentally friendly. Lumber, fill, and fabric or leather could be hard on the environment, depending on sourcing. It’s almost impossible to find 100% sustainable furniture, and when you do find it, it’s not exactly affordable.
If you buy used furniture, you reduce your environmental impact in two ways:
- You’re saving a piece from the landfill
- You’re reducing the demand for a new piece to be manufactured.
These apply even if the piece wasn’t made sustainably at the outset. Getting more mileage out of a piece that was already made, no matter how it was made, reduces its impact in a way.
With some searching and patience, you can get really great pieces that have been gently used. Unique vintage furniture holds up well and can add a quirky character to your spaces.
3. Instead of: Tea bags
Use: Loose tea
You may be surprised to learn that something the size of a tea bag is a significant source of microplastic pollution. Research shows that a single teabag can release around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into your cup of tea. You end up sipping it, and when you toss your bag, a portion of these microplastics end up in the wastewater system.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite sips forever. Simply switch to loose tea that you steep using a tea ball, tea strainer, or infuser. The best part is, you can get creative with making your own tea blends since you’re not limited to what’s in the bag.
For a tasty afternoon pick-me-up without the single-use tea bag, try Lakanto® Matcha Latte Drink Mix. Simply stir into your favorite hot or cold milk alternative and sip!
4. Instead of: Harsh chemical cleaners
Use: DIY household products
Many household products are made with harsh chemicals that could pollute the air and water and potentially harm plants and animals, even after you’ve washed them down the drain. Some cleaning formulas could also contain endocrine disruptors and otherwise affect your body with long-term repeated use.
That doesn’t mean you have to choose between living in filth and cleaning your home with products that work. The good news is, you can clean almost anything with a few simple ingredients that you probably have already:
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Castille soap
- Lemon and other essential oils
Do a search for DIY cleaning solutions and you’ll find that most recipes call for some combination of these four ingredients. Experiment with different recipes that you find and see what works for you.
5. Instead of: Chemical drain cleaner
Use: Vinegar and baking soda
One can assume that anything that’s designed to dissolve pipe blockages is made of some pretty harsh stuff.
With some regular maintenance, you shouldn’t need it. Pouring a little baking soda down your drain and following it with vinegar could keep gunk from building up in your pipes. (Remember kitchen volcano science projects?) It may not be strong enough to clear a significant blockage, but if you do it regularly, it can help keep your drainage running smoothly.
6. Instead of: Plastic wrap
Use: Beeswax food wraps
Plastic wrap may be convenient and effective, but after a few days of useful life, it sticks around for up to hundreds of years.
Instead of plastic, try reusable food wraps. They are made of beeswax and cloth, and come in various sizes and adorable prints to suit any kitchen. If you’re feeling crafty, you can also make your own with come cloth squares, cosmetic-grade beeswax, and an oven. Look for easy tutorials online.
Reusable food wrap won’t help keep foods like raw meats fresh for long periods, but it is effective for covering leftovers that will be eaten in the next day or two, or wrapping lunch items that will be consumed same-day.
7. Instead of: Dryer sheets
Use: Wool dryer balls
Dryer sheets do triple duty to the environment. First, they’re a single-use product, which means they go into the trash once the load is dry. Second, chemicals from dryer sheets can build up in places in your dryer, like the lint screen, and make your dryer run less efficiently. The chemicals could also have health effects in some people over time.
Instead, wool dryer balls accomplish everything that dryer sheets accomplish without the extra trash and chemicals. They get rid of static and wrinkles, they soften fabrics, and they help your dryer run more efficiently by creating space between fabrics, which cuts down on drying time.
A plumber friend of mine recommends that one of the best kitchen drain prevention practices he knows is to pour a good-sized pot of hot boiling water down your kitchen drain every day or two to prevent grease build-up. Boiling water is significantly hotter than the hot water faucet therefore works much better to stop grease from collecting . He also advises to Not wash your hair in the kitchen sink because the less expensive methods to break apart grease sometimes can not be used if there is also a hair build-up in the same drain.
It is good to know that all of these idea have been practiced in my home growing up and now 31 years into marriage. These are economical home practices from generations. I have not used the bees wax wraps because that is not how I store food in my refrigerator. I learned most if not all of these ideas in Home Economics in elementary school.
For the dryer balls, you can add a safety pin to to prevent static. Just attach to one of the wool balls.