We’ve all been social distancing and spending much more time in our apartments than we probably ever imagined. As unfortunate as the situation is, life in quarantine has also given us a chance to mindfully observe the everyday habits we’ve created for ourselves—most of which probably involve some form of plastic.
While the coronavirus has certainly created clear skies for the time being with the drop in air travel, the progress we have made with measures like the plastic bag ban is falling by the wayside. So in honor of Earth Day, we’ve found seven ways to be more sustainable at home, without a whole lot of headaches. The brands below offer simple swap-outs to “deplastify” your common household routines and say goodbye to single-use plastic bottles and brushes. We specifically sought alternatives created by small businesses, too, as this is a great time to show them support.
Doing the dishes
Whether you wash dishes by hand or in the dishwasher (lucky you!), the products necessary for a proper cleaning usually come in a lot of plastic packaging, either as a large plastic container of liquid dish soap or in individual plastic pods.
When washing your dishes by hand, a brush from Package Free Shop is a great replacement for plastic sponges. This brush with a smaller handle and bowl from Sur La Table would be great for any size apartment, where counter space may be tight. We also love this Wild Minimalist Wood Dish Brush because of the design of its head, which is also replaceable.
If you’re living the dishwasher dream life in New York, you can go completely plastic-free with tablets, like these 100% biodegradable ones from Cleancult, or you can use their dish soap. We love their refillable containers and how transparent they are about the materials they use.
Electric toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash—if you’ve been using all of those more than once a day, we applaud you on keeping up a stellar oral hygiene routine! But each of those items is made up of or contained in plastic we inevitably have to throw out.
Instead of a single-use plastic toothbrush, bamboo toothbrushes are now all the rage. We’re fans of the OLAS toothbrush available at Credo Beauty because it’s 100% biodegradable. We also love the Brush with Bamboo company for providing toothbrushes for both adults and children, and being all types of sustainability-certified, (Green America Certified Business and USDA Certified Biobased Products to name a few).
We’ve been used to the classic toothpaste in a tube and mouthwash in a bottle combo because that’s all we’ve ever known, but we love seeing companies find solutions to going plastic-free while still keeping our teeth clean. Try Mouthwash tablets from Package Free shop if you’re looking to freshen your breath with simple ingredients. And powder toothpaste is becoming a thing these days with brands like Bite, who is making fun-flavored toothpaste bits that just require you to bite down and start brushing.
We hadn’t really thought about dental floss and how it has absolutely no chance of ever being recycled. Luckily, there are now companies creating zero waste floss out of unique ingredients in refillable glass containers. Package Free shop’s Dental Floss is made of mulberry silk and vegan candelilla wax, while EcoRoot’s Zero Waste Floss is bamboo-based.
Storing your leftovers or packing a picnic
While you’re preparing and eating all of your meals at home, you may start to realize how much package waste has gone into the lunches you previously brought to work or bought out. Living in New York, we have the luxury of so many dining options it can be hard to realize how much waste we produce on a regular basis, even from the most well-intentioned restaurants. As Americans become more conscious of the single-use plastic and general waste that’s produced from taking food on the go, a lot of companies are creating interesting solutions to the problem.
For containers, we love the tiffin, a staple of Indian culture that’s now sold by several sustainability-focused companies. We like the range of stainless steel containers from Plastic Free shop. Or try Inka, a new line of lunch bags and food containers specifically designed for people who want to elevate their lunch bag to something more stylish as a standalone purse. Their Lunch Kit is perfect for a (socially distanced) picnic in the park.
If you’re looking for solutions to wrap up your leftovers, there are plenty of simple and natural solutions to the old plastic wrap game. Sheets of beeswax wrap, like this one found at Zero Waste Store are good for covering up sandwiches, fruits and veggies, medium-sized plates, etc., while linen and cotton bread and bowl covers, like these from Food52, let you cover serving bowls easily or extend the life of that sourdough loaf you braved your life for at the farmer’s market.
If you already have a sizable collection of tote bags, all folded into one large tote bag maybe under our bed or hanging on a hook in our hall closet, you can skip this one. If you do need a new bag, though, our favorite brand is Junes Bags, a company working with an all-female sewing co-op in Ciudad, Mexico, who a donates to causes fighting violence against women in Mexico. Other staple reusable bags we love are from BAGGU and Eco Bags, perfect for larger shopping trips or just grabbing a few fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
Washing your hands, face, and body
We’d be remiss not to mention the importance of good quality sustainable soap during this strange time in the world. And while the most important thing is that you have access to any kind of soap to wash your hands regularly, there are plenty of small brands to support who are making package-free soaps with high-grade ingredients. Terra-tory is a local company making soap best suited to sensitive and eczema-prone skin, Linear Beauty’s Oatmeal and Turmeric Soap is great for everyone, from babies to pregnant bellies, and Package Free shop’s Body Soap Bar comes in a variety of unique scents for your shower. Soapply’s hand soap does double duty as a sustainable product that is also charitable; part of the proceeds from their products go toward shipping its soap to countries where it’s in short supply.
View this post on Instagram
Final smell tests in the office for two new Foaming Hand Soap scents! Dropping Thursday 🙌🏼😏 The first person to guess both scent names wins a year supply of Foaming Hand Soap! (US only) Follow along on Stories for hints throughout the day! Music: bedtime after coffee by Barradeen Our contest is now closed. Stay tuned for our winner when we reveal our new scents!
For a refillable bottle option best for handwashing, Blueland has created a non-toxic foaming soap that comes in tablet form. Just drop it into your reusable glass bottle filled with water and this method can be repeated over and over rather than buying new dispensers of soap when you run out. And our favorite “everything soap” from washing the dishes to the dog is by Follain, one of the founding clean beauty stores in the nation. Follain’s Refillable Everything Soap passes the strict test of chemicals they ban from their products, and the bottle can be brought into their West Village shop once again to be refilled when empty (as soon as businesses re-open).
Washing your hair
For a long time, when it came to revitalizing our hair, we didn’t have a better option than the large single-use plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner. But now the soap craze has begun, and you can choose from Human Kind’s shampoo and conditioner soaps as well as Whidbey Island Natural’s Shampoo Bars (a tiny mom and pop brand that knows how to make natural products that work), as well as Ethique’s Eco-Friendly Solid Shampoo Bar that has a 4.5-star rating of over 2,000 reviews on Amazon.
Plastic-free TP, one day
Toilet paper is in such high demand right now, we understand if this is not an item on your shopping list that you need to make sustainable right now.
In fact, even if you wanted to avoid plastic-wrapped TP, all the sustainable solutions we sourced, from brands like Reel to the cheeky Who Gives a Crap, are temporarily sold out though you can sign up for their waiting lists.
Wherever you’re at in your sustainability journey, it’s important to remember that we’re all working on it at our own pace. Whether you’re officially going zero waste, or just starting to kick some wasteful habits, keep experimenting and exploring the products that make sense for you right now. When we emerge from this pandemic, we’ll be ready to focus again on climate change, the invisible threat we’re still trying to cure.