Waste not, want not. It’s an adage that we don’t hear much in our current disposable society, but it’s time to bring it back. Americans produce 4.5 pounds of trash per day — far above the global average of 1.6 pounds per day — and much of it ends up in landfills. Cutting unsustainable and unhealthy products out of your life reduces the amount of household waste you produce and helps to protect the environment — and you and your family, too. Make exchanges like these part of your New Year’s resolutions:
Swap single-use plastic water bottles for glass or aluminum.
Sometimes you can’t avoid single-use products, like when you’re on the go. Instead of plastic, which can only be recycled a few times (or not at all, depending on the type), opt for something that can be recycled over and over, such as glass or aluminum. A plastic bottle will eventually end up in a landfill, even after being recycled a few times, so choosing items that can be recycled infinitely is a better choice for the environment.
Swap plastic grocery bags for reusable totes and produce bags.
Single-use plastic bags are simply not recyclable, which is one reason they were banned in many locations before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Research shows there are over two trillion bits of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean, contaminating our water and killing wildlife. When you BYOB (bring your own bag), you have a washable, reusable, eco-friendly method of carrying your groceries.
Swap dryer sheets for wool dryer balls.
Dryer balls fluff your clothes as they bounce about, allowing more air flow than a dryer sheet so that your clothes dry evenly. They reduce static and lift away lint and fur, which is exactly what dryer sheets claim to do. And the fiber balls can be used over and over. Dryer sheets, on the other hand, are coated in chemicals that can increase the flammability of your clothes and linens, reduce dryer efficiency, and sicken pets, and once they’re used, they’re trash.
Swap paper towels for bamboo paper towels (or better yet, reusable cloths).
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth. It needs little water or care, unlike trees. Its roots can help prevent soil erosion, its fibers are strong, and it’s lightweight and surprisingly flame-resistant.
Swap single-use Keurig pods for a reusable coffee pod.
They’re quick and convenient, but each Keurig pod is a plastic container meant to be used once and thrown away. You can recycle them if you’re willing to take the time to pull them apart into their separate components, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the Keurig, doesn’t it? Instead, choose reusable pods that can be washed and refilled with your favorite brew over and over. (Use a regular coffee pot? Swap paper coffee filters for a reusable one.)
Swap plastic baggies and cling wrap for reusable glass containers or beeswax wraps.
Silicone bags are also a great swap. Beeswax wraps, generally sheets of cotton infused with the wax, natural oils, and tree resin, are reusable, self-sticking, and compostable.
Swap liquid shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash for these products in bar form.
Get rid of plastic bottles in the shower forever! Toiletry bars generally contain all-natural ingredients, come wrapped in recyclable materials, and last longer than bottled products.
Swap incandescent bulbs for LEDs.
The U.S. Department of Energy says that LEDs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs emit less heat, and many use plastic to encase the light element rather than glass, making them safer too.
Swap harsh chemicals for all-natural cleaners.
Packaged cleaning solutions are often nothing more than a lot of water mixed with harsh and even toxic chemicals. Clean green with white vinegar, lemon, and baking soda for a sparkling and healthy home.