20 Sustainable Swaps for 2020

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

In the past few years many of us, myself included, have opened our eyes to how much our daily choices effect our planet. And slowly but surely, we've begun to change some of our actions, such as trying to use less plastic or reduce the animal products we consume. So if you're still at the beginning of your journey to a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I wanted to provide a list of some simple changes that you can integrate into your daily routine, that will make a more powerful impact than they seem.

1. Always bring a reusable shopping bag

Plastic bags are a huge contributor to pollution, especially in our oceans. Try keeping reusable bags in your car or purse, and always bring them with you when you shop. If you still have plastic bags that you've kept to reuse, try and think of ways you can do so more than once. For example, I will sometimes use my old plastic bags to store my shoes when I travel or wet swimsuit when I go to the beach, this way they can be reused for this purpose several times. Keep in mind that most plastic bags are not recyclable!

2. Carry a reusable water bottle

If you drink a lot of water and are still using plastic water bottles, you're likely going through so many each day! Try bringing a reusable water bottle when you go out and filling it before you leave the house. There are more and more places that provide water bottle refill stations, coffee shops or restaurants are usually a good bet.

3. Carry a reusable coffee cup

Most disposable coffee cups are made of plastic. Even the paper ones that hot coffee comes in are actually lined with plastic, meaning there is no way for them to be recycled. So if you do buy coffee out of the house, bringing a reusable cup or mug is a great way to cut back on unnecessary waste.

4. Use reusable cutlery and straws instead of plastic "disposable" ones

Something I was thinking about the other day is how weird it is that plastic cutlery is considered disposable. They basically never go away, and if you were to throw out metal or wooden utensils after one use, that would be considered strange, even though those would actually biodegrade over time. Yes you may have to wash reusable cutlery after each time you use it, but that's something I personally don't mind, I do it with my utensils I use at home anyway. You can easily find sets of reusable cutlery from Amazon or just use metal ones you already have at home.

5. Use compostable cutlery instead of plastic

If you prefer the convenience of single use cutlery because you don't want to have to carry around dirty ones or have to bother washing them, compostable single use cutlery is the next best thing. Even if you are still putting compostable utensils in the garbage when you're done with them, it's a whole lot better than plastic.

6. Use reusable sandwich bags and Tupperware

There's no need for single use plastic sandwich bags with all of the amazing reusable food container and bag options on the market these days. Silicone bags are a great alternative for storing those items that you'd usually put into sandwich bags, you can easily get them on Amazon. And try buying food containers in all different sizes, that way you can use them for things like the other half of an avocado you didn't use or a handful of almonds to bring to work as a snack.

7. Use rags or washcloths in place of paper towels

While paper is arguably not as harmful to the planet as plastic, it does come from trees (which we only need in order to breathe). To cut back on paper towels, try using rags or washcloths instead. Recently when one of my favorite cotton shirts got stained with bleach, instead of throwing it in the trash, I cut it up into squares to use to clean things around the house. It makes me happy that my shirt is still serving a purpose by dusting off my plants or wiping up a water spill.

8. Buy drinks in cans or glass bottles

If you're out and craving a drink that isn't water, try to at least look for an option that doesn't come in a plastic bottle. Cans are more likely to be recycled than plastic bottles, and glass bottles can be reused at home or recycled as well.

9. Shop for clothing second hand

Second hand doesn't mean second best! I've found some amazing items that have become my favorite clothing pieces from thrift shops. So not only is it better for the earth, but you can get great deals on your favorite brands that maybe you don't consider affordable otherwise. You can even shop second hand online with website like Poshmark.

10. Buy clothes from sustainable companies

Supporting smaller and more sustainable brands creates more market demand for these sort of items. This can create a much more powerful impact than you think. It's also much more ethical to support a slow fashion brand than a fast fashion one. And while these items do often come at a higher price point, you can feel good about where your money is going.

11. Buy higher quality clothes

If pricey sustainable brands is not an option for you at this time, try to at least purchase higher quality items. You can do this by shopping for these items at thrift stores, or stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx, which offer designer clothes at a lower price point. Buying higher quality clothing items means they will last much longer and therefore contribute less waste.

12. Opt for email receipts over paper ones

Did you know that paper receipts are actually not recyclable? That's because they are lined with BPA plastic, you know, the type you try to avoid when purchasing reusable plastic water bottles and food containers? So if stores give you the option to receive an email receipt instead, go for it! Most of the time the "paper" ones just end up going in the trash can anyway.

13. Use bar soap instead of body wash

I've always been a fan of bar soap over body wash, personally. It's just another unnecessary plastic product that could easily be replaced with regular soap.

14. Use shampoo and conditioner bars

While I have yet to try a bar of conditioner, switching to at least a bar of shampoo is a great way to cut back of plastic waste from your personal care routine. LUSH and Ethique have some great options.

15. Use makeup remover pads instead of makeup wipes

Recently I found out just how bad makeup wipes are for the environment. They can't be recycled and usually contain plastic fibers. A more sustainable option is reusable makeup remover pads. Not only do they work amazingly, they're also way softer than disposable makeup wipes.

16. Use bamboo cotton swabs instead of plastic ones

Did you know that a lot of cotton swabs have a plastic handle? And while you can opt for ones with paper handles, which is better, bamboo is more sustainable because of how quickly and easily it can be grown. You can find bamboo cotton swabs on Amazon.

17. Use a bamboo toothbrush

Plastic toothbrushes are normally used for only a few months before they are replaced. And they never go away! While today's bamboo toothbrush options aren't perfect since the bristles are still plastic, they are still a much better option.

18. Use toothpaste tabs and biodegradable floss

Empty toothpaste tubes are basically impossible to recycle, so that's why switching over to toothpaste tablets is a great idea. I buy ones that come in a little glass jar that can be reused. And did you know that floss is made out of plastic too? That's why I switched over to a biodegradable floss that is made using corn, and comes in a cute glass and metal container instead of a plastic one.

19. Use public transportation, bike, skate or walk when possible

Since I currently live in New York, I am blessed with the option of being able to take the train to many of the places I need to go. If this isn't an option for you, try opting for the bus, biking, skating or walking whenever possible.

20. Eat a more plant based diet

One of the number one ways you can reduce your carbon footprint is by eating a plant based diet. And while I understand that not everyone is ready or willing to go completely vegan, cutting back your consumption of animal products in any way is a great step. Nowadays there are so many amazing vegan options all over the place!

Remember, even if you only adopt one or two of these switches into your life, you're still making a difference and providing a positive example for those around you. The world doesn't need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, it needs a bunch of people making small changes for the better each and everyday.

Disclaimer: While this post is not sponsored, some of the links are affiliate links. This means if you purchase a product I recommend through these links, I make a small percentage of the sale.

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