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24 Easy & Affordable Ways to Get a Little More “Green” at Home


photo by David Tsay for Styled | from: how to add personality to a white kitchen

Last week during our brainstorming session, the team agreed that talking more about eco-everything and aiming to make more environmentally friendly changes in our everyday lives should be a 2019 goal. Great. No problem because I for one create no waste. No boxes ever arrive at my house, and they definitely aren’t full of plastic bubble wrap. But seriously this subject can be tricky because I find that a lot of the best eco-friendly products are expensive and recommending products that are super expensive for your basic needs aren’t really my jam. Besides, is there anything we can say here that you guys don’t already know?

We’re all told to not buy disposable anything. Don’t put a chemical near a body hole or on a surface of your house, and for goodness sake, if your cocktail has a plastic straw in it, you must quickly pull it out and jab the waiter’s eyes or closest organ with it. (I’m actually extremely anti-straw but was just at a restaurant in the mountains who thought this new law was ridiculous and gave them out anyway and I was like “I DID NOT ASK FOR ONE PLEASE REMOVE IT” in my nice EH manner).

But I was quickly reminded that one of the best traits about being a millennial (of which I am not) is their persistent care about the environment. My issue is I don’t want to be preachy, pretentious, and general “liberal hipster.” Ryann, our resident passionate millennial reminded me though that going more green doesn’t HAVE to mean buying $40 hand soap and being self-righteous. It can be a lot of affordable, simple day-to-day switches that are easy to accomplish. So I’ll hand it over to her to recommend 24 products that make going green, easier in 2019.

Hey all, Ryann here, making my EHD debut on a subject that I care VERY much about. It seems as if every day, I go online I see a headline that essentially screams at me THE EARTH IS DYING AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT. As much as I know that is not entirely true it is hard to not to feel guilty when I, you know, use a plastic straw. The slightly embarrassing thing is, I do use plastic straws (and plastic water bottles) way more than I should despite knowing that doing so adds to a heaping amount of waste. So in the spirit of 2019 and all this “new year, new me” talk, I am finally making a real effort to go green.

If you are on the same wave, or if you are not quite on board with the eco-friendly thing yet (because change is hard and I get that), we pulled together a list of affordable products that will hopefully help you make the switch. This is not a “no plastic, zero waste” roundup, because we’re not experts and there are a lot of things to consider. What this is is a place to start with small changes. Swapping out your laundry detergent for something biodegradable; saying no to plastic zipper bags in place of reusable ones; making the move away from paper towels…small changes that can make a difference if only we all did a little every day.

Before we really get going though, I want to bring up the waste that comes with shipping and specifically that go-to online store that is notorious for using way too much plastic in their packaging (you know the one). Frankly, I understand the convenience of shopping online creates a hard habit to break, and I personally feel like if we start small with reducing waste in our own homes, then we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about things out of our control. However, if you are still feeling iffy about it, my best advice is to click the option at checkout that bundles your items into as few packages as possible (though that does mean waiting a day or two more to get it all).

Okay, now let’s get into it.

Cleaning Products:

You have your beautiful, perfectly styled home so, of course, you want to keep it clean and sparkly. The thing is, not only do we need to worry about waste, we also have to worry about polluting the environment with toxins. Luckily for us, there are brands that do a lot of the leg work when it comes to making affordable natural and sustainable products. Let’s dive in.

Emily Henderson earth friendly products

Organic Wool Dryer Balls: These will replace your single-use dryer sheets which basically means you have one less thing to buy at the grocery store. (Hot tip: Splash a few drops of your favorite essential oil on them for the best smelling laundry ever). Also, they are supposed to reduce drying time.

Concentrated Laundry Detergent: A little goes a long way with this detergent so you can save your money and buy yourself something nice. You deserve it! Also: Dye-free, phosphate-free, bleach-free, animal by-product-free, contains naturally derived ingredients, vegan and paraben-free.

Soap Nuts: If you’re only just dipping your toe into creating a more sustainable, earth-friendly, waste-free (or reduced) home, this one might throw you, but if you’ve been in the game a while and are looking to step things up, welcome to soap nuts. They’re actually a berry that has a natural cleaning agent. They are said to remove odors (instead of masking them) and soften clothes so you don’t need chemical-filled laundry detergent. You throw 5-6 of them into your wash in a muslin satchel, and that set can be used about five times before being spent (and are compostable after that).

Reusable Paper Towels: I am admittedly an abuser of paper towels which I realize is counterproductive to my going greener goals. I recently switched to these reusable ones and I promise you my life has changed for the better. Mostly because I am not running to the store weekly for more rolls of paper towels. They’re made of bamboo (which is sustainable), and one 20-sheet roll is said to replace 60 rolls of traditional paper towels. I have set aside a container in my kitchen to stash dirty sheets, then just throw them in the wash with my regular towels and reuse.

Natural Paper Towels: If you think reusing paper towels are too much work and not for you, I hear you but there’s still hope to be had. Consider these bad boys that are made from unbleached, 100% recycled paper. (They are also compostable for those of you that are way ahead of the game).

Glass Spray Bottle: Maybe by this point, you are already ready to start making your own cleaning solutions from scratch. If that’s the case, first of all, I applaud you and second, you’ll need to stock up on some spray bottles. This one is made from recycled, lead-free glass and is also great for stirring up concentrated cleaning solutions like this one.

Emily Henderson earth friendly products

Glass Cleaner: Seriously you guys, there are so many brands that are committed to making plant-derived, sustainable products, it’s making my job almost too easy. Common Good is one of those brands that you can blindly pick any of their products and you will be doing the earth (and yourself!) a huge favor. Their glass cleaner is readily biodegradable (which just means it breaks down quickly and leaves no negative traces on the earth).

Reusable Sponge: I never realized how many sponges I went through until I made the switch to reusable. Honestly, why was I buying so many sponges? Also, how annoying is it when you realize you just threw away your last sponge and you have a sink full of dishes. So annoying. This one should last you about 4 to 6 months, and we recommend throwing into the laundry every few days with your regular wash (just let it air dry, no dryer). When it’s time for another, you can recycle it (the Etsy listing says a fabric bank will take it) or cut it into small pieces and compost it.

Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap: Biodegradable and plant-derived dish soap makes for the start of an eco-friendly household. Mrs. Meyer’s products are quickly becoming my go-to (I use their hand soap, too) because they are good for the earth and smell AMAZING. To further reduce waste, buy the concentrates (like this multi-surface cleaner that lasts FOR.EV.ER.) and use a reusable glass spritz bottle with the prepared solution.

Dish Soap Dispenser & Brush Set: Made from renewable bamboo, recycled plastic and recycled sterling silver, this set is actually beautiful and goes perfectly with your environmentally friendly dish soap, of course.

All-Purpose Cleaner: This all-purpose cleaner by Method has all the certifications you’d want from your cleaning products. It is free of phthalates and parabens, cruelty-free, biodegradable, non-toxic, and plant-based. What’s even better is it’s inexpensive and can be found at pretty much every grocery store ever. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world so this affordable, accessible option comes in a plastic bottle like so many others (ugh). BUT if you are interested in finding out why Method is a better option than other chemical-using brands, go here.

Recycled, Degradable Trash Bags: Trash bags are a necessary evil because let’s face it, it’s INSANELY hard to live a zero-waste lifestyle. So since we have to use them, it’s at least good to know there are options that are a little friendlier to our dear earth than traditional plastic ones. These are made of 100% recycled plastic, are oxo-biodegradable and degrade within 5 years (which means the stuff inside of it will also have a chance to biodegrade).

Food Prep & Storage:

So much waste comes with how we make, store and ultimately consume our food. We’ve all heard about the 600,000 SQUARE MILE island of trash that currently lives in our ocean, right? That number is horrifyingly bad so we did our best to pull products that will encourage us all to reuse, reuse, reuse. Here goes:

Emily Henderson earth friendly products

Reusable Grocery Bags: California banned single-use plastic bags almost five years ago now, so us hippies over here on the west coast are used to toting around reusable grocery bags. If you’re looking to re-up or grow your collection (or just want to transition from relying on paying 10 cents for each bag you take home with you from the grocery store), Baggu has really great options. They have a one-year rip-free guarantee, plus these fold up really small (5″x5″) so you can keep a few in your car, in your purse, and at home without taking up too much space.

Mesh Produce Bags: Raise your hand if you’re done with plastic produce bags. Okay, enough of you didn’t raise your hands, so we’ll help you out. This set has nine mesh bags that each hold up to 11 pounds, come in three sizes, can go straight into your fridge, and, because the mesh lets the produce breathe, your fruits and veggies will last longer (yay for less food waste).

HydroFlask: You can’t be climate-conscious without a trusty reusable water bottle. I am not kidding when I say everyone in our office is obsessed with their Hydro Flasks. Note: These are on the expensive side, so if you are like some of us and are known to lose things regularly, maybe try this cheaper option first.

Stainless Steel Utensils: Repeat after me: single-use plastics are not our friends. Stash this cute little set (that comes with a straw, too) in your purse or backpack to avoid using plastic cutlery. Your friends and coworkers will be so impressed.

Mason Jars: Mason jars may just be the unsung hero of food prep and storage. I think they are great because you can buy them in bulk, store refrigerated and non-refrigerated items in them, and they make you look super hip. Also, you can prep full blown meals in them for on-the-go lunching. That means no more buying plastic wrapped salads, sandwiches, SOUPS, etc., on your lunch break.

BPA Free Drinking Lids: Yet another use for Mason jars. Just slip these on your mason jar to take all your liquids on the go (and for bonus points, bring in your lidded jar to your favorite juice or smoothie place to avoid using throw-away plastic cups).

Emily Henderson earth friendly products

Glass Storage Container Set: Need I say it? These are EHD-approved and perfect for souping. Store and reheat all in one container because less dishes to wash equals less water usage and more time to spend doing anything but dishes. 

Reusable Storage Bags: If you have a habit of using plastic baggies for everything (like me), here is your solution. All you have to do is hand wash and keep on reusing (are you noticing a trend here?).

Beeswax Wrap: Say goodbye to plastic wrap, my friends. Beeswax wrap is the new everything. You can store virtually any and all foods with this stuff and avoid using plastic altogether. Just warm it up a little in your hands and when it cools off, it creates a seal to keep food fresh.

Fresh Vegetable Storage bags: Anyone else feel hopeless because buying vegetables and eating them before the time they go bad is seemingly impossible and also wasting food is equally as bad as using plastic? Say no more. 100% organic cotton vegetable bags that actually keep your veggies fresh longer. Yes, these are pricey, but we’ve heard amazing things and the money you spend here will hopefully pay for itself in less food waste.

Reusable Coffee Filter: If you still have a Mr. Coffee like me, there really is no reason to buy single-use coffee filters ever again. This reusable one works just as well AND saves you from getting in trouble for forgetting to buy coffee filters at the grocery store.

The Simply Vegetarian Cookbook: Michael and I are the resident vegetarians here at EHD and I’ll tell you why we both stick to it: cutting meat out of your diet is the single most effective thing you can do for the environment as an individual. Hopefully, you didn’t completely tune it out at the sight of the word vegetarian, because even if you eat LESS meat, you are doing a great thing for the earth. Anywho, if you are interested in cutting meat from your diet, this cookbook is a great place to get started.

EMILY HERE…See? It’s all about little affordable changes and switches but if everyone did it, it would make a big difference in our environment (and our commerce). So after reading this post, I’m going to task myself to make the following switches in 2019:

  • Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap
  • Mesh grocery store produce bags instead of one-use plastic
  • No more paper or plastic grocery bags (I’m already pretty good at this)
  • Buy any and all detergents and soaps in bulk when possible. I got this company’s line as a gift and LOVE how it smelled and worked and I plan on rebuying ASAP.
  • Try my hand at composting (and crossing my fingers it doesn’t make my house smell like garbage.)
  • And for THE MOST challenging one: NO MORE PAPER TOWELS. I’m not sure how a mom of two is supposed to do this but I’m going to try very hard, and worst case is if I can’t (I mean, Brian doesn’t know about this) I’m going to buy biodegradable ones and compost them.

So…what do you think? Are you willing to make some of these changes? What is something you just cannot get on board with? (don’t worry, none of us are judging). We would LOVE to hear your guys’ favorite eco-friendly products/zero-waste tips so please share in the comments below. Also, what other lifestyle changes are you making this year?! TELL ME YOUR SECRETS. 

Fin Mark


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I highly recommend the book Climate Justice by Mary Robinson. It’s not “hipster liberal” to care about the planet our kids will hopefully inherit. This is a serious issue.

Loveley of

thank you for saying this. i hate when environmentalism is painted as a liberal thing. it’s a survival thing. for us and all the other living things on the planet. including conservatives. it’s a human thing.


I am a Canadian Christian and taking care of God’s creation is a natural and necessary extension of my faith. So I would second that people from all across the board should be concerned and working towards this.


This is such an important point. Thank you! Labelling environmental consciousness as something only a certain type of person cares about is polarizing.

We all share this earth regardless of political leanings. If there’s one thing that should bring us together, it should be saving our home for our children!

Herself in Dublin

I haven’t read the book, but I am a huge Mary Robinson fan. She is in no way a hipster, she was the first female President of Ireland and she was the UN Commissioner for Human Rights too. And in addition to the book she has founded the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justine (I’m Irish, we’re very proud of her).


Also Irish and also very proud of Mary. She is the most inspiring woman


SO excited about this!! Please, all of the vegan/veggie/eco/green posts :))). My experience: Washable, bamboo paper towels was the easiest green swap I ever made. and 2019 is the beginning of my vegetarian life…going great so far! Thank y’all for spending time on this important topic.

Loveley of

yes, please please please do some soup posts on easy vegan soups!


Another vote for healthy vegan/vegetarian soups, please!


I know I’m raining on the parade, and I am sorry about it, but bamboo is sustainable only with regard to the fact that it can be grown quickly. Everything else about turning a thick, hard, woody plant into thin sheets of soft, pliable cloth and paper is unsustainable and really terrible for our waterways and water-dwelling plants/animals/organisms. It takes a LOT of harsh, often synthetic, chemicals to change bamboo into the “green” products we are encouraged to buy. Also, the water use in the manufacturing process is very high, putting quite a strain on water supply. This water, because of the chemicals used to turn bamboo wood into paper or cloth, is toxic and can not be safely returned to the natural watershed/water table of the land surrounding the manufacturing place. It could be treated by the factories to reclaim some of their chemicals and make it safe and reusable, but that is not happening due to the cost and time involved as well as the improved science needed to make such reclamation feasible. Bamboo is a very good, sustainable resource as long as it is not being too processed: just like anything else. We need to look at… Read more »


Thanks for pointing this out! It often irks me when people talk about “bamboo clothes” or “bamboo paper towels” without recognizing how energy intensive the process is of converting bamboo into those products.

Also a quick PSA that that going green doesn’t have to mean buying more things and getting rid of what you already have. We don’t need to keep consuming/buying to be green :). But thank you for this post and the sentiment behind it.


So true! I appreciate the idea behind this post and there are some great ideas here, but we need to think about the urge to buy new stuff in the name of environmental responsibility.

For example, there is another term for “reusable paper towels”: rags! Just cut up your old cotton t-shirts instead of throwing them away. Keep them handy and use in place of paper towels.

But guess there isn’t an amazon affiliate link for that.


I didn’t know this! A bit depressing since bamboo paper towels are marketed as being “green”. *now wonders what to do about my newly bought bamboo paper towels*


I love that you did this post! There are so many great tips and the no guilt approach is wonderful! One quick thing… my understanding is that even biodegradable bags do not degrade in landfills (not their contents) because of the dark, packed in nature of a landfill. So while it’s definitely admirable to encourage buying bags that aren’t single use plastics, I think it’s a bit misleading to tell people that their contents will degrade. Not trying to nitpick, as I really do appreciate you using the platform for this cause, just trying to make sure people are informed.


I’ve heard this too! So that even if you use compostable plastic cups, forks, etc. it still has a hard time breaking down in landfills because they’re designed to contain trash, not help it decompose. And when stuff actually does decompose, it releases tons and tons of methane in the process. So yep, it’s probably best to focus on stuff you can re-use again and again instead of products that are labeled as biodegradable 🙂


I’m tooting this horn with y’all! We’ve been composting for a few months now, and have been tossing biodegradable materials in the mix with success.

We use biodegradable containers that we come across in restaurants or packaging, and bring them home. Then, we put them in the freezer and toss our composting in those (keeping it in the freezer cuts the smell off and keeps your counters clear). Then, when they’re full, throw the whole shebang into our compost pile. Super easy 🙂


This is such an important point. Thank you! Labelling environmental consciousness as something only a certain type of person cares about is polarizing.

We all share this earth regardless of political leanings. If there’s one thing that should bring us together, it should be saving our home for our children!

Loveley of

kinda disappointed. as a huge environmentalist (and design fan), this was basically all about stuff you can buy instead of lifestyle changes. you don’t need to spend extra money to be eco-friendly. you just have to be conscious of what you do and what you buy. 1. use towels instead of paper towels. use cloth napkins (we use those little facial towels because they work best) instead of paper napkins. 2. Stop eating meat. that’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, causes for global warming due to rainforests being cut down to create room for grazing cattle. along with so many other environmental disasters caused by the meat industry. 3. Don’t buy products with palm oil in them. The rainforests of Indonesia have been clear cut for palm oil plantations. Like, the majority of the rainforests there are now gone because of this. And orangutans there have lost their homes are endangered. 4. cloth diapers: save a bundle of money over time and save the environment. i did this with 2 kids. nowadays cloth diapers are so easy. 5. recycle your stuff. with your mail envelopes, rip off the plastic part before putting in your paper recycling bin.… Read more »

Loveley of

sorry if that was a kinda negative post. this is my passion project in life.
i totally appreciate that you guys are tackling this topic because i never see any influencers do this. again, another reason i LOVE your site is that you actually address topics that matter, along with the fun design stuff we all love.


I did not read your comment as negative but a fair point about watching out for consumerism. And you offered some really great ideas too.


Love your comments! Also to throw out one more thing, cleaning supplies can be made simply at home. Bea Johnson and Trash is for Tossers have great recipies for making cleaning supplies—cheap, easy, and all non toxic.


Yes, I too was disappointed to see all the recs for buying products, rather than simple lifestyle changes.

Also, I believe the suggestion should be for Stainless Steel utensils, not “sterling silver.”


It made me laugh to see all the references to stainless steel written as sterling silver 🙂 I actually do use an antique silver fork at work that I keep in my desk but it’s silver plate not sterling (I guess I’m not that fancy).

Loveley of

crap, i posted that last comment before i was done.

the soapnuts laundry things: we use them and they are great. so, those are really good if you want to avoid putting chemical laundry detergents into the water system.

regarding the reusable bamboo paper towels. if you wash them in the laundry a few times, why not just use regular towels? i don’t see how this is more convenient than regular towels?


Just wanted to point out that 1, 2, and 9 from your list were all included in this post. While yes, they included specific products you can try to help out with those goals (like the silverware set in 10, the waterbottle in 9, etc.), I think this was a fun post where they encouraged lifestyle changes and we got to see some cool, inexpensive products that can help out if we need a kickstart for those changes. I think we all know that if we already have a water bottle, you don’t have to go out and by a HydroFlask just to be green, but if having a fun new water bottle that you love would make you more likely to do it, isn’t that great motivation? Your list does have some great suggestions, and I appreciate you sharing those! I had never thought about bar soap being a more green choice, but you’re totally right! I just kind of wish your comment had been more about “here’s some other great things to think about!” rather than “I’m disappointed you approached this in the way you did” because posts like this are really helpful and fun for people like… Read more »

Loveley of

reply to Jessie:
Thanks for your reply!
Yes, I realized after I posted it that it came out more negative than intended. I was genuinely disappointed at first, but then realized that some of the things i mentioned were addressed. Which is why i had to come back like a total comment stalker to apologize slightly 🙂


I do think it’s nice to have a resource like this for when you DO need to buy something. If something you have has genuinely worn out, making the best choice possible for the planet is the goal. So if you have plastic tupperware that is still functional, if not beautiful, make it last as long as possible by taking good care of it. If and when it is truly worn out, replacing it with glass containers is a great option. But tossing perfectly good stuff in the name of being “green” certainly defeats the purpose.


I would not continue using plastic tupperware if it is old enough to possibly contain BPA. You can re-purpose it as storage for other, non-food items, like art supplies. But I would replace any older plastic food storage container with a glass container.

Anne Davis

I do all of those and wish everyone else would do the same. One thing you didn’t mention (or did you) – most mail has a blank back side. Put those in your printer. Saves paper. Use reusable straws. Many come with own carrying case. Since I’ve started to compost I throw garbage out far less frequently since most waste goes to composting. The biggest thing anyone can do to save the planet – STOP EATING MEAT!!

Karen Murray

Thank you for even more ideas!!


And going beyond just turning the water off while brushing your teeth, if you live in SoCal like Emily, the biggest thing is getting water efficient climate-appropriate landscaping. And also researching things like Culligan and the water waste of those systems before blindly buying it for the sake of your faucet.


Rather than shout STOP EATING MEAT at people, why not just say “eat less meat,” and when you do eat meat, eat farm-raised meat. My son shot a deer a while ago and we had enough venison for a year. It was fantastic to eat something that we knew hadn’t been loaded up or sprayed with chemicals. It’s not just about not eating any kind of meat. It’s about eating less processed, factory farmed meat.


I love this, and I’m so glad you + Ryann shared! Transitioning to cloth napkins is a great way to start the transition away from paper towels. We keep a small basket in our pantry where we drop the dirty ones and wash them every few days with the dish towels. We do keep a roll of paper towels on hand for big messes or when we clean the toilet. Public Goods is a great company to check out. Not only are their products all natural and affordable, but the design and packaging is minimal and beautiful, too.


I highly encourage the “no paper towels” home practice. I haven’t bought a roll in 12 years, and I don’t miss them a bit. Yes, I wash more dishtowels, but as a mom of young kids I’m already Mayor of Laundryville. I have older towels for “clean-up” jobs, and use my nicer ones for in the kitchen. Additionally, you then have a reason to buy a few extra adorable tea towels – and USE THEM! Skipping the plastic produce bags is an easy one, they are really not crucial. I do joke with my husband on the plastic grocery bags – I have really nice reusable ones (the baggers at the stores always compliment me – they’re from, but my husband does not. In San Diego, plastic bags are banned, so you have to buy the bags – the thing is, every grocer I know has made these new bags about TWICE as sturdy as the old bags (so you can re-use them)….so essentially the joke is all us women have migrated to (real) reusable bags, but since the men haven’t and the new plastic bags are twice as plastic-y, we’re really back where we started……baby steps, baby steps….… Read more »


So true about Trader Joe’s. I like to shop there but cant stand to but produce there.


We use rags/washcloths in place of disposable paper towels and cloth napkins in place of paper. Another change we’ve made is severely cutting down on plastic bags in our packed lunches, and the kids never get juice boxes anymore – they have reuseable water bottles (I rinse them out every night and run them through the dishwasher at the end of the week). It’s more dishes but most of it fits in the dishwasher each night.

I also try to repair things when I can instead of buying new. Those reuseable shopping bags always have seams coming loose, but they can usually be sewn back up in a few minutes on a sewing machine. Also with the kids clothes – if a seam comes apart I can usually repair it, instead of tossing them in the trash. (And I know that not everyone has access to a sewing machine…. )


Yes!!! This. I send reusable plastic containers, reusable plastic spoons/forks (the ones from ikea are great) and aluminum water bottles in my kids’ lunches. I also never buy individual serving sizes of food for lunches. I am disgusted by how many kids bring EVERY SINGLE lunch item in a ziploc to be thrown out daily. It truly perplexes me because it’s such a waste of $, even if one didn’t care at all about the planet. Not only that, but the kids at school will throw away an uneaten item instead of taking it back home. Like a bag of chips that is untouched and totally could be eaten another time. It kills me. Seriously, my kids beg for cute little pre-packaged containers of apple sauce instead of a plastic bowl that I fill in the morning. And they know not to dare get a ziploc unless there is NO ALTERNATIVE. Ziplocs are my nemesis. Useful at times but way less necessary than most seem to realize.


So glad y’all are taking this on! I’m the Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator for a municipality in Missouri and do lots of workshops on waste consumption and lifestyle changes to help the environment and reduce waste going to our landfill. (Emily, I’m teaching a course on home composting here in MO, and I know that LA county actually offers these workshops and even discounts on backyard bins!) Of all of the education we do on waste there are a couple of really important things to remember: – Once trash goes to the landfill, it enters an anaerobic environment due to trash compaction, which SIGNIFICANTLY slows the decomposition of everything, even things that in nature with sun and air and water would break down very quickly. Paper, for example, will degrade very quickly in the right circumstances, but in a landfill, can take decades longer to break down. So yes, bio-bags and the like a definitely a better choice than plastic, but the number 1 thing we can all do is really reduce the amount of stuff going there at all. Composting materials is WAY better (considering that compostable materials are a large part of our waste stream.) – Just because… Read more »


I agree – “It sounds like ya’ll are doing lots of awesome”. Thanks for this post!


I’ve always wondered what the rules were for recycling (for instance, purina says on their website that dog food cans do NOT have to be rinsed and can just be put into the “metals” section for recycling, but this seems really odd to me). Do workers at a recycling plant end up sending things to be rinsed out if they need be before they get recycled or are they just excluded and never recycled? so many questions! I would watch a documentary on recycling.


I get this question all the time, I REALLY wish dog and cat food companies would stop saying this. I’ve never seen or worked at a recycling facility that will rinse any of the recyclables of food waste, there really just isn’t enough time on the line for that. Food waste is the #1 reason an item will go straight into the garbage, it just can’t be marketed. Now we aren’t asking people to scrub out their cans and bottles, a simple rinse will generally work. One of our local recyclers will use this rule of thumb when talking to people, “would you want to pick that item out of the bin with your bare hand after a few days? If you don’t, then it shouldn’t be there.” And girl, there are some FANTASTIC docs on recycling! My favorite is Wasted! A Food Waste Story, another is Bag It!


Ashley, thank you for replying! And for the documentary recs, I am totally going to watch these! Also good to know that rinsing out my dog food cans was not time wasted 🙂

Courtney Elizabeth

I’m sure that every community is different, but my county does a great job keeping us informed about their recycling “rules” and this recent post was eye-opening for me!


I really don’t think this is boring at all! I even would go so far as to say that EHD should have you write a post about this! I feel like there is so much information out there that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed or know if you’re even making the right choices when you’re trying to make these changes. Understanding more about landfills and what actually happens in the recycling process is a key piece of that.


I learned SO much working for my county and getting to know more about recycling. I hail from Oregon where we’re all crunchy and obsessed with recycling because it makes us feel good, but I learned that Reduce and Reuse are endlessly more important! Especially given the current circumstances with China, TONS of recycling ends up in a landfill. People get really mad about this, and I tell them to channel that energy into reducing consumption if they really care about the earth! I’m no angel and have a long ways to go, but I truly believe education is the first step. Kudos to all those out there working on this, teaching others, and making lifestyle changes. It all makes a difference!


Great post! There’s a good article on the 1millionwomen website about the pros and cons of soapnuts –

Also, @treadingmyownpath is a really inspiring Instagram account for anyone trying to live with less waste.

P.S. did you know that even teabags contain plastic?!
P.P.S. one of the things that threw me was the difference between ‘degradable’ and ‘biodegradable’. From my understanding degradable is not a good thing – it basically just means that the product will break down into smaller pieces. So if that product is made of plastic, you can never really get rid of it.


How do the mesh produce bags work? Are your grocery stores scales set to allow for the weight of the mesh bag or are you just paying extra for your produce?


I searched the questions and answer portion of the product since I had the same question. Looks like there is a “tare weight” listed on the bag and the grocery store is required by law to subtract that from the total weight of the produce plus bag. So yay! No extra dollars spent


I have mesh produce bags and I have never asked nor been asked if the tare weight can be removed. The bags I have don’t list a tare weight, probably because they are SO light they might be adding a couple of pennies, if even that. I encourage you to buy one to test it out and see what you think! They are SUPER thin and basically weigh nothing and therefore should add almost nothing to your bill… especially when what you are putting in them are watery and heavy fruits and vegetables, the additional weight from a mesh bag is negligible!


Yes to the tare weight, but I also wouldn’t buy the mesh bags. They are usually made of plastic. I got a set of organic cotton bags that I use and wash every two weeks. They are awesome!


I use produce and grocery bags from

I love these because they are very durable as well as light and the stuff bag is integrated so you never lose it. I prefer the bags from the rePETE line made from recycled plastic.

I mostly use them at farmers markets where the produce is weighed before I put them in the bags. But what others said about the tare weight would still apply if you put items in them before weighing. If they aren’t marked with a weight, just do it yourself and write it on the bag in a permanent marker.


I switched from paper towels to rags last year and it was…. so easy? Like I’m embarrassed it took me so long. Bonus: no paper towel roll on my counter makes my kitchen look prettier 🙂


We cut out paper towels by accident about 4 years ago – we ran out right before having a friend over for a drippy taco dinner and I sheepishly handed out tea towels to everyone. We’ve never gone back. I AM glad most of my towels are darker and patterned – less stains show, no need for bleach. I keep a roll of paper towels under the sink for really nasty crud and we only use maybe a roll or two a year. We could probably switch to rags for the crud, but the rags are saved for paint/woodworking grossness or rug making materials.


Thank you so much for this list. It makes everything so much more accessible. My partner and I were just saying we want to learn more about reusable paper towels last night and now you have made this change as easy as possible. One tip I just heard about for composting (that I myself have not yet tried): keep a small compost bag in the freezer so you can add your trimmings without things going bad during the week. Perhaps this may help…

Loveley of

yes! to keeping compost in the freezer! cuts out gnats and smells. then my husband puts it in his worm bin and the worms eat it up and he gets great dirt out of it for his plants!


Those Baggu bags are the BEST! They actually hold a ton of stuff and stay tidy in their matching envelopes. I get a compliment from the folks at checkout in Trader Joe’s every time I go through. I still have any raw meat bagged in a plastic bag and wipe them out frequently. They’re also awesome for travel–emergency beach bag, holding shopping, etc. I got two included in a Birch Box YEARS ago and they’re still holding up well.


This is such a great round up! Love the mesh produce bags, already added to my amazon cart! One natural cleaner that I’ve been using for a while is distilled white vinegar – seriously this stuff is AMAZING. I use it for SO much cleaning!! -mix with water in a spray bottle for general cleaning – it’s a disinfectant & great glass cleaner (i do still use clorox if poultry/meat was prepared on my counters to make sure all germs are killed) -add it to your dishwasher to get rid of hard water spots, -wash produce in it (mix vinegar and water in a bowl and let fruits/veggies soak for a few minutes – the grime that has come off some of the stuff is disgusting) -use it for pots and pans, I love my cooking to brown and crisp which is delicious IMO but my pans have that lovely baked on look after. While the pan is still hot i pour white vinegar in and let sit while i eat – seriously ALL burnt on crud wipes right off – i have not had to do the crazy soap & scrub in years! Suddenly have an urge to deep… Read more »


Just a caveat: vinegar is pollutant. It is hardly biodegradable and it’s very toxic for fishes. Also if used on metal (dishwasher or washing machine) helps release of nikel. Not good for us nor the environment.
However it is good when a little is needed: to remove limescale, clean the countertops…


I think you may have your cleansers confused. Vinegar is not a pollutant since it is produced from a variety of plants & can actually help cleanse the air of pollutants. It is in fact biodegradable and white distilled vinegar can even be used to clean the sides of fish tanks since it is not harmful to fish. It can break down metals/ plastic over time if used at full strength since it is acidic- but is much safer than bleach/ ammonia etc and is safe for the environment (again, because it’s made from plants)


For most day-to-day cleaning purposes some vinegar + hot water will do the trick, cheapest cleaning product of them all.


I make my own cleaning solution by letting citrus peels sit in vinegar in a mason jar for 2 weeks. Strain out the peels, put it in a spray bottle. It can be diluted up to 50% with water. It is a great degreaser, scum remover (I use it to clean the tub too), and has some anti-microbial properties (I think it’s a bit weak against the worst baddies like E. coli as far as killing them, but the citrus oil and the vinegar still work together to make even E. coli slippery so it can be wiped up). An extra benefit is that I no longer have to wash my counters with soap and water after cleaning them with kitchen cleaner – if my kids are lazy and make a sandwich on the counter rather than a plate or cutting board they aren’t getting poisoned by orange peel oil and white vinegar. So I’m making it safer for my kids to be active in the kitchen and cutting down my time spent cleaning.

Back in my restaurant working days, they always cleaned out the kitchen with vinegar (at least I’m guessing due to the smell) but the citrus peel in the vinegar is such a good idea for so many reasons. I might try this this weekend! I have oranges as my “snack fruit” for the week so I’ll be sure to save the peels. Thank you for this suggestion!


Love it! My city will cart away compost in our yard debris bins; so now I need a composting bin for the kitchen and need ideas. Looking forward to more posts like this!


Compost won’t smell. We keep one of the stainless steel bins under our sink, and we built a compost heap in our backyard.

Also hot tip, paper towels are compostable.

Hilary W Taylor

My favorite new Instagram account to follow is Easy Eco Tips. I’ve implemented some of their tips recently (including things like changing the font on my work documents to reduce the amount of ink used). And, as far as cutting meat, if readers can’t quite make the leap to full vegetarianism, then at the very least, cutting beef is a GREAT start. The environmental impact from industrial cattle raising is astounding.


I follow tiny.trash.can on instagram. It’s by one woman who has so many tips on how to reduce waste and she shares a shot of her weekly trash–it always fits into a tiny mason jar! 0.0


Oh, you guys! 🙂
Now THIS is using your status as an “influencer” for good!
Yaaay for you!


Thank you for doing this MUCH needed post and tackling a major worldwide issue! I’ve already added those mesh bags to my amazon shopping cart and I can’t wait to use them. I’m also thoroughly enjoying the helpful tips in the comments section! Keep em’ coming!!


Loved this post!!! I am hoping to switch to reusable sponges and tissues this year (nervous about the tissues! Haha!) Sometimes the expensive part of making the switch to green products comes from buying products you don’t love and having to start over so thank you for making so many great recommendations!!!


Okay here’s the easiest way to jump off the paper towel train in an affordable manner. It involves going to target which is everyone’s favorite store so really it’s a treat yourself kinda deal.

Buy the cheapest target washcloths. The come in packs of 6 or 8 for $2.99. Get 3-4 packs. Bring em home and fold them in quarters and stick them under the sink. Use them in place of paper towels. Get a metal or plastic bin to toss the dirty ones in and wash the dirties every couple of weeks. Yes I let them fester in their own filth for a couple weeks, but I wash them on hot with some 7th generation bleach and they turn out just fine.

Seriously, changing how you clean up for things like this is so much easier than trying to use reusable paper towels that you have to clip together and roll together and all that Jazz.

I have these towels in 3 colors. White for cleaning rags, blue for kitchen rags, and tan for washing makeup off my face with. It’s so simple and they last FOREVER!!


THIS. This is the comment I am taking away from all of this! The color-coding is such a great idea. I am going to buy a new set of washcloths in a nice color and reserve those for body/face, and relinquish all the old ones to the rag bin (they’re getting ratty anyway), but I’ll use specific colors for specific places. (I really don’t want the bathroom rag to be used to wipe down counters!!!) Thank you, Laurel! Love this post and LOVING all the comments.


“Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan. Book was published in 1997, and as a *new mom* in 2000 starting using the home made cleaning recipes to get away from chemicals. Everything in it WORKS. I’m a librarian… so I say get a copy at your local library or Google CHCP and author name and see what recipes you can find online.

Club soda in a spray bottle as a window/ mirror cleaner is better than the commercial products; bought a bag of microfiber cleaning cloths, and those are washed after use— they shine up the tile in your shower and other hard surfaces.

Good luck fellow Earth mammas and pappas


Ooh, would love to know which places will dispense their product into our own drink bottles! I’m assuming most restaurants would think this is a health/safety issue? I’ve been wishing this could be a thing for awhile!

Can anyone confirm that washing sponges in a regular load of laundry won’t ruin the rest of the load? I stopped using makeup brushes because I can’t believe that the dirty rags used to clean the brushes won’t get makeup all over the rest of the laundry…


If you’re on the fence about having the time/energy to compost everything in your own backyard, maybe check to see if there’s a compost pick-up service (or drop-off) near you? I had tried over and over to keep up with composting myself, but I just couldn’t. Then I felt guilty about not composting for weeks. When a pick-up service debuted in our area, I said YES TAKE MY MONEY. It is the easiest thing to do as they come to my curb (same as trash and recycling) to empty my little bucket and insert a new liner. Twice a year I have the option of receiving 25 lbs of compost (that I helped make!) to use in my garden. But you can also opt out of this if you wouldn’t need it. I live with my husband and between composting and recycling, we take a small bag of trash to the curb once every 10-12 weeks now (nothing in there smells because it’s the rotting food that contributes to that!). It’s taken us time to get to this great place now. The biggest thing about making any eco change is to do something that you can keep up with. If… Read more »


Hi! Thanks for taking time to give people attainable resources 🙂 I am concerned that bloggers continue to recommend Mrs Meyers products, which unfortunately use artificial fragrance. While their ingredient list is mostly awesome, the fragrance is not and artificial fragrance is one of the most toxic things you can bring into your home. I wish Mrs Meyers would make a change!

oh noooo I didn’t know this! I switched out so many of my products to Mrs. Meyers so I’m so bummed to hear this. Any idea of the same is said about Castille Soap from Dr. Bronner’s??


Arlyn, Dr Bronner’s is the best option, IMO. So easy to dilute and make any combination of washing liquid you could need.


Castile soap is clean! Any product that lists ‘fragrance’ in their ingredience list is unfortunately not using clean ingredients. The think dirty app is helpful in weeding popular products out but not every product is in their dats base so reading labels is also helpful!


Was going to reply with the same thing (already did on ChrisLovesJulia a few weeks ago when they posted about Mrs. Meyers). Same with Method. If you use the unscented, Method is pretty clean, but other than that, it’s all synthetic fragrances.

You can easily make your own cleaning products with castile soap (this is clean, Arlyn!), washing soda, baking soda, vinegar, borax, etc. Tons of great recipes online, and always sent with essential oils, which add to the disinfecting power.

Some brands (7th gen, Better Life) already do this if you don’t want to make your own, but it’s really so easy and economical.


Hah! I commented in that thread on Chris Loves Julia too and was searching for like minds in this thread before posting! ? Mrs. Meyers frustrates me because they masquerade as a natural, organic brand that is actually chock full of nasty toxic chemical fragrance. I’m mostly talking about their counter spray here but I’m sure that’s not the only product. Download the Think Dirty app to check your products and get an unbiased assessment! I do it more from a health standpoint, but I am sure that what’s damaging to our health must also be damaging to the earth. The method counter spray (lavender, as least) is rated much better than Mrs. Meyers. I also like 7th Generation— both are super easy to find. Someday I’ll jump to making my own!


I also find the Mrs. Meyers products to be way too smelly! I bought one of the cleaners and hand soaps and had to get rid of them because they gave me a headache and brought on allergies!

Finding unscented dish soap, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, etc. that doesn’t smell has been a recent goal of mine, due to increasing scent sensitivity, and to just wanting something a little less toxic.


Michelle – Many thanks for your post. I am allergic to fragrances, especially the artificial ones. I find it so frustrating that there is a whole segment of the green movement that does not “get” that fragrances pollute the air we breathe. For me, laundry dryer sheets that vent to the outdoors are just a killer – weepy eyes, cough, asthma, migraines. Some communities are addressing the stinky dryer sheet venting issue in their laws.

And Ryann – No need to add fragrance to the wool balls for the dryer either – clean clothes don’t need to smell like perfume. And essential oils are not hypoallergenic. But overall – great post and excellent ideas. Thank you.


we bought the “final straw” over the holidays and its amazing. its stainless steel with a silicone liner and comes in a carrying case (it folds down 4 times), its easy to clip on to your keys so you always have it with you. and its super easy to clean. you need to buy it directly from the company, they’ve said there are a ton of knockoffs on “that site” that don’t work as well, leak, etc. I’m sure a bunch of people will jump saying “just dont use a straw at all!”, but with my kids and I, I know that’s not realistic and this is a solution we’ve found that works well for us. Our effort in the new year, not to be perfect, but be better and be conscious.


Loved this post! So many great tips that definitely left me feeling inspired to make some changes this year! Thanks Ryann!


Best composting tip ever! Keep a bin in your freezer for your food scraps. This accomplishes two things. It provides a convenient place to keep the things headed to the compost until you’re ready to take it outside AND keeps it from stinking up your house. The more convenient you make the task the more likely you are to follow through with it. Good luck!


I love this! Thank you for discussing little changes anyone can do to protect our environment!


This is a lovely start and I so admire that your team is making green a goal for the year. I’d love to see a shift in the approach, though. This post seems to be about acquiring (which, of course, a starting point), but in my experience, any lasting green changes that I’ve made in my life are not about what products I swapped my plastics and papers with but about the systems I adopted that have made the swaps fit into my life. I would love to see you do a post about kitchen/pantry/mud room/laundry room/ bathroom mini makeovers that suggest system and tips that make greener choices WORK. For example, when giving up paper towels, I wasn’t just giving up the paper towels but also the convenience of the system I already in place , the habit (put a roll in the paper towel holder, store the extras in the garage, toss the dirties in the trash). It was easy and brainless and I had to come up with a new system for using cloths. Where do the clean ones go? Where do the dirty one? (I use a counter top basket for the clean ones and a… Read more »


I love this idea! It’s the same with organizing: You can KonMari your closets and pantry, but if you don’t have a plan to keep new clutter from creeping in, you’ll just end up back at square one with a messy home.

Kimberly Hight

Great suggestion!


Great list! The mountain of paper towels I went through a day cleaning up after little kids is what I tackled recently. I got a 50 pack of small microfiber cloths (in 3 colors so I could use one for kids hands/faces, one for kitchen cleaning and one for bathroom cleaning) and baskets to hold clean ones ready to grab and toss dirty ones till laundry day. It’s been a few weeks and I love it! It’s a super easy system, rinsing them between used during the day is no big deal, and the cloths clean better for most jobs than paper towels did. Not going back! Next up, plastic baggies and paper napkins!

Alexandra Rose

Yay! Thank you thank you thank you for shining a light on this! For your readers who want to be even more impactful, they should also sign up with (and give money, if possible). “uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. 350’s network extends to 188 countries.”
Also, call or email your senator and representatives offices and tell them that you support the Green New Deal.
This is harder, but my husband and are also working on moving our bank accounts to a credit union since Chase uses our money to invest in oil and gas companies and we support divestment from these companies.
Thanks again Emily and Ryan!

Emily Wallace

Oooohhhhh, see if Compost Now is available in your area. It’s awesome! My yard doesn’t have space for composting but this is a service. For $25/month they come and pick up your compost each week. We always fill one 2.5-gal bucket and often fill two. It’s so awesome to see all the things you can compost. I love composting the paper napkins and paper towels that are a must with two small people running around! When you’re ready to do a garden project, they’ll bring you compost to use (they weigh your buckets each week). I’m not affiliated with them at all; I’m just a big fan of their service (18 months and counting!).

Maria Killos

Yay for CompostNow! We used them for years when living in NC, and not only was it convenient, but the compost we earned helped to grow the most beautiful tomatoes ever! We moved, and I miss them a lot.


A great alternative to paper towel, and are biodegradable sponge cloths! They absorb more than a paper towel and can be washed in the washing machine or top rack of the dishwasher!


I reduced plastic in 2018 and went with all glass food storage. It was a struggle at first especially when getting a snack but it’s worth it. I too want to try replacing plastic wrap with beeswax and the reusable produce bags.


This is all awesome, but I *think* I’ve bought those Re-zip bags before and the “ziplock” function quickly stops working. I’ve had much better luck with Stasher bags, that use a slightly different mechanism. So, really just a word to the wise to do some research on those types of bags, so you don’t waste your money on supposedly reusable bags that you’ll end up disposing of.

I’ve had a lot of luck using these silicone bags that come with a slide-y top thing ( They’re a little floppy, but well worth the slight extra effort!


I have 3 kids under 5 and have been doing no paper towels for a year. We use hearth and hand cloth napkins for every day use and then have a system around our kitchen where dish towels are placed to use for hand drying, spills and drying dishes (each gets a different towel). It’s been GREAT and, if you love linens, it’s fun to have pretty linens around the kitchen. Just a thought as you consider eliminating paper towels!


LOOOOOVE this post!!!! As others have already pointed out, buying LESS is the best way to go greener, but the resources above are such a great way to baby step your way to being greener, so hooray!

Our house composts — it’s super easy! We have a small, lidded bucket on the counter. It’s small enough that it needs to get emptied into our outdoor compost bin every other day, so there’s no chance for smells to build.
I bought Ikea’s Tekla dish towels and that’s what we use for napkins. They’re so soft! And so absorbent that I use them as dish cloths and cleaning cloths, too.
I use white vinegar for cleaning and as a fabric softener.

I do other stuff, too, but I want to point out that this has been years of evolution for us, so find what works for you and then build from there. You don’t have to be perfect about it, just a little better than you were before!


Another green product that is totally worth its salt is the Jude’s Miracle Cloth []. I recently received it as a gift from a Canadian friend, used it, loved it, purchased a bunch on Black Friday for xmas gifts. One of my recipients told me it’s their fave gift of 2018!


Thank you for this post, glad to see this on EHD. Re paper towels: I am European and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years. I have two kids, and I never understood the American love for paper towels. So wasteful. I do own a roll of paper towels, but use them very very sporadically (e.g. milk spills on the breakfast table on a weekday morning …). I use rags made out of ratty towels or faded flannel sheets (or pld burp cloths when the kids were little). They will take care of any spill or wiping countertops or what have you. I have a bucket in the garage for rags, and once that’s full, I wash them all in hot water, and they are like new, no bleach needed. Most people’s houses don’t get that dirty. Same with napkins: use cloth napkins; they last forever – I have everyday cotton napkins that are more than 10 years old, and they get washed often. We have napkin rings for each family member, so that we know whose napkin it is. The trick is to have enough rags and napkins to not run out too quickly. I also bring my… Read more »


Love this and the comments are really helpful as well!

Speaking of shipping, one of my friends has a fantastic company, which rents usable shippers to small (and large) businesses, completely eliminating the need for traditional packaging. So, so smart, right?!?! I want everyone using it so I can do my online shopping guilt-free! ?


I store my compost in a plastic container in the fridge so I never have to smell it. Just FYI. : )


I agree this is so important and if we keep talking about these changes it will become normalized!! Have to instill this in all generations too – we can turn this ship around!!!


When we lived in southern California, I realized that line drying (on racks in our tiny apartment) was just as quick as using the dryer. It’s just so dry out there. This is a very easy way to save energy.

The other big impact things we do are 1) save meat for special occasions, focusing more on plant foods 2) buy secondhand for as many things as possible, especially clothes for kids 3) we subscribe to a service called “Ungraded Produce.” They deliver produce that is just fine, but too ugly for the stores to sell, so it would otherwise go to the landfill.


Great post; thank you. I find that the hardest thing about reuseables is not sourcing and buying new products (that’s the fun and easy part, thanks to supply and demand capitalism/western materialism) but remembering/schlepping/not losing/cleaning said products. Between my water bottle, coffee mug, sippy cups, reuseable snack containers, reusable grocery and produce bags, and cloth diapers, and then cleaning/storing all those things… it’s just a lot of extra time and mental energy. Certainly the least we can do, of course, to try and repair some of the damage we’ve done, but still. Tedious, slow, time consuming. For the past 100 years, companies have been selling *convenience*. I would say that 90% of the effort required to go green has more to do with getting accustomed to things taking longer and being a little… tedious. Withthat said….. any tips?


Emily & Team – Great post, and I hope you all continue to support and promote greener options. However, I must echo many of the other commenters: As an influencer, please don’t continue to paint these options as “hippie” or “liberal”. Climate change and clean water are economic and public health issues. An as an added bonus, many greener choices are lovely design choices and over time will save a few bucks as well. I am a professional in this field (on the East Coast) and many of our greatest partners identify as conservative. They are essential allies and inclusivity runs both ways. Thanks for your great work!


I’ve recently been referring to for recycling guidelines, it has specific info for about a dozen cities but includes generally useful tips for anywhere, including the appropriate way to recycle shredded paper, plastic bags, pizza boxes, etc. Another useful site is, a huge database of food expiration info and proper storage. It has stopped me from wasting a lot of food over the years.


I haven’t had to use dryer sheets (or wool balls) since changing to Country Save powdered laundry detergent. Reminder that people with wool allergies shouldn’t use them in the dryer. It seems obvious, but I didn’t think about it until we started sneezing and itching!

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