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