At this point, you get it. Making sustainable choices in your everyday life is important. But you also have a busy life to live. How can you live more sustainably with ease?
We’ve created this list of 15 simple and effective sustainable swaps to demonstrate that small-scale sustainability can have tangible benefits, and often, making the swap is as simple as redirecting your time and money towards a more renewable source.
1. Instead of: Plastic Wrap...
Try: Reusable Beeswax Wrap
Sustainable Swap: Replace your plastic clingfilm with reusable beeswax wraps for a zero-waste kitchen swap. Plastic film is one type of plastic that is impossible to recycle and tends to end up polluting waterways. Using beeswax wrap is just as easy as plastic wrap but can be reused repeatedly. Plus, you can find these wraps in great prints and in a variety of sizes to meet all your food-wrapping needs.
The original Bee’s Wrap is made in America, comes in several sizes. If you want to have control over the size of your wraps, try the one-meter roll of Alcoon Beeswax Food Wraps. And if you really like cute patterns on your kitchen accessories? Hunny Bee Beeswax Food Wraps has you well covered.
2. Instead of: Plastic Phone Chargers...
Try: Solar-powered Phone Chargers
Sustainable Swap: Okay, here’s a cool piece of modern technology: solar-powered phone chargers. You can leave a solar charger on your dashboard or windowsill while you go about your day and use it to charge your phone as needed. They are highly portable, and super handy to have in an emergency like a blackout or a breakdown on the highway.
The Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Phone Charger folds out for maximum charging power, while the Dizual Portable Solar Phone Charger can be clipped to the outside of a backpack to charge while you hike or walk to work. The SunJack 15W Solar Charger Power Bank uses solar to charge two smaller power banks, which are independently portable.
3. Instead of: Plastic Water Bottles...
Try: Reusable Water Bottles
Sustainable Swap: This is one of the easiest swaps to make, and it can make a huge difference! Almost 75% of plastic water bottles are not recycled, and it can take those bottles over 100 years to break down. But that’s not the only reason bottled water is problematic. Bottled water companies often draw from public water sources—almost half of bottled water is actually just bottled tap water sold at a high markup, which you could get for free in your own home.
So instead of spending your money on cases of bottled water that is just overpriced tap water, use a reusable bottle made of a sustainable material like metal or glass—it’s much cheaper, probably healthier, and undeniably better for the planet. Hydro Flask makes an excellent insulated bottle, while the Purist Mover has a glass-lined interior that prevent any taste contamination.
4. Instead of: Gas-guzzling Cars...
Try: Green Commuting
Sustainable Swap: Ever thought of ways to make your commute greener? Carpooling, walking, cycling, and public transportation are all ways to keep more cars off the road, and thus fewer emissions out of our air. And if you can walk or ride your bike to work, you’ll also experience some health benefits from the exercise. Participating in any of these commuting alternatives even one or two days a week can have a big impact!
Don’t have a bike? Try using a bikeshare like Lime and apps like CityMotion will help you navigate public transit.
5. Instead of: Rubber/Plastic Shoes...
Try: Biodegradable/Recyclable Shoes
Sustainable Swap: Shoes are important—we all know how they can really pull an outfit together. But even more important is buying shoes that weren’t made to last—shoes that use biodegradable or recycled materials instead of synthetic rubber, plastic, or polyester.
Chaco Z sandals are made from recycled rubber, and the company’s ReChaco repair program fixes worn-out shoes instead of throwing them away. Allbirds and Baabuk offer trendy sneakers, flats, high-tops, and slip-ons made from temperature-regulating merino wool. Matisse’s shoes are chic, while Coclico’s are classic minimalist. There’s a eco-friendly shoe for every style!
6. Instead of: Paper Books...
Sustainable Swap: E-readers are a great way to keep your reading habit environmentally friendly. Lots of publishing houses today use paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, but printed books still require a lot of energy and resources to produce when you consider what goes into felling trees, making them into paper, printing them, and shipping them across the globe. E-readers are the most sustainable if you read a lot of books, and if you make sure to recycle them as e-waste at the end of their lifetime. If you have an iPad, then you already have an e-reader; other great options are the Kobo Clara, which has a great interface system with public libraries, and the classic Kindle Paperwhite.
7. Instead of: Aluminum/Polycarbonate Suitcases...
Try: Sustainable Luggage
Sustainable Swap: The most sustainable luggage brands are also among the best-looking and most durable. These suitcases aren’t just made from sustainable materials, they’re also made well, with an emphasis on fair wages and craftsmanship. For weekender bags, check out Lo & Sons or United By Blue. Paravel's eye-catching suitcases and handy packing cubes are made using almost all recycled materials, as are Patagonia’s Black Hole duffel bags.
8. Instead of: Traditional Thermostats...
Try: Smart Thermostats
Sustainable Swap: Smart thermostats offer a lot of energy-saving features that traditional programmable ones don’t. They can also save you quite a bit of money over time by optimizing your home’s climate control efficiency.
Since these devices are controlled via an app, you can adjust your thermostat remotely, and customize it on a day-by-day basis so that your home is only heated or cooled when you are there to benefit. Detailed real-time energy reports tell you how much money you’re spending on heating and cooling costs. The Honeywell Home T5+ Smart Thermostat is affordable and Energy Star certified, while the also-popular Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control can be synced up to your Alexa or Google Home for extra functionality.
9. Instead of: Conventional Appliances...
Try: Energy-efficient Appliances
Sustainable Swap: When you are ready to update your old appliances, energy-efficient ones are the way to go. Energy Star certified appliances often cost more than their conventional counterparts, but they also save you more money in the long run because their overall operating costs are so much lower than conventional appliances—20% less energy for dryers, 40% less for refrigerators, and 50% less energy and water for washing machines.
Not sure if your home appliances are costing you more than they should? Check out Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick to compare your house’s annual energy use to similar houses.
10. Instead of: Disposable Razors...
Try: Stainless Steel Safety Razors
Sustainable Swap: Ditch another disposable single-use self-care item by replacing your plastic razor with a stainless-steel safety razor. This single-bladed razor was developed in the early 1900s as an alternative to the straight razor. It offers a closer shave, less skin irritation, and lower costs than disposable razors. And because they’re made from metal, safety razors are incredibly sustainable—both the razor blades and the body are recyclable, and the body itself will last for years.
One of the longest-running and best overall safety razors is the Merkur Mk34c Double Edge Razor with Heavy Duty Short Handle. For a budget pick, we like the Edwin Jagger Double Edge Safety Razor; for a reasonably priced lightweight razor check out Vikings Blade The Chieftain Double Edge Safety Razor.
11. Instead of: Plastic Pens...
Try: Refillable Fountain Pens
Sustainable Swap: The next time your pen runs out, trade it for a refillable fountain pen.
Fountain pens have a reputation for being classy, but also fragile and messy. However, companies have introduced sturdy models with a modern look that are easy to refill using either a special ink converter or a syringe (check out this video for the how-to).
You can find a good starter fountain pen for under $30—keeping plastic pens out of landfills and bringing a touch of refined elegance to your day. The LAMY Safari is one of the most durable fountain pens, while the Pilot Metropolitan is a classic-looking all-around great pen. Want to get your kids started on fountain pens? Try the cute Pilot Kakuno.
12. Instead of: Dryer Sheets...
Try: All-Natural Wool Dryer Balls
Sustainable Swap: To reduce static cling without waste, swap your fragrance-laden polyester dryer sheets for all-natural wool dryer balls instead. Wool dryer balls won’t last forever, but they aren’t single-use like dryer sheets. They are 100% biodegradable and a renewable resource if sheep are around to be sheared!
Not only does this help support small farmers, but this is another swap that can help make your house a bit healthier. Dryer sheets are impregnated with several chemicals, both to reduce static but also to make sure that their fragrance is able to survive the sustained high heat of a drying cycle. These chemicals get rubbed off on our skin through our clothing, as well as mixed up with the air we breathe. They can contribute to allergies, asthma, headaches, and respiratory ailments.
We think the cutest dryer balls are Fluff Ewes 100% Premium Sheep Wool Dryer Balls Extra Large, while Meridian Mill House Naturally Colored Wool Dryer Balls are the best undyed option. Molly’s Suds Wool Balls come in a set of six for less than fifteen dollars.
13. Instead of: Paper Towels/Chemical Cleaning...
Try: Reusable Tea Towels & Microfiber Cloths
Sustainable Swap: Instead of reaching for paper towels to clean up a mess only to throw them away as soon as you’re done, consider re-usable tea towels or microfiber cloths. Tea towels are great for soaking up liquids, whereas microfiber cloths have gently abrasive surfaces that are super effective at streak-free cleaning.
It might seem like a small thing in the moment, but Americans throw away up to 3.8 million tons of paper towels alone each year. Those towels all go right to a landfill where they decompose and generate methane. We spend the most money on them globally, too—$5.7 billion in 2017, much more than the $635 million spent by the runner-up France. That means that using microfiber and tea towels for spills and kitchen clean-up is actually a really effective way to cut down on your household waste and save yourself some money too!
Zeppoli Classic Kitchen Towels are indeed classics, with a restaurant-style look and a highly absorbent material. You can upgrade your kitchen with 24 Unpaper Towels + Wooden Holder, and add a 12-Pack Microfiber Cleaning Cloths in Gray to your cleaning closet.
14. Instead of: Synthetic Mattresses...
Try: Organic Mattresses
Sustainable Swap: Sleep better—and cleaner—by replacing your mattress made out of synthetic materials with one made of organic latex, cotton, or wool.
Conventional mattresses are mostly made of polyurethane foam, which is derived from petroleum—a.k.a. crude oil—and which continually releases several harmful chemicals known as VOCs, volatile organic compounds. These are the same gasses responsible for putting a hole in the ozone layer, which means they’re not something you want to be inhaling while you sleep! VOCs can contribute to health issues as well as make your sleep unsatisfying. Organic and eco-friendly mattresses, on the other hand, release no VOCs because they are made of natural materials that are grown, harvested, and processed without pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Birch Mattresses are highly comfortable and GREENGUARD Gold certified; Eco Terra offers some of the most affordable all-natural mattresses on the market.
15. Instead of: Microwave Popcorn Bags...
Try: Stovetop Popcorn Maker
Sustainable Swap: You can make popcorn almost as quickly with a stovetop popcorn maker—and it’s a fun old-school contraption, too. A stovetop popper can make an almost infinite amount of popcorn, no plastic required.
The bags that hold microwave popcorn, in addition to being unrecyclable and a source of packaging waste, are also typically lined with grease-repelling chemicals known as PFAS. A 2020 study linked PFAS to several negative health impacts in humans, including high cholesterol (source).
Compared to that, a stovetop popcorn maker is lower-waste, much healthier, and a lot more fun. The Original Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper is an old-fashion favorite, while the Cook N Home 02700 Stovetop Aluminum Popcorn Popper is a great lower-priced option.
There you have it. An easy, green, and quite fun list of sustainable swaps to get you started. We want to know, what do you think about this list? Any other ideas? Let us know by following us on social media at @gotrhythmhq.