For the past few years I’ve been doing my best to reduce the amount of waste I produce. That includes having a big collection of reusable bags, thrifting pyrex containers and mason jars for storage, and switching to reusable straws for my drinks. The upside of the “sustainability” trend is that there are a lot of really cute and functional low-waste options out there, from bento boxes to reusable q-tips.
That trendiness, however, can sometimes backfire. Anybody in the clean consumption community will tell you that the worst thing you could do is throw out all your plastic stuff to replace it with the cuter, “greener” option. Even if your heart is in the right place, jumping all in to have the perfect instagrammable zero waste kit will do more harm than good if you end up bailing on everything you have at home that was perfectly fine and functional to begin with. Just like when it comes to saving money, the most sustainable purchase would be no purchase, then a secondhand purchase, and after that buying something new.
If you are, however, in the market to buy something new – here is your chance to look for the lowest-waste choice. I find that the easiest swaps to make are grocery, beauty, kitchen, and home swaps. When in doubt, look for glass or metal containers, paper instead of plastic, and the less packaging overall the better.
There are a ton of companies with package free or compostable packaging for beauty and home care products. LUSH is one of my favorites, as they are releasing new package free products all the time, and they also have a recycling program where you get a free face mask if you return five of their empty jars. Kate McLeod is another favorite, her lotion bars are a luxurious treat, come in a wide variety of scents, and are housed in a reusable bamboo container. Kjaer Weis’s entire line is based on the concept of refillable beauty without sacrificing the beautiful luxury packaging. Aether Beauty’s eyeshadow palettes are made from 100% recyclable paper and their supply chain is transparent with no harm to humans or animals. The Diva Cup and other menstrual cups are awesome too!
When it comes to cleaning products, it seems COVID-19 threw a wrench into the plans of anyone cleaning their countertops with vinegar. While that’s still a good choice, when it comes to the heavy hitters like Lysol or Purel, make a point to buy in bulk when you can and refill any existing bottles you already have. If you have a liquor cabinet, you may also have something with a high enough proof to clean with (do your research here, I’m not a scientist – and don’t use your top shelf stuff on your countertops, unless you’re fancy like that!) Grove Collaborative has glass bottles and cleaning concentrates that promise less waste for your all-purpose cleaners.
For cleaner grocery shopping, invest in reusable produce bags, shop in bulk whenever possible (keep in mind Costco may not offer any less packaging than the traditional stores, but it’s worth a look), choose pantry items and condiments that come in paper or glass containers, and consider cutting out meat or dairy a few days a week. Shop local when you can, and look into recycling and composting programs in your area.
While the onus shouldn’t only fall on us to make these swaps, our dollars are our vote for a more sustainable future. We shouldn’t get hung up on being perfect – we’d go crazy if we had to research every single purchase we ever made. Our clothes, our food, coffee, cosmetics, cleaning products, home decor, are all things we can choose wisely but the real pressure needs to be applied to corporations and governments – the ones profiting off of the cheaper and more toxic practices. Just thinking about all the ethics involved in every single dollar spent could make your head spin, but there are so many good resources out there and new information is published every day. I’ll be compiling a list soon of my favorite social and sustainably conscious instagrammers and bloggers, with more tips on how we can all get involved. I will update this post with a link as soon as it is live!
Here are a few of my other favorite products to consider, featured in the above photo:
Fat and The Moon Beauty Balms | Stasher Reusable Silicon Bags | LUSH shampoo bars | Kate Mcleod Lotion Bar | Reusable Cloth Paper Towel Rolls | W&P Porter Bowls | Glass Reusable Straws | Zero Packaging Dish Soap | Baggu Reusable Tote Bag
What are your favorite low-waste products or tips?