Plastic free swaps for a more sustainable home
From safety razors to wooden dish brushes, what easy eco-friendly swaps can you make for a more sustainable future?
Last updated: 9 October 2023
Every year, over 200,000 tonnes of plastic heads to the landfill in Aotearoa. Everywhere we look, there’s plastic: wrapped around our fruit and vege, bottles in our showers and the cleaning products under the sink.
Fortunately there are various plastic free alternatives to our everyday products, and not only are they better for the earth, they look great and can even save you money in the long run.
Of course, if you already have plastic products that are in perfect working order, we’re not suggesting you throw these away! Becoming more sustainable means reducing your consumption of single-use plastics and minimising your contribution to landfill – not disposing of plastic products just for the sake of it.
We always recommend you use your plastic products until the end of their life before switching to an environmentally friendly option. It’s important to remember that every small change is helping the cause, but they can’t all happen overnight!
1. A greener bathroom
When it comes to beauty and hygiene, you’d be surprised how many of the items we rely on are made of plastic. From makeup wipes to disposable razors, just think of how much packaging we’re sending to the landfill every month.
When shaving, ditch plastic razors and try a reusable, metal version instead. Simply searching key words such as 'stainless steel safety razor' or 'safety razor' provides plenty of sustainable options. Despite popular belief, they're easy to use and the general design has been around since the early 1900s – that’s how you know it’ll be reliable! Just replace the blades after a few uses, and it’ll last you decades.
Makeup wipes may seem convenient, but reusable cotton pads are an equally good, earth friendly alternative and are better for your skin. Use them with coconut oil or just water, throw them in your weekly wash and they’ll be good to go over and over again.
Shampoo bars work just like your run of the mill bottled shampoos but without all the plastic packaging. Just apply directly to your head, lather and store in a dry corner of your shower or in a reusable container. Depending on the size and brand, solid shampoo and conditioner bars generally last for months so you really get your money’s worth!
Consider ditching bottled body wash and hand soap too, and go back to basics with a good old bar of soap. There are plenty of affordable artisanal and locally made options on the market so you don't have to sacrifice luxury.
As for your other skincare favs, you’ll be surprised how many products you can find in solid form – face serums, body lotion and face wash are all just as good without the packaging!
Bamboo is the new plastic
Have you swapped out your toothbrush for a bamboo option yet? Although it may seem weird to use a wooden version, rest assured this trusty eco alternative will leave you feeling fresh without having to worry about splinters – phew!
Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic as it’s cheap, lightweight and strong. Think about swapping your single-use cotton buds to a bamboo alternative too!
While we don’t recommend swapping out your plastic products just for the sake of it, if your hairbrush and comb are worse for wear, try opting for a longer lasting wooden option.
2. A sustainable kitchen
If you’re always dealing with leftovers, there are plenty of sustainable alternatives to choose from.
When you’ve used up your roll of plastic wrap, try out eco friendly and reusable options like beeswax wraps or silicone bowl covers. Both of these options can be washed and used time and time again, plus there are plenty of colours and designs to suit your kitchen.
Tempered glass storage containers are a great substitute for their plastic counterparts. Not only do they look nicer, they won’t leech phthalates into your food if you’re reheating your leftovers.
For school lunches or snacks on the go, silicone zip lock snack bags are just as convenient as disposable plastic ones, but will stay in use for years to come.
Make your own
If you come home from the supermarket with bags full of plastic products, you’re not alone. Weekly staples from hummus and yoghurt to bread and crackers all come dressed in single use plastic packaging.
To help the planet (and save money!) consider learning how to make just one of your favourites from scratch. The internet is full of delicious recipes and if you make them in bulk on the weekend, you’ll find it becomes part of your weekly routine.
Yoghurt is surprisingly easy – it basically makes itself while you sleep! Bread is a breeze if you invest in a bread maker, and even fizzy drinks are simple to whip up with a Soda Stream. All can be found in the Home & Living category.
Buying groceries in bulk and using your own containers at the supermarket deli or butcher shop is another easy way to reduce your household waste. Flour, grains, spices, herbs and even cleaning products can easily be found at your local bulk store like Commonsense Organics, Bin Inn or The Good For Store.
When it comes to cleaning, standard products typically come in a form of plastic packaging but fortunately there are now more eco-friendly options on the market than ever before. If you're keen to lower your impact in this area, it’s easy to make your own eco cleaners with just a few ingredients and there's plenty of recipes available online or pick up some cleaning refill tablets. Reusing your empty plastic bottles and containers is even better than buying new glass options.
For earth friendly dish washing, swap out your old plastic dish brush for a wooden one with a replaceable head and dish clothes with a more sustainable option. Soap shakers have been making a comeback recently (you may remember your grandparents using these!) and give you a great lather with just a bar of soap for many uses – cleaning the dishes, hand washing clothes or having a relaxing bubble bath!
Start ‘em young
There’s no denying that kids love drawing! If this sounds like your kids, opt for beeswax crayons and chalk instead of plastic felt pens when searching for kids arts & crafts.
Wooden toys are another great option to reduce plastic around the house. They’ve boomed in popularity over the past few years and there are so many adorable sets to choose from.
Plenty of baby products like feeding sets and teething toys also have sustainable silicone options – not to mention they’re oh so cute!
Out and about
Sometimes, being eco conscious is all about being prepared. If you’re heading out and about, make sure you have a few essentials to ensure you won’t have to resort to using single use plastic.
Keep cups, bamboo to-go cutlery and a metal straw are great additions to your handbag if you love to eat out. A lot of cafes are onboard with ditching disposable cups and some will even give you a small discount if you bring your own cup – bonus!
Reducing your plastic waste may seem like a tall order, but there are plenty of ways to start out small without having to make drastic changes. For more resources and to join the official challenge, check out the Plastic Free July website.
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