5 Earth-Friendly Alternatives to Disposable Household Items
It's a tough reality to face, but many of the products we use around the house every day are taking a huge toll on the environment. Toss away something as small and mundane as a toothbrush, and you're suddenly contributing to all those "The Oceans are Drowning in Plastic!!" headlines keeping people up at night.
But you don't have to be part of the problem. There are a lot of earth-friendly alternatives to your favorite waste-creating household items, and the good news? They won't break the bank. Here are our five favorite environmentally friendly swaps:
These are a huge waste offender, because an unnecessary amount of toothbrush manufacturers have an unnecessary amount of toothbrush styles that feature unnecessary features made of materials (eg. hard plastic, soft plastic grips, etc.) that are not recyclable. The makers of these products will insist these features are added in the name of good oral hygiene, but there is little to no proof of that. In fact, the only features that most dentists and the American Dental Association recommend are soft bristles and a small head, so that you can hit harder to reach areas.
Want to stop polluting in the sake of clean teeth? You can actually get biodegradable brushes for less, and these offer both of these necessary features and don't cost much at all. In fact, they are often cheaper than their wasteful counterparts. Do a quick web search for "bamboo toothbrushes" and you'll see what we mean.
For example, These Dr. Perfect Bamboo Toothbrush Soft Natural Bristles on Amazon at $10.50 for a pack of 12. These have natural bristles, which means they are completely biodegradable. Some offer a bamboo handle but still use plastic bristles. Don't buy those. Get the ones that are all natural, through and through.
Chemical dumping isn't just for big companies. The average consumer dumps their fair share of pollutants every time they use your average household cleaner: from dish soap to Windex. Sure, your individual consumption may be small, but collectively, it's huge. Think of your contribution to this kind of pollution as a kind of metaphor for how companies like Google make money. Your individual clicks on their ads and promoted links might earn the company mere cents, but with so many people clicking so many times a day, it adds up to billions of dollars a year. Pollution is fueled by "micropayments" like this too.
However, there are plenty of earth-friendly cleaning products on the market at prices comparable to traditional brands. For example, this three-pack of Meyer dish soap is $9.60 on Amazon if you click "subscribe and save" (which you can cancel later). That's comparable to regular liquid. That brand also makes a ton of other home cleaning products that have been pretty popular with consumers. It can be expensive in-store, but buying it in bulk online will help you save on paying too much.
Another helpful link for products like these can be found at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit that links consumers to eco-friendly products.
Dog waste bags
It's estimated that there are 78 million pet dogs in the United States, which means that close to 25 percent of Americans own a dog. But dogs don't use toilets, so that's a lot of you-know-what to pickup. Of course, little plastic baggies make curbing your dog an easy and non-vomit inducing task. But that's a lot of plastic bags going into the waste stream! Think about it: Even if we assume that half of all dog owners leave their pup's poop to fester on the street (which can attract rats and spread disease!), if the average dog does its business twice a day, that's over 28 billion bags a year.
But biodegradable bags exist, and they're not even that expensive. In fact, most of the bags sold for this purpose make it a point to be earth-friendly! For example, you can get 1,000 for $15.95 at Chewy.com – in four colors, even!
Batteries are full of some pretty toxic materials, and I hope you already know it's a bad idea to just throw them in the trash. In the long run, it's actually more cost effective to use alternatives to your run-of-the-mill batteries.
There are two ways to go about this. The first is to invest in a rechargeable battery kit. These can be pretty cheap, like this one for $16.99 on Amazon. We recommend buying a kit with at least four AAA and four AA, so that your bases are covered and you can simply swap out charged ones for dead ones without having to wait. Count up how many devices you have in your home that require batteries and figure out how many you need and add one or two extra. That way, you'll always have a charged battery on hand. Rechargeables won't last forever, but you'll get a few years of use out of them and you can recycle them at the end of their lifetime.
The second and sometimes smarter option is to use solar powered devices whenever you can. This won't work for everything, but it's an excellent option for low powered devices. For example, I use this Logitech Solar Wireless Keyboard in my office and it has worked flawlessly for a few years now, needing very little light to operate properly. Sometimes you might spend a few dollars more for solar device, but not having to change batteries makes it worthwhile in the end.
Don't worry, We're not asking you to give up your toilet paper (though a bidet will cut down on your usage and is a lot more hygienic!). We're just asking you to think about the amount of paper products you use around the house. Of course, paper comes from trees, and trees are a renewable resource, but even the lumber industry has some pretty negative environmental costs. It's always a good idea to reduce consumption if possible.
For many families, napkins are the biggest culprit for at-home paper waste, and these can easily be replaced by inexpensive cotton ones without causing too much upset to your daily routine. The key here is to be smart about how you use them. Having to use and wash napkins can be inconvenient, so the trick is to buy enough so that you don't feel like you are always running out, and then sneak them into your regular laundry cycle so you aren't having to do extra loads.
Paper towels can be a little too useful to give up, so the best thing to do is buy recycled paper towel brands. In order to save money on these, make sure to buy in bulk. Not only are these rolls made of recycled paper, but they also do not contain the chemicals and dyes that are often found in newborn rolls.