10 PLASTIC SWAPS
TO STAY SINGLE-USE PLASTIC FREE AFTER PLASTIC FREE JULY
Finding alternatives to swap out single-use plastic items for reusable ones is an essential step to lowering your household waste, and there are many ways you can reduce unnecessary plastic everyday.
Why Find Ways to Swap out Single Use Plastic?
It is easy to get discouraged from the amazing progress you might already be making and lose track of the goal. Have you ever thought to yourself, “how is this one plastic bag I skipped really going to make a difference”? Well, annually 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide! If more people were like you and skipped the plastic bag more often, this number would be much, much lower. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year, and over the last decade more plastic has been produced than the previous century, not even including all the Covid waste in 2020!
There are many plastic items we use on a daily basis without thinking about it. By switching everyday items to reusable ones, your plastic waste can be reduced significantly.
Below are 10 plastic swaps that will help you take your plastic free journey to the next level. Most importantly, I have also included specific sustainable products with links that are good swaps for plastic alternatives as well as some helpful tips for using them.
10 PLASTIC SWAPS
- Laundry Detergent!
Detergent bottles are typically never reused, and although recyclable, laundry detergent is an easy plastic swap. There are MANY sustainable, compostable, and packaging free detergent options out there. My favourite, Nellie’s, is a powdered detergent that comes in tin can packaging. The powder is also encased in a plastic bag inside the tin, but after purchasing one tin, it can be reused and refilled many times. Another brand I have most recently tried, Tru Earth Laundry Strips works quite well too. You simply place one strip into the bowl of your washer and it does the rest!
- Replace Plastic Razors with Metal Ones
Do you own a razor you can use without ever throwing it away? Switching from plastic razors to a metal one is a great way to continue reducing waste. Well Kept makes a safety razor that is easy to use, clean, switch and recycle the razor blades.
If you are nervous or hesitant to use a one-blade safety razor like I was at first, from experience I can say it is not as scary as you may think. Well Kept razors are weighted, which means you barely have to apply pressure while shaving. It also has a two-edged blade so each lasts longer, and it is easy to clean in the shower. Once the blade is dull, Well Kept has a metal container you can get to dispose of the blades safely. When your blade container is full, you can send it to Well Kept, and they will send an empty one back.
- Bring a Reusable Mug
Paper coffee cups are not always recyclable depending on the recycling facility, but coffee cup lids are almost never recyclable. Often the cup lid is labelled as “recyclable” but due to the lightweight nature of the lid, they end up drifting off the truck or falling between machinery at the recycling facility and this makes them difficult for recycling plants.
Bringing your own cup is always the best option! I love using my Yeti mug and visiting local coffee shops that take my mug. If you are wondering if your coffee shop will fill a reusable mug, just ask!
- Switch to Bar Hand Soap
Bar soap is generally considered to be more sustainable than liquid soap, using 30% less water to make and of course not being manufactured in plastic bottles.
When purchasing hand soap bars, there are obviously many brands out there, but it is best to choose organic, all-natural, small business/locally made, and toxin free ones. Ingredients to look out for and avoid include Parabens, Sulfates, and Cocamidopropyl betaine (synthetic detergent for foaming agents). If you know what the ingredients are without researching them, that is always a good sign!
- Change Your Sunscreen
Conventional sunscreen contains chemicals very harmful to the environment, especially underwater species and ecosystems. One of the best summer plastic free swaps is purchasing zero waste and reef safe sunscreen. Some great low waste brands are listed below.
Birch Babe: A Canadian company based in Ontario, all natural, simple ingredients, and 30 SPF mineral sunscreen packaged in a metal tin.
EiR: has a compostable tube sunscreen, they ship to Canada, and have the option to have your package shipped carbon neutral.
Raw Elements: has a sunscreen packaged in a metal tin, reef safe, all natural, and water resistant. They are an American company though so everything is priced in USD and is a bit expensive for my liking!
DIY Sunscreen: Super simple to make following this recipe! I also sell my homemade sunscreen based on this recipe!
Sunscreen is also relatively easy to make. I make my own each season from just a few ingredients including beeswax, shea butter, almond oil, coconut oil, vitamin E, and non nano zinc oxide (the active ingredient).
- Bring the Bags!
Many grocery stores are now switching to compostable bags which is a great step to reducing negative plastic impacts, but it doesn’t mean we should forget our reusable bags! Reusable bags are not just for your groceries – they are for any shopping trip, camping, road trips, sports games, or your produce items. Due to their versatile nature, a good reusable bag is worth the extra few dollars it costs to avoid single use plastic bags suffering from wear and tear. Plus, only 1-2% of the 500 billion plastic bags used annually worldwide are actually recycled.
If you want to know more about reusable bags, check out this post!
- Deodorant Swap
I tried MANY natural deodorants before settling on one that works for me. If you have not found one you like, remember to be patient, don’t give up, and be prepared to apply deodorant a little more often while your body adjusts to a natural one (just for a week or two).
I would recommend trying the zero waste and packaging free deodorant bar from Lush. Deodorant bars should be kept in a sealed container to make sure it does not dry up. I would also recommend Routine Cream, a Calgary based company with a natural deodorant and refillable options.
- Remember a Water Bottle
A good reusable water bottle is a key to reducing unneeded plastic waste, but the key is remembering to bring one with you wherever you go! To make single-use plastic water bottles, it requires six times the amount of water than what the bottle holds. What a waste of resources!
One of my favourite water bottles is the 500ml glass bottle made by Soma. It has a nice silicone grip around the bottom half of the bottle, a bamboo lid, and is made from shatter resistant glass. Despite being shatter resistant, I sadly smashed my bottle on the ground… that’s what I get for taking it to a workplace filled with kids! Soma is also a Certified B Corporation, which means they are legally required to consider their impact on the Earth with every decision and product they make. There are only 4000 companies worldwide who have fit this amazing certification!
- Toothpaste Tips!
Toothpaste tubes are made from a mix of different plastic materials which makes them nearly impossible to recycle and separate the materials. Tooth paste is a tricky switch if you want to keep fluoride as one of the active ingredients, otherwise there are both toothpaste tabs and natural toothpaste packaged in recyclable glass jars or aluminium tubes.
Davids Toothpaste: packaged in a metal recyclable tube
Crush & Brush: Toothpaste tablets meant to do exactly what it says, crush and then brush. I find this style of toothpaste great for travel and camping, but don’t prefer it for everyday use.
Nelson Naturals: natural toothpaste packaged in glass jars that can be refilled at many eco-friendly refillery stores. It comes in many flavours and if you are new to this kind of toothpaste, I would suggest starting out with a flavouring such as spearmint (don’t jump right into an exotic cinnamon like I did)!
- Plastic Wrapped Cucumbers
I’m sure you have seen plastic wrapped english cucumbers as well as other packaged produce like peppers, spinach in a bag, and the mini cucumbers on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. These vegetables are all wrapped so unnecessarily as we all wash our produce and place our items in a bag when packing our groceries anyways.
If you are wanting to live with a little less plastic, skip the produce wrapped in plastic! Fabric produce bags are a great addition to any grocery store routine and can also replace many plastic bags. Field cucumbers are often a “naked” vegetable, always unwrapped and a great alternative to plastic wrapped types.