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Go Without

The best eco-friendly option is to go without bags altogether and then clean the inside of the trash can after emptying. However, this can create a mess to clean up in the trash can that not everyone has time or is able to do regularly, especially if there are many trash cans or if they’re large. (Note: lead into eco-friendly cleaners for cleaning the trash cans)

Biodegradable Bags

Biodegradable bags sound great and do decompose faster (within three to six months) than non-biodegradable bags, but in a landfill, they don’t break down at all because landfills are designed to inhibit decomposing. In addition, biodegradable bags release toxic chemicals such as methane when they do break down.

Biodegradable bags also can’t be recycled with other recyclables because the type of plastic doesn’t match and will contaminate the other plastics.

Compostable Bags

Compostable bags will actually turn to compost and are regulated more heavily than biodegradable bags. They require a professional composting facility to dispose of them, but composting facilities are easily searchable online. They take an extra step to properly dispose of them, but compost contributes to helping reduce greenhouse gases. Compostable bags also don’t have any plastic in them.

Reusable Bags (best option)

Using reusable trash bags are as good as going without bags altogether and may actually be easier. When trash day comes, dump the contents into the bin for collection and then wash the bag. They’re even machine washable for easier washing! Plus, they can fit in a variety of trash can types and are waterproof.

Recycled Bags

Recycled bags give already existing plastic another use, so new plastic isn’t required to be made. Not all post-consumer recycled plastic bags are made of 100% recycled plastic, however.

Plastic straws are a huge problem in the ocean, harming animals and taking up to 200 years to decompose. In the ocean, trash and debris get pushed together by the currents, creating big garbage piles in the middle of the ocean. Some places, including Seattle, have banned plastic straws. Fortunately, there are alternatives that are friendlier to the environment!

Paper Straws (best option)

Paper straws are disposable, just like plastic straws, but they can biodegrade in 2-6 weeks in both nature and within six months in the ocean. They’re safer than plastic and can compost as well. Using paper straws is something many businesses are doing because they’re not reusable, but better for the environment. They’re less durable than plastic straws, however, and are more expensive.

Compostable Straws

Compostable straws are disposable and are made from corn plastics. They’ll biodegrade, but need to be disposed of at a composting facility. They’re more durable than paper straws, but to take advantage of their eco-friendliness, they have to be composted properly so they don’t end up in a landfill.

Bamboo Straws (best option)

Bamboo straws are reusable and are made from all-natural materials. They also are made without pesticides, dyes, or chemicals. Bamboo is a sustainable and easily renewable crop, so bamboo straws aren’t in danger of depleting the bamboo plant population. The material is also very versatile, so many different kinds of straws can be made (as well as a lot of other products, including bowls, cutting boards, etc.) Bamboo straws must be hand-washed, however, because the natural material is not dishwasher-safe. They also must be 100% dry before use to prevent mold. They’re durable but won’t last forever and may eventually experience wear and tear.

Metal Straws

Metal straws are long-lasting, dishwasher safe, and can even keep drinks cooler. There’s even a collapsible model so it’s easier to carry around. However, the process of manufacturing metal products isn’t good for the environment and releases toxic fumes. If you do use metal straws, the metal can later be recycled as scrap metal instead of thrown into a landfill.

Glass Straws

Glass straws are also long-lasting and reusable. Many glass straws are dishwasher safe (but it’s best to check before purchasing), but are breakable if you’re not careful. It’s also easy to see if they’re clean because they’re see-through. However, the process of making glass releases carbon dioxide into the air because of the melting involved.

Silicone Straws

Silicone straws are BPA-free and much better for the environment than plastic straws. They’re reusable, but are softer than glass or metal so they don’t hurt your teeth. They’re better for kids and anyone who likes to bite their straws. They can also handle extreme temperatures and so are good for hot drinks like tea or coffee. When disposed of, silicone won’t break down into harmful chemicals like plastic will and can be safely incinerated at a landfill. In addition, it’s stain- and odor-resistant and is antibacterial so they’re healthy to reuse.

Waterbottle with Reusable Straw

Some water bottles will come with built-in straws. This prevents you from having to use a disposable straw and can be reused, but water bottles are usually made out of plastic. The process of making plastic is harmful to the environment and plastics don’t biodegrade well. Even BPA-free plastics often are still harmful. These are usually dishwasher-safe, although they should be placed on the top rack to reduce the exposure to heat.

Lids that Don’t Require Straws

For businesses, offering lids that are recyclable and don’t require a straw to use are a great way to help the environment. Starbucks has been moving towards this, especially after Seattle banned the use of plastic straws. Plastic isn’t the best material to use, as its production is harmful to the environment, but these lids can be recycled if disposed of properly and don’t create additional waste in the form of straws.

Household cleaners can have chemicals that contribute to smog, can be toxic to animals, and can pollute drinking water. Anything with nitrogen, phosphorous, ammonia, or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), are bad for people and the environment. All-natural cleaners can are better for the environment and can be found for a variety of different purposes, from laundry detergent and dish soap to all-purpose cleaners.

Toilet paper is a single-use product and not only creates a ton of waste, but it also uses up trees and there are chemicals used in the manufacturing process that are bad for the environment because they contaminate the water. While trees are a sustainable resource if they’re replanted and cut down at a safe rate, so much toilet paper is made that the equivalent of 27,000 trees is flushed daily. Recycled toilet paper is made of post-consumer recycled paper that can help reduce the number of trees used. However, recycled toilet paper is rougher and can contain BPAs. The best option is to use a bidet and eliminate the use of toilet paper altogether, but recycled toilet paper can be a good alternative if you aren’t ready to make the switch to a bidet.

Plastic food storage bags are generally meant to be single-use. This not only results in more plastic made (the process of which is bad for the environment as it releases toxins into the air), it also results in more plastic in landfills or slowly biodegrading as litter and releasing toxins as it does so. Reusable storage containers are common – Tupperware, both plastic and glass, is at least reusable. But zip-lock bags can be replaced with reusable wraps – these are very versatile and can be washed with the laundry, in the dishwasher, or by hand, and will cut down on plastic waste.

Ballpoint pens are made of plastic and are disposable – and most of these end up in landfills or in waterways. On top of the environmental effects of making plastic in the first place – Bic has made at least 100 billion disposable pens and they could circle the world if placed end to end. That’s a lot of pens to end up in landfills.

Refillable Pens

Buying one pen and refilling the ink as needed can cut down on the amount of waste and the number of pens that end up in the world’s waterways or in its landfills. However, keeping track of where a refillable pen is can be tricky for anyone prone to losing small items.

Recycled Pens

Pens made of post-consumer recycled plastic water bottles can also cut down on the amount of plastic wasted. They’re still made of plastic and could also end up in landfills or in waterways, but they can help reduce the number of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills. These aren’t necessarily made up of 100% recycled material, however.

Recycled paper is better for the environment because it reduces the need for cutting down new trees and can reduce overall demand for wood, saving trees. This reduces the pressure on forests and allows more trees to regrow. Making recycled paper is also better for the environment than processing new paper.

Instead of using tissues, which will just end up in the trash, eventually making their way into landfills, which are designed to not let anything decompose, handkerchiefs are reusable. They can be washed in the laundry and easily carried around. Plus, they can come in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns. They’re also extremely popular in other parts of the world – Japan, for example, uses handkerchiefs not just for blowing noses but also to wipe the sweat off of faces in the hot and humid summers, so they’re multi-purpose.

Aluminum foil isn’t just a single-use product that will end up in a landfill after use, it’s also bad for your health. It can leech into any food it comes into contact with and get into human bones, and the human body can only get rid of so much aluminum. For food storage, good alternatives are glass containers.

Compostable Parchment Paper

For wrapping food in, compostable parchment paper is a better alternative than aluminum foil. It’s better for your health and better for the environment as it can be safely composted. Even better than aluminum foil, compostable parchment paper is safe to use in the microwave. The compostable paper does still need to be disposed of at a proper composting facility.

Reusable Wrap

Another alternative is a reusable wrapping product, such as a plastic-free wrap. This type of product is made out of wax and can be reused. This eliminates all waste as it can be reused, but it has to be hand-washed and cannot go in the microwave, dishwasher, over direct heat, or experience any extreme temperatures.

Water Pouches

In 2019, the London Marathon replaced all water bottles with edible seaweed-based pouches that contained sports drinks and water. Disposable plastic water bottles create huge amounts of waste all the time, not just during a sporting event, although the number used and discarded during the marathon is a lot. These edible pouches release the drink when bitten into and can be eaten entirely since they’re based on seaweed, but if they’re thrown out, they will biodegrade quickly. Because they’re made of seaweed, they aren’t harmful to the environment.

Reusable Bottles

Another alternative to plastic water bottles is a reusable bottle. Metal, glass, and plastic bottles all take a toll on the environment in their production, but their reusability prevents the need for further production of bottles. Plus, they cut down on the number of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills. Fancier ones can be more expensive, but a reusable plastic water bottle can cost as little as $3.

Water Filters

If you don’t like drinking tap water, a water filter can give you the taste of bottled water without the plastic waste. A Brita filter can be filled and put into the fridge, or a filter installed on the tap itself so you can pour filtered water directly out of the tap.

Plastic cutlery and dishes are meant for single-use and will just end up in a landfill when disposed of. When they decompose (which they don’t in a landfill), they release chemicals into the environment. The best option is to avoid using them altogether by using regular dishes and silverware that are washed and reused. But the convenience of single-use dishes and cutlery can’t be denied – sometimes there’s no time to wash dishes or if you’re having a picnic or going camping, or hosting a lot of guests, then compostable cutlery and dishes can be a good alternative.

Compostable cutlery and dishes need to be disposed of at a composting facility, but they will break down there and won’t release chemicals into the environment. Biodegradable plastic cutlery will sit in a landfill and not biodegrade. Recycled content silverware also will cut down on the amount of waste.

A lot of waste comes from the plastic bags we get at grocery stores. Eliminating this waste by replacing plastic bags with reusable ones is the best option.

Reusable Bags

Reusable grocery bags can be used to carry all grocery items and take the place of plastic bags altogether. You do need to remember to keep them in your car and bring them in with you so that you’re not given plastic bags instead.

Produce Bags

To replace the need to use the plastic bags in the produce section by bringing reusable produce bags. They’ll cut down on plastic waste and will just need to be brought with you to the grocery store to carry produce. The weight is minimal, so it won’t add to the weight of your produce items.

Another option for food containers is plantable containers. These are biodegradable and are designed to be planted in the ground. They have seeds that will grow a plant so the container isn’t just eco-friendly, it actively grows new plants.

All bamboo products are eco-friendly. They’re all-natural, durable, and more sustainable than wood. Bamboo plants grow very quickly and are hardy, so it’s easy to replant bamboo to replace any used for producing kitchenware. Cutting boards, bowls, and more can all be made out of bamboo. Even toilet paper can be – this can be even more eco-friendly than recycled toilet paper.

Pads and tampons not only cost a lot of money, but they also produce a lot of waste that just ends up sitting in plastic trash bags in a landfill. There are reusable options that not only save money but are better for the environment, too.

Reusable Cup

It’s weird to get used to at first, but it’s made of rubber, easy to clean, cheap, easy to use, and very nice to the environment.

Reusable Tampon Applicator

The applicator itself is reusable and pretty much self-cleaning because it’s antibacterial, but the tampons it inserts wouldn’t be.

Washable Pads

These are made of cloth and can be washed with the laundry and then reused, saving both money and the environment. You do have to save them to wash later, however, instead of conveniently throwing away any waste while you’re in the bathroom.

Period Underwear

These are underwear that have pads built into them – they’re washable and environmentally friendly because they save you the cost and the waste of buying pads and tampons. These look easier than washable pads because it looks like they can just go into the hamper and be less obvious what they were for than a washable pad.