Doing the right thing for the environment is hard when we’re bombarded with landfill-gutting products every day. Disposable plastics are not good for the Earth: Bottles end up in landfills or waste-management facilities, and plastic bags and straws end up in oceans threatening sea life. If we all swapped out a few of our disposable items for reusable alternatives, we could help the Earth and save ourselves some cash.
1. Shopping bags for all your errands
Many grocery stores are shifting from plastic bags—which are too flimsy to be recycled and end up clogging machines at waste-management facilities—to sacks made of recyclable paper. But if you want to be one step ahead, bring your own reusable bags next time you go shopping, whether for groceries or, well, anything. You can get them at your local stores for a nominal fee, or step up your bag game with this set of five from BeeGreen, which boasts 2,624 five-star reviews. One Amazon reviewer writes: “They are easy to fold and carry (I hook them on a carabiner to store in my car so they're always on hand), made of durable materials, and easy to clean! I like how they pack down into soft little squares. I can easily tuck [one] into a pocket or a clutch purse, so if I happen to have a spur-of-the-moment shopping [trip], I can pull out a bag to use.”
2. A water bottle to keep you hydrated
Like the Earth, we need water... like, a lot. With a reusable water bottle, you can fill up anywhere and not worry about buying and trashing plastic bottles. Our favorite is the aluminum Hydro Flask because it’s portable, durable, and well-designed. It keeps ice almost intact for over 24 hours, too, so you can sip on cold water even in hot weather.
3. A thermal mug for piping-hot coffee on the go
Why use a paper or styrofoam cup for your coffee when there are products that’ll keep your hot beverages steamy for far longer? When you bring your own mug to a coffee shop, you’ll typically receive a discount for your sustainability efforts, plus your drink stays fresher longer. We suggest the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug, which maintained a steaming hot temperature from one morning to the next during our testing. All-around win!
4. Bar soap and a tin to keep it in
Ditch your body or hand wash in a plastic bottle for a bar of soap stashed in a refillable tin. The tin keeps soap residue from getting on your shower or sink (and is more recyclable than plastic, when the time comes), plus it makes the product travel-ready at all times. Lush sells tins that are compatible with a variety of bar soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. Or you can make your own combo a container from Amazon and any bar of soap.
5. Reusable snack and sandwich bags that look nice, too
If you typically bring your lunch to school or work, you may reach for a plastic bag without much thought. You’re not alone in that habit. But you can one-up those garbage-bound, zip-top bags with reusable, velcro-topped ones. We love the Lunchskins because they kept our food fresh, fit sandwiches without squishing the contents, and are dishwasher-safe (no awkward hand-washing!) and quick-drying.
6. A stainless steel or glass straw so you’re sipping pretty
When you get a drink at a restaurant or from your favorite coffee shop, it’s likely that you’re handed a straw to sip from. Plastic straws are another small but destructive item we encounter regularly, but the solution is simple—and, no, it doesn’t involve using soggy paper straws. Steel or glass straws are nicer to drink from than their disposable plastic counterparts and easy to keep in your kitchen drawer for home use or throw in your purse or workbag when you’re heading out the door. For glass, we recommend the Hummingbird Glass Straws, which are clear, bent, and wider than normal so they’re ideal for smoothies and frappes. For steel, we recommend the SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws, which are the more affordable option of these two, but work the same as more expensive straws. Both of these options include a cleaning brush.
7. Easy solutions for brewing coffee with less refuse
If you’re in a committed relationship with your Keurig but feel guilty tossing the K-Cups in the trash, look no further. With a refillable 'K-Cup,’ you can use any coffee grinds you want by pouring them into the pod and slipping that into the coffee machine as normal. With 4.5 stars and over 1,000 customer reviews, the GoodCups set contains seven reusable cups that are compatible with dozens of Keurig models.
If you prefer to brew your coffee a pot at a time, consider using a reusable filter rather than paper—not all coffee filters are biodegradable and they’re an extra cost that can easily be avoided. Amazon sells a variety of reusable coffee filters that are compatible with brands like Mr. Coffee and Cuisinart.
8. A menstrual cup for eliminating period-product waste
Getting a period is natural. The amount of trash it creates is not. With a menstrual product like the female-founded DivaCup, there’s no waste like what's created from using tampons and pads during that time of the month. The DivaCup claims to give 12-hour leak-free coverage for females with a medium flow, too. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but like anything, it’s simple (and low-mess) once you get the hang of it.
9. Adjustable container lids to seal up leftovers
If you’ve ever pulled out a sheet of plastic wrap only to have it tangle in itself in your hands—or worse, not actually stick to the container you’re covering—you’ll love these adjustable covers, which are also safely microwavable to contain spatters when you reheat food. The Modfamily Silicone Stretch Lids includes seven sizes, all of which expand at least an inch to securely cover cans, bowls, and more. One customer wrote of the product, which has a 4-star rating and over 1,500 reviews: “I love these lids! I hardly use anything any plastic wrap anymore! Keeps food fresher. Easy to use. I've purchased many for friends and family because I love them so much and now they do, too!”
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.