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July is upon us, which means Plastic Free July is in full swing. The global month-long initiative raises awareness of our consumer habits and urges people to challenge themselves to limit plastic usage for the whole month.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly,” zero-waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau once famously said, so even if you do buy or use some plastic this month, the focus is really on what you can refrain from doing. You can replace common household items with long-lasting alternatives and refuse wasteful single-use plastics to do your part this month, and we rounded up some popular items to try instead to help you get started.
1. A reusable water bottle
Plastic water bottles account for a large percentage of ocean plastic, so why use them? Most communities, public spaces, restaurants, and parks have water fountains. Bringing your own reusable water bottle reduces single-use plastic waste and allows you to always drink from your own vessel.
Klean Kanteen makes one of our favorite water bottles, the insulated wide with loop cap. We found that it kept water cold for two days, and is made with a special powder coating, which helps protect against slipperiness and condensation. You can also use different types of caps with it, and it can be hooked onto a bag with a D-ring, for easier portability. Best of all, the company is a B-Corp, which means it can back up the work it does to build a better world.
2. These reusable sandwich bags
I’m always singing the praises of Stasher bags to anyone who will listen. They’re sturdy, colorful but transparent, easy to wash, and stay sealed well, and are among the best reusable sandwich bags we've ever tested.
I use them all over my house: storing frozen fruit for smoothies, keeping bandaids and hair ties in my purse, transporting mini-essentials when traveling, packing snacks for a day out, and keeping my jewelry safe when I step onto a sand volleyball court. If you’re looking for a functional item to replace the plastic bags in your pantry, you definitely want to try these.
3. A bamboo toothbrush
One of the most staggering statistics I’ve read since beginning my sustainable journey is this: Every toothbrush you’ve ever used is still on the planet. That, and every other toothbrush everyone else has used.
Plastic doesn’t break down, so the more alternatives we can use, the better. Your toothbrush is an easy and affordable swap that serves as a daily reminder that you’ve made progress. This adult bamboo toothbrush is the best I’ve found so far because the bristles don’t fall out like other brushes.
4. A portable coffee cup
Just like a reusable water bottle, a reusable cup comes in handy, especially if you’re a tea or coffee drinker. I have a few tumblers in my cabinets, but I’ve recently been eyeing a Stojo coffee cup after buying one of the Stojo water bottles.
The cups are collapsible, so they can tuck inside your purse, fanny pack, or backpack with ease. In our recent review, we noted that while disassembling the cup might seem challenging as the cup has six parts, it's actually rather intuitive to break apart and clean. We also absolutely loved how portable it is, finding it easy to fill up at a cafe and then collapse it when we were done drinking. There’s no waste, and the cup even comes with a straw! Stojo cups range from 12- to 16-ounces, but I say go big or go home!
- Get the Stojo On The Go Coffee Cup, 12- to 16 ounces at Amazon from $15
- Get the Stojo On The Go Coffee Cup, 24-ounces at Amazon for $25
5. A cute and reusable bag
One of the joys of buying reusables is that you can carry things that make you smile. Baggu bags are bright and durable, and they can fold up really small to fit into a pocket or the small pockets behind seats in your car, which is where I keep mine so I always have reusable bags available when I’m shopping.
Baggu bags are made of durable, recycled ripstop nylon and can fit twice as many groceries as a plastic bag. They’re way more fun anyway!
6. A set of utensils for on-the-go use
Refusing plastic silverware is a small step that can make a large impact. Carrying your own utensils, like this pack of stainless steel flatware, doesn’t take up much space and saves you from having to throw yet another plastic fork and knife away.
You can opt for a matching set like this one, which comes in a bag that zips shut. Or, you can simply grab a fork, knife, and spoon from your kitchen drawer and wrap them in a napkin to use the next time you get takeout.
7. A silicone swab
Though you may not realize it, most cotton swabs are wrapped in plastic. They also tend to be a staple in many bathrooms, and they are typically used once (or once per end) and then tossed away, which means a lot of those small plastic tubes are sitting in landfills. Instead, opt for a silicone swab, like the ones from LastObject.
I tested both styles myself, and I still use them. While they don’t absorb water or shampoo in your ears, they are easy to clean and dry. They also seem to help apply makeup more accurately and reduce smudging. The company also just launched LastSwab Baby for your little ones. Another great feature? LastSwab comes in a carrying case, which makes it easy to keep on hand and protect from dirt and dust.
8. A zero-waste shampoo bar
Just like plastic toothbrushes, all the haircare and body-care items packaged in plastic are polluting landfills and oceans. However, shampoo bars seem to be gaining popularity, and there are now a variety of options and brands formulated for different hair types and lengths that actually work.
A bar of shampoo may not seem as intuitive, but it’s just as easy as washing your body with a bar of soap. Shampoo bars from Ethique are highly rated, and the brand is cruelty-free, vegan, and is a B Corporation as well. We also recently reviewed shampoo bars from HiBar and loved the results, as it helped make our tester's locks feel stronger and look fuller and bouncier.
9. These mesh produce bags
If you’re still using the thin plastic bags in the produce section of your local grocery, this swap is for you. Those bags tear easily, are a pain to open, and take up space in your trash—not to mention, they contribute to plastic waste.
Reusable produce bags are a simple swap: Just take them to the store with you, place your produce inside, check out, drive home, and put them in the fridge. It’s really that easy, though I recommend washing produce before eating. These Ecowaare bags in particular have almost 20,000 5-star ratings, and for less than $11, they can transform your grocery store impact.
10. A refillable deodorant
I’ve tried a handful of natural deodorants, and I can tell you for certain that they’re not all created equally. The refillable deodorant from by Humankind is one of the best I’ve tested, partly because it smelled great, but also because it didn’t melt or get stuck in the lid, and the plastic outer container (yes, plastic) is endlessly refillable.
You can buy replacements from by Humankind’s website, and then pop them in the container to reuse, so the container will last you as long as you need. I like both the rosemary-mint and lavender-citrus scents.
11. A zero-waste lip balm
Finding a good lip balm can be difficult, and finding a non-plastic option is even harder. I know Carmex and Burt’s Bees have huge followings, but there are more eco-friendly options that are just as wonderful.
My recent favorite is Poppy & Pout, which my local refiller Koko sells. I’ve also been eyeing Meow Meow Tweet lip balm which has a great brand name, a plastic-free tube, and organic plant butters.
- Get the Poppy & Pout Natural Lip Balm at Amazon for $9.95
- Get Meow Meow Tweet Lip Balm at Meow Meow Tweet for $14
12. These Swedish dishcloths
I recently moved across town, and during the week where I was fully packed up and living off takeout food and my generous roommate’s refrigerator shelf, I was shocked at how many paper towels we used and threw away.
I know paper towels aren’t tenchincally plastic, but they come in plastic wrap and if you buy them in large enough packs (you know the retailer I’m thinking of) then they are also individually wrapped, which is a lot of waste. I’m a big fan of using dish towels and microfiber cloths in the kitchen, but Swedish dishcloths are great, too. They’re small, absorbent, machine-washable, and can be composted at the end of their life.
13. These laundry detergent alternatives
I’m really sensitive to smell, especially in cleaning products and laundry detergents. I don’t like strong scents that linger on my clothing or my linens, and because my skin comes into contact with the clothes, towels, and bedding I wash, it's important to me that I use a soap I can trust.
Lately, I’ve been using two powder detergents that have outperformed anything I’ve ever gotten in a plastic jug. Humble Suds has a sweet orange and lemongrass laundry soap made with only five ingredients, and which comes in a paper bag. I also like The Simply Co. laundry detergent, which is unscented and comes in a tall, reusable glass jar. Both are plastic-free and will simplify your laundry day because they offer sweet scents and only require a single scoop.
- Get The Simply Co Laundry Detergent at Package Free Shop for $18
- Get the Laundry Soap from Humble Suds for $18.95
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.