Editor's Picks: Sustainable Swaps
Illustrations by Kassidy Curry
I was raised by environmentally aware parents. We lived near beaches and spent most of our time outdoors so from a young age I was instilled with passion for the planet. My mom has been recycling and using reusable bags for decades and I personally got most of my immediate and slightly extended family to stop using single-use plastic water bottles. Being green or eco-friendly can be intimidating and I have a long way to go, but my goal for this year is to make swaps anywhere I can (with my lack of disposable income) to be friendly to our planet.
Sustainable options and replacements are often more expensive, less accessible, and sometimes just straight up don't exist. I compiled this list of things I already use, things I am switching to, and things I want to try to help provide a little sustainable solidarity for anyone out there wanting to lessen their environmental impact with me. None of these are sponsored/ads, they are just items I found through my own research that I am curious or excited about. I tried to keep the prices as low as possible because I know cost can be a huge barrier to making some of these changes.
Scroll through to see if any fit your lifestyle and leave a comment with any other ideas or products you love!
Loose Leaf Tea
This is a big and easy one for me. I am a tea fiend but the bags, string, and tags can add up and produce more unnecessary waste than you think. Loose leaf tea is widely available, not more expensive than tea bags, and has almost zero waste! If you use a jar and shop somewhere that sells it in bulk it's even better (I can get mine at my local Sprout's). All you need is an infuser- or a french press if you're fancy- and your favorite chamomile, green tea, or english breakfast and you're ready to go.
Reusable Cotton Pads
Cotton pads were a big blind spot for me when I was making a list of swaps to make. I use them to take off nail polish, apply toner, and sometimes take off makeup. I realized that every day I am using at least two (more on days I need to change my nail polish) and adding that to my total waste. I'm still working to integrate reusable cotton pads into my routine as they do take a little more time and work but using them just a little has definitely cut down on the number of cotton pads I throw away and made me feel a little better about my impact.
Mesh Produce Bags
You probably already use reusable bags, especially if you're in Austin, but there's another bag swap to make. The plastic film bags in produce sections may be smaller than plastic grocery bags, but they're still harmful plastic. Mesh produce bags are a great swap- they're inexpensive and they even look cooler. You can buy packs of a few in most grocery stores and online.
Sunscreen is skincare and health 101. There are an overwhelming amount of sunscreen options with a variety of ingredients, consistencies, promises. What most sunscreens don't tell you, is that they're actually a huge ocean pollutant and cause of reef death. Active ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate in a lot of sunscreens are killing coral reefs and consequently large ocean ecosystems. There are several brands that carry mineral sunscreen or sunscreen free of those chemicals. My favorite product that I've been using for a while now is the Sun Bum Face Stick. It's SPF 30, non-greasy, and has no white cast. I have sensitive skin and it hasn't broke me out at all and feels good on. It also has the most amazing banana scent I've ever smelled, if that's your thing.
I want to preface this one by saying I don't think a full-out straw ban is realistic or inclusive. Reusable straws come with some issues. People with certain disabilities often rely on the mobility and flexibility of plastic straws in order to go through their days. Bamboo straws do not work for everyone and if you want a different option I would suggest silicone. Also, a cleaning tool is pretty much a necessity. They aren't expensive and are important to keep your straw clean and bacteria free.
Any steps you take to cut down on waste count no matter how big or small. Make simple, do-able changes daily and eventually you will have a diverse set of tools that you can feel good about using. The Package Free Shop has a lot of other great ideas and they're even, you guessed it, package free.
Let us know what sustainable swaps you have made in the comments and tag us on Instagram.