25 Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Alternatives for Your Home

By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza

In 2019, the House Method team is on a quest to be better to our world. We’re making commitments to ditch single-use plastic, swap disposables for compostables, go used instead of new when we can, and to be more mindful and conscious of not only where we put our money, but also what we’re putting—and not putting—in our garbage cans.

While we usually write reviews on home warranty companies, like our in-depth review on Select Home Warranty, we’ve decided to put together a list of 25 of our favorite product swaps for the home.

1. Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo

Plastic toothbrushes represent more than 50 million pounds of waste in the United States annually. That’s roughly 850 toothbrushes thrown out every year. Plastic like this doesn’t biodegrade, so swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo alternative.

2. Go for stainless steel razors over plastic

Just like toothbrushes, all the plastic razors you’ve ever used are still sitting somewhere in a landfill. A good stainless steel razor handle will last you for decades, and replacement blades can be ordered in bulk inexpensively.

We like this stainless steel handle from Merkur.

3. Swap plastic wrap for waxed cloth wrap

Plastic wrap is a prime example of single-use plastic that gets used a lot in most households. Rather than buying a new roll every few weeks, go for the sustainable option of wax-coated fabric food wraps

We like the Bee’s Wrap as a replacement for plastic wrap.

4. Swap plastic baggies for waxed cloth or fabric bags

When storing snacks or packing lunches, ditch the plastic baggies and instead reach for waxed fabric wrap, glass or stainless steel containers, or reusable cotton food bags that can be washed. Plus, replacing plastic with stackable reusable containers will make your fridge look organized and beautiful.

We like this reusable cotton food bag from Public Goods.

5. Skip plastic grocery bags for reusable bags

Grocery stores everywhere are now stocked with inexpensive reusable shopping bags, so there’s hardly an excuse to go for the plastic. If you drive, keep a few in the trunk of your car. If you’re an urban dweller, try a collapsible bag or one that folds into a pouch. Keep it on you at all times and pull it out wherever you may shop—the grocery, the bookstore, a clothing store.

We like this canvas bag from Baggu.

6. Skip the plastic produce bags

There’s no need to wrap most produce in plastic bags. Foods like bananas, apples, lettuce, citrus, etc., simply don’t need a bag, so skip it and put the items directly into your cart and carry them home in your reusable bag. For loose items like green beans or pearl potatoes that need a little wrangling, go for reusable fabric produce bags.

7. Go glass jars instead of plastic containers

When storing food at home, opt for glass rather than plastic. But don’t immediately ditch perfectly fine plastic food storage containers for the sake of the switch, but when you’ve gotten your use out of your plastic ware, make sure to check the bottom for the recycling symbol. Many brands like Tupperware and Rubbermaid make containers that can be recycled into non-food toting items.

8. Go for local baked goods rather than mass-produced

Mass-produced baked goods like breads and pastries come wrapped in plastic bags. Support local and go sustainable by finding a local bakery that will wrap goods in paper bags rather than plastic.

9. Swap plastic picnic ware for something more sustainable

If you’re like us, hosting company is par for the course. Rather than disposable plastic picnic plates, cups, and cutlery for your next cookout, choose bamboo and compostable products or a reusable option like stainless steel or aluminum ware that can one day be recycled. Try this disposable wood cutlery and these compostable plates.

10. Swap paper coffee cups for a reusable mug

Not all municipalities are able to recycle paper coffee cups. Many have an internal plastic coating that prevents them from being recycled, the same material that prevents them from being composted.

Whether you’re a hot coffee, cold coffee, juice, or tea drinker, carry your own cup while you’re on the go. We like this ceramic travel mug from Porter.

11. Powder dishwashing detergent instead of liquid or pods

Though the convenience can’t be beat, liquid detergent and pods come in plastic containers. Look for an eco-safe powder detergent that comes in a cardboard box instead.

12. Compostable dish scrubbers instead of sponges or plastic scrubbers

Dish scrubbers made of natural materials like wood and bamboo are perfect alternatives to disposable plastic sponges or scrubbing brushes.

We like this natural scrub brush.

13. Skip buying new clothes and go for used and responsibly made

Knowing where your clothes are made—where and how and for how much—is key in making ethical decisions about our wardrobes. Fast fashion and the cultural ideal of accumulation has lead to human rights violations and incredible amounts of textile waste building up in our landfills.

Instead of opting for new clothes every time, try local consignment and thrift stores and apps like Poshmark and thredUP, where you can find brand-names clothes on resale. Choose natural fibers, like cotton and silk, over synthetic materials.

When you’re cleaning out your closet, send items to your local charity shop, list them on a resale app like those above, or swap with friends—don’t just throw them to the curb.

14. Ditch harsh chemical cleaners for natural options

Get a reusable plastic or glass spray bottle and fill it with diluted white vinegar (plus a little lemon oil if you prefer a citrus scent). This is a child-safe, pet-safe, and food-safe cleaner for all surfaces. Use it as shower cleaner when combined with a little baking soda (spray on vinegar and let sit 20 minutes, scrub with baking soda, rinse).

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is also a biodegradable plant-derived cleaner that can be used on anything to hard surfaces to dishes and floors.

15. Swap plastic toothpaste tubes for homemade or metal

Toothpaste tubes are made of plastic, so to ditch this plastic habit, make your own and storing it in a glass jar or choose a toothpaste that comes in a recyclable metal tube.

Homemade toothpaste is as simple as baking soda, salt, water, and food-quality peppermint oil. If you’re in the market for a metal tube option, we like this natural toothpaste from Davids.

16. Swap plastic shampoo and soap bottles for bar shampoo

Instead of plastic soap bottles that get tossed out when they’re empty, try bar-based shower products that come wrapped in paper or without packaging at all.

17. Ditch the aluminum foil and parchment paper and go with a silicone mat

Bakers can reduce waste in the kitchen by opting for a reusable silicone mat. Silicone mats are not biodegradable but can be recycled. You can also find silicone cupcake tin liners at your local kitchen shop as well.

18. Toss paper towels and napkins for cloth

Most paper towels and napkins come wrapped in plastic, and the expense of restocking can certainly add up. Opt instead for tough-quality reusable cotton towels for cleaning household messes and spills.

19. Plastic garbage bags for compostable bags

You can always skip plastic bags all together and put your trash directly into a can, but for those of us who have to lug trash to a dumpster or whose municipalities require garbage to be bagged, compostable garbage bags are the way to go. You can also easily start your own compost pile in your home for much of your kitchen waste.

20. Swap tampons and pads for a menstrual cup

Tampon applicators and pads end up sitting in landfills, so try a reusable menstrual cup or applicator-free tampons made of organic cotton. Compare the cost of a box of tampons each month (roughy $8 a month or $96 a year) to a reusable menstrual cup (roughly $12–20) that can be replaced every five years.

If you’d like to opt for applicator-free tampons, we like the subscription option from Lola. This menstrual cup from Lena is another favorite.

21. Buy plastic-free cotton buds

You’ll find plenty of cotton buds with plastic handles, but be sure to opt for cotton buds made entirely of paper, which can biodegrade over time.

22. Go for reusable diapers over disposable

You heard us. It’s estimated that roughly 18 billion diapers are put into landfills every year, and even “green” disposable options can sit in landfills for years.

Go for reusable cloth diapers instead—and even save a little cash in the process.

23. Opt for a zero-waste floss option

Most floss you find at the grocery store or drug store comes in plastic pods and much of it is actually coated with a type of Teflon.

Get a floss that is coated in candelilla wax and packaged in aluminum or glass instead of plastic. We like this natural floss option from Public Goods. It’s biodegradable and paraben-free as well.

24. Toss plastic loofahs for the real thing

A natural loofah is actually the dried porous fruit of the gourd that grows on the Luffa plant. You can actually grow your own depending on your climate, or you can opt for a natural loofah from a local health store.

25. Skip plastic deodorant sticks and opt for a paper-wrapped alternative

Deodorant and antiperspirant sticks come in plastic containers that get tossed into a landfill, but there are safer options (that are free of aluminum) that come wrapped in paper or cardboard.

Bonus tip—Take advantage of your home warranty to fix systems and appliances that aren’t working correctly or efficiently. For example, if your clothes are still damp after cycling through your clothes dryer, it could be wasting energy and racking up your utility bill.

A home warranty from a reputable company can minimize your stress at home. Read some of our in-depth reviews, such as our Choice Home Warranty review and American Home Shield review.

Got another sustainable or responsible product swap? Let us know in the comments.

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