It’s officially Plastic Free July, an annual initiative aiming to encourage individuals to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic by swapping out everyday items for plastic-free products. And while it may seem too wild to focus on this issue when there are so many other things to worry about right now, unfortunately the climate crisis isn’t on hold just because we’re otherwise engaged. In fact, plastic pollution is increasing.
The good news is that joining the movement doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Going 100% percent plastic free is a lofty goal, one which has been made nearly impossible by the pandemic (hello, PPE/takeout/etc!). So, forget about it. Instead—if you are privileged enough to have the time and resources to do so—look for ways to reduce your use wherever possible. This can entail, for example, making hummus instead of buying it, or investing in one of the plastic-free alternatives to household products, below, the next time you run out.
And while climate activists have consistently explained to me that we can’t buy our way out of the climate crisis, consumer choices can lead to lowered demand for plastic products over time. Plus, so many of us are craving the oceans’ soothing waters right now, and these small shifts in consumption can help make it—and by extension, us—healthier, one less piece of plastic at a time.
Plastic-free products that don’t require a major lifestyle overhaul
1. Brilliant Black Dental Floss, $10
When it comes to its environmental impact, floss is tricky. While typical floss is made of nylon rather than plastic, it often ends up in the ocean due to its tiny size. And floss containers usually are made of plastic, which—depending on your local recycling program—can end up in landfills (and will, eventually, even if recycled). This bamboo floss alternative is compostable, packaged in paper and, unlike many compostable flosses, it’s vegan-friendly, too.
2. Bite Toothpaste, $30
Over one billion toothpaste tubes are discarded each year, and none but the newest Tom’s of Maine tubes can be recycled. Bite offers a tube-less alternative packaged in fully recyclable glass and aluminum. After a lifetime of using paste, these little tabs—which you bite down on to begin brushing—might seem odd, but future generations will thank you for making the switch.
3. Humankind mouthwash, $10
Traditional mouthwash comes in big ol’ single-use plastic bottles, which pollute the environment and take up space in your bathroom. This tablet-based, all-natural mouthwash comes with a reusable cup which allows you to dissolve the perfect amount of wash with each use.
4. Mason Jar Toothbrush Holder, $10
This product offers a clever, eco-friendly hack for turning an infinitely reusable mason jar into a toothbrush holder, which might otherwise be made of plastic and/or be in need of replacement every few years (at which point it ends up in a landfill).
5. LastSwab, $12
Humankind and other brands offer compostable swabs—which are far better for the environment than the plastic-coated variety—but if you really want to go the distance on reducing waste, this 100 percent reusable swab offers an alternative. It comes in two varieties—one for beauty product application, and the other for more general use.
Since they were launched in 2012, Lush says their shampoo bars have prevented 22.5 million plastic bottles from being produced. This cult-beloved product lasts for around 80 washes, generates zero plastic waste, and smells amazing. Ethnique makes a variety of shampoo and conditioner bars, too.
7. Native Plastic-Free Deodorant, $13
As part of a larger initiative to provide plastic-free packaging for all of their offerings by 2023, Native recently gave their cult-beloved aluminum-free deodorant a makeover. The new product is packaged from responsibly-harvested wood, and the company is additionally donating 1 percent of profits to environmental orgs.
8. Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation, $68
The makeup industry is a big plastic polluter, but some companies are getting innovative in their packaging to lower the footprint of beauty. Kjaer Weis not only makes refillable foundations but also eye shadows, bronzers, lipsticks, and more. (Foundation refills are $45.)
While this Tata Harper moisturizer is far from the only hydrator packaged in glass rather than plastic, it’s unique in that it’s refillable via biodegradable pods which snap into the original bottle purchased—which means you’re generating less waste over time in addition to reducing your consumption of single-use plastic.
10. Blueland The Clean Essentials, $39
After using Blueland’s tablet-based products for months, I almost can’t believe I ever bought my cleaning solutions in huge, single-use bottles. While the company does initially send its products with spray bottles made of plastic, they’re meant to be used over and over again via refills of the cleaning tablets. Blueland sells other plastic-free products like hand soap and dish soap, too, while the brand Clean Cult utilizes a similar concept.
11. Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Pods, $17
The majority of large plastic detergent bottles are not recycled, but these dissolvable laundry pods offer an alternative to generating landfill waste through your laundry. The company also makes wool dryer balls that are good for up to 1000 washes.
12. Bees Wrap, $18
Plastic wrap use may feel relatively innocuous, but it can really add up and besides, it’s unnecessary given the existence of reusable options made from organic cotton and sustainably-sourced beeswax. Vegan? Plastic Free Shop sells a bee-free version, too.
13. Stasher Silicone Reusable Food Bags, $12
You can also stash (pun intended) your food in these attractive plastic bag alternatives, which are BPA-free.
14. My AlphaPet Dog Poop Bags, $16
Most eco-friendly poop bags aren’t fully compostable—instead, they’re created to decompose more quickly than regular plastic—but these are. In fact, they break down in just 90 days. They’re more of an investment than regular bags, but if you consider that you’re paying a premium not to preserve your dog’s poop ’til the end of time, you might conclude that the extra expense is worth it.
15. Biodegradable iPhone Case, $40
Though I consider myself pretty conscientious, it never occurred to me to worry about my iPhone case; however, most are made of plastic. This one, on the other hand, is 100 percent compostable. The next step is to figure how not to give in to marketing initiatives around new iPhones…
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