Recycling plastic is a good thing. However, stopping the cycle — and the plastic waste — before it starts is better.
Along with selling reusable shopping totes and plastic straw alternatives, sustainability-savvy retailers and manufacturers are increasingly stocking well-designed, mainstream and often affordable options to cut down on single-use plastic products. Think reusable cloth napkins and refillable containers (à la the milkman model).
Lily Cameron, co-founder of online store Wild Minimalist, is all for disrupting the status quo when it comes to our throwaway culture. She calls plastic pollution — the 300 million tons of plastic waste the United Nations estimates we generate globally per year — one of the most serious problems of our times.
“It’s really scary,” Cameron said. “I have a 2-year-old son, and I think it’s not just about polluting the environment but also the health concerns of what plastic does to our bodies. We’re finding that plastic is in everything. It’s finding its way into our water sources. ... I think it’s something we all have to be aware of and do our part to reduce it.”
Sustainable solutions may seem easier said than done. However, most people can participate in ways big and small. “You don’t have to buy a bunch of new, fancy, reusable supplies to get started,” Cameron said. “There’s lots of things you can do for free, like taking a container when you dine out [for leftovers]. You can bring Tupperware you already have. Or reuse a yogurt container.”
Here are some other eco-friendly possibilities:
According to market research by Euromonitor, more than 1.2 billion disposable plastic razors were sold in the U.S. in 2018. Instead, opt for a rose gold safety razor. $32.50 at Eco Roots, ecoroots.us
Friendsheep dryer balls naturally soften laundry and reduce static cling, drying time, chemicals and waste from dryer sheets and plastic jugs of fabric softener. $28 for a set of six, at friendsheepwool.com
Skip paper napkins in plastic packaging. Here’s a set of six cloth napkins. $32 at Anthropologie, anthropologie.com
Make a power play with Eneloop rechargeable batteries (with plug-in charging station) by Panasonic. $17.99 at amazon.com
Reusable paper towels
Use, rinse and repeat. Each sheet of reusable paper towels lasts for a week. A set of three rolls is available from If You Care. $32 at food52.com
Refillable dispenser bottle
As seen on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality TV show “Shark Tank,” dissolving tablets and refillable dispenser bottles by Blueland can replace single-use plastic containers of hand soap and household cleansers. Foaming hand soap starter kit with one glass “forever” bottle and three tablets, $16, and bathroom starter set with shatterproof reusable bottle and one tablet for 20 ounces of cleaner, $12, at blueland.com.
Refillable makeup cases
Here’s a way to make your beauty choices sustainable. Replace disposable plastic containers with refillable makeup cases from Kjaer Weis (pronounced “Keer Why-s”): Lush Up Volumizing Mascara, $38 for life version with case, and Embrace Cream Blush, $56 in Sun Touched for life version with case, both at kjaerweis.com.
Reusable silicone bags with Pinch-loc seal are microwave and dishwasher safe and come in a range of sizes and shapes from wildminimalist.com. Stand-up bag by Stasher, pictured, $19.99 at stasherbag.com.
Mouthwash tablets and container
Keep these personal-care products with cool, contemporary packaging and refill as needed. By Humankind sells mouthwash tablets and container, $10; refillable deodorant cases with paper-based pod inserts, $12; and shampoo bar with soap dish, $15, all at byhumankind.com.