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- While climate change has gained mainstream traction, research suggests it remains a partisan issue.
- Individual responsibility isn’t a silver bullet, but it can help strengthen the environmental movement.
- If you’re interested in adopting more eco-friendly habits, you can browse 32 ideas below.
Climate change has entered the mainstream conversation. Up 44% from 2009, six out of 10 Americans said in a survey that global climate change is a major threat to the country. In 2019, Time’s Person of the Year was then 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the internationally known environmental activist.
But while more Americans say protecting the environment and dealing with global climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress – and a majority of them already see at least some local effects of climate change – it remains a deeply partisan issue, meaning grassroots efforts and individual actions take on heightened importance.
And it’s surprisingly simple to make positive changes to your lifestyle just by figuring out where to start. Instead of using a K-Cup, swap it for a reusable coffee filter. Out of laundry detergent? Try one with better ingredients. You don’t have to subsist on whatever your backyard garden grows to make a difference or feel guilty that your trash doesn’t fit in a mason jar. Try to shop local when possible, only buy what you need, bike or walk or use public transportation when able, fix what you own before replacing it, and eat less meat. While individual responsibility isn’t a silver bullet and isn’t effective when it distracts people from the outsized impact of corporate and political responsibility, it can help expand and strengthen the political movement for environmentalist practices.
Even if you just make one change rather than turning your entire household eco-friendly overnight, you’re working to build better habits in your corner of the world.
If you want to replace everyday essentials with eco-friendly alternatives without any inconvenience, check out the 32 below:
Clothing retailer Everlane just released its first line of swimwear, and every item in the collection is comprised of 82% regenerated nylon derived from recycled plastic. It’s part of the retailer’s initiative to remove virgin plastic from its supply chain in 2021. The swimwear collection offers seven styles and eight colors that you can mix and match.
Allbirds gained fame for being known as the “world’s most comfortable shoes” (a claim we find ourselves agreeing with) and their commitment to sustainability.
The cult-favorite startup uses super soft, moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating merino wool for its iconic wool runners and tree fiber for its Tree line (sourced from South African farms that minimize fertilizer and rely on rainfall instead of irrigation).
Read our full reviews of nearly every item Allbirds has ever made.
Reusable, organic cotton dish towels
If it doesn’t have to be single-use, it probably shouldn’t be. Using 100% organic cotton dish towels is a great substitute to paper towels, as you can throw them in for a wash in the washing machine repeatedly.
Reusable grocery bags
Each year, we use an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags around the world.
Using reusable grocery bags is a simple way to cut down on the habit without missing out on convenience — if you make sure to only buy enough to meet your needs, and remember to bring them every time.
Some grocery stores even offer incentives for people who bring their own bags, and some states have banned plastic bags.
Batteries are made up of a variety of chemicals, some of which are toxic and can cause soil and water pollution. To prolong the usage of your batteries and keep them out of landfills, you may want to look into rechargeable ones.
If you need to check how to dispose of electronics you no longer need, check out this list of stores with incentives for recycling or are better equipped to dispose of electronics than the average person.
A long-lasting toothbrush with a detachable brush head
Not only does a Boie toothbrush have silver embedded into the bristles to kill germs, but the startup is also making a much more environmentally friendly option.
All of Boie’s toothbrushes are made out of a rubber-like material that cleans your teeth more gently and effectively than alternatives and is built to last twice as long as a regular brush, so you have to replace it less often. Boie brushes are also designed with detachable brush heads, so you can replace only that without having to buy an entirely new brush every time.
You can also check out Bite’s $12 bamboo brush pack, which comes with two toothbrushes with detachable heads.
A great reusable water bottle
Even though recycling programs exist, 91% of the water bottles we use every year wind up in a landfill. And we use about a million per minute. Grab a cool water bottle you’ll enjoy using and skip the plastic disposable bottles.
A cycling helmet that raises money for 1% for the Planet
Cycling brand thousand launched a special Climate Collection of its signature Heritage helmet to raise money for 1% for the Planet, a foundation dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and sustainability. The collection features three unique colorways, each symbolizing a specific element of the planet. Coastal Blue represents Earth’s oceans, Terra Cotta Earth’s clay, and Arctic Grey Earth’s polar environments. The helmets sell for $89 with $10 from every purchase going to 1% for the Planet.
— Rick Stella, health & fitness editor
A showerhead that uses 70-75% less water than what you have now
Putting in low-flow fixtures and taking shorter showers can reduce your water consumption by at least 50% and save you about $145 every year.
If you’re looking for the most buzz-worthy and luxe of options making a difference in the space, you’d do well to look at Nebia — a Kickstarter-funded startup that counts some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley as investors (including Tim Cook of Apple and Eric Schmidt of Google). You also might have seen it in the upscale fitness world of Equinox gyms.
The Nebia Spa Shower 2.0 maximizes the water that comes into contact with your skin by atomizing it, and Nebia claims the shower lends twice as much coverage as a standard shower and saves 65% of water. You can read more about it here.
Another inexpensive option is a showerhead by Niagra, which the company claims uses up to 75% less water than typical “low-flow” showerheads. It also uses patented pressure compensation technology so there’s always a consistent flow rate regardless of available water pressure — and it’s guaranteed for 10 years.
Biodegradable trash bags
These trash bags are 100% compostable, meet the stringent requirements of municipal composting programs, and are BPI certified. For reference, they’re almost half the price of Glad bags (also 13 gallon, also 50-count).
Buy carbon credits to offset your lifestyle
Feeling guilty about a destination bachelorette trip you took this year? Already live an extremely eco-friendly lifestyle and still want to help?
Reformation lets you purchase climate credits (carbon offsets) on its site. Its partner, NativeEnergy, will direct your purchase to support projects that actively reduce CO2 emissions.
You’ll also get a $100 Reformation credit when you switch to wind energy.
According to the National Park Service, you could fill over 125 school buses with the straws Americans use every single day (500 million in all).
Using disposable utensils of any kind introduces a lot of unnecessary waste into the environment, but straws are a particularly easy fix.
An Earth Day package
Even if you can’t live a completely eco-lifestyle, you can still offset some carbon footprint by planting trees. Canadian sustainable apparel maker Tentree has an Earth Day package that will plant 50 trees, which can help offset 7.7 tons of CO2. — Les Shu, guides editor
Ballpoint pens made out of recycled water bottles
Need a couple of pens around the house? Grab a few that were made from recycled water bottles (86% PCR).
A programmable thermostat that lets you know if you’re saving energy
Programmable thermostats can save up to $150 a year in energy costs when used properly.
Not only does Nest’s thermostat work with Amazon Alexa voice control, but it was also the first one to earn an Energy Star. Since your thermostat supposedly controls half your energy bill (more than appliances or electronics), it’s a great place to focus your attention if you want to cut down on use and costs. Using the Nest app (yes, there’s an app), you can view how much energy you use and why, so you can make the right decisions for you using your own energy history.
Plus, since most of us are busy and potentially beginners with this, Nest will display a leaf when you choose a temperature that saves energy.
Reusable coffee filters
With the popularity of instant coffee systems like Keurig, single-serving pods have also seen an uptick.
Instead of popping in a new K-Cup every morning only to toss it into the waste bin, consider saving yourself space and money with your choice of fresh ground coffee and a reusable filter pod.
Loose tea infuser
Love tea? look into a loose tea infuser to cut down on how many tiny disposable packets you rip open and throw away. Here are the best ones you can buy.
Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion
With over 80 billion plastic bottles being disposed of around the world every year just from shampoo & conditioner alone, things like environmentally-conscious packaging are increasingly important.
If you’re looking for a single solid beauty routine —pun intended— New Zealand startup Ethique (French for “ethical”) makes sustainable beauty that works exceptionally well. And they’re available at Amazon.
Everything — from shampoo to lotion — comes in bar form. The bars last 2-5x longer than their bottled counterparts, dissolve completely, and come in entirely eco-friendly packaging (even the sleeves they arrive in are 100% dissolvable and compostable, so there’s zero consumer waste).
Overall, Ethique has prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 350,000 plastic containers worldwide.
Natural laundry detergent
If you want to introduce fewer chemicals to the water supply and your skin, you might look for a laundry detergent alternative.
Method’s detergent is made from naturally derived, plant-based ingredients and has a hypoallergenic formula. Its transparent bottle is recyclable and made from 100% PCR (post-consumer recycled) materials. It’s tough on dirt and stains, but you won’t be introducing more chemicals to the environment or wearing traces of them next-to-skin.
You can also use the all-natural Nellie’s powdered laundry soda that comes in a reusable metal tin (which is what I personally use). Nellie’s is biodegradable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, non-GMO, lasts for forever, and, of course, works really well also. You can find it on Amazon, but it’s typically cheaper at Walmart.
The US uses about 69 million tons of notebook paper each year. If you want to cut down on your own paper waste (and add some convenience and savings to your own life) you might be interested in Rocketbook’s forever reusable notebooks. This one can be written on with a special pen and wiped clean to be used new with moisture. It got rejected on Shark Tank, but I use my own many times throughout the day. Plus, you can use the app to digitize the notes you take — making it easier to keep a digital archival.
Buy and gift secondhand clothes and accessories
Instead of buying something new, look for something that already exists first — like previously owned designer goods on The Real Real. It’s also a great way to save money on premium goods.
Coyuchi is a San Francisco startup that makes luxe, modern sheets that are also eco-friendly. The company has a partnership with Fibershed that supported closed-loop carbon farming practices at the local ranches that produce its Climate Beneficial Wool, and has now announced a partnership with White Buffalo Land Trust that supports regenerative agriculture.
A shower timer
This shower timer helps you keep an eye on how long you spend zoned out under gushing hot water. It can help you monitor yourself, so if your goal is to cut down on water and heating energy, you’ve got an easy way to adjust. You can also just set a timer on your phone, but if you’re looking for a shower radio, you can knock out both with this.
Solar powered phone charger
Made of eco-friendly silicone rubber and ABS + PC material, this #1 best-seller solar charger is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional rechargeable battery pack. It’s water-resistant and shock-proof, so it can go where you go (and soak up solar power while at it).
The company notes that it is comparatively slow for the solar charger to recharge via solar power, but if you’ve got the time to wait or hang it on a backpacking pack on a day trip, you can get the convenience of a charger without the guilt.
Compostable cutlery and bowls
If you absolutely need disposable cutlery and can’t carry a reusable metal kit everywhere you go, why not grab some that are compostable?
FirstChoice makes a great option, and donates 10% of its annual net profits to non-profit environmental organizations. The utensils are FDA approved and are 100% biodegradable.
Outlets that actually draw zero energy when turned off.
This energy-saving power switch draws zero energy when the switch is flipped off.
An eco-friendly air dryer brush
This brush is designed to act as a diffuser, drying hair 40% faster for less heat damage and faster prep time. It’s also made from recycled aluminum and plastic.
The packaging is made of 100% Tree-Free paper (20% cotton and 80% bamboo fibers), and the handles are made from bamboo, which is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world — making it a convenient naturally renewable resource.
While the feel of a great paperback in hand is satisfying in and of itself, you might have an opportunity as an avid reader to cut down on a production cycle that uses ample paper and transportation. Unless you’re a regular patron of the library, an e-reader can help diminish the carbon footprint of someone who frequently buys new books.
We’ve got a guide to the best e-readers you can buy if you’re looking into one, and here’s a list of what each Kindle does to figure out which best fits your needs.
Eyewear made from natural materials
Shwood makes premium wood sunglasses and prescription eyewear that’s handcrafted using sustainable materials in the US.
Natural cleaning products
The cleaning products you use around the house can be full of environmentally harmful chemicals, and they may be some of the plastic products you throw away most frequently. If you want the same result but with less potential collateral damage, there are effective options to consider.
Uniquely J is an affordable, comprehensive option that spans the cleaning gamut and is comprehensive and affordable.
Blueland is a buzzy startup that makes reusable bottles and dissolvable cleaning tablets with non-toxic ingredients so you can cut down on your plastic waste and chemical exposure. While Blueland products are effective for general cleaning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using alcohol-based products to disinfect surfaces as they’re effective in killing viruses.
For tough cleaning, we’d recommend looking at CleanWell’s Disinfectant Spray. It’s EPA-approved for use on surfaces to protect against the novel coronavirus. It’s a botanical formula that cleans, disinfects, and deodorizes multi-surfaces and kills 99.9% of household germs, including cold and flu viruses. The package is also recyclable.
Reusable, non-plastic meal prep containers
Instead of adding more plastic, grab some glass meal prep containers for a non-toxic solution.
You may also want to look into U Konserve for their low-impact, reusable lunch containers with moveable and/or removable dividers. You can also pick up reusable sandwich bags, like these from ChicoBag or unbleached paper sandwich snack bags.
Instead of buying new every time you have an event, consider renting from Rent the Runway and get designer names at a much lower rate, without contributing to a huge pile of textile waste from a $20 fast-fashion dress you didn’t love. Or, if you do buy new, take a look at stores that repurpose recycled materials, like Cotopaxi and Girlfriend Collective, or companies reducing their overall footprint through eco-friendly practices like Everlane’s denim factory.