9 Sustainable Swaps For Sustainable Living

We’ve just wrapped up July, and that means we’ve just wrapped up Plastic Free July (...Not in plastic mind!)

But just because July is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t continue on our plastic free journey, doing it for the planet, to reduce pollution, to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and because, well, we just really don’t need all that plastic!

Landfill site with too much waste, from plastic to food to general litter. Three people are walking over the landfill waste pile.

Photo by Muhammad Amdad Hossain

Far too much of the plastic we consume is not recyclable. And even then, it should be reusable first and foremost, to extend its life usage. So much food comes wrapped in plastic. I appreciate that this can be really helpful for families when it comes to portion size and budgeting, but can these not be wrapped in paper or a better alternative. Bananas are very much in their own bunch portion already, and they have really thick skin. Surely these do not need to come in plastic bags anymore, full stop.

But it’s not just food. So many of the everyday items we use are plastic, and in so many cases they really don’t need to be!

Plastic bottles can be seen littered about in the water and on land, plastic waste, plastic pollution

Photo by Rui Stenio

I’ve been working to swap in as much plastic as I can around the home. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plastic in the house. It’s a journey. Food I still find a challenge, not all supermarkets have loose fruit and veg, many cheeses, fish and meats are wrapped in plastics, and butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers are not always accessible everywhere you go.

But over lockdown I challenged myself to swap one plastic household item each month for a better alternative. There’s been a few trial and errors, but I’ve definitely found some better alternatives. So here are my sustainable swap tips for you:

The natural loofah (Body & Kitchen) - No more kitchen sponges, no more plastic scruffs. These eco-friendly natural loofahs are the fibrous dried inside of a cucumber-like fruit. They are eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable, and they are machine washable! You can get a few different sizes, so they are great for washing the body (and naturally a light exfoliator), and for washing up. And they can go in the washing machine with towels etc to give a clean refresh. They have lasted longer than any sponge I have used, and they don’t harbour all that bacteria like a sponge does, and as far as the bathroom scruff is concerned, the cost is pretty much exactly the same as that well known high street chain of beauty and pharmaceuticals. I first tried the loofah for the kitchen after Lydia Bolton gave it as a tip on her social media, and trust me, it was a seriously good tip!

Scrubbing Brush - This one took me a couple of goes. Personally I don’t rate the bamboo brushes with the soft bristles… They’re more of a polisher. But you can get a great hard bristle scrubber brush for any tough dried-on food stuffs. Give them a rinse and a good shake after use and they’ll keep going over time.

Washing Up Liquid ReFills - The one I’ve found to truly clean off the grub and grease is from Fill. And it lasts well, and you don’t have to use excessive amounts to get it to foam up. Tip - whilst you’re running the tap, move the water about with your hands to help get the foam going (and that goes for all washing up liquids!) Refill for less at your local refill shop.

Laundry ReFills - For me Fill wins again. Although I do love Kair for an extra special treat. I use Kair for the extra nice clothes on occasions, but Fill is perfect for the laundry in general. Great smell, cleans well, eco-friendly, and quite a few refill shops stock Fill now. But you can also send off for refill packs, and that goes for Kair too. Likewise with the fabric conditioner. Sometimes for fabric conditioner I go for either Fill or Ecover; they are both great, nice smells and leave your laundry feeling soft. Refilling helps to keep the prices closer to what we are used to in the supermarkets, and no more plastic bottles, reuse the one you’ve just finished with.

AntiBac Surface Wipe - I’ve found two good options, and it always helps to have options as you can’t always get back to the same place easily. One is OceanSaver concentrate sashays, and the other is Homethings Cleaning Tablets available in Waitrose. Both dissolve in water, are anti-bacterial without the nasties, and smell good (and the smell does not engulf the whole space and get into your chest, which some of the conventional ones do). Keep an old spray bottle to refill if you are just about to run out.

The J-Cloth - Ok the j-cloth is an easy one, there are so many options. Literally get yourself any natural fibre cloth, like cotton, use it a few times, and then stick it in the washing machine. Just like a towel, it’s easy to wash clean and keep reusing.

Body Wash ReFills - I’m a fan of the Faith In Nature body wash refills. Another staple at most refill shops. More and more refill shops are popping up everywhere now, so if you don’t have one too near you yet, there’ll be one coming soon. A 500ml refill bottle (usually purchasable in the refill shop) is a lot more than the amount you get of other body wash brands on the high street. So it will cost a little more upfront, but it will last an awful lot longer. Faith In Nature body wash liquid is also a little thicker, so it foams up and spreads better, so you don’t need quite as much to wash with. And there’s no palm oil, parabens or SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)! Plus you get to easily try out all the scents! 

Image shows two bars of soap, one in green and one in cream, laying on a grey white marbled surface. A scrubbing brush lies next to them.

Hand Soap Bars - I’ve straight up switched these to the Faith In Nature soap bars. Sometimes these can be a little harder to get hold of, I used to pass a Whole Foods on the way home, but now I don’t. I’ve managed to find a local shop that stocks them though. They are usually £1.99 a bar, a little more than your Pear or Dove, but again no parabens or sulphates. And I think they last longer and do not dry out your hands. Yes, even Dove I think is drying on the hands. Get them in a bundle or 6 or so and they’ll keep you going for ages!

Face Products - This is a completely personal one, everyone’s skin is different and takes to products differently. I use a couple of different brands for various means too. But one brand I would definitely recommend for a multitude of products is UpCircle. No plastic packaging, you can send the containers back for refills, and all the products are made from waste from the food and drink industry. It’s a really clever brand. From coffee granules and blueberries, to apricot and olive pips. I use their exfoliators, moisturisers, face masks and serums. They leave your skin feeling really soft, absorb well, and are light. They don’t clog your pores. It’s a brand well worth a try if you haven’t heard of them yet. All their products are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free, sustainable, handmade in the UK and housed in 100% recyclable packaging.

I hope you find some of these sustainable swaps helpful. If you’ve found a great sustainable swap, drop it in the comments so that others can give it a try too…

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