Many of the products we now know are harmful to our planet were originally created with the best intentions. According to the BBC, “plastic has gone from being hailed as a scientific wonder to being reviled as an environmental scourge.” As landfills overflow with fast fashion, too many batteries, and single-use plastics, there is a growing interest in finding reusable things that can help the environment. We know many of the products that have become part of our daily lives are harmful, but what changes can we make to have an environmental impact?
That’s where we can help. We’ve compiled simple and inexpensive ways you can substitute reusable products for the ones that are tossed into the trash after just one use.
Just making a few changes can have a positive effect on this beautiful planet we call home.
Making the change from replace to reuse
The best way to change your habits is to take baby steps. We’ve become accustomed to the convenience of one-use items. But once you become mindful of the environmental impact of your actions, it will be much easier to change your habits.
Start with little changes. When they become part of your routine, add a few more. Here are a few small changes you can incorporate into your daily life that can make a big impact over time:
- Make a conscious effort to walk past the plasticware when you pick up your take-out dinner and use the silverware you have at home.
- Keep reusable grocery bags in your backpack so you have them when you need them.
- Ask the barista to fill your reusable travel mug with your latte instead of using the paper cup.
As people around the world learn about the impact too much trash has on everything from marine life to global climate change, they have begun choosing environmentally safe products. Research in the Harvard Business Review shows people are now looking for eco-friendly products. Paying attention to the materials used in the products you purchase is an important first step.
But why stop there?
Reusing products instead of purchasing new ones can be beneficial to both the environment and your bank account. Check out these five ideas for replacing single-use products with reusable items.
#1. Use glass jars for decanting soaps and other liquids
Can you imagine going through the day without dishwashing detergent, liquid hand soap, or laundry detergent? The answer is probably, no. Unfortunately, that adds up to a lot of plastic bottles.
That’s where glass jars enter the picture.
Depending on where you live, you might have a local refillery close by. If so, take empty containers with you to the store and fill them from large containers in the store. You could even reuse the disposable plastic bottles that were originally filled with soap a few times.
Many zero-waste stores which feature bulk liquids are located in London, Berlin, Vienna, Barcelona and other major cities in Europe. If you live in the United States, here’s a handy chart that lets you search by individual states to find stores where you can bring your own containers to fill.
Three rules for buying from refillable and bulk bins
- Weigh your empty container before filling. Depending on the store, you can do this yourself on a scale or you might need to have an employee do this.
- Record the tare (empty) weight. This will be subtracted from the overall weight, so you don’t pay for your own container.
- Write the contents on the container. Sure, this sounds obvious but it’s better to do this immediately, so you don’t end up washing your hair with laundry detergent.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2017. Reducing the number of plastic bottles you purchase every year is a great way to help the environment.
Counters look nicer. You can purchase reusable items that match your décor. Or, buy a pump lid for a mason jar and turn it into a soap dispenser. Either way, it looks nicer than having plastic bottles of dish detergent and hand soap next to your kitchen sink.
Products are healthier. Often the soaps and detergents you purchase at a refillery are eco-friendly products, free from chemicals and toxins.
#2. Carry reusable silicone straws everywhere you go
How do you drink smoothies, milkshakes, and many other beverages without a straw? It's practically impossible! Since straws are much smaller than plastic water bottles, you might think they’re not really that harmful to the environment. But it’s their small size that makes them harmful. Plastic straws are too lightweight to be easily recycled.
These thin plastic tubes are extremely popular. Approximately 500 million straws are used daily, which according to National Geographic means an estimated 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. The Ocean Conservancy tells us that straws are listed as one of the top 10 items often found during beach clean-ups and they can kill seabirds, marine animals, and fish.
Why switch to silicone straws?
- They mimic plastic. Glass, Stainless steel, paper, and bamboo straws have popped onto the market. Each material, however, has problems. Glass can break. Stainless steel sometimes leaves a metallic taste in your mouth. Paper straws dissolve pretty fast and, just like plastic, will end up in the trash. Bamboo straws need to be cleaned immediately after use or they can warp, crack, and then end up in the trash. Silicone straws bend like plastic but are a reusable product.
- They are healthier than plastic. Plastic straws can contain harmful carcinogens such as BPA, BPS Phthalate, Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and other chemicals.
- They are easy to clean. They are dishwasher safe and can be boiled in water to sterilize. Silicone straws are usually sold with a bristle brush that fits inside.
Switching to silicone straws is one of the easiest ways to help the environment.
As more stores and restaurants decide to ban straws, it makes sense to carry your own. Starbucks is eliminating plastic straws from all stores worldwide. Several countries including Scotland, Taiwan, and parts of Canada have already banned plastic straws, and states throughout the U.S. are considering similar legislation to limit the use of plastic straws.
Join a movement. As more corporations hear customers say, “No thanks, I don’t use plastic straws,” they are more inclined to follow the other companies who have banned the straws. Think of the impact that would be made if everyone did this!
Teach by example. Children learn by watching our actions. Something as simple as carrying your own straws gives you a chance to start discussing the benefits of using reusable items with your children. This lets you encourage them to start using reusable things to help the environment.
#3. Keep batteries out of landfills, use rechargeable batteries
The list of battery-operated items you depend daily is enormous: Flashlights. Children’s toys. Cordless power tools. Wall clocks. Home smoke detectors. Cordless computer mouse. Faucets with automatic sensors. And of course, cell phones and laptop computers.
Since our lives are so dependent on battery-operated devices, it means billions of batteries end up in landfills every year.
This is particularly damaging to the environment since toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and lithium are harmful when they are tossed out in the trash. While some of these batteries are recyclable, not everyone does indeed recycle them. So, the chemicals leach into the ground.
According to sciencing.com, a secondary problem is how batteries are made. Disposable batteries are contributing to the depletion of natural resources and the manufacturing and transportation of disposable batteries emit pollutants into the atmosphere, leading to global climate change.
Common questions about rechargeable batteries
- What types of batteries are rechargeable? Common battery types and sizes used in household products are all available as a rechargeable battery.
- When shouldn’t I use a rechargeable battery? They are not recommended for emergency medical devices or difficult-to-access places.
- What’s the best way to charge batteries? Make sure you match the battery to the specific charger. In other words, you cannot use a AA battery in a charger for AAA batteries.
The good news is that rechargeable batteries exist for just about all the wireless devices we use routinely. Plus, rechargeable batteries are also recyclable. Enter your zip code here and you can find a public recycling location closest to you.
You’ll never run out of batteries. Once you get in the habit of keeping your batteries charged, it’s easy to have spare batteries around when you need them.
You’ll save money. Research shows that rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, “almost always last longer, cost less and reduce waste when compared to single-use batteries”.
#4. Get your java fix with reusable coffee filters
The world changed for coffee lovers in 1992. That’s when the original single-serve coffee brewing machine, Keurig, hit the market. At first, Keurig was created for offices. A Keurig machine for home use became available in 2004. Today, it’s estimated that almost 25% of American homes own a single brew coffee machine.
Everyone who loves the convenience of just making one cup of coffee instead of a whole pot sings the praises of this invention. This convenience, however, comes at a price for the environment. It’s estimated that the amount of K-cups (that’s the name given to the plastic pods used in a Keurig machine) currently in landfills could circle the planet more than 10 times.
Tips on using reusable coffee filters
- Customize your brew. Trying to cut back on caffeine? Fill your filter with half caffeinated and half decaf. Or try sprinkling cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and/or ginger into the grounds for a spicy treat.
- Check for compatibility. Keurig makes its own brand of reusable filters. Other brands such as Eko-Brew and Fil ‘n Save are on the market but make sure they will work in your machine before purchasing.
- Let cool before washing. Once the coffee grounds have cooled slightly, the grounds are easy to remove from the filter and take less than a minute to wash.
If you have some disposable K-cups around, you can save them from the trash with a little creativity. Cover the hole in the bottom, fill with coffee and a popsicle stick and put in the freezer. In a few hours, you’ll have a coffee popsicle!
Once you make the switch to reusable coffee filters, you’ll be able to enjoy the convenience of a single-serve coffee machine without worrying about its detrimental effects on the environment.
Support local merchants. When you use reusable coffee filters, you can choose to buy your beans locally. If you stop for a coffee while you are out, why not pick up some fresh beans to grind at home?
Indulge your taste buds. Numerous brands make the disposable coffee filters, yet it’s impossible to find the variety of beans that a local coffee roaster has in a regular supermarket. Fill your reusable filter with a Hawaiian Kona, espresso roast, a New Orleans blend; the possibilities are endless.
#5. Invest in multi-use convertible bags
Anyone with an eye towards fashion loves to keep track of trends. Fashion trends come in many varieties including style inspiration, hemlines, necklines, and seasonal wardrobe updates.
But this time we're talking about a trend with a greater purpose—online searches for sustainable fashion increased by 66% in 2018 and are continuing to grow. That’s a trend that makes environmentalists smile.
At bobobark, we state our commitment to sustainability on our Eco-Friendly Promise page. Not only are these beautiful bags made from all-natural cork, but the convertible backpack purse means you can use this one bag in three different ways. You purchase one bag and use it as either a backpack, a shoulder bag, or a briefcase. Plus, since it’s waterproof, you’ll never have to worry about the bag or its contents in even the nastiest weather.
Common questions about bobobark bags
- How do I convert my bobobark bag? It’s easy. There is no need to empty the contents of the bag. It comes with 3 straps that you can change into the type of bag you need for various occasions. By purchasing one bag and using it in 3 different ways, you reduce your environmental impact.
- How do I care for my bobobark bag? The goal is to keep items out of landfills and cork is made to last. If you notice a spot, simply clean it with a wet cloth and a classic soap. Here are other tips to care for your bag. The beauty of cork is that it’s easy to maintain so it will not need to be replaced for years.
- What if I have additional questions? We love to talk to people about our eco-friendly, vegan purses. Here’s our contact information.
According to the New York Times, fast fashions that are made from synthetic materials do not decay when they end up in landfills. Not only will your bobobark bag do the job of 3 different bags, but it’s craftsmanship and high-quality materials are made to last. It’s the complete opposite of fast fashion. If you’re looking for a reusable thing to help the environment, bobobark should be at the top of your list.
You’ll save time. Using one convertible bag means you won’t have to move your wallet, cosmetics, and other essentials in and out of various bags depending on where the day will take you.
You’ll feel elegant! The clean lines and geometric shape will elevate your style. Since it was designed to flatter a woman’s silhouette, it will also boost your mood every single day.
Looking for more ways to improve the sustainability of your daily routine? Check out our suggestions for eco-friendly lifestyle changes that make you more fashionable!