1. Be wise about paper products.
Buy toilet tissue made of recycled material, such as those from Seventh Generation (which has the added benefit of being local). Use cloth napkins instead of paper, rags instead of paper towels, and washable handkerchiefs instead of facial tissues. Americans consume more than 15 billion pounds of tissue products every year, averaging out to about a whopping 50 pounds per person. To keep up with the demand, millions of acres of virgin forest are being cut down (mostly in Canada), releasing massive amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.
2. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes with natural bristles.
You can get them from companies like Gaia Guy. Or, choose a brush with a reusable handle, like those made by Goodwell. Americans throw away around a billion toothbrushes a year, most of them plastic and non-recyclable. Guess where they end up? Yep, the landfill.
3. Skip the plastic wrap.
Wrap food in soybean wax paper (like that made by If You Care, available at some grocery stores and the Co-op), cover bowls with a reusable wrap (like Bee’s Wrap), and store leftovers in glass containers. For sandwiches and snack foods, use reusable sandwich bags (like those from (re)zip or Stasher). Each year, Americans buy enough plastic wrap to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas—and most of it ends up in landfills after being used a single time. It doesn’t have to be like that.
4. Choose bar soap over liquid.
While you’re at it, replace your shower gel with bar soap, too. While it may require a little extra water to rinse off your hands after using bar soap, liquid soap requires 5 times more energy to produce and use up to 20 times more packaging. Plus, people tend to use a lot more liquid soap when washing their hands, so they go through a lot more of it. In case you’re worried about sharing bar soap with others, know this: Numerous studies have shown that it doesn’t transmit disease from person to person.
5. Switch to using a shampoo bar, too. Choose one made with natural ingredients, such as those from Lush and Love Beauty and Planet. You’ll be accomplishing three things in one fell swoop: Reducing the amount of plastic you buy, choosing better-for-the-planet ingredients, and opting for a product that requires less water to create than bottled shampoo. Another option: Make your own shampoo out of natural ingredients you probably already have in your home. Here’s a simple recipe to try.
National Resources Defense Council
The New York Times