Every year as we turn our calendars over, many of us create new year resolutions and examine changes that we can make. Many of these goals revolve around creating new “good” habits for a new year. For those looking to prioritize sustainable living in 2021, we have created a shortlist of 21 of our favorite and simple ways to reduce waste in 2021.
As we look for opportunities to reduce waste, our bathrooms are a great room, to begin with. With countless plastic products, a few easy swaps with eco-friendly products will significantly decrease the volume of plastics that are discarded annually.
We all like a great lather in the shower, but many sponges are made of plastic. To make matters worse, plastic sponges quickly become a hive of bacteria, undermining their original purpose. Consider swapping out your plastic-based sponge for a natural alternative like Sea Sponge or Ayate Sponges.
Did you know that in the United States, 2 billion disposable razors and razor blades are discarded each year? Swapping to a traditional safety razor made without plastics is a great way to reduce plastic waste, upgrade your shave, and even save money on blades. Your grandparents had it right with using a Double Edge Safety Razor.
3. Toothpaste / Toothbrushes
Brushing our teeth is a key part of our daily routines. However, plastics dominate this process too. In the US, more than 400 million tubes of toothpaste are discarded annually. Globally that number balloons to 1.5 billion. Recently, several companies tackled this challenge by creating zero waste toothpaste tabs like Unpaste. By rethinking how we brush our teeth, we can reduce the amount of discarded toothpaste tubes and cut back on plastic waste from our bathrooms.
Toothbrushes are another essential tool that has long been made of plastic. However, here too, there are opportunities to reduce waste by substituting this plastic-based tool with a bamboo toothbrush. With approximately 1 billion toothbrushes used and tossed away each year in the US, contributing to 50 million pounds of plastic waste, making this easy swap is a great way to reduce waste.
4. Shower Soap
In recent years, shower soap has transformed from a traditional bar to shower gel in a plastic container. The average person uses close to a bottle of shower gel per month. Many of these bottles don’t get recycled and contribute to our global challenge with plastics. Revisiting the traditional bar of soap is a great way to cut back excess plastic waste from the bathroom. You can also incorporate your bar of soap into eco-friendly soap savers like our Ayate Soap Saver and combine sponge and soap into one.
Q-tips can be found in nearly every bathroom cabinet. These small items (which we are not meant to stick in our ears) are single-use add to the volume of plastic tossed away each year. Originally, Q-tips were made with wood handles before being swapped out for plastic. However, sustainably grown bamboo plastic-free Q-tips are available and are an effortless eco-friendly swap.
6. Dental Floss/Dental Lace
You’ve no doubt heard your dentist tell you hundreds of times to floss. Flossing is awesome, but most floss is made from nylon and packaged in a plastic container. Each year American’s toss away enough floss containers to fill a football stadium. Dental Lace is a fantastic zero-waste solution for this essential daily routine. If you are looking for an easy way to ditch plastics, replacing your floss is a layup.
7. Shampoo Bars
Shower gel is not the only product we use daily in a plastic container; shampoo and conditioner also contribute to the accumulation of plastics in our bathroom. The average person uses 10 bottles of shampoo a year (not counting conditioner). As most people don’t keep a recycling bin in their bathroom, many of these containers end up directly in the rubbish and on their way to landfills. However, there is good news on this front too. Recently, several companies have developed Shampoo Bars that directly tackle this problem. HiBAR is a great brand that produces an eco-friendly zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar.
As we all look for sustainable living opportunities, how we manage our kitchens, food, and shop for supplies is worth examining. There are several eco-friendly products available that can help reduce unnecessary waste.
8. Food Storage
Keeping leftovers and storing food is a crucial part of most kitchens, but not all food storage is created equal. Products like cling-film are single-use plastics that simply get tossed away after use. Sustainable options like Bee’s Wrap, BeeBAGS, and stainless steel ECOlunchboxes allow you to reuse them and drastically cut back on the amount of plastic that ends up in the rubbish bin.
9. Reusable Bags
This may be one of the more obvious ones on our list, but it goes without saying, using a reusable bag has an enormous impact. Did you know that on average, a plastic carrier bag is only used for 14 minutes before being tossed away? Meanwhile, it can take over 500 years for a plastic bag to break down. Bringing your own bag to the shops is an easy win for sustainability. Plastic-free Tote bags and Mesh Food bags make carrying your shopping simple and stylish.
10. Coffee Filters
A morning cup of coffee (or 3 cups, depending) is an essential part of many of our morning routines. There are, of course, various ways to make our favorite cups of coffee, but many of them produce unnecessary amounts of waste. As you search for ways to add sustainability around the kitchen this year, consider ditching plastic-based K-Cups and disposable filters. Instead, opt for brewing with a traditional stainless steel french press or reusable coffee filters like CoffeeSock.
For those of us who also enjoy a daily cup of tea, unfortunately, there are also plastic concerns with this ritual. Did you know that many of our tea bags are made with plastic? You can read more about that Here. There are, of course, many sustainable alternatives. Clipper Tea makes great-tasting tea with plastic-free tea bags, or you can explore the loose leaf tea route and use a stainless steel Tea Infuser. Both options are great and will prevent needless plastic waste as well as the consumption of micro-plastics.
Washing dishes and cleaning up is a part of our kitchen routines. However, the often-overlooked sponge (often that green & yellow brick) is made entirely from foamed plastics and is another regular contributor to our household waste. Cleaning dishes, though, can have an easy, eco-friendly upgrade with alternatives like natural bristle plastic-free brushes or Swedish dishcloths. Swapping our kitchen sponge out is a simple and easy way to minimize waste in your kitchen.Bonus - if you find yourself struggling to remove last week’s lasagna from the baking dish, try adding eggshells to your scrubbing - they will naturally give your cleaning a bit more muscle.
In the last decade, people have been rediscovering the convenience and benefits of composting. Compositing redistributes food waste and dramatically cuts back on what ends up in landfills. Each year American’s toss away 40 million tons of food - approximately 219 pounds per person. Whether you collect your food waste and compost in a backyard or join a local composting service composting is a great way to make a difference.
14. Reusable Bottles/Mugs
In the United States, each year, Americans use approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles. You know the rest of the story, but these single-use plastic bottles massively contribute to plastic waste. A hugely impactful change to make is to bring your reusable bottles or travel cups.
The laundry room another area of the home that we can look to for some easy sustainability wins. By combining some traditional methods with some new approaches our laundry process can get a quick eco-friendly upgrade.
15. Reducing Microfiber Waste
Microfiber pollution has been a rapidly growing concern over the past few years. With a significant amount of clothing produced with synthetic fibers (think fleece), microfibers are entering our water systems every time we wash our clothes. A great and easy way to begin to combat this type of waste is with products like the Cora Ball that capture microfibers during the washing process. To learn more about microfibers, check out this blog post examining the topic. Click Here
16. Ditch Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets often fly under the radar when thinking about reducing waste, but these single-use chemical-laden products are entirely unnecessary for the clothes washing process. Dryer sheets are typically made of polyester and saturated with chemicals, many of which can be toxic. However, they have subtly slipped into many household’s washing processes. A great reusable, non-toxic alternative that can increase the dryer’s efficiency are dryer balls.
17. Laundry Detergent
Similar to dryer sheets, laundry detergent has seemingly flown under the radar for far too long. These large bulky plastic jugs and containers quickly contribute to the unnecessary plastic waste that each home produces. The good news is that some great companies are beginning to pay attention to these overlooked containers and create great alternatives. Companies like Dropps & Tru Earth are doing a fantastic job tackling these problems head-on.
18. Using a Washing Line or Drying Rack
If you have space, a great way to reduce your carbon footprint is by going old-school with a clothes rack or washing line. In most cases, the dryer is the third most energy-intensive appliance to run in the house, after the refrigerator and washer. One can quickly reduce electricity bills and carbon footprint by air-drying your clothes. Also, your clothes will thank you by lasting longer and (bonus) being less wrinkled in the process.
Finally a few additional lifestyle ideas for reducing waste in 2021.
19. Rediscover Cycling
Those who live in an urban or suburban area dusting off the bicycle and using it to commute or run quick errands can significantly reduce our carbon footprint. It goes without saying that bikes do not require fossil fuels to operate, so harmful emissions are not released into the atmosphere. In addition, to being better for the environment, riding your bike can also be great for your health and wallet.
20. Avoiding Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a growing area of concern as it increasingly has a larger environmental impact. The fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of total global carbon emissions annually. Clothing, while a basic necessity, does have an environmental cost. Consumers are purchasing more cheap and inexpensive clothing than ever, with the average person buying 60% more clothing than they did in 2014. As we seek ways to reduce our carbon footprint, purchasing clothes that will last, stay on trend and be timeless, and be repaired if needed can make a real difference.
21. Face Mask & PPE
During 2020 protective face masks became a much larger and necessary part of everyone’s life worldwide. Face masks do an incredible job fighting off the transmission of airborne pathogens. However, with the exponential increase of use, face masks, and other PPE are now ending up as a major pollutant in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. In 2021 as we seek ways to reduce waste, we must be contentious about protecting ourselves while also protecting the environment and using reusable masks and disposing of used PPE correctly.