I’m so excited about today’s post because I’m sharing really some really easy ways to live a more sustainable life and reduce your carbon footprint. I was inspired by my friend Jess’s #cleanswapchallenge to share the clean swaps that my family and I are making at home. These swaps have been great for us and haven’t made us feel like we had to give anything up.
My hope is that each of you can commit to making at least one of these swaps in your own homes!
Lemon Tunic (gifted) / Jeans / Shoes (gifted)/ Headband
Use reusable bags for shopping… always. My town (Stamford, CT) recently banned the use of plastic bags in retail stores, and I’m so proud of everyone locally who pushed for that. It made me realize that although I always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, I had never even thought to bring them in for CVS or Target runs which, in hindsight, is so silly! I keep a bunch of totes in my car and one of these foldable bags in my purse just in case I forget.
Cut down on paper towels. A few months back I did an Instagram collaboration with a brand called Full Circle and fell in love with their squeeze sponge cloths. I’ve since learned that you can also buy them on Amazon and at Trader Joe’s. I still use paper towels to clean up after cutting or working with meat, but most of the time, the cloths work even better than the paper. You can wash them in the dishwasher once or twice but they do get kind of gross after that, so you have to replace each cloth every 2-3 weeks. Kind of like a sponge. But that’s still better than using paper daily!
Switch to non-toxic diapers. We switched Amalia from Pampers Swaddlers, which we have used since she was born, to Brandless diapers which are both non-toxic and affordable. I’m here to tell you that they actually work! We still use Pampers Baby-Dry for overnight diapers, because they’re the only ones that seem to keep her from leaking at night, but I’m ok with that because it’s only one diaper/night.
Update your make-up routine. I’ve been using my new 5-minute Beautycounter make-up routine for the last few weeks, although I added in bronzer every day and eyeliner when I go out. But the fact that my make-up routine is 80% natural is a win in my book.
Buy your own produce bags. Just last week I switched to reusable produce bags because I realize how ridiculous it was to use plastic bags for all of our produce shopping. I found these by looking up Good Housekeeping’s top picks (this is the full list if you’re interested) and that was that. I like them because they’re see-through, come in multiple sizes, and they have a lifetime warranty.
Wash your clothes with cleaner detergent. This has historically been a hard swap for me because none of the natural laundry detergents work for us. I like my whites white and my brights bright! But we’ve switched from Tide to Tide Free & Clear and it does a really good job cleaning our clothes. It isn’t the cleanest product out there but it’s free of dyes and perfumes and better than what we were using before. If anyone has a recommendation for something even more natural, I’m open to it. I’ve already tried Method, Seventh Generation, Caldrea, and EOS. We also started using a guppyfriend for washing synthetic fabrics.
Ditch the Ziplocks. And use reusable silicone food bags instead. Yes, I sometimes still reach for a Ziplock, but I was often using them to store half of a lemon in the fridge or to tote around snacks for Amalia. The reusable bags are leak-proof and dishwasher-safe. There is literally no reason not to jump on board.
Always bring a reusable water bottle. I always keep my water bottle on me. I switched from my trusty S’Well bottle to a Simple Modern bottle because I like being able to easily flip up the straw on-the-go or while I’m driving. It still keeps your water cold for hours too so it’s good for the beach.
Use natural sunscreens. I shared my list of favorites (for kids and grown-ups) here.
Make smarter donations. I wrote all about that here.
What are your favorite clean swaps? Share them below, but don’t forget to also share them on Instagram with the hashtag #cleanswapchallenge to support Jess’s amazing idea and spread the word.
Photo by Julia Dags.
I love love this post ! I just recently changed over to natural sun screens. I’ve never been a fan of paper towels even though they are super convenient for spills. Thanks for sharing these great tips fro swaps !
Glad they’re helpful! Try the sponge rags, they work even better than paper towels, I promise.
Thank you for sharing these! You’ve encouraged me to make some small changes throughout the year including how to upcycle wearable clothes and where to recycle clothes that are damaged. And you got me hooked on Supergoop, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out I could use my HSA money to purchase! Maybe reusable ziplocks will be the next thing I tackle…
I would also love to know what “clean” cleaning products you’re using!
That is awesome! I didn’t know you could use HSA money for sunscreen. Very cool. For cleaning products, I use Method, Seventh Generation, and Brandless. Those are the only cleaner ones that seem to work for me.
Thanks for sharing all these ideas! Any little bit helps. My New Year’s resolution was to not use disposable forks and spoons and straws this year. I ended up buying a little collapsible set that fits nicely in my purse and I can pull out whenever I’m eating on the go. You just have to remind the staff you don’t need it otherwise they give it to you anyway!
That is so smart. Where did you buy them? I want to get a set too!
I found mine in the camping section of target, but they are all over amazon too! I can’t bring metal knifes into my job so I got bamboo but the stainless steel looks much sturdier. Just search straw, spoon, fork set!
Love these tips. I’ve been working on reducing our paper towel use for a few months. With a dog and a toddler we still use more than I would like, but I told my husband even if we use a few less per day that will still make an impact long term. I’m intrigued by the sponge clothes, but bummed to hear they only holdup well to a few washes. For now I think I’ll stick with my old school dish clothes. I have a set for cleaning up my toddler after meals and a set for wiping counters. I use one for each through our the day then toss it in the laundry. Silicon bags are next on my list and I’m super interested in Beauty Counter.
I would also be intrigued to know what cleaning products you use. I’ve cut way back but I can’t seem to kick my Lysol wipe habit for cleaning up after preparing meats in the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom.
I started using Norwex counter cloths about a year ago in my kitchen and I’ve greatly reduced paper towel use as a result! The company is all about sustainable, multi-use products and I’ve found their products to be effective.
We use reusable bamboo cloths instead of paper towels – you can throw them in the wash and they last a seriously long time! I bought this role back in October and still have more than half left! I also have a toddler and a dog, so am constantly cleaning. I also use dish towels to dry hands or clean up spills. Here’s the link for the bamboo “paper towels” – Bamboo Perforated… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZJIXACI?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
Ugh, I’d love to switch diapers but I’m such a Pampers fan, that’s going to be a hard one. I’ve read the brandless doesn’t have the stripe for wetness, do you find that to be a pain? Do you find sizing and fit close to Pampers? Our little just turned one so if I make a switch we’re looking at a bit of commitment time wise.
For laundry detergent we switched over to Costco’s Kirkland Brand. It’s labelled environmentally friendly and has a light lavender scent I think. I don’t love perfumes but do like our laundry and linens to smell fresh so this was a good compromise. It’s not an overpowering scent at all and we’ve been using for about 5 years now. I also use the Costco dish detergent that’s labelled environmentally friendly.
One other switch that has made a big difference is cleaning with vinegar on all my glass. Works like a charm and the smell dissipates quickly. I wipe down our bathrooms daily with vinegar and use an antibac cleaner when necessary. We have all glass shower doors and I use the vinegar with baking soda to get rid of soap scum. Sparkles so much more than any other cleaner I have used.
I was a die-hard Pampers fan, and I promise the switch was seamless. I can feel if she’s peed but I was worried about the blue line too. The sizing seems to be the same as Pampers.
And clearly I need to jump on the vinegar train. I just hate the smell so much that I haven’t been able to get into it but if it really does dissapate quickly, I will have to give it a try.
Put some orange peels in your vinegar and see if that helps for you. I don’t find the smell of vinegar unpleasant, but I like the added citrus scent. You can just put some in a spray bottle with the orange peels and keep it under your sink. Hydrogen peroxide is a good cleaner also. And I second the Kirkland brand detergent—it’s good stuff. One more thing, if you end up not liking Brandless diapers, try Abby & Finn. They work the best out of any of the more eco conscious brands that I’ve tried.
Love these swaps! I’m always looking for ways to use cleaner and greener products. I need to work on my paper towel usage for sure… I really like Ilia’s eyeliner if you’re looking for a swap there! I think their products in general are really great.
Does it stay on? Any natural eye liner I’ve tried always runs!
@cleanmama on insta has the easiest DIY recipes for detergents and all household cleaners that actually work. You can easily ditch all of the toxic stuff (for cheap!)
Those are some great tips. One of mine is never buy eggs in a plastic or styrofoam carton. I can’t afford to shop at the farmers market or Whole Foods a lot but I do spend more for the one brand of eggs at my store that comes in paper.
Also, buy stuff like coffee and nuts in bulk-less plastic packaging.
I’ll have to check out the silicone bags!
Those are great ones! I forgot to mention bulk but that’s such an easy swap, I agree. Let me know what you think of the silicone bags 🙂
Thank you for sharing your tips. I have slowly been transitioning things in our own household. We have been using shopping bags for years as in France they banned them a very long time ago. Like you I always have a few in the cars. I also love the products from beautycounter. I feel so much better knowing that the products are safe for me, my husband and my baby. As for the laundry detergent/ cleaning products, I have been using young living products and they haven’t disappointed me. In fact, their thieves cleaning product has been great especially when cleaning my daughter’s high chair. It got ride of all the pasta sauce!! As for clothes, your article has been very useful and has really helped me navigate that world.
I like Young Living products a lot. I will try out the Thieves cleaner. I’ve seen a lot of people post/talk about it. Glad to know it actually works!
Loving all of your clean and sustainable suggestions! Food Huggers are a good option for food storage too!
Wait these look so cool! I am going to buy a set. Thanks!
I made the switch to the squeeze sponge cloths after you first recommended them and love them! Family and friends have started using them too after seeing me use them. Excited to try your produce bags next! xxMelissa
Yes! This makes me so happy to hear. My friends also have started switching after seeing me use them. They’re the best!
I have had great luck with Molly’s Suds as a natural detergent!
I’ve been using The Laundress as a cleaner laundry detergent. Its the best and I’ll never use anything else!!! Its actually improved the feel of my clothes. Definitely pricey but a bottle lasts me awhile and I can get them on Amazon Prime. They also make a silk wash and wool wash which saves on dry cleaning.
Done and done. I’m sold!
We switched to Dropps detergent for washing clothes – they are little pods and have zero plastic packaging and ship to your door. They work well and also sell booster pods for stains, etc. While I still have to use a stain treater on stubborn stains, I would have to do that even when using Tide so I think Dropps is great and highly recommend!
We also started using Blueland spray cleaners – they have them for marble/countertops, glass/mirrors, and bathroom. You buy a pretty spray bottle from them (or use your own if you have) and just drop a little pod in the bottle with some water to make the cleaning solution. You buy more little pods when you need more cleaning solution – another great way to reduce plastic because you aren’t buying bottles over and over, and the pods come in recyclable/compostable paper. The formula works great and keeps our stuff clean!
I was wondering about Dropps too…I keep having ads for them popping up in my Insta and was wondering how well they worked.
One of my clean swaps is to never use lawn and garden chemicals, such as Round-Up, Miracle-Gro, Preen, herbicides, pesitcides, etc. that are not safe for kids (or other humans), pets, or the bees. I do use products from Espoma when needed, but in general try to keep the soil healthy with compost, mulching and plants that don’t require a ton of watering. Leaving grass clippings behind on your lawn after cutting is another was to help keep it healthy – they break down into nutrients for your lawn.
Yes, my lawn has “weeds” (clover, dandelion), but these flowering weeds serve as food sources for bees and other pollinators (and adorable bouquets picked by toddlers 🙂
The rest of my beds are weeded by hand as needed. Mulching helps control weeds, but when weeding needs to happen, I consider it my exercise for the day!
I’m totally with you on silicone bags, I bought one and it’s so easy to use and clean! But the thing for me is that they are $10-12 for one, whereas 50 target brand ziploc bags are $3.50 at most. Hopefully I’ll be able to add more silicone ones to the collection as I get older!
It makes me so angry that it has to be more expensive to be eco-friendly. I hope that changes one day!
I use Molly’s suds (unscented) for laundry and Branch Basics for household cleaner. Once I stopped using products with fragrance (cleaners, skincare, haircare etc), I became super sensitive to fake fragrance. I definitely do not miss it and avoid the detergent and candle aisles at Target!
We use a combo Honest and Abby&Finn for diapers with water wipes and Beautycounter baby products. Baby’s skin is doing great!
Also, I follow @just.ingredients on instagram, she has tons of healthy swaps.
I use the laundress cleaning and laundry products. They have wonderful stain removers (liquid and bar). I want to buy some silicone bags next. Thanks for the recommendation.
Ok I’m sold. Enough people have said it works so I’m going to try it.
We love Bumkins bag for toddler and baby snacks on the go. Crunchy snacks can get a little stale stale if the kid doesn’t finish everything in that day, and you leave them overnight, but I just portion out accordingly. They go in the DW too, and hold up well after multiple cleanings. We’ve had ours at least a year and they’re as good as brand new.
I use the dollar store brand shamwow cleaning cloths, they’re large so I cut them into quarters w pinking shears and use them, they last several washes in the machine. I also use Charlie’s soap for detergent and love it.
Great idea! I’ll try those out.