10 Easy Product Swaps + Habit Shifts To Be More Eco-Friendly With Your Food
Climate change and the environment may not be on the front of everyone’s minds right now. I know that there is so much going on that our minds want to focus on and rightfully so. I don’t even need to name the long list of things us as humans are experiencing right now. As a whole, life just seems hard.
BUT I have decided to look at the little areas that I CAN make changes which I hope lead to a big impact. And the biggest impact of all is starting with yourself, your home and your family. I hope the tips I share below inspire you to live a more sustainable lifestyle, one product swap or habit change at a time.
Where to start for me? Well I frequent the grocery store at least 4 times a week. I’m generally eco conscious and do my best to make the best choices I can for my health, my clients’ health and for the environment. I was strictly using my own reusable bags and my own cloth produce bags when shopping for awhile, but somewhere along this pandemic ride I stopped being so committed to it. Partly because some stores wouldn't allow you to to use own reusable bags, partly because we didn’t fully understand the sanitation of things and partly because life just seemed overwhelming/ it just wasn't a priority. BUT the other day I saw a plastic produce bag rolling around the beach on a morning walk and my heart sank. I know this may seem small, but in reality it isn't. Pretty much everywhere we go we can see waste accumulating around us, little papers blowing around the parking lot, plastic bottles in our parks, and in our oceans.
It’s no secret that our less-than-sustainable choices affect our own health and that of the planet. We are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes – utilized for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years. Most often this trash and waste isn't contained and gets into nature and into our oceans. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year. Also, many studies have shown that all that plastic storing our food, beauty products and beyond is having adverse effects on our health.
Figuring out how to live a more sustainable lifestyle may seem overwhelming, but there are small changes everyone can make to stop being so wasteful. It’s also easy to think that making more sustainable choices will be expensive or a pain, but the reality is that once you’ve made the swaps and get in the habit of doing them, it actually saves money! Plus, my #1 sustainable practice costs nothing at all – using what you already have!
Read on for 10 accessible and easy swaps you can make for a healthier home and planet with an emphasis on the kitchen and food, because that’s what I know best :)
Tip #1: Before you go buy new “sustainable” things, use what you have.
It is easy to get excited about something and really commit to it, but the real sustainable thing is to finish what you already use instead of throwing away and starting new. Or at least figure out a proper way to recycle, use for another purpose or donate. I think this is the most important by far! My mom is the queen of repurposing so I know this well!
Tip #2: Take a step back and look at all the packaging and products you go through within a week.
It probably seems heightened to me since I shop for multiple families within a week on top of shopping for me and my boyfriend's meals, but even when I am super conscious about it it still blows my mind what waste we accumulate especially from single use plastics. Taking a conscious look at your week will offer great insight into how to improve and really may surprise you with what waste you generate. You might have never even thought about it in this way. This way you can take a step back at the bigger picture of plastic consumption. I know when I became aware it really surprised me. It made me sad at the impact I was having so I went into a deep dive of the different products I could purchase after I used up what I already had.
Tip #3: Hit the grocery store with reusable shopping and produce bags.
Chances are you probably have a reusable bag or two. If you don’t already do so, try making it a habit to use them (if your store allows it right now.) I have a good amount of bags, but these are my favorite. My brother actually got me them as a Christmas gift last year. I use them about 3 or 4 times a week with every grocery trip and they are awesome, they fold up and fit in a nice little pouch. I just think they are so convenient. I don’t know how many plastic or paper bags I saved using them and my other reusable bags but I know it’s a lot! Once I got in the habit of always using the shopping bags I really wanted to commit to the produce bags. This is something I am still working on and have committed to being more conscious about. I don’t know what particular brands I have, but I have both the mesh ones that I use for produce and the muslin ones I use to buy stuff from the bulk section, like nuts or rice. Both this set and this set look like great options.
Tip #4 What’s in the bag most likely matters more than the bag itself.
It never hurts to think about bag choices like I mentioned above and it’s something I feel strongly about, but keep in mind that if you’re going to the grocery store, the food you purchase and place in that bag probably have a bigger effect on the environment than whatever you use to haul it home. Cutting out the single use plastic products is a huge deal, but so is choosing better products and better brands. I’ve been trying to buy bunched leaf lettuce or spinach at the store and throwing it in one of my reusable produce bags instead of going through 1-2 plastic tubs of greens, arugula or spinach every week. Even better go to a local farmers market and get the produce there!
Tip #5: Spend wisely.
Where you spend your money makes a huge difference for small and local businesses. If you truly want to support what someone is doing, do it with your dollar! Support local, organic, sustainable practices 🙂
Tip #6: Cut down on food waste.
This could be a completely other post, but learning how to store food correctly is so important. Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste which actually has a bigger environmental impact than you may think. Many people are unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce. I always see a lot of waste with people and their herbs. They use a little for a recipe and then most goes to waste after thatt. Soft herbs, like basil, cilantro, and parsley, have tender stems and leaves, while hard herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage, have woody stems and firmer leaves. These differences have an impact on how you store and cook with them. It’s also an indicator of when herbs are in season. Soft herbs come into season in the spring and fall, while hard herbs often have a season that extends well into early to mid fall. Treat soft herbs like a fresh bouquet of flowers. Fill a glass with cool water, Trim the ends of the stems, and then place the bunch in the glass. Change the water every couple of days to keep it fresh. Also, make sure to leave your basil bouquet out on the counter at room temperature, as its leaves will turn black if refrigerated. But all others should be stored in the refrigerator covered loosely with a plastic bag or stasher bag like I like to use, which helps the herbs retain moisture in the dry environment of the refrigerator and keep too much oxygen from browning the leaves. They’ll last a week or two stored this way.
Tip #7 Swap plastic baggies for snack containers or washable re-useable bags
I have a nice collection of glass storage containers that I use for everything. I also love Stasher Bags which are nontoxic, reusable silicone bags that you can use as sustainable alternatives to plastic bags or containers. I use stasher bags because that’s what I originally bought and I like them, but there are other brands out there too. Of course amazon sells them, but I know I’ve seen different ones at the container store and target. I store cut up veggies in them, pack lunches and snacks and use them in the freezer. You can even marinate your meats in them which is a great switch from one use plastic bags. They are dishwasher and microwave safe too.
Tip #8 Reusable food covers.
I am so happy I found these. I actually got them through a subscription box called Causebox I used to subscribe to that offered some eco conscious products. I have always hated plastic wrap, it never works good and it always seems so wasteful to me especially with not even being that effective to cover the foods! These are the ones I have, but I know they are sold different places like amazon of course (what isn’t…) I really do love these for storing leftovers since I can just cover the bowl rather then transferring it into something else.
Tip #9: Buy a water bottle to keep with you so you don’t have to rely on constantly buying disposable plastic ones. We’ve all heard the horrors of all the plastic bottles we consume. I’m working on making it a daily habit to use and bring my reusable water bottles when I leave the house. It really is just a habit!
Tip #10 Clean up with refillable, eco-friendly products.
I have always used “non-toxic” products, but now I started to pay attention to the packaging just as much as what was in them. A few things I did were:
Switched from dishwasher packs in plastic to the dishwasher detergent powder. It’s cheaper, less waste, more sustainable and works just as effectively- it's a no brainers. You just have to scoop out the powder into the washer instead of loading in a pod. Takes 30 seconds extra time, same for laundry too....
Switched over my cleaning products to a concentrate. I love the idea of refilling our cleaning bottles over and over and getting good use out of them. Switching up my spray cleaners from all different cleaners to just using one concentrate for everything is a game changer for me. I’m so glad I found Branch Basics, I've been using them for a while now and think it’s amazing. I ordered the starter kit and how it works is they send you one bottle of concentrate, three empty spray bottles, one foaming hand wash bottle, one laundry bottle and one oxygen boost. You use the one concentrate for everything! I do wish all the bottles were glass to start with, but I know it will save so much plastic in the long run. I use it for washing my produce, sometimes laundry, cleaning my kitchen, bathroom, hand wash, floor cleaners, carpet stains, etc. I love how one concentrate can clean everything so effectively and without crazy chemicals. FYI It's soap and water style vs disinfectant. I honestly don’t love or repurchase many things, but this is one I do. This link will get you $10 off if you think it would be a good fit for you.
I’m slowly getting back in the habit of being more conscious with my decisions ( yes, this is a habit we have to practice in my option, it doesn’t always come naturally especially with the way our society gravitates towards anything convenient! ) Living a more sustainable lifestyle really doesn’t need to be overwhelming and I hope I can pass that along. There are small changes everyone can make!
If you have any tips or any favorite products that have made cutting down on waste a little easier I would love to hear below. I'm constantly trying to be better in any little way I can! And if things feel overwhelming for you, message me and I would love to help you get started with any advice I can :) and biggest tip of all : don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Little baby steps are ok, every little bit adds up over time!
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Maya Angelou