It doesn’t have to be Earth Day for you to be thinking about the planet. Do you think it’s challenging, expensive, or time-consuming to do the right thing for the environment? Guess again! Here are five simple and eco-friendly alternatives you can make to show you care about sustainability without breaking the bank.
Try These 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives
1. Beeswax Food Wraps
More than 300 million tons of plastic are consumed globally every year, including a trillion single-use plastic bags. And it takes 10-20 years for them to decompose. One way to put a dent in those numbers is to switch from plastic wrap to sustainable beeswax wraps for your household needs. These popular eco-friendly product wraps are made out of beeswax and cotton, and do a great job of protecting your leftovers. While they’re a bit more expensive initially, wrappers can be washed and reused for about a year before needing replacing. Now, that’s eco-friendly!
2. Bamboo Toilet Paper
It’s well known that bamboo is a common replacement for many wood products, from flooring to kitchen utensils. But folks concerned about the environment can bring the benefits of renewable bamboo even closer to home, as now it’s available in toilet paper! Traditional toilet paper from the major manufacturers uses mainly virgin timber—in fact, an estimated 15 million trees are cut down for bathroom tissue every year; though several companies have moved to some recycled paper products.
Unlike traditional timber, however, bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on the planet (it can produce an amazing 40 inches of new growth per day), and the plant regenerates without replanting. Internet-based tissue companies touting an environmental commitment are popularizing the use of bamboo TP and pushing profits from sales back into environmental awareness efforts. Bamboo toilet paper and paper towels are a bit more expensive, but worth the investment.
3. Plant-Based Party & Picnic Supplies
Disposable plates, containers, and utensils are convenient for parties, picnics, and even everyday use. But the joy derived from the convenience of traditional Styrofoam, paper, and plastic products is usually accompanied by a little guilt over contributing to the growing problem of landfills teeming with waste that won’t break down for years or decades. But there is a solution to this disposal dilemma: plant-based and compostable cutlery and containers. Plates, bowls, and containers for leftovers are being made from sugarcane. Sellers of these new products, usually found online, say they are more functional than the petroleum-based versions we see everywhere.
The sugarcane products are grease- and cut-resistant, sturdy enough to contain soups and noodles, and are 100-percent compostable at commercial composting facilities. Compostable cutlery is made from potato and corn starches and vegetable oils, as indicated in the names of leading brands, including Spudware and Taterware. These compostable products are high-heat tolerant, can be reused many times, and ultimately recycled into soil.
4. Soy Insulation and Household Finishes
Many products including paints, strippers, spray foam insulation, and adhesive for pywood and particle board, used in home construction and home improvement were made from volatile products that threatened consumers’ health or polluted the environment. That is quickly changing, however, and soybeans are one of the natural products that are making our homes safer and more sustainable. Two products in particular, stains and insulation, have been dramatically improved through the use of soy.
Soy-based stains preserve and beautify wood decks, replacing oil-based products thought to have a negative environmental impact. And soy is now offered as an eco-friendly alternative ingredient in spray foam insulation products that lower heating costs and make homes more comfortable.
5. Wheat and Corn Golf Tees
While the golf industry hasn’t been able to produce a suitable ball made from recycled or green materials, the same is not true for the golf tee! It is estimated that US golfers go through 2 billion tees per year as they knock balls around the course. That’s a lot of trees to cut down for wooden tees. Thankfully, eco-friendly golf supply companies are now making the tees out of wheat straw and corn—natural materials that break down quickly when scattered around the fairways.
Would you try—or have you tried—any of these eco-friendly alternatives? Tell us in the comments below!
Jim Kneiszel is a freelance writer based in De Pere, Wisconsin. He edits a number of trade publications and runs The Word House with his wife, Judy. His article, Infuriating and Frightening Invasive Species appears in the 2021 Farmers' Almanac.