I RECENTLY WENT to the beach on one of those perfect summer days — not too hot, but warm enough to make a swim in the normally icy Atlantic Ocean feel like a refreshing and exhilarating experience. I was floating carefree in the water, basking in the sunshine, when I suddenly felt something graze my arm. A fish? Even worse, a shark? I recoiled in panic, only to find an empty Diet Coke bottle bobbing along in the water. No biggie. I’ll just take this to the recycling bin on the way back to the car, I thought. As I made my way back to shore, I spotted a plastic bottle cap. Then a shampoo bottle. Then a chip bag. I tried to grab them as they got battered by waves and swept back out to sea. I returned to my friends with a heavy heart. “Where did you get that Diet Coke?” one of them asked.
Plastic is cheap and it’s made to last, quite literally, forever. When it was first invented around the turn of the twentieth century, plastic seemed like a way to preserve the earth’s natural resources by using fewer of them. But fast-forward to today, and every minute the equivalent of two garbage trucks full of plastic is dumped into the ocean. By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight. And all of these plastics can remain in the environment for more than 2,000 years.
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Avoiding plastic is hard. Take a look inside your pantry. Or your refrigerator. Or your medicine cabinet. I doubt you’ll find even one item in these spaces that does not utilize some form of plastic in its packaging. And these are mostly single-use plastics, which, you may not realize, are not recycled even when you put them in your recycling bins. Looking at the contents of my bathroom shelf one day, I wondered how many of my daily-use products could be replaced with something non-plastic.
Thankfully, there are many ethical, environmentally friendly alternatives to most of my routine body care and cleaning products. They work just as well, if not better, than their plastic-encased counterparts — and almost always with healthier ingredients. Most of these products utilize an online subscription model, which makes ordering convenient and surprisingly affordable. Of course, using these products won’t solve pollution or rescue us from climate change, but you’ll be doing a small part to keep what you consume out of the oceans and landfills while supporting small businesses that are making an effort to turn the tide away from single-use plastics.
Toothpaste is a particularly insidious offender in the single-use plastic bathroom arena, as it’s often packaged in tubes and pumps with plastic lids and caps, most of which are not recyclable and end up in landfills. Some brands have gone back to metal tubes, which still often utilize a plastic cap and can be hard to recycle. But another option is to get rid of the paste altogether. Bite Toothpaste Bits, which come in refillable glass and metal containers, are a great option for plastic-free toothpaste. I was skeptical of the effectiveness of these bites (which look like little white mints and turn to toothpaste when you start to chew them), but it mostly feels the same as brushing with toothpaste, leaving my teeth feeling clean and minty fresh. Bite Toothpaste Bits come in fluoride and non-fluoride options, and the brand also offers plastic-free floss, whitening gel, bamboo toothbrushes, and mouthwash bits, all of which are 100% gluten-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. SHOP NOW
Founded by two sisters with a passion for reducing single-use plastic waste, Plaine Products offers subscription-based skin- and hair-care products in stylish metal bottles, which you return to the company by mail in exchange for refills. Plaine Products include shampoo, conditioner, and hair repair potions, as well as face and body washes, lotion, moisturizer, and beauty oil in scented and unscented options. I found that the rosemary, mint, and vanilla body wash and lotion in conjunction with the beauty oil made my chronically dry skin feel smooth and moisturized all day. Plaine Products are vegan, made in the USA, and offer carbon-neutral shipping. SHOP NOW
From detergent and fabric softener bottles to pods and dryer sheets, laundry products generate tons of waste. Most laundry brands also use harsh petrochemicals in their products that pollute the water supply. Dirty Labs offers plastic-free detergent and laundry boosters made with clean, nontoxic, biodegradable ingredients. Compared with the obnoxiously perfumed detergent and dryer sheets I was previously using, Dirty Labs products not only take up less shelf space, but also make my clothes smell subtly fresh and clean. These products are super concentrated as well. One small bottle of Dirty Labs detergent is good for 32 loads of laundry at a price not much more expensive than your average brand. SHOP NOW
Americans throw away over 7 million tons of clothing every year. Textiles are particularly difficult to recycle and fast-fashion production produces tons of greenhouse gasses and water pollution. For Days is a clothing brand that makes fun, youthful, and durable clothing out of recycled materials, and also offers something called a Take Back Bag program. For $20, For Days will send you a bag to fill with your textiles, anything from underwear to regular clothing to pillowcases. When you return the bag, you get a $20 store credit to purchase new For Days clothes. Your old fabrics will be recycled into materials like insulation, and you’ll get a cute new top. It’s win-win. SHOP NOW
Cleaning wipes have become a ubiquitous presence in our lives. They clean our countertops and sanitize our hands like a charm and, like most people, I love them. They’re also (not surprisingly) terrible for the planet — from the single-use plastic tubes that contain them to the nonrecyclable wipes themselves. Biom is a subscription-based cleaning and hand-sanitizing wipe system that is both easy on the eyes and safer for the environment. The wipes themselves are biodegradable and compostable, and as effective as any other wipe out there. They’re also encased in a sleek, refillable container that is beautifully designed and available in four chic colors. SHOP NOW
Disposable plastic razors and razor refills aren’t even remotely recyclable — and they’re notoriously expensive. More than 3 billion disposable razors end up in landfills every year, and Americans spend billions of dollars a year on them. Leaf Shave offers reusable razors with recyclable, replaceable blades. The razors are meticulously designed and provide an incredibly close, smooth shave. Leaf offers blade replacement kits and a storage bin to keep used blades until you’re ready to recycle them along with other metals. They also offer a selection of stylish razor cases, sleeves, and stands. SHOP NOW
Joshua Sanchez Writer
Joshua Sanchez’s debut feature film “Four” won the Best Performance Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. He’s a member of the Writers Guild of America, East, and has contributed to the Guardian, the Creative Independent, and Lambda Literary.
Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.