So you’re already recycling all your plastics and cans, saving electricity where you can, and maybe even composting kitchen scraps. That’s great!
The next step to living your best sustainable life is addressing your water consumption. In addition to just cutting back on overall water usage (like turning the water off when possible, taking shorter showers, and not using more than you need), how can we make processes like showering and washing dishes more eco-friendly?
It all starts with a good set of products to help you get the job done efficiently and safely. Here are some tips for adding to your green cleaning arsenal!
Soaps, Shampoos, and Detergents
After you’re finished lathering and scrubbing, all that soapy water has to go somewhere. Because of how frequently we use them, dishwashing detergents and body washes have become major contributors to chemical pollution, and therefore have a negative effect on water quality and aquatic life. It’s important to select soaps and detergents that are sustainable and safe, both for your body and for the planet. Luckily, there are options.
Look for soaps that have organic, natural, biodegradable, non-petroleum, and vegan components in their ingredients lists. You want to avoid products with parabens, polyethylene glycols, and ammonia, which are harmful to your body as well as the environment. Remember: less is more. Using fewer harsh chemicals does not mean you have to compromise on cleanliness!
There are also many natural soaps, detergents, and shampoos that come package free or in bars instead of plastic bottles; the companies that make these soap bars tend to use ethical and sustainable ingredients as well.
Sponges and Scrubbers
If you know anything about bacteria, you’re probably accustomed to swapping out your sponge fairly often. But the food, dirt, and grime leftover on your sponge isn’t even the grossest thing about it – most sponges are made up of polyester microplastics, and as you notice your sponge start to lose its scrubbiness, you can be sure those harmful components are going down the drain and into our water systems. However, there are plenty of other substances and materials that are just as effective for scouring your dishes (or your skin!), without washing teeny pollutants down the drain.
Walnut scrubbers are plant-based, and the tough walnut fibers make for excellent scrubbing power! Similarly, sponges and scour pads made from coconut can tackle just about any mess you can think of. Plus, they’re biodegradable!
As for your body, try using a new loofah. Natural loofahs come from plant fibers (from the luffa plant) and are great for exfoliating. There are also loofahs made from recycled plastics.
Several brands that sell these products also ship them in plastic-free packaging, which is a bonus! You can find them here: Grove Collaborative, Public Goods, Package Free Shop, Well Earth Goods (they plant a tree with every order!)
Reusable and Refillable Products
Many of the products we use in household chores and self-care routines come in single-use plastic containers. The good news is there are many companies and programs aimed at those of us who want to recycle, reuse, and refill our existing receptacles. Rather than throwing out your dish soap pumps, buying a new plastic bottle of shampoo, or ripping off yet another paper towel each time you need one, try one of these eco-friendly options.
European dish cloths are having a moment! These super-absorbent pads are stiff when dry but swell up when it’s time to wipe down. They can be used to replace either sponges or paper towels, and they’re safe for the washing machine, dishwasher, and microwave, so you can reuse them hundreds of times. Alternatively, try using microfiber cloths. They are extremely soft and delicate on all your surfaces, machine-washable, and come in a variety of sizes and colors for kitchen or bathroom use.
If you use disposable brushes in the kitchen, it may be time to try products with reusable, modular components. Bamboo is a fast-growing, sturdy, and sustainable material, perfect for kitchen tools; many companies sell products with bamboo handles and disposable heads, so when you’re ready to replace them, you can swap out the brush portion without replacing the entire product.
Lastly, always keep an eye out for cleaning products that are packaged in glass, reusable containers. Instead of throwing out an empty soap or shampoo bottle, you can ship it back to the company (for recycling or refilling) or refill it yourself using a cleaning concentrate. Bonus points if the company has carbon-neutral distribution methods!
Brands like Blueland and Plaine Products are focused on refilling and reusing sustainable (non-plastic) containers and packaging. You can find additional reusable products at Meliora, Common Good, and Full Circle (try out their bamboo kitchen tools!).
Packing and Storage
If you’re a camper, you know that when you’re on the go, chores like showering and washing dishes may look a little different. If you’re worried about how to store all your new green cleaning products when you’re traveling, look no further!
Brands like Sylvansport sell modular packing systems, made up of zippered cubes and bags, perfect for storing bulky (or used) cleaning supplies. REI and Eagle Creek, brands that are committed to sustainability, also make waterproof storage products that you can whip out on the campsite. This gear is great for keeping your cleaning supplies separate from your clothes and toiletries in your pack.
Remember, deciding to use (and wash) sustainable dishware rather than use (and toss) single-use plastics is already a step in the right direction. Plus, using refillable soap containers, natural detergents, package-free products, and sponges made from organic material are all helpful in the mission of attaining eco-friendly water usage, whether you’re in the home or in the wild. With these products, it’s easy to take care of yourself and the planet!