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What is an Easy Eco-Friendly Swap?

Written by Fran

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Posted on July 19 2019

Since starting our eco-friendly journey we have realised that some swaps to eco-friendly products are easier than others. 

An "easy swap" eco friendly product is something you can start using with little to no transition at all. You don’t have to try hard to find it or remember to use it and there is no change in your daily routine at all. 

So, we did some brainstorming and came up with criteria for what makes for an easy swap to an eco-friendly product.   

It’s widely available and easy to purchase

Making purchases nowadays has become too easy.  You can click a few buttons, and something arrives at your door within a day.  Or you just walk down the street and pick up whatever is on your list on the way home.  It wasn’t always like this as production was much slower and less available to the masses.  Mass production has made things so readily available and so cheap that every shop on the corner sells every essential you may need for your home. 

Thankfully the eco-friendly industry is also going that way, but better.  Thanks to the internet we are able to connect with any maker or supplier of eco-friendly products that just happen to be in our country.  Before they would struggle to sell enough to make ends meet as they only had their locals to rely on. So, demand was low, and they didn’t have enough customers.  The internet has provided them with a platform that has enabled them to set up a shop fairly quickly and reach those people who are looking for those great quality items made from natural sustainable materials. 

This is great for small businesses as now they can survive without relying on people just popping in.  They could have their little shop in the middle of nowhere but as long as they have a post office they can get to, they can ship their orders around the country or even the world.  This has also enabled specialists to focus on what they are good at and sell only what they want to produce.  Mass production corporations produce everything under the sun because it makes sense to their profits to produce more.  Now an artisan maker of wooden spoons can find their own corner of the market!

It is just as effective as the non-eco friendly version or better

This is a bit of a tricky one because we personally believe that all eco friendly products can be as effective as mass-produced ones.  The point is we have been conditioned to believe that certain chemicals or plastics are better than natural materials and elements.  Also, mass-produced items are often engineered to seem like they work better when in actual fact it is just a bit of science trickery.  

Take toothpaste for example.  Since using natural toothpaste, we learnt that mass-produced toothpaste put a foaming agent chemical in them.  We are conditioned to think that the foam means it is working well.  This is just not true or necessary.  Natural organic toothpaste doesn’t foam but it has all the qualities needed to give your teeth a thorough clean.  Not only that, natural toothpaste has natural minerals which help strengthen your teeth!  I am not sure if “Sodium Fluoride mixture with triclosan 502764-70-7” can do that! 

Let’s take another example of shopping bags.  Plastic disposable shopping bags are actually really bad for the job at hand.  They break easily if you put anything with sharp edges in them and they can’t hold that much compared to cotton mesh or cotton tote bags.  Cotton mesh bags and produce bags expand so much and they can still fit in your pocket.  They’re wonderful little additions to your weekly shop and can even be used to store food once you get home.   

Cotton mesh eco-friendly shopping bags

 

Let’s take another example of shopping bags.  Plastic disposable shopping bags are actually really bad for the job at hand.  They break easily if you put anything with sharp edges in them and they can’t hold that much compared to cotton mesh or cotton tote bags.  Cotton mesh bags and produce bags expand so much and they can still fit in your pocket.  They’re wonderful little additions to your weekly shop and can even be used to store food once you get home.   

Ok ok, so I am being a bit biased here.  Surely there is an eco-friendly product that doesn’t work as well as a mass-produced version.  Well, the example that comes to mind is cleaning liquids.  It may be true that the chemicals in the widely available known brands can clean more easily than an eco friendly version, like vinegar and lemon.  But, do you really need to blast out stains with such force? Vinegar and lemon work just fine and with a tiny bit more elbow grease put in you will absolutely clean any surface and kill the germs that come into contact with it.  You know the saying “It’s so clean you could eat your dinner off of it”. Well, I’m not so sure about that! Would you want to eat your dinner off of a surface that just been wiped down with sodium hydroxide and ammonia?  I wouldn’t. But would I eat my dinner off of a surface that was just wiped down with vinegar and lemon? I’m not sure if I’d want to, but I definitely could and not worry about feeling sick. 

You can start using it immediately and don’t forget  

What I mean here is that it is an immediate replacement for something that you need to replace.  Imagine your dish brush is on its last legs and you need to get a new one. All you need to do to make the eco-friendly swap is to buy a natural coconut dish brush, for example, and it just slots right in.  There is no set up no settling in period and it sits exactly where your old dish brush was, so you start using it straight away.  There is no need for a change in the habit at all. 

eco friendly cleaning brushes

I can’t tell you how many times I left the house and forgot to bring my shopping bag or produce bag when we first started down our zero waste path.  I ended up having to develop the habit of putting the bag right by the door so I wouldn’t forget it on my way out. But, a dish brush or even a new woven fibre sponge fits right in and there is no transition at all. 

 By far the easiest swap to make is probably natural soaps.  There are so many options when it comes to natural soaps and they are all so much nicer than chemical compound soaps with harsh smells.  The only difficulty is deciding what scent you would like!

You can recycle it or compost it easily

You may be thinking that you have been doing this anyway, so what is the point of buying an eco-friendly product that is easy to recycle or compost.  Can’t we recycle most plastics already? And what is the point of composting?

Well, there are lots of hidden factors when it comes to recycling and composting.  There are many plant-based plastics that claim to be biodegradable.  However, the truth of the matter is they are only biodegradable under very strict conditions that you cannot emulate at home. 

The worst examples are disposable plastic cups and plates that claim to be biodegradable.  This is only the case if they are kept at a certain temperature and maybe even if certain other elements are involved in the process.  We feel this is actually the opposite of eco-friendly because it gives a false sense of security and people may be buying these thinking they’re good for the environment and just throwing them down in a field or forest after camping, for example.  

Unfortunately, they won’t biodegrade in nature.  They need a lot of help. If you’re going to use an eco-friendly version of disposable cutlery you may as well get a bamboo set of cutlery that you can reuse again and again.  And if you do happen to leave it in nature by accident, you know the wood will just return to the earth.

Bamboo reusable travel cutlery

The fact that something is recyclable doesn’t actually mean it will be recycled.  Even if you put it in your green bin.  Certain councils don’t recycle everything, or it may get shipped off to another country to be recycled but in the end, it is just dumped in a landfill.  Recycling is a great thing when it is actually done, but it is important to check if it is actually done in your area.  

Plastics are the worst offenders so that is why we still need to completely steer clear of single-use plastics as the majority is just not recycled.  Whereas paper and metal are widely recycled locally, so you can feel confident when throwing it in the green bin. So, instead of buying some sunscreen that comes in a recyclable container it could be a great idea, and an easy swap, to get some sunscreen that comes in a metal tin

To sum up

As you can see there are such easy swaps to eco-friendly products that you can do right now.  Buying an eco-friendly product also has the added benefit of making you proud and love to own and take care of your products.  If it is cheap and massed produced you couldn’t give a fiddle if it broke tomorrow If more and more people started using these swaps on a daily basis we would see a drastic reduction of plastic waste and pollution around our country and even the globe. 

 Check out our full list of the 57 easiest swaps you can make today to be more eco-friendly.

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