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  • Writer's pictureGreen Iowa AmeriCorps

10 Easy Sustainable Swaps

Hello, my name is Mari! I am eighteen years old and I recently graduated from high school. I am a summer AmeriCorps member and I am currently serving in Van Meter with Sustainable Schools. This is my first ever post, and I am so excited to get the opportunity to contribute to this blog! I've wanted to do one for a while now, and I am grateful to get to do so with Green Iowa AmeriCorps. Now, when it comes to living sustainably, I am no expert whatsoever. In fact, I am fairly new to all of this and have a lot to learn. But I'm eager to share my experiences and things I try/have tried with all of you!

This first post is dedicated to eco-friendly products we can all use to reduce the amount of waste we create. You have probably heard or seen some of these ideas, but there may be ones you aren't as familiar with. Either way, I encourage you to read about these sustainable swaps and hopefully give them a try! So let's get started....yay!!

  1. Reusable Water Bottles vs. Plastic Water Bottles

The first swap I want to recommend is reusable water bottles. I personally think that a water bottle is a staple item when living sustainably, and not at all hard to incorporate into your life! It's no secret that plastic water bottles are detrimental to the environment, and while they can mostly be recycled, it's best to just avoid purchasing and using them altogether. Not only does this help out mother nature, but it also saves you money! My family has many different water bottles that we use, and I always keep one on me whether I'm at home or out and about. If you're at home and you don't like drinking from the tap, you may want to think about trying a Brita which filters your water.

2. Reusable Shopping Bags/Totes/Produce Bags vs. Plastic Grocery Sacks

The second swap I'm including is reusable shopping bags to replace plastic sacks. Plastic grocery sacks take YEARS to decompose and if they don't end up in landfills, they will likely make their way into the ocean, contributing to pollution and posing a danger to wildlife and aquatic species. I highly suggest finding some reusable cloth bags to take with you when you go grocery shopping to reduce the amount of plastic bags that will be used for maybe 20 minutes and then inevitably thrown away. These can be found in different stores, OR you can make some yourself! But that's another blog post;)

Produce bags- instead of using plastic sacks provided inside the grocery store to hold your produce, get some reusable produce-specific carriers! I personally like these crochet ones:

3. Real Plates & Cutlery vs. Paper or Plastic

At my house, we are totally guilty of using paper plates for many of our meals, which doesn't make a lot of sense considering we have as many "real" plates as we need. I guess it's just easier to not have to worry about cleaning as many dishes. Nevertheless, switching out your paper or plastic plates and utensils reduces the amount of waste you create, which lightens your garbage load!

4. Reusable Straws vs. Plastic Straws

I'm assuming many of us already know how bad plastic straws are, however, it doesn't hurt to add this to the list on this post. Instead of using disposable straws to put in your drink, opt for straws made of glass or stainless steel.

5. Reusable Containers vs. Plastic Ziploc Bags or Other

When storing food to put in the fridge, bringing it on the go, or taking care of leftovers you want to try and reduce waste as much as possible. Rather than use plastic or Ziploc bags, you can use reusable (possibly glass) containers and even mason jars to hold and carry lunches, snacks, etc. This way, you don't have to constantly refill on plastic packaging that is thrown away after one (maybe two) uses. With products that can be used over and over again, all you have to do is wash them properly so you never have to worry about having to go to the store to get more.

6. Reusable Ziploc Bags/Sandwich Bags vs. Plastic Ziploc Bags

I wanted to include these as another option for people who, like me, find little baggies to be very easy and convenient. Reusable Ziploc bags are easy to store and pack things!

7. Beeswax Wrap vs. Plastic Wrap

Beeswax wrap is a great replacement for plastic wrap. It can be used to cover bowls, plates, or trays. It can also be used to wrap produce or other food items. You can either buy pieces of beeswax wrap or make your own (which I would like to do sometime!)

8. Reusable Coffee Cups vs. Disposable Coffee Cups

When you're on the go and want to take your coffee with, reusable coffee cups are a way better option than disposable ones that you go through every day. Like many other items in this post, these also save you from having to restock when you run out of disposables, which in turn saves you money.

9. Cloth Napkins vs. Paper Napkins or Paper Towels

Do you know how many paper towels and napkins you use every day? A while back, I noticed that my family and I use a large amount...I realized we were creating a lot of garbage and that this could be prevented. Swapping paper napkins and paper towels with cloth napkins, dish towels, etc. is an awesome way to reduce your waste amount. (Although, I believe that paper napkins and towels can be composted if you have a compost pile.)

10. Reusable Cotton Rounds vs. Cotton Balls and Disposable Cotton Balls

My final swap is reusable cotton rounds and unlike disposable cotton balls, you can wash and use these again and again. They can be used to clean your face, apply something, remove makeup, etc. They can be found on Amazon, Etsy, or perhaps a store near you sells them. You can also make these yourself! This is also something I would like to make, and possibly write about on this blog!

Well, there it is- 10 easy sustainable swaps! I hope this blog post was helpful and that you try some of these out. When you start to transition to a more sustainable life, what you're doing may seem small or even insignificant, but trust me, you're making a real difference.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.

It's not." -Dr. Seuss


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