Living a more sustainable and eco-friendly life means actively buying less stuff that eventually needs to be chucked in the bin. This includes the actual product as well as the packaging that it comes in as it’s important to consider both of these.
When I swap items for more eco-friendly options I try to consider the entire lifecycle of the item I’m buying so thinking about where the raw materials are sourced right through to the end of life throwing away point.
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Here are 13 of the things I no longer buy as part of my minimalist, sustainable and low waste lifestyle:
1. Shower Gel
Shower gel comes in a plastic bottle and often contains a lot of chemicals and preservatives that you can’t necessarily pronounce. Until recently most shower gels also contained parabens, so who knows what is lurking in that little plastic bottle.
Handmade bar soap is a good alternative for shower gel, it usually comes in cardboard packaging and uses fewer chemicals to produce. You can actually make bar soap in your kitchen at home if you’re brave enough!
One of my favourite brands are The Little Soap Company, but there are several local handmade soap companies to choose from if you do a bit of digging online.
2. Liquid Hand Soap
I loved fragrant liquid hand soaps and used to buy a bottle for each bathroom sink, cloakroom and kitchen. However, I’ve also swapped liquid hand soap for handmade bar soaps. Add a lovely soap dish to keep the soap from going soggy and you’re good to go
Read my post about bar soap vs liquid soap if you’re concerned about bacteria that might breed on the soap.
3. Plastic Food Wrap
Plastic food wrap is single-use, rarely recycled and is very wasteful overall. It contributes to the marine plastic problem, is dangerous for animals and most likely leaches chemicals into your food. Need I say more. I’ve swapped plastic food wrap for sustainable beeswax and vegan wax food wraps.
4. Plastic Kitchen Sponges
Yes, those nasty little yellow or green sponges that most people use to do their washing up is made of plastic.
I have opted for a dish brush and Swedish dishcloth which is a cellulose-based product, but if you’re on the hunt for an alternative see our guide to eco-friendly washing-up sponges.
5. High Volume Fashion
Fashion has always been a weakness but, having studied fashion and knowing what it takes to make good quality garments I’ve learned to have great respect for clothing and the people who produce them. I wouldn’t say that I ever bought something that I won’t wear.
My motto now is to buy from sustainable brands or second hand as much as possible, to choose with intention and always mix and match items that you can wear over and over again!
6. Pouf Bath Sponges
These little plastic loofahs were my favourite and it is all that I used for many years. We’ve now switched to sisal soap bags which are made from eco-friendly materials, is reusable and solves the hair on the soap problem quite effectively as each person in our house has their own soap and bag.
7. Hummus and Other Dips
I love hummus or an egg on toast for breakfast, which means I bought at least one of those plastic hummus containers a week until I started to make it at home. You can use canned chickpeas or dried ones if you have time as that is even better. This and guacamole was one of the first things on my “things I no longer buy list” and I have no regrets at all!
Why not try our Tahini free Hummus recipe?
8. Plastic Single-use Water Bottles
Unless you’re living in a third world country where tap water isn’t safe to drink, there isn’t an excuse for buying plastic water bottles. Tap water is safe to drink in most of Europe, Australia, the USA and some parts of Africa.
If you like the feel of plastic, you can get a reusable one or even better opt for a stainless steel bottle from a brand like 24 bottles.
9. Protein Bars and Breakfast Bars
In general, I’m always hungry, mainly because I love long-distance running, and protein or breakfast bars used to be a quick fix to the problem on a busy day. But these are usually full of sugar and comes in a foil-like plastic wrapping. That’s why I added it to the list of things I no longer buy.
Now I opt for pre-packed snacks and lunches instead.
10. Basics Range or Economy Supermarket Veg
Veggies bought from the supermarket is often wrapped in plastic and sprayed with pesticides unless you are lucky enough to have a local organic and zero waste supermarket. The basics or economy range is the worst offender.
We have been happy Riverford organic veg box subscription customers for a few years now. We find this to be cheaper and they reuse the cardboard box if you leave it out for the driver to collect. It’s a win-win all around. If we do need veg in addition to our regular order it becomes a bit more tricky, but choosing wisely in those instances or going to a local farm shop or market is our first point of call.
11. Paper Napkins
Reusable cloth napkins remind me of dining in a posh restaurant, so we have upgraded our homecooked dinner times by replacing paper napkins with cloth ones instead. They are so easy to clean and come in a range of colours to complement any dining room table. If you do replace yours, opt for organic natural fibres to make sure there are no microplastics that shed when you wash them.
12. Plastic Straws and Party Cups
Using plastic party cups and straws for kids or adults are so easy to do as they don’t break and you can just throw them in the bin, saving washing-up time. But it’s better to get reusables especially if you’re hosting kids parties. I always have a stash of kids cups etc for when my friends with children come to visit but have made sure that they are not the single-use variety. When it comes to straws I just skip them altogether, I don’t see the need for them in most situations.
13. Regular Deodorant
Zero waste deodorant is a much better option than the old-fashioned supermarket staples. It contains fewer chemicals and there are so many brands to choose from that you’re truly spoiled for choice. You might need to try a few different options to decide if you’ll put it on your own “things I no longer buy” list.
14. Take-away Sandwiches
Meal deal sandwiches or a take-out salad is so convenient, but usually comes in a plastic package and can add up if you buy one every day. We now make a point of packing lunch whenever possible, often double cooking in the evening and taking leftovers the next day. Packed lunch isn’t always practical, but we commit to making our own whenever possible. It’s so much healthier, waste less plastic and is kinder on the budget.
15. Non-stick Cookware
We used to love non-stick cookware, but even the expensive brands don’t last that long. Not to mention the potential for toxins leaching into your food, the coatings quickly start to flake, which means it needs replacing. A good quality stainless steel or cast iron pan lasts a lifetime and is toxin-free. We just don’t trust non-stick coatings no matter what the marketing messages might say. The old fashioned way, with a little bit of oil to prevent food from sticking, is much better overall.
16. Makeup Remover
A great little trick to remove even the darkest makeup is to use an oil-based product. Coconut, Jojoba or even Olive oil works really well and is cheap as chips. Just drip a little on a reusable makeup pad and wipe away gently. Wash with your favourite cleanser or soap bar and off you go – no panda eyes in sight.
17. Dry Shampoo
Oily hair is never a good look, but you don’t need a shop-bought dry shampoo for emergency touch-ups in between washes. Just use a bit of cornstarch or arrowroot and dab on with a brush or sprinkle with a shaker. Here is a great recipe for DIY dry shampoo to try. It really does work beautifully and is toxin-free!
18. Low-Quality Products that Don’t Last
We’ve learned that buying the best we can afford, less often is always the better choice. If you can buy something once, for example, durable cookware or less often like good quality shoes we’re saving products from ending up in a landfill unnecessarily. And it’s usually easier on the wallet long term. Too many times have I bought poor quality products such as fake leather shoes or skirts, for the plastic to flake off before the garment has been properly worn out. It’s such a waste and adds to the plastic pollution problem and is definitely something I no longer buy these days.
19. Face Wipes and Makeup Remover Pads
Opting for a washcloth or reusable makeup remover pads have been super easy. I just rinse and add to the next load of washing without any hassle. No waste and no extra burden at all!
20. Shaving Cream
I have super sensitive skin, prone to rashes, but have not used shaving cream for several years and don’t miss it at all. It’s not necessary, water and soap work perfectly fine.
21. Vitamins and Supplements
Eating a balanced and healthy diet works a lot better than taking vitamins and supplements. It’s what nature intended. I eat more than 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, along with a bit of protein (preferably plant-based), healthy fat and carbs. It means that I don’t get strange cravings and am able to control my weight effectively. If you’d like to know more about eating a healthy real food diet read our related post, eating a real food diet.