Reducing Our Waste Part 2: Making Changes at Home and on the Go
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
In Part 1 of this Reducing Our Waste series we focused mainly on changes we can make at lunch time, today we focus on everyday life. There are so many steps we can take to help reduce the waste we produce and help make a positive difference for our planet, but also for ourselves through our immediate environment. My tips so far are very much based on reducing the amount of plastic we use and put out into the world, but it is also very important to me to offer you the most toxic free alternatives to every day products and help you lead an overall cleaner and healthier life. The best place to start making a difference is usually right in our own home. Ideally we need to keep in mind that we must try to consume less, reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible and make cleaner, healthier choices. Here are some of my favorite products that I use in my life, either at home or on the go, hope they inspire you to make a change in yours!
REPLACE Plastic Wrap WITH Beeswax Food Wrap
I can’t remember the last time I used Saran Wrap or a similar product. The box I have in my pantry must be the same one I have had for the last 10 years…admittedly it was a larger box, but it is still pretty full! The most natural and best alternative out there is beeswax wrap, which is simply a piece of cloth that is coated in beeswax. It is self-adhesive, you just warm it up with your hands then shape and mold it to the food or bowl you are covering and then it hardens when placed in the fridge. Not only does it seal effectively, but it is breathable and releases the gasses that usually overripe your produce, as well as prevents excess moisture from building up. According to Abeego® founder and creator of the original beeswax wrap, it “keeps food alive", and helps us reduce food waste as well as our plastic footprint! Two other companies I love are B Factory®, a Canadian company from right here in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec and Bee’s Wrap®, a Vermont based company both of which I also featured in PART 1.
REPLACE Paper Towels and Kitchen Sponges WITH Swedish Dishcloths
This one can be challenging. Paper towels are not plastic, but it is another wasteful habit we are all addicted to! Most of us reach for paper towels even when a rag or a dishcloth or even the mop would have done the job. It is a delicate issue in our home as hubby always reaches for the paper towel roll and I don’t! If we would slow down our consumption or eliminate it, we would not only be saving trees and landfill space, but also water needed for its production, as well as reduce air and water pollution. I have started using the Swedish dishcloths to replace my everyday use of paper towels and the not so eco-friendly, bacteria magnet kitchen sponges, most of which are made with plastic and other toxic materials. Invented in Sweden in 1949, one of these dishcloths can absorb up to 20 times its weight and will replace on average 17 rolls of paper towels in your kitchen! Not only are they pretty, but they are made of earth-friendly, natural materials, are reusable and machine washable (up to 200 times!), they dry quickly and don’t breed bacteria nor smell, they will save you money down the line and are 100% biodegradable, so when you are done with them you can actually compost them! My two favorite companies are the Canadian company Stockholm Inside who imports them from Sweden and England, and Three Bluebirds, a husband and wife team from Connecticut who have been designing and printing them locally since 2013.
REPLACE Parchment Paper WITH Silicone Baking Mats
Parchment paper is another popular disposable item many of us use at home, although we may think it is just paper and recyclable or even compostable, it isn’t. Parchment paper starts off as paper but it is treated with an acid to help it resist high heat and then is coated with a nonstick material. Silpat® silicone baking or roasting mats are the best and healthiest alternative out there. I love them because not only are they easy to store and use, they also clean up easily and can be used indefinitely!
REPLACE Plastic Storage Bags or Containers WITH Reusable Silicone Bags and Glass Jars
Stasher® bags are made of clear 100% pure platinum food grade silicone and create an airtight, leak-proof seal around your food. They are non-toxic (no BPA, BPS, latex, lead, phthalates), more sustainable than plastic and endlessly reusable! They come in three sizes and a variety of clear colors and patterns. I use these bags for everything; you can not only store your food in them, but also marinate, cook, bake, boil, sous vide and freeze your food!! They also store food, liquids included, flat which saves up a lot of space in the refrigerator and freezer. There isn’t much these bags can’t do! They are amazing to store your kid’s art supplies, to protect your electronics, to store your makeup, toiletries, first aid supplies or any essentials you need on the go. They are a healthy alternative to plastic bags or containers and have changed my world and will absolutely do the same for you.
I started moving away from plastic containers since my baby was born a little over two years ago. I would use Pyrex containers or glass jars to take her purees on the go and today rely on my WECK Jars to bring her meals when we go to people’s house for supper or to restaurants. I can simply pop them in the microwave a few seconds if needed, and never have to worry about chemicals leaching into her food. The lids are also in glass and not in aluminum, so they won’t rust and you needn’t worry about them having the undesired BPA or BPS (which is what is used on the ones that say they are BPA-free) coating, known hormone disruptors. They are ideal for preserving and canning because of their wide mouth, they are easy to open and fill, they easily stack one on top of the other and help save space, and the rubber band makes it easy to see if they are properly sealed! Plus they come in pretty shapes and are available in various sizes. I love my WECK Jars for carrying food on the go, making our overnight chia or oatmeal puddings and as a healthier option for storing cooked food and leftovers.
REPLACE Kid's Conventional Plastic Tableware WITH An Eco-Responsible, Toxin-Free Alternative
When I first got the pregnant I knew I wanted to limit the amount of plastic in my home, especially anything that my baby could put in her mouth or eat from. Teethers, toys, bottles, dishes and utensils, you name it, if they are made of plastic I want to avoid them. So when it came to Trinity starting to eat real food, even if at first it was just purees, I relied on porcelain or ceramic dishes, glass or stainless for her cups, and then when she started throwing or banging her dishes around, bamboo became an interesting option! I always disliked and even after becoming a mother I still don't understand why most people and society in general put kids in a different category than all other humans. From the kid menus that are offered in restaurants (don’t get me started on that one), to the odd and often flashy colors or styles of clothing, to having them drink out of "special" cups or bottles and sip through straws rather than teach them right away how to take gulps from a real cup and drink like we do, and the typical plastic tableware with animal, cartoon or other colorful designs! Because plastic was a definite no for me, and that I wanted the least toxic and breakable option out there, bamboo became the go to tableware option for me. Young LUX is a Montreal based company that makes in my opinion the most beautiful, gender neutral, eco-responsible and toxin free tableware for kids! All their plates, bowls and cups are made of bamboo fiber, are high quality, durable, biodegradable, non-toxic, contain no BPA, PVC or phthalates! And keep an eye out on this company as they will be adding utensils to their collection soon!
REPLACE Plastic Straws WITH Glass or Stainless Steel Straws
I’ve never been a big fan of straws, but plastic straws are one of the top single-use plastic items and because they are so lightweight they are a problem. They fly away easily and flow into the oceans; they have a hard time being sorted through the mechanical recycler, and end up mixed with other materials, thus contaminating recycling loads which end up being disposed of as garbage. Have you seen the video of the marine biologists at sea painfully removing a plastic straw embedded deep into a sea turtle’s nostril? It's awful. Each time you are offered a plastic straw think of that and refuse it, even for your kids! There are many other healthier, non toxic, eco-friendly, compostable or biodegradable options out there if you can’t shake your straw habit or for people that actually need a straw for eating (stroke, autism, MS patients, etc.): glass, stainless steel, bamboo, many restaurants have even made the swap for pasta straws! Where there is a will, there is a way. Aren’t these glass straws from the Canadian company Glass Sipper™ just beautiful? These straws are made from borosilicate, used in Pyrex, the strongest commercial glass that exists and if you ever have the misfortune of dropping one and it breaks, it won’t shatter into shards like glass typically does. You can choose from plain glass or decorative, straight or bent, as well as from a variety of diameters and lengths.
REPLACE Plastic Toothbrushes WITH Bamboo Toothbrushes
Another super easy switch to make is by replacing your plastic toothbrushes for those made from bamboo. Bamboo is harvested sustainably as it is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. It is also naturally antibacterial and water resistant, which is perfect when we think of a toothbrush handle. It is also completely recyclable. The bristles are typically made from nylon, but in the case of Mable® toothbrushes, the nylon is non-toxic and BPA-free. All you need to do is just remove the bristles from the handle with a pair of pliers or simply snap off the head of the toothbrush before putting it in the compost bin. They are also one of the first ever toothbrush to be designed stand on its own, and they are so sleek and stylish!
REPLACE Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets WITH Pure Wool Dryer Balls
These may look like tennis balls, but they are handmade balls of 100% pure felted wool that eliminate the need for both fabric softeners and dryer sheets! Unlike the latter, these balls are non toxic they contain no perfumes or fragrances, no dyes, no chemicals, are not allergenic and don't contain any of the volatile compounds that have been linked to asthma. Each Moss Creek Wool Works dryer ball has been tested to last for more than 500 loads and soften each and every one of them by bouncing around in your dryer working their way between the layers of clothing. Not only do they fluff your clothes with less static and wrinkles, but hey also reduce the drying time. Some even say that wool drer balls reduce drying time by 25%. Not only are they a great option for your clothes and health, but also for your wallet! Moss Creek Wool Dryer Balls are made right here in Canada and you know I love supporting a great Canadian product. They are sold in sets of 3 which is the perfect number of balls to use for a normal sized load, for bigger loads aim for 6 balls. For those of you who love the scent of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, you can scent these wool balls naturally by adding 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil directly on them! You really have no reason not to make the switch ;-)
REPLACE Disposable Plastic Bottles WITH Reusable Stainless Steel Bottles
Yes plastic bottles are recyclable, in most cases at least, but do they actually all get recycled? Apparently not! According to Ensemble Montréal, more than 700 million water bottles end up in Quebec landfills every year! Considering that plastic can up to 1000 years to even begin composting, this is a big problem. Luckily, Montreal city has taken a stand and 500 milliliter single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be sold at any City of Montreal events or in municipal buildings (arenas, libraries, sports centers, etc.). Not only are these bad for the environment, but also for our health. Also, I do suggest reusing as much as possible, but not in this case. Ideally, toss your plastic water bottle habit and replace with a beautiful stainless steel water bottle like those from Healthy Human or S’well®, two companies whose mission is to inspire us to live a healthier life and contribute towards a healthier, plastic-free planet. These are made from non-toxic insulated stainless steel; they are durable, keep your drinks hot for up to 12 hours or cold for up to 24 hours, are fashionable and come in various sizes, shapes and designs to meet everybody’s personal needs, style and taste. You have no reason to not choose a better way to hydrate! As mentioned in PART1, S’well® also launched S’ip by S’well® in 2016 and they offer these amazing water bottles but in cute 10 ounce size and with playful designs that are perfect for kids!
REPLACE Disposable Coffee WITH Reusable Travel Mugs
Unfortunately, besides having a plastic lid, most of these disposable coffee cups have a thin plastic lining that prevents them from being recyclable. It has been estimated that we Canadians use 4.9 billion disposable cups annually, most of which are in the form of single-use cups. This translates into tons of added waste dumped in landfills, but also tons of paper harvested from forests everywhere. Why not switch to a reusable and more fashionable cup instead? There are so many sustainable and eco-friendly options out there nowadays: glass, bamboo, stainless steel. In fact, I think just like plastic bags were banned in some stores, these cups should be banned as well. Some places actually offer a discount on each cup of coffee to people who bring their own reusable cup.
I’ve fallen in love with quite a few different brands offering not only reusable coffee cups that are trendy and fit for any style, in fact they are a great way to show off your personality! I also prefer them to the disposable kind because besides producing less waste, they are also made out of materials that are less toxic, that don’t transfer any odors or flavors to your hot drinks and some of these also keep them hot longer than the conventional cups! You can also just use a reusable water bottle for your coffee, but for me the pleasure of drinking coffee is also about holding a cup in my hands, the shape, the lid with a small opening integrated in it versus the wider mouth of water bottles, and sometimes even the handle is all part of the experience. S’ip by S’well® Travel Mugs, Healthy Human Tumblers and Ello Travel Mugs are some of my favorite brands for my coffee on the go! They are made of high quality food-grade vacuum insulated stainless steel, free of harsh chemicals and completely BPA and BPS free, they have a leak proof top for added protection and keep your hands cool and your coffee (or tea) hot for up to two times as long as normal and some even as long as 12 hours! The Keep Cup glass reusable coffee cups are also a favorite, although glass may feel more fragile than stainless steel, these are made from tempered soda lime glass, which isn’t unbreakable but is shock resistant and if it breaks it won’t break in shards, it is quite durable. Glass doesn’t keep your beverage as hot as stainless steel, but it is an ideal material as it tends to maintain the purest flavor of beverages. For better durability and insulation you can choose the LongPlay model which has a removable Tritan™ plastic booster on the outside which creates a twin wall vessel.
REPLACE Plastic Produce Bags WITH Reusable Cotton or Mesh Bags
At the beginning of the year, Montreal was the first major Canadian city to implement a ban on plastic bags and merchants who disregard it will face a fine. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include all bags. For instance, the thin plastic bags we put the fruits and vegetables in at the grocery store, or the ones we wrap up out packages of meat, poultry or fish in, and thicker plastic grocery bags are all an exception… Is it me or is there something just off about this ban?! There are so many better, eco-friendly options out there helping us say no to unnecessary plastic and paper packaging and bags, two of which are companies from my hometown Montreal: Dans le sac and Credo Bags. Both companies have created a beautiful line of bags that are designed and handmade locally, which you can even customize to match your style or to meet you company’s needs. Credo Bags offers a great variety of bags made with organic cotton and was the first North American company to introduce the reusable mesh produce bags, the perfect eco-friendly alternative to those tear-off-the-roll plastic bags found in the fruits and vegetables section of grocery stores. I feel hopeful when I walk around grocery stores and see shoppers, although still only a very few, with their reusable produce or grocery bags. Individual changes are amazing and not to be neglected, but the huge impacts created by changes made by businesses and corporations can get us to the desired end result so much faster. Let’s hope that in the next few years the ban will actually be a full-blown ban against all plastic bags in a store!
REPLACE Plastic , Vinyl or Rubber Device Covers WITH Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Alternatives
Toast is a small company from Portland, Oregon that has been creating amazing long-lasting wood covers for tablets, laptops, phones, gaming and smart home devices since 2012. It is a company that is not only dedicated to quality products but also to quality of life, for us and our planet! They use sustainable wood (bamboo, ash, ebony, walnut) and offer a completely plastic-free alternative to the snap-on cases we are so used to seeing everywhere around us. The bamboo is grown sustainably in Asia and the other wood veneers are sourced from responsibly managed forests in North America, plus they have a partnership with Trees For The Future and plant one seedling for each Toast cover they make. The covers adhere to devices with a high-quality 3M adhesive and you can even choose one of 18 different designs that they laser etch into your cover or use your own artwork or business logo to customize them. Such an original concept that truly turns your device into a one-of-a-kind piece! They also offer leather cover options.