Sustainable Swaps: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Many of us have come across posts, advertisements or claims about amazing sustainable swaps we can use in our everyday lives. I, personally, have seen hundreds of sketchy Instagram ads about reusable containers and beeswax food wrap selling for cheap in bulk and boasting amazing reviews. While sustainability is never just about finding swaps for household goods that can create waste, it is a small action at the individual level that has an impact.

The materials many common household products are made up use a lot of energy or water to make or the object is single-use or disposable. For a lot of these items, there are more sustainable options that last longer and waste less. But, I think some of these swaps just. don’t. work. So, I am going to review a few sustainable swaps (some can be found in your home right now) my experiences, alternatives and also my favourites!

Keep in mind that if a swap doesn’t work for you, there shouldn’t be guilt for using what works in your life even if it isn’t as sustainable as the next!

Let’s start out with the Bad!

Reusable Lint Roller

I despise lint. I know it’s a natural byproduct of basically every fabric ever, but I wish it didn’t exist. So, I am an avid lint-roller…er and I even have a tiny baby lint roller for on-the-go.

This lint roller has a plastic base and fabric that when swiped one way, apparently gets rid of the lint then if swiped the opposite way would, in theory, put the lint back on. I purchased this to replace a sheet lint roller because disposing of sheets quite frequently seemed wasteful but I was disappointed. It just doesn’t lint roll the same. It seems to just brush the fabric and collect some outliers on the way. After some research it appears as though there are quite a few other options than this one, so I would suggest looking past this one. You can get lint-shavers with a wood and metal body, like this one from Re:plenish, a zero-waste shop here in Edmonton:

Now onto the Ugly! Sustainability isn’t always pretty, and these swaps are proof of that. But, don’t judge a book by its cover because these swaps may not be pretty but they sure do work!

The Trusty Wash & Reuse

This isn’t exactly a swap but is it ever nifty! Sometimes a swap like this doesn’t seem obvious until you see it but plastic bags that are marketed as single-use can just be washed and reused until they fall apart! The plastic these bags are made up holds up well for a really long time. Just wash the bag thoroughly after use and hang it somewhere to dry! Doing this is also much cheaper and more accessible than buying specifically reusable silicone food bags.

Green Living: Local markets ditch the plastic for bulk and reusable  containers in Vancouver | Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment  Weekly

Similarly to plastic bags, there is no need to buy new containers to reduce your use of disposable packing. Many food items come in glass or plastic containers that can be washed and reused themselves. Other swaps you might have at home already are opting for a washable cloth instead of paper towels or bringing to-go mugs to cafes that accept them!

And lastly, the Good! These are two of my favourite sustainable swaps and where you can find them!

Shampoo Bars

Load image into Gallery viewer, Restore Shampoo Bar

I first used a shampoo bar a few years ago when I went on a long international trip. Flight luggage regulations usually don’t let you bring large volumes of liquid so I thought a solid version of shampoo would last me the entire trip. My motivations weren’t originally about sustainability but I loved it! Ever since, I have been using shampoo bars and have tried out quite a few brands! I use the Jumping Juniper shampoo bar from Lush and it lasts long, has great lather and smells great. The image above is Jack59 bars from Re:plenish but there are so many different options for different hair needs! Re:plenish also carries bulk liquid shampoo that you can bring your own container in to fill up with if solid shampoos just aren’t your thing!

Wool Dryer Balls

10 Wool Dryer Balls in Bulk – Moss Creek Wool Works

Another enemy to lint is dryer balls! These act as a replacement for disposable dryer sheets and they have served me great. I purchased mine at Re:plenish a few months ago and I add 2-3 to a load in the dryer and they work awesome. They help loads dry faster, get rid of static and wrinkles and reduces lint.

If you are looking to explore some sustainable swaps, first consider if you actually use the less sustainable option to begin with. The least wasteful option is to use what you have but if a swap is the right choice for you I would recommend checking out Re:Plenish in Ritchie and Earth’s General Store on Whyte Ave here in Edmonton. Re:Plenish has a variety of alternative household products and Earth’s General Store has some swaps as well plus grocery items as well.

Happy swapping!

Written by Ciara Henry

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