Top 15 Non Toxic Alternatives For a More Sustainable and Healthy Lifestyle

by - March 05, 2022


When it comes to saving the planet, it’s easy to dismiss the small actions that individuals can take.

But the truth is climate change and biodiversity loss are the result of individual actions of the 7.8 billion of us living on this planet.

So, the answer to global problems lies in each individual – in what we buy, how we act, and how we live.

Even international and national policies and laws can only be created by people and supported by citizens who are well informed and are changing what they buy and how they live.

This article contains 15 eco-living ideas to start at home for a more sustainable.

Ready? Roll your sleeves up and let’s get to work!

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is using the earth’s resources in a way that satisfy the need of the people and biodiversity, and preserves and protects them for future generations.

1. The Kitchen

#1. Sustainable Food

The environmental impact of food comes from the resources needed to grow, process, package, and transport food. Growing food typically requires the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers that not only affects the food, but also the environment.

What Can You Do

  • Buy as little processed food as possible with minimal packaging.
  • Buy food locally (local farm shop, butcher, fishmonger, etc).
  • Buy fruit and vegetables in season.
  • Cook more often, and plan your meals in advance to reduce food waste.

#2. Tea Bag

Tea bags are typically made from paper and sealed with plastic. Even though many tea producers are aiming to remove the plastic from their tea bags, plastic isn’t the only environmental footprint of a tea bag. It’s also the resources needed to grow, process and transport tea.

What Can You Do

  • Use loose tea leaves. This will allow the hot water to infuse the whole leaf and produce a richer flavor. You can use a metal tea infuser if you’re going to make one cup of tea.
  • Choose plastic-free tea bags with minimal packaging.
  • Buy certified organic tea that is grown without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

#3. Kettle

90 percent of people in the UK use the kettle every day. While boiling water itself isn’t damaging to the environment, it’s the electricity used to boil the water that accounts for 85 percent of the CO2 production.

What Can You Do

  • Only boil the water you need and boil it once.
  • Switch to a renewable energy provider to reduce the emissions of CO2.

#4. Cling Film

Cling film plays an important role in food hygiene and preservation. It’s used to cover plates and bowls of food, not only in homes, but also in restaurants and hotels around the world.

But cling film is a soft plastic that contains chemicals called phthalates to make the plastic soft and elastic and to make it cling to surfaces easily. It’s not recyclable in most parts of the world and some studies have linked phthalates to health risks including asthma and obesity.

What Can You Do

  • Place a plate on a bowl or a bowl on a plate – there’s no need for cling film at home.
  • Store food in a reusable container (glass or metal).
  • Use beeswax wraps. They are reusable and become sticky enough to form a seal when heated with the warmth of your hand.

#5. Plastic Food Bag

Plastic bags are used today to store chopped fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, food for freezing, the list goes on. In fact, there is no end to use of Ziploc bags.

But these plastic bags are made of plastic, primarily low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). They are very durable and take hundreds of years to decompose.

What Can You Do

  • Use a lunchbox with compartments that allow you to separate food.
  • Stainless-steel and glass storage jars is a good alternatives to plastic bags for storing food in the fridge.
  • For the freezer, stainless-steel containers work well.
  • Consider using reusable and cloth sandwich bags.

#6. Plastic Water Bottle

Plastic water bottles are everywhere. It’s convenient and promises better water quality than tap water.

Although plastic bottles are recyclable, less than half of the plastic water bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7 percent of those collected were turned into new bottles.

Moreover, plastic water bottles are one of the top three pieces of trash found in the ocean, after cigarette butts and food wrappers.

Adding to that the environmental impact of producing and transporting plastic water bottles, and the health dangers of PA, or bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastic bottles that interferes with normal hormone functions and is found to cause breast cancer and prostate cancer.

What Can You Do

  • Consider filtering your tap water. Ask for a copy of your community’s annual water quality report to choose which filtering service is best for your tap water.
  • Buy reusable water bottles and take it with you everywhere.  Look out for water refill stations in your workplace and town so you can refill your water bottle.

2. The Living Room

#7. Sofa

Sofas are a household essential. This isn’t about not using sofas, but it’s about making a better choice when buying one.

The furniture in our homes and offices is responsible for around 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions according to a 2017 study.

The emissions relate to the production of the furniture - the trees cut down to make wood, the energy used to make the metal, and the oil and energy used to make the plastic foam and synthetic upholstery.

What You Can Do

  • Steam-clean your sofa to perk it up and make look new again.
  • Sell your sofa when you don’t want it anymore, or give it to a local charity or shelter.
  • Buy sofas made from sustainable materials (FSC-certified wood, recyclable materials, natural textiles such as wool and linen).
  • Buy locally to reduce the carbon footprint linked to transporting the sofa.

#8. Carpet (And Other Flooring)

Although wool carpets, today, contain a plastic called polyvinylchloride (PVC), it’s not as significant as the plastic used to make synthetic carpets.

In fact, a 2018 study revealed that manufacturing a nylon carpet uses 80 times more energy and produces 49 times more CO2 than a wool carpet.

What You Can Do

  • Carpets made from sustainably harvested sisal and sea grass can be a great alternative to wool carpets.
  • Natural wooden floor is a good choice. Make sure it’s FSC-certified.
  • Maintain and refurbish wooden floors instead of replacing them.
  • Consider tiles made from natural stone as an alternative to ceramic tiles.

#9. Air Freshener

Air fresheners come in deodorizing sprays, plug-ins, paper ‘trees’ for your car, etc. The dangers of these air fresheners aren’t just in the environmental impact of their production and packaging, but also in the health risks of the different chemicals emitted from some air fresheners.

These chemicals typically include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and phthalates, which have been linked to various health problems including asthma and obesity.

What You Can Do

  • Open the windows to freshen the room (assuming the air outside is a decent quality).
  • Neutralize bad odors with white vinegar or baking soda. Put some white vinegar on a cloth and wave it around a room to dispel smells. Sprinkle baking soda in bins to deodorize them.
  • Bake or cook something that smells good or grind some coffee beans.
  • Make your own air fresheners from citrus peel and make lavender bags to freshen up drawers.

3. The Bedroom

#10. Shoes

Globally the shoe industry is responsible for about 250 million tonnes of CO2e per year.

Leather being a by-product of the meat industry, is a major source of greenhouse gases, particularly methane.

Synthetic shoes also have a significant environmental footprint. They’re typically made from synthetic rubber and plastics (such as polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane) which are not biodegradable.

What You Can Do

  • Vegan shoes made from organic cotton, old tyres, recycled plastic or natural materials such as jute can be a good alternative.
  • Research before you buy – websites such as Ranka brand help you to compare brands and assess their sustainability performance.
  • Recycle or donate shoes you don’t want anymore, so that they do not end up in landfill.
  • Some big brands offer shoe recycling programs – such as Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe.
  • Find a Terra Cycle drop-off point near you to recycle old flip flops and rubber shoes.

#11. Jeans

Jeans are the most popular item of clothing in the world. The average American owns seven pairs of jeans.

According to a study in 2013 by Levis, one pair of jeans produces 33.4kg CO2e, (equivalent to driving 69 miles (111km) in an average US car), has a eutrophication effect (the total amount of phosphorus) of 48.9g PO4e (phosphate equivalent) as well as occupying 12m2 of land a year to grow the cotton.

What You Can Do

  • Wash your jeans less often, on a cool wash, and line-dry them to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of your jeans, as well as the amount of water used.
  • Repair holes in jeans and sew buttons back on to extend their life. If you can’t do it yourself, find a local repair shop (many dry cleaners offer a repair service).
  • Look for second-hand jeans.
  • Repurpose your old jeans – make old jeans into shorts or skirts.
  • Take them to a charity shop or jeans recycling drop- off point. Some brands of jeans have recycling points within their shops.
  • Research before you buy – look for sustainable brands that use organic and fair trade cotton. This information should be transparently available on a brand’s website.
  • Avoid jeans with spandex, polyester pockets, glitter, etc. they’re harder to recycle and the plastic parts will never biodegrade.

#12. Duvet

Synthetic duvets are made from polyester, which is intensive to make and not biodegradable. It is also less durable than natural fibers.

A good synthetic duvet should last at least five years while a down duvet can last twenty, thirty, even forty years if it is looked after.

What You Can Do

  • Duvets filled with other natural fibres such as wool and Cotton can be a good alternative.
  • Look after the duvet you have. Airing a duvet outside in the sunshine to sanitize the cotton cover and evaporate any moisture in the filling, taking bacteria, toxins and dead skin with it.
  • Spot clean any spills or stains to reduce the frequency of washing and drying the whole duvet.
  • Look for brands that are transparent about the sources of their materials, and their commitments to animal welfare.
  • Pass on old duvets to charities if in good condition or to animal shelters if not.

4. The Bathroom

#13. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Toothbrushes are typically made of plastic. The bristles are made of nylon and the grip is generally a type of synthetic rubber, both are plastic. The fact that toothbrushes are made of different types of plastic, makes them unrecyclable.

Toothpaste is also not recyclable because it’s impossible to empty the tube and clean it.

What You Can Do

  • Try a bamboo toothbrush. Remember to cut off the nylon bristles before you compost the rest of the brush when you need to change it.
  • Use rechargeable batteries in your electric toothbrush.
  • Don’t leave the tap running when you are brushing your teeth. If the tap is running for 2 minutes – that’s about 12 litres of water down the drain.
  • Switch to a plastic-free floss alternative – such as silk or bamboo floss.
  • Examine the ingredients in toothpaste before you buy it to avoid
  • microbeads and triclosan.
  • Recycle the plastic lids of toothpaste tubes.

#14. Liquid Soap

Liquid soap is more expensive than a bar of soap and lasts considerably less time. It is estimated liquid soap lasts six times less than a bar of soap. That’s a lot of soap down the drain and so many plastic bottles.

Liquid soap takes five times more energy to produce and can use up to twenty times more packaging. It’s also heavier than a bar of soap because it contains more water, which adds to its transportation costs.

It is estimated that the carbon footprint of liquid soap is 25 percent more than a bar of soap.

What You Can Do

  • Buy soap bars without packaging or wrapped only in paper.
  • Buy soaps that are made of vegetable oils. They tend to have a smaller environmental footprint compared animal oils.
  • Use every last bit. Recycle the ends of bars of soap into a new bar of soap. There are plenty of ideas and instructions on how to do this online.
  • Choose bar forms for all personal products, such as face wash, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
  • If you can’t give up liquid soap, refill from bulk shops and zero-waste shops, rather than buy new.

#15. Deodorant

Deodorants and perfumes are contributing to indoor air pollution, which damages human health.

Spray deodorants release volatile organic compounds (VOCs,) and a myriad of chemical ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, and triclosan.

What You Can Do

  • Use a roll-on or stick deodorant or antiperspirant instead of an aerosol spray.
  • Seek out natural deodorants, such as solid sticks in cardboard pushup sleeves and deodorant paste in glass jars that you rub into your armpits.
  • Look for deodorants that are free from chemicals such as phthalates and parabens.
  • Baking soda works great as a deodorant.
  • Crystal deodorants are also an option. They are made of the mineral salt called potassium alum.

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Portions of this article were adapted from the book How to Save Your Planet One Object at a Time, © April 16, 2020, by Tara Shine. All rights reserved.

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