Disposables are the epitome of waste and many times cost more over time. Luckily, there are many reusable alternatives to disposable items out there. Here’s 15 sustainable alternatives to disposable items you may never have considered!
Nowadays with our consumer culture, disposable items are a major part of everyday life. We rarely think about how much we spend on them and their environmental impacts. Seriously, we throw a lot of our money almost straight into the trash can sometimes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states that the United States produced around 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging in 2018, including nondurable goods like single-use plates and cups.
Fortunately, many of these disposable items can be replaced with longer-lasting, budget-friendly versions. So if you want to reduce your waste and save some money too, then try ditching disposable products. We’ve put together a list of sustainable alternatives to disposable items that you may not have even considered!
Benefits of Reducing and Reusing
Firstly, it’s important to understand why reducing and reusing items is better for our planet than constantly disposing of items. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are several key benefits to reducing and reusing:
So opting for reusable items instead of disposable items can go a long way in benefiting our environment. Most people know about swapping out disposable coffee cups, water bottles, plates, and straws for the reusable versions. But the following are 15 disposable items that you can swap for reusable and sustainable alternatives that you may never have even thought of!
15 Disposable Items To Replace With Reusable Items
#1 Dryer Sheets to Wool Dryer Balls
None of us like static electricity from our clothes after pulling them out of the dryer. The concept of dryer sheets is great to help reduce static and act as a fabric softener. However, those flimsy dryer sheets are hard to find in the mounds of clothes and get tossed into the trash after each load.
So ditch the disposable sheets for these Everspring wool dryer balls from Target. They’ve worked great for us and are fairly inexpensive compared to other dryer balls. There’s also the Friendsheep wool dryer balls on EarthHero or Amazon. Wool dryer balls not only help reduce static, but can also help reduce drying time by separating clothes and allowing hot air to circulate better.
As parents, we do a lot of laundry, so we are definitely down for saving some money and replacing dryer sheets with reusable wool dryer balls!
#2 Disposable Filter to Reusable Furnace Filters
As a homeowner, one thing people usually get reminded of is to make sure to change the air filter on your furnace. Most people just buy the disposable air filters that get tossed into the trash every one to three months. That’s a ton of waste! So swap out for a reusable air filter that’s washable to reduce your waste.
This AirThreds reusable furnace filter says it is equal to over 36 of the disposable filters, which is replacing 3-9 years of disposable filters. Just like a disposable furnace filter, set a reminder on your calendar to switch out the filter and wash it each month. Make sure to double-check the size needed for your furnace filter prior to buying!
#3 Disposable Batteries to Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries have been around for a long time now, but I seriously know people who always buy disposable batteries! This is such a simple switch and actually saves money. Just thinking that name brand batteries cost upwards of $2 a piece each time. Or you pay around $15 one time to recharge the same batteries for 300 to 500 times. No brainer to me!
The only thing you have to do is remember to charge them (just like your phone!). We actually have a bag labeled “dead” and “charged” so that we don’t get our charged batteries mixed with ones to be charged.
So make this obvious switch! Also, please make sure to recycle your disposable, old rechargeable batteries, and electronics properly at a dropoff location. Many grocery stores, department stores, or electronic stores have battery and electronic recycling dropoffs.
#4 Paper Napkins to Cloth Napkins
I have always loved to host people and parties. I actually bought reusable cloth napkins originally for my fancy dinner parties, but then had a total epiphany when we started our sustainable living journey. We can use the cloth napkins everyday and never have to buy disposable paper napkins again!
If you use a disposable paper napkin at every meal for 365 days a year, then you’re up to 1,095 paper napkins per year per person. That’s crazy to me! If you get some decent cloth napkins and wash them properly, then you can use them for years!
#5 Paper Towels to Cloth Towels/Washcloths
Paper towels are again another disposable item you’re just buying to throw away. Besides generating a lot of waste, paper towels also require cutting down trees that take years and years to replace. There are bamboo paper towel products like Grove has that is a better disposable alternative. But why not just mop up messes with a reusable cloth towel or washcloth, instead of buying paper or bamboo?
Honestly, you can DIY these easily by cutting up old clothing or towels. However, if you’re not into DIY-ing, then purchase a sustainable alternative like “non-paper” towels, and never by disposable paper towels again. There are several options out there: one & two
#6 Snack Pouches for Reusable Snack Pouches
For all you parents out there, this one is an awesome money saving swap. If your child has an obsession with applesauce, yogurt, or anything you can suck out of a pouch, then try reusable snack pouches. Those disposable applesauce and yogurt pouches cost up to $1 each time and aren’t recyclable.
We bought this pack of refillable pouches and then buy the largest applesauce or yogurt containers in bulk. Those reusable snack pouches are dishwasher safe too, so don’t worry about them being hard to clean. Overall, super easy sustainable alternatives and doesn’t feel like I’m constantly throwing stuff my kid eats away.
They’re also great for adults wanting to pack applesauce for lunch too, and can be used for homemade baby food if you do that!
#7 Disposable Wet Wipes for Cloth Wipes
Seriously, this was a game changer for us as new parents. A parent might use up to 8,000 baby wipes within the first year and all those go to the landfill. Even at only a couple cents each wipe, that’s a couple hundred dollars a year. We used to buy them in bulk several times a year! Compare that to cloth wipes that you buy or make once and use for years!
These also work great as just wet wipes to have in the car or while traveling to clean up sticky or messy kids’ hands and faces! We purchased two sets of these OsoCozy cloth wipes and never looked back. Much like any reusable cloth, you wash them instead of throwing them out. Read up more here on our cloth baby wipe journey.
#8 Plastic Wrap for Beeswax Wraps
Plastic wrap, cling wrap, or whatever you want to call it is a great idea, except for it’s unrecyclable plastic that can annoyingly only stick to itself sometimes. Also, it’s again just another disposable item you literally throw out with every use.
So opt out of plastic wrap for reusable beeswax wraps that work exactly like plastic wrap. Beeswax wraps are great sustainable alternatives to plastic wrap. The warmth of your hands literally molds it around anything like wrapping around cheese or around bowls to act as a lid. When all the waxiness is gone, then the beeswax wraps are fully compostable and will naturally biodegrade. Much better than the disposable plastic wrap.
#9 Sticky Lint Roller to Reusable Lint Roller
If you have multiple pets like us, then typically you’re in need of a lint roller or remover at some point. But those disposable sticky paper ones create unnecessary waste and the money can add up over the years. Not to mention how frustrating they can be to try and peel apart the sticky sheets without them ripping! Try a reusable lint remover instead!
#10 Disposable Duster Pads for Reusable Dusters
You will forever be cleaning and dusting no matter where you live. I’m almost positive!
Many people dust using a swiffer with disposable pads or paper towels. A great way to reduce your cleaning waste is to switch to a reusable duster. Simply dust with it, wash it your other laundry, and then use it again! Pay for it one time and reuse way more times than those disposable ones!
#11 Parchment Paper for Baking Mat
Okay some people may or may not use parchment paper when they bake. It’s super awesome as it truly helps keep food from sticking to the pans, but once again completely single-use and disposable.
Fortunately, there’s a reusable sustainable alternative to parchment paper. Try swapping out for silicone baking mats. The mats help keep food from sticking, and you can reuse them after washing.
#12 Sponges for Bamboo Brushes
Many of us use sponges to scrub our dishes in the kitchen. While yes, you can reuse the sponges, so it’s not as disposable an item as some of the others, many sponges are made from oil-based plastic. So that’s definitely a hit against the environment, especially when you toss them out.
So choose a more sustainable alternative like a bamboo dish brush for scrubbing pots. Full Circle’s brushes are made from sustainable bamboo and have only a small amount of recycled plastic on them. They can also last up to a year or more, unlike most everyday sponges.
#13 Disposable Feminine Products to Reusable Ones
Until well into adulthood, I did not know there was another option besides disposable tampons and pads for women. We shell out cash monthly for what seems like endless amounts of years just to throw it out each month. So finding reusable sustainable alternatives seems like a must to me!
I love using my menstrual cup and period panties as it’s super easy, convenient and cost-saving for me. Menstrual cups, panties, and reusable cloth pads can all be reused, washed and many can be worn longer than the disposables. Also, I would much rather pay $10-$30 once every 5 to 10 years instead of shelling out around $10 a month for disposable tampons or pads that just end up in the landfill!
#14 Disposable Diapers for Cloth Diapers
According to Healthline, babies can go through up to 3,000 in their first year alone. With all the babies in the world, that’s tons of waste each year going to landfills. There are now better bamboo disposable diapers that sort of biodegrade, but swapping to a reusable cloth diaper has a greater impact on the environment and saving your wallet.
We’re big cloth diaper advocates both for the environmental saving and money saving aspects. It’s like anything else that’s reusable, cloth diapers take some work, but it truly will become a habit and routine that’s fairly simple.
Here are our two favorite pocket cloth diapers with inserts: Mama Koala and ALVABABY. For All-In-Ones (AIOs), we have really loved using the bumGenius Freetime as they were easy and great for daycare.
#15 Paper Tissues for Cloth Tissues
Similarly to cloth baby wipes or wet wipes, you can swap out your flimsy tissues for cloth tissues or a handkerchief. We love these OzoCosy cloth wipes again because they are thick and you won’t blow snot into your hands. Great sustainable alternatives to disposable paper tissues.
You could also downcycle/upcycle old clothes or towels into tissues by cutting them into manageable sizes. Cloth tissues worked especially great when our baby/toddler was teething and his nose was running constantly! So happy we didn’t have to go through tons of disposable tissues!
Choose Sustainable Alternatives to Disposables
You can make these reusable swaps little by little as you use up the disposables. It’s always better for the environment and your budget to use up what you have. Then be a more eco-conscious consumer and purchase a better reusable product that will save you money and the planet in the long run!
Hope this roundup of sustainable alternatives and reusable item swaps helps you chose more eco-friendly products and saves you money! Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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