In response to a 2021 survey, 46 percent of respondents said they do all they can to live sustainably. Forty-eight percent also said they make some effort but admit they could do more.
If you’re in the latter group, you can take many steps to be more environmentally friendly, including investing in more sustainable household products.
Making the switch to sustainable products can positively impact various aspects of your life. Learn more about the benefits (and which swaps to make first) below.
What Makes a Product Sustainable?
These days, terms like “sustainable,” “sustainability,” and “eco-friendly” have become buzzwords. Many brands use them, but that doesn’t always mean their products are as environmentally friendly as they claim.
The following are some specific criteria a product must meet to genuinely be considered sustainable:
- It is made from renewable resources.
- It is produced and distributed in a way that uses as little energy as possible, minimizes waste, and responsibly disposes of waste.
- It is made in a socially responsible way (i.e., facilities that don’t rely on child labor, provide unsafe working conditions, etc.)
It’s rare that you can determine a product’s sustainability just from looking at it. To switch to legitimately sustainable items, you must do your own research to learn about the company that produces the product and the materials that it uses.
Benefits of Using Sustainable Products
It might take some work and extra reading to start using more sustainable products in your daily life. However, the benefits far outweigh the initial challenges. Here are some of the top reasons to use more sustainable items:
Avoid Exposure to Harmful Substances
Unsustainable products are often made with toxic chemicals and other substances that can harm you and your loved ones.
For example, many plastic products contain heavy metals, flame retardants, bisphenols, and phthalates. Nearly all plastics are derived from fossil fuels as well.
Enjoy Greater Comfort
You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite creature comforts just because you’re prioritizing sustainability.
Clothing items, towels, washcloths, etc., made from renewable resources like bamboo, are often softer and more comfortable than other options.
Replace Belongings Less Often
Some people hesitate to buy more sustainable products because of their higher price tag. It’s important to note, though, that sustainable products are often higher quality and made to last longer than unsustainable alternatives.
When you invest in sustainable items, you’ll likely find that you have to replace them less often, meaning you’re sending fewer items to landfills.
Save Money in the Long Run
Because you have to replace sustainable items less often, you’ll also spend less money in the long run. To maximize your long-term savings, focus on high-quality, sustainable products during your shopping trips.
Reduce Demand and Production of Unsustainable Products
The world operates according to the principles of supply and demand. When people continuously buy unsustainable products, they send a signal that manufacturers should create more of those products.
Conversely, when people eschew unsustainable products and choose eco-friendly ones instead, they send the opposite signal and reduce the demand for unsustainable items.
Support Fair Business Practices
Supporting businesses that make and sell unsustainable products often also means supporting businesses that don’t treat their workers fairly.
Even if they don’t rely on child labor, they might still be overworking or underpaying their employees, exposing them to harmful working conditions, etc.
Shopping sustainably means you’re giving your money to businesses that take care of their workers and the planet.
Preserve Natural Resources
Businesses that prioritize sustainable manufacturing processes typically use less energy and smaller quantities of raw materials. When you support these businesses, you enable them to continue utilizing practices that preserve natural resources.
Another benefit is that many sustainable products can be recycled and reused again and again.
Combat Water and Air Pollution
A commitment to using sustainable products means you’re reducing your carbon emissions and overall energy use. You also minimize the amount of waste you send to landfills (and that might eventually end up in the ocean).
Contribute to Your Community
When you buy sustainable products from local businesses, you’re investing money in your community. Instead of supporting massive corporations, you’ll be helping small business owners that need your money more (and can likely do more good with it).
Where Should You Start?
If you’re feeling committed to a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle but aren’t sure where to begin, these tips can help:
Start by checking out local stores, boutiques, craft fairs, and farmers' markets. All these options give you a chance to connect with members of your community, support local businesses, and help the environment by reducing the number of items shipped to your home.
Eliminate Single-Use Plastics
Stop using single-use plastics (plastic water bottles, plastic cutlery, etc.). Buy a reusable water bottle, start using your regular silverware again (or buy some lightweight bamboo utensils for on-the-go meals), and put reusable grocery bags in your car so you don’t forget about them.
Buy Clothing and Household Goods Secondhand
Living more sustainably doesn’t have to mean going out and buying a bunch of new things. Instead, look for ways to give clothes and household goods (dishes, pots and pans, etc.) a second life by shopping at thrift stores.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Instead of paying for harsh chemicals in plastic bottles to clean your home, consider making your own cleaning products. You can handle a lot of household chores with all-natural (and cheap) ingredients like white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.
Choose Reusable Food Storage Containers
Instead of plastic food storage containers, look for longer-lasting ones made from glass. You can also wrap leftover food in beeswax wraps rather than plastic wrap or tin foil.
Start Making Sustainable Swaps Today
One person cannot change the world alone. However, when everyone does their part to use more sustainable products and reduce the carbon footprint, the whole planet benefits.
Follow the tips discussed above to start making sustainable swaps and enjoying all the perks they have to offer (to the environment and your wallet).