Make the switch from disposable household goods to more planet-friendly alternatives

From office paper to dental floss, you can find recyclable and reusable alternatives for a range of household goods that really work.

By Suchi Rudra — April 20, 2021

After a year spent mostly at home, it’s no surprise that consumers have become hyper aware of the products they use each day — particularly the paper and plastic supplies that are used once and then trashed. In a Boston Consulting Group international survey, 70% of respondents said they’re more aware now of how human activity threatens the planet than they were before the pandemic, and 40% said they intended to make changes in their own behavior, including reducing waste and buying more sustainable products.

“The pandemic has given some people time to slow down and actually consider making more sustainable choices,” says Addie Fisher, sustainable lifestyle expert behind the blog Old World New

But where to start? From plastic-free to zero waste, and from biodegradable to recycled content, the myriad options for sustainable household goods can be overwhelming — and confusing.

A growing number of online marketplaces are now offering curated selections that give consumers a way to shop that fits their values. Thrive Market and Grove Collaborative both offer subscription services so you never run out of sustainable staples. Amazon recently added a Climate-Pledge Friendly badge to products that meet sustainability certification requirements from organizations like EPEAT, ECOLOGO, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which also just launched its own FSC Marketplace. The marketplace is a one-stop shop for FSC-certified goods that support responsible forest management, including paper, furniture, construction materials, books, clothing, and shoes. 

Blueland's reusable tritan and glass bottles for cleaning purposes to divert from single use plastics


Blueland's reusable bottles for cleaning products aim to reduce single-use plastics.

“Buying an FSC-certified product is probably the one simple action that anybody can take with direct impacts all the way back to the forest,” says Chris McLaren, FSC’s US chief marketing officer. “When a consumer purchases an FSC-certified product, they are essentially expressing support not only to the manufacturer and retailer of that product, but to the entire industry for more sustainable forest-based products.”

With Earth Day approaching, now is a great time to take a look at the products you use every day and see how some simple changes could help infuse sustainability into your daily life. Here are some ideas to get you started, one room at a time.

Green your home office

Working and learning from home means a lot more printing at home. According to HP research, 69% of families have been printing more during the pandemic, and the increase in remote work has led to an overall increase in home printing of 84% — a trend that’s likely to continue as many employees choose to continue working from home for all or part of the work week. Feel good about printing what you need by making recycled paper your go-to for essential office items, like HP FSC-certified paper for your printer; packaging supplies from EcoEnclose; and Aya Paper Co. cards and stationery, which are printed on chlorine-free recycled paper or paper made from recycled T-shirts. Never run out of ink, and easily recycle your print cartridges with HP Instant Ink, a subscription service that delivers ink or toner to your door when you need it, along with prepaid envelopes for mailing in your used cartridges for recycling. For those classic office items you just can’t do without, try alternatives that produce less waste, like mcSquares reusable/white board sticky notes and AusPen refillable whiteboard markers.

“The pandemic has given some people time to slow down and actually consider making more sustainable choices since they’ve been shopping online a lot during this time.”

—Addie Fisher, sustainable lifestyle expert

Ditch disposables in the kitchen

Paper towels, paper napkins, paper plates, plastic wrap, aluminum foil — our kitchens are full of single-use items, but a few small adjustments can go a long way. Leave paper towels behind for good, and wipe up messes with SWEDEdishcloths, biodegradable cleaning cloths made from wood pulp cellulose and cotton. Replace single-use plastic sandwich and snack bags with Lunchskins food-safe fabric bags, which are washable, quick-drying, and last for several years. Got leftovers? Skip the plastic wrap and try Bee’s Wrap, a reusable, plastic-free food storage wrap created from beeswax-coated certified organic cotton. When you finally get to those dirty dishes, the biodegradable dishwashing kit from No Tox Life helps you wash away the grease with non-toxic, zero-waste soap, biodegradable sponges, and a bamboo pot scrubber.

Choose biodegradable for the bed and bath

Your bedroom is your sanctuary, so ensure a peaceful, planet-conscious vibe with bedding made from organic cotton or eucalyptus, from brands like Buffy or Sheets & Giggles. Replace your tissue boxes with Caboo tree-free facial tissues, which contain only bamboo and sugarcane pulp. 

In the bathroom, look for brands that offer sustainable packaging materials, like the organic, beeswax-based Kobees lip balm, which comes in biodegradable, compostable cardboard tubes. Create less waste by trying LastSwab reusable cotton swabs, and biodegradable dental floss like Tevra, made from corn, or Wowe, made from sustainably harvested silk. Bonus points for floss that comes in plastic-free packaging like these two brands. Eliminate even more plastic by switching to shampoo and conditioner bars from brands like by Humankind, Daughter of the Land, and Unwrapped. And don’t forget toilet paper, a necessary evil (unless you’ve hopped on the bidet bandwagon) that traditionally requires the harvesting of thousands of virgin trees each day. Fortunately, you can now choose products with a high percentage of recycled paper or bamboo-based paper from brands like Tushy or Reel.

LastSwab is a sustainable alternative to cotton swabs to avoid single plastics.


LastSwab is a reusable and sustainable alternative that helps combat the billions of single-use cotton swabs that end up in the trash.

Reduce waste all around the house

Everything you can do around the house to reduce the consumption of resources helps, like using non-toxic Blueland just-add-water cleaning products or LooHoo chemical-free wool dryer balls that are reusable and could reduce dryer time by 10 to 25% — that’s a big deal for one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your home. Got a birthday gift to deliver? Waste-free Unwrp's Japanese fabric wrapping cloth makes for a beautifully designed surprise in addition to the gift.  

To infuse sustainability throughout your home and become a more conscious consumer in your day-to-day shopping decisions, Fisher of Old World New recommends reading reviews of sustainable products, looking for products that require fewer resources to produce, and familiarizing yourself with ingredients and processes that are and aren’t sustainable. Another strategy: Check the company’s website to confirm they’re taking action to back up their claims, with sustainable business practices such as using recyclable packaging, reducing waste and emissions in manufacturing, and offsetting the environmental impact of their operations through reforestation and clean air and water commitments.

“As consumers, it’s important to be educated about the most sustainable ways to spend our hard-earned money,” Fisher says. “But consumers alone can’t make the changes necessary for a more sustainable shopping experience. That will be up to businesses, suppliers, and governments to provide more sustainable options.”


RELATED: See how HP 3D printing is making it easier and cheaper to shift away from plastic packaging.