This review is not meant as an endorsement of any brand. It is only a review of whether a product type is a viable replacement for regular market products.

A month into the pandemic, I had a great sense of hope for the environment. I heard few cars and my yard was filled with songbirds, wild turkeys, deer and foxes. With air travel slowed, news was good on carbon emissions across the globe.

In the beginning, I was extra responsible, socially distancing, and getting all my groceries and cleaning supplies delivered. I really stocked up. But I realized what I was doing was counteracting any gains for the environment. I was massively adding to the problem of plastic bottles and overused paper products.

So I embarked on a mission to reduce my plastic and paper use. Facebook’s annoying algorithm makes this easy. When you search for one environmentally friendly product, you get ads for a slew of unrequested products.

The main issue I encountered with testing products, was to find once that didn’t require a subscription. Below I’ve listed the main products I tried to reduce plastic and paper use.

Kitchen Products

Bees Wax Wraps

Replaces: Plastic wrap

Result: Mixed.

These wraps are made from fabric and bee’s wax. Each wrap will last a year. The wraps can’t be cleaned with hot water, only cool water and soap. Preserving block cheese, partial onions, or covering left over in bowls works very well. They seal well enough to cover rising dough too. But plastic wrap, or plastic containers, still works best for covering raw, or messy items.

Compostable Trash Bags

Replaces: Traditional trash bags

Result: Bad idea.

I thought these could be used for household trash. But regular garbage goes into landfills, not composting sites. And any moisture in your regular trash, breaks the bags down before a regular weekly trash pickup. These items are only good for yard waste or personal composting. These may work well for a program that creates large amounts of compostable waste for their own site. Smaller bags are available for personal kitchen composting.

Paper Sandwich Bags

Replaces: Plastic sandwich bags

Result: Works Great!

These are much like the individual bags used by bakeries and delis for individual baked goods. They are a great substitute for plastic wrap or plastic sandwich bags. I use them for sandwiches and dry snacks. Another option is the beeswax fabric wraps (see above).

Fabric Mesh Vegetable Bags

Replaces: Grocery store produce bags

Result: Works Great!

I was already using these mesh bags before the pandemic. Along with reusable grocery bags, these are an easy way to reduce everyday plastic bag use. You’ll have to remember to get them into your car and into the store. Unfortunately, many stores don’t allow their use during the pandemic.

Personal Care Products

Toothpaste Tabs

Replaces: Toothpaste tube

Result: Works.

These are a bit like chewing an Altoids mint. The brand I ordered on Amazon was shipped from the UK, and manufactured in Germany. At the time I could only find other options with a subscription. But I’ve since found more sites are offering single purchases. Depending on the tabs come in paper, metal or glass containers. These will be great for air travel. There is no worrying about security screening with too many containers and they won’t pop open in your luggage.

Bars of Shampoo & Conditioner

Replaces: Bottled shampoo and conditioner

Results: Works well enough.

There are numerous options for shampoos all over the internet, and Lush has had these items for years. If you love a specific brand of shampoo, you’ll need to experiment on the brand that is right for you. These also make air travel easy. There is no need to carry small bottles and worry they will break open in your luggage. Most brands offer storage tins.

Bar Soap

Replaces: Liquid hand soap and body wash

Result: Has worked great for centuries!

There are several concentrated body washes on the market. They are mixed with water by the user, with their own bottle. I will not be reviewing them because there are hundreds of bar soaps still manufactured that have never used plastic packaging. Fueled by the anti-bacterial crazy of the 90’s, many people switched to body wash and antibacterial liquid soaps. Some people prefer liquid body wash, thinking it prevents bacteria from growing on soap. But soap actually kills viruses and harmful bacteria.

Bamboo Paper Products (toilet paper, paper towels, tissue, napkins)

Replaces: Traditional paper products

Result: Works

I never would have known bamboo was being used for toilet paper, if I hadn’t searched for a source online when stores ran out! Bamboo as a replacement for traditional wood pulp is exciting. It is a quickly renewed resource. All these items are grown and manufactured in China, which seems like a waste on fuels for shipping. However, the Brazilian rainforest is currently the world’s largest wood pulp supplier for paper products. So anything that helps reduce deforestation is welcomed. I’ve started using and washing tea towels for all surface cleaning and hand drying, rather than grabbing a paper towel. And in a pinch, or during a toilet paper shortage, ripped up towels can be cleaned, as a replacement for toilet paper.

Cleaning Products

Laundry Detergent Sheets

Replaces: Liquid and powdered laundry detergent

Results: Works Great!

I used True Earth brand with no subscription needed. These are brilliant. They don’t use heavy plastic bottles and they save space. As soon as I am out of my pandemic stash of liquid detergent, I’m exclusively using detergent sheets. The downside: I’ve only been able to find sheets that are manufactured in China or Canada, but shipped from retailers the United States. Hopefully larger American companies will decide to make their own version.

Wool Dryer Balls

Replaces: Fabric softener sheets

Results: mixed

Wool balls for the dryer claim to reduce static cling and decrease drying time. They did not decrease static cling. And for regular laundry loads, the balls end up in sleeves or pant legs. Drying time was decreased for heavy load with blankets or towels. I’ll stick with traditional laundry sheets, and avoid the plastic bottles of liquid softeners.

Spray Cleaner Tablets

Replaces: Single purpose spray cleaner bottles

Result: Great

Using your own recycled spray bottle, or a reusable glass one, you can have and endless supply of cleaner on hand in a small space. I tried the Dazz brand of cleaner mostly because it did not need a subscription to purchase. These slightly fizzy tabs are dissolved in water in your own spray bottle. They come in several varieties for all purpose, bathroom and window cleaner. I prefer the scent of this brand over name brand cleaners on the market. I will definitely continue to use this product.

Here are a few sites that carry the above products and more ideas to further help reduce plastic use. I’ve chosen sites that have non-subscription options for shopping.

www.packagefreeshop.com

www.theearthlingco.com

www.publicgoods.com

Leslie Gayle

Leslie is a one time CPA, wife and mom of twins. She’s an over thinker who loves karate, thunder, and travel. Her sweatpants are yoga pants and she takes her coffee with milk.

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