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With an eye toward Earth Day and all things sustainability, the Shopping team reflected on our favorite eco-friendly replacements for single-use items. We’ve come to fancy these products over the years and think they’re worth knowing about, especially considering going more sustainable in your everyday life doesn’t necessarily require a heavy lift. Simple swaps like using an eco-friendly weighted blanket or buying refurbished tech can help cut down on your carbon footprint, for example. Tech expert Whitson Gordon’s recommended solar-powered gadgets start at $27 and former Shopping contributor Megan Foster gave high marks to Rothy’s sustainable footwear. Ahead are our go-to eco-friendly must-haves, ranging from kitchenware to wellness staples.
I love my Keurig Classic, but using a K-Cup pod each time I brewed my coffee felt wasteful. While Keurig claims all K-Cups became 100-percent recyclable at the end of 2020, the process of taking apart the K-cup after each use and recycling only certain parts wasn’t ideal. I purchased this 4-pack of reusable K-Cups shortly after buying the Keurig and I almost entirely diminished the number of single-use (and frankly, expensive) K-Cups I was using.
These dishwasher-safe K-Cups are made from a durable stainless steel micromesh that filters my coffee and they’re easy to use — I just place my ground coffee of choice inside the reusable cup and place it in the K-Cup holder as I would normally. To make a more eco-friendly cup of joe, I like to brew Café Mam and Stumptown Coffee, both of which features biodegradable packaging. Keep in mind that these reusable K-Cups aren’t compatible with other popular Keurig machines, including the K-Duo and K-Mini.
— Mili Godio, editorial assistant
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the produce bags found at grocery stores are usually made of polyethylene, one of the most commonly used plastics in packaging and manufacturing. This material can be recycled, but the Natural Resources Defense Council says nearly 91 percent of plastics aren’t. Since they can get caught in the machinery, single-use plastics (like produce bags) are also often not accepted by recycling plants.
To try to cut down my carbon footprint, I’ve stopped using these plastic produce bags altogether by investing in reusable ones. These cotton ones from Food52’s exclusive Five Two line come in a pack of eight and feature two different weaves and three different sizes. I use my bags to transport my veggies from Trader Joe’s every week and, in the warmer months, to bring home goodies from the farmers market.
— Morgan Greenwald, SEO editor
Every year, Americans use over 100 billion plastic bags a year, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. What’s more, it takes each recycle bag between 500 and 1,000 years to degrade in the landfill. BAGGU, founded in 2007 by mother-daughter duo Emily and Joan Sugihara, offers stylish-yet-functional nylon replacements to plastic bags.
Personally, I am a big fan of BAGGU’s cheetah print bag and have been using it for a few years now. However, I have been looking to expand my reusable bag collection and have been eyeing their Standard BAGGU Set of 3. While known for their colorful prints and patterns, their ethos goes beyond aesthetics. The brand claims the bags are built to last and can support up to 50 pounds of groceries. The bags are fashioned from 40 percent recycled nylon yarn that comes from pre-consumer waste (or scrap material that is about to be landfilled), according to BAGGU. Besides those conservation initiatives, something neat I recently learned about is BAGGU’s bag recycling program where you can ship your old bags to their stores and, in return, get a discount to use toward a new BAGGU bag. BAGGU teamed up with the American Textile Recycling Service on this initiative, where old bags are either upcycled, donated, or shipped to second-hand stores.
— Kala Herh, editorial intern
I own Stasher Bags in all different colors, sizes and shapes, opting to use the reusable silicone bags instead of single use plastic bags in my home. The Stand-Up Mid Bag is my favorite because its flat bottom allows the reusable silicone bag to stand upright, and it has a wide opening that makes it easier to fit bulkier items like lemons and beefsteak tomatoes. The bag’s airtight seal closes by pinching it together, keeping food inside the bag fresh. I’ve found that the brand’s Stand-Up Bags are especially useful for storing liquid like broth, and you can write on Stasher Bags with dry erase markers to label their contents. Stasher Bags are oven- and microwave-safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as freezer- and dishwasher-safe. You can also steam vegetables in Stasher Bags — I use the Stand-Up Mid Bag to steam broccoli and cauliflower.
— Zoe Malin, editorial intern
After trying a variety of reusable mugs, I settled on the KeepCup to bring to coffee shops instead of using the provided disposable plastic and paper cups. At the beginning of the pandemic, I noticed some coffee shops did not allow customers to bring reusable cups due to COVID-19 safety concerns. But a year later, I’ve noticed more of my local coffee shops are readopting the practice. I’m loyal to KeepCup because sizes match disposable cups commonly used in cafes — ranging from 4 ounces to 16 ounces — making them easier for baristas to fill. KeepCups also have internal fill lines and tight press-on lids (I have yet to experience a spillage incident), and they fit in most cars’ cup holders. KeepCups come in glass or stainless steel, and you can choose between a variety of colors like Saskatoon and Spruce.
— Zoe Malin, editorial intern
I try to remember to ask for no single-use utensils when ordering takeout, chopsticks included. I’m not talented in the chopsticks department, so I always end up throwing them out anyway. These reusable chopsticks, however, have a fortune cookie-shaped clamp that connects them together, so even the most chopsticks-challenged person can use them with ease. These dishwasher-safe chopsticks are available in other fun styles like Unicorn, Shark and T-Rex.
— Zoe Malin, editorial intern
While makeup wipes and cotton rounds are popular products in some skincare routines, they can create excess waste (along with other bathroom staples) that isn’t very eco-friendly. I previously used disposable cotton rounds on my face twice a day after toning — once in the morning and before bed at night. But, I recently discovered reusable cotton rounds, which are much more sustainable than just one-and-done cotton rounds. While I found my reusable cotton rounds randomly in a local store, this pack is similar and available at Amazon. It includes 20 reusable cotton rounds and a drawstring laundry bag so that you can throw these into a washing machine. According to the brand, these organic bamboo cotton rounds are designed to be gentle enough for any skin type. They boast a 4.6-star average rating from more than 14,500 reviews on Amazon.
— Ambar Pardilla, reporter
Reusable straws can be a great way to lessen the amount of plastic you use. I have a drawer full of metal straws in my kitchen that I use to sip on iced tea or matcha lattes. The straws are lightweight, durable (I’ve had mine for at least a few years) and easy to take on the go. I like to keep one tucked away in my bag, so I have it handy for a morning or mid-day iced coffee. Taking a sip from the metal straw is particularly refreshing since it keeps my drinks cold (similar to when I opt for my stainless steel stemless wine glass instead of a mug or glass cup to drink water from). To clean the straws, I run them under hot water and use dish soap and my straw cleaner — similar to a pipe cleaner with a brush at the end.
Although I can’t recall the specific brand of metal straws I use, you can find them from several popular retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart and more. These stainless steel StrawExpert straws are dishwasher-safe and come in a pack of 16. They come in several lengths and feature curved and straight options to fit nicely in different cups. They also feature removable silicone tips, scrub brushes and a carrying case. Additionally, they’re Amazon’s No. 1 bestseller when it comes to reusable straws and more than 27,200 reviewers on Amazon left them with a 4.8-star average rating.
— Shari Uyehara, editorial operations associate