Everyday Items That Have Been Redesigned to Help the Environment

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

Though we'd all like to be a little more eco-friendly, sometimes it can feel like a daunting task. It seems like every product out there has been designed to be quick and easy, with little regard for what’ll happen when it ultimately ends up in a landfill. Fortunately, a number of companies are now making it easier than ever to reduce your carbon footprint. Learn about a variety of everyday items that have been given eco-friendly makeovers.

Un-plastic Straws

It can be disturbing to imagine how many single-use plastic straws each of us has tossed out over the course of our lives. Some states have even begun passing measures aimed at helping the environment by eliminating the use of plastic straws in restaurants altogether.

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Photo Courtesy: Yoocaa/Amazon

Luckily, several companies have already begun to introduce eco-friendly alternatives. Collapsible steel straws have a far longer shelf life than the plastic variety and easily slip into a small carrier that you can tote anywhere. Many restaurants are also turning to biodegradable paper straws as a mass-market alternative.

The Zipper Bag’s Reusable Upgrade

As great as Ziploc bags can be for storing food or packing your lunch each day, they aren't always so awesome for the environment. When you think of how many of these small plastic bags people use and throw away each day around the world, it can add up to mountains of plastic trash.

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Photo Courtesy: Vokoo/Amazon

That's why someone finally came up with a simple yet brilliant solution in the form of a reusable set of zipping food-storage bags. They're easy to wash, withstand hundreds of uses and aren't toxic to the environment when you do finally toss them.

Greener Doggie Bags

There's nothing worse than accidentally stepping in a "present" someone else's dog left on your front lawn. But on the other hand, plastic dog poop bags aren't exactly the most eco-friendly products in the world either. What's a responsible dog owner to do?

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Photo Courtesy: Zoorenity/Amazon

Enter biodegradable dog poop bags, which companies are designing to replace the usual plastic versions. Many are vegetable-based, leak-proof and fully biodegradable so that you can keep your neighborhood nice and clean without doing any harm to Mother Nature. Hopefully, someday soon these biodegradable bags will be the norm for pet owners everywhere.

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Plantable Wrapping Paper

We all know that it's important to try and cut back on paper usage in order to help protect the earth's trees. There are a few companies, however, that are taking things to the next level with eco-friendly paper products.

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Photo Courtesy: Triumph Plant/Amazon

For instance, this gift paper may actually end up being one of the coolest parts of any gift you give. After your recipient has reveled over the lovely gift inside, they can take the paper home and plant it in their garden. The recycled paper it’s made from is embedded with hundreds of wildflower seeds that grow when planted and watered.

Plastic-free Floss Picks

So, some products are pretty obvious when it comes to being bad for the environment, but few of us probably consider things like plastic dental floss picks. Though they're convenient and a great way to care for your teeth, all those single-use plastic picks eventually build up in landfills.

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Photo Courtesy: The Humble Co./Amazon

Luckily, dental-health companies are catching on and starting to look for more eco-friendly options. Now you can buy everything from biodegradable silk dental floss to corn-starch floss picks. Clean your teeth until your heart's content without feeling bad about the toll it takes on the environment.

Goodbye Plastic, Hello Glass

Plastic storage containers are a great way to save leftovers for later, and we all swear we'll use them time and time again. But if we're really honest, how long does the average plastic Tupperware set actually last? The time quickly comes when a plastic container accidentally melts or gets stained and you absentmindedly toss it into the trash bin.

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Photo Courtesy: Nummy/Amazon

If this sounds familiar, consider swapping out your plastic food storage containers for glass options instead. Glass containers are great as far as naturally resisting stains and flavors, and you can even get sets with eco-friendly bamboo lids.

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Wool Dryer Balls

Even laundry is getting a green makeover lately with products that are making the average wash-and-dry process a lot more environmentally friendly. Beyond the benefits to the planet, many people are discovering that, when it comes to laundry, greener is also safer.

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Photo Courtesy: Ecoigy/Amazon

As it turns out, many fabric softeners and dryer sheets are full of chemicals that have been linked to everything from pancreatic cancer to upper respiratory irritation. Many people are ditching such products for reusable alternatives like wool dryer balls. Not only are they all-natural, but they can also help your clothes dry faster, potentially lowering your electricity bills.

Coconut Kitchen Utensils

It’s easy to turn to plastic when you're looking for durable dishware, especially if you have kids. After all, nobody wants to see their child accidentally drop a glass bowl that shatters into a million sharp shards. But there may be a better, more eco-friendly alternative.

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Photo Courtesy: Okey Kitchen/Amazon

As it turns out, coconut shells make really useful bowls and even utensils. People in countries like Bali and Vietnam have known this secret for years and often sell 100% natural coconutware online. Pick up a set of handcrafted, shatter-proof coconut dishes and see for yourself.

Toothbrushes Made From Bamboo

If you want to help cut down on all the old plastic toothbrushes that are trashing up the oceans and landfills of the world, then you're in luck. These days, natural bamboo toothbrushes are becoming more popular than ever.

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Photo Courtesy: Lali Bambù/Amazon

Don't worry, though. Many of the bamboo toothbrushes you see popping up are made from Moso bamboo, which isn’t a source of food for pandas. It is, however, biodegradable, affordable and much easier on the environment than your normal plastic toothbrush. Rest assured that bamboo toothbrushes don't require any additional work either. Just rinse them off like your normal toothbrush when you're done.

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Makeup Remover Pads

The struggle is real when it comes to makeup remover wipes. It's hard enough to remember to use them every night without having to worry about replacing them every time you run out. That's why some makeup junkies out there have begun turning to a longer-lasting solution.

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Photo Courtesy: UHOOFIT/Amazon

In an eco-conscious world, bamboo keeps popping up again and again. It seems that, along with its many other uses, bamboo’s fibers can make for effective makeup-remover pads. They offer a great way to remove dirt, oil and makeup in seconds, and you can wash them for reuse.

Reusable Notebooks

Sick of having to lug around a new notebook for every class? Not only is it a pain having to keep up with all that paper, but it’s also a downer to think about how many trees are cut down each year to produce more paper.

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Photo Courtesy: Rocketbook/Amazon

The answer to the age-old problem made its debut on season 8 of Shark Tank. Joe Lemay and Jake Epstein introduced their reusable notebook Rocketbook, which can upload your notes straight to your phone or computer. Though they couldn't get a deal, the notebook has become incredibly popular anyway.

Flip-Flop Renewal

Flip-flops are, by nature, meant to be a cheap, easy footwear option that you can pick up on the fly. But what happens to all those discarded sandals after they bite the dust? While some go straight to the landfill, there are a few products out there that upcycle them into something new.

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Photo Courtesy: Flip Flop Door Mat/Amazon

This doormat, for instance, is made completely from recycled flip-flops and makes a fun, colorful addition to any doorstep. Other organizations, such as Kenya's Ocean Sole, have even used recycled flip-flops to create everything from colorful toys to an entire boat.

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Deodorant’s Fresh Makeover

Some of the chemicals used in the average stick of deodorant have been called into question in the past — and that’s not to mention the plastic containers they come in. While many of us ignored the less-than-eco-friendly (or unhealthy) implications in favor of fresh, dry underarms, there may now be a better option.

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Photo Courtesy: Ethique/Amazon

Many eco-friendly deodorants that offer just as much protection are now making an appearance on the market. Rather than using baking soda or aluminum, these new antiperspirants utilize things like bamboo, jojoba and sweet almond oil for perspiration and odor control. Best of all, they come without the bulky plastic packaging that litters landfills.

(Almost) Endless Paper Towels

When it comes to cleaning up messes and spills, paper towels are no doubt the best. Unfortunately, their convenience comes at a cost. It takes 51,000 trees to produce the number of single-use paper towels people use around the world every single day. That's why many people are beginning to turn to reusable paper towels instead.

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Made from biodegradable bamboo, you can use each of the paper towels you'll find on one roll between 50 and 80 times. Rather than buy normal paper towels in bulk, you can get one roll of these convenient wipes and delight in watching them last up to six months.

Beeswax Food Wraps

Did you know it can take up to 1,000 years for traditional single-use plastic wrap to decompose after you throw it away? Fortunately, there are other far more eco-friendly ways to keep your food just as fresh. One such product comes from your friendly neighborhood hive.

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Photo Courtesy: Thisam Kitchen/Amazon

Reusable beeswax wraps are not only a great way to store food but are also a much cheaper option than plastic wrap in the long run. Whereas most traditional plastic wrap is good for one use, a single sheet of beeswax wrap works for about 150 uses. Just wash it with soap and cold water.

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Compostable Party Cups

We've all been there. You're about to host a party or other large event and don't want to get stuck washing a mountain of cups afterward. In these instances, plastic party cups may seem like the way to go. But what if there was a better option that was just as easy?

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Photo Courtesy: Repurpose Compostables/Amazon

The single-use cup industry is on the ball with party cups that are made out of plant-based materials rather than plastic. While plastic is designed to last forever, these sturdy little cups compost within 90 days of reaching the landfill. They're also free of BPA and petroleum residue.

Garbage Bags Go Biodegradable

Even when you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, it seems like there are always certain things that are just unavoidable. How are you supposed to get around using trash bags, for instance? Get ready for a game-changer.

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Photo Courtesy: Hippo Sak/Amazon

A few brilliant companies out there have begun abandoning the idea that all trash bags must be made of fossil fuels. Now there are bags on the market that are made from plant-based materials, such as sugarcane. Not only are they just as strong (or stronger) than regular trash bags, but they also reduce both CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption for a happier, healthier planet.

Bamboo Cotton Swabs

It's a little ironic when you consider that even many cotton swabs are made partially of plastic. Whether you use them to clean your ears, blend makeup or apply medication, these little guys are handy for sure. That's why some companies are now offering them in an eco-friendly, plastic-free form.

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Photo Courtesy: 44Cloverdale/Amazon

These days, you can get cotton swabs that are made from cotton, bamboo and other 100% compostable materials. Many even come with packaging that's just as friendly for the environment as the products inside. Now you can enjoy the comfort and ease of cotton swabs without any of the bio-guilt.

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Reusable Produce Bags

There's nothing like keeping your family happy and healthy with plenty of fresh produce. But it's super easy to make your rounds at the grocery store without ever realizing how many of those little plastic produce bags you take advantage of.

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Photo Courtesy: flip & tumble/Amazon

While many people even make an effort to bring their own grocery bags, produce bags tend to fall by the wayside. That's why some companies are encouraging shoppers to take it up a notch with reusable produce bags. These see-through mesh bags make it easy to cut the plastic completely, and they’re free of chemicals like BPA, mercury and lead.

Bamboo Razors

Every year, an estimated 2 billion plastic razors are tossed into landfills around the world. As cheap and easy as they may be, plastic razors are virtually impossible to recycle and don't tend to be a product that most people use for more than a few days.

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Photo Courtesy: Bambaw/Amazon

If you're looking for a more permanent solution, bamboo is here to save the day. Bamboo-handled razors are incredibly strong and durable, making it possible to use the same one for years. All you have to replace is the stainless steel blade, which will end up saving you loads of cash in the long run.

Wood Sunglasses

Just when you thought bamboo couldn't get any cooler, it appeared in the form of these awesome eco-friendly shades! We're all guilty of stocking up on cheap plastic sunglasses when the summer comes around, but if you're ever looking to invest in a long-term pair, then wood frames are where it's at.

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Photo Courtesy: Cloudfield/Amazon

You'll quickly discover that bamboo and wood are far sturdier than any of the plastic frames you'll find out there and will last far longer. Wooden frames are becoming so popular lately that you can get them from a variety of companies, which is helpful in finding the perfect look.

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Computer Mice

With technology being our near-constant companion now, it's no surprise that computer and tech pollution have skyrocketed as well. While IT companies may not have figured out how to produce laptops made of completely biodegradable products quite yet, they do at least offer an eco-friendly mouse.

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Photo Courtesy: Horsebiz/Amazon

These mice are made from sturdy, biodegradable bamboo that absorbs more radiation from your computer and offers a static-free experience. Use one with your desktop, laptop or notebook for maximum benefit. While it may not be the end-all of Earth-friendly tech design, it's better to start small than not at all.

Reusable Grocery Bags

These days, one sign of having reached adulthood seems to be having a plastic bag full of other plastic bags — none of which you'll ever realistically use again. While we all try to cut back on our plastic bag usage, it's so easy to forget to recycle or to take those bags back to the grocery store for another go.

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Photo Courtesy: Green Bulldog Bags/Amazon

The plastic-bag problem has become so large that stores in some states have started to charge for new bags at the checkout counter. Instead, try your luck with reusable cloth or mesh grocery bags, many of which you'll find far more comfortable to use.

The Ultimate Reboot for Batteries

It can be disheartening to consider how many batteries we as a society throw out each year. Not only are they far from biodegradable, but most batteries are also packed with harmful chemicals that can seep into groundwater.

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Photo Courtesy: eneloop/Amazon

That's why batteries are starting to get a lot more efficient when it comes to longevity. Now you can buy batteries that are capable of recharging in anything from their own charging stations to the USB port on your computer. Not only is taking the rechargeable route a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but it's also bound to be cheaper over time.

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Many-use Lunch Bags

Okay, the idea of a lunch box isn't necessarily anything new but, once you've grown up, you may no longer be into traveling to work with a bulky tin in tow. Many of us turn to the time-honored lunch bag as an easy alternative, but at the cost of plenty of trees.

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Photo Courtesy: Colony Co./Amazon

If you're looking for a middle-of-the-road solution, then check out a waxed canvas lunch bag instead. It's just as easy and convenient as a paper lunch bag but can slide into your purse or briefcase for reuse after you're done eating. It's built to be durable, stain-resistant and plastic-free.

Eco-friendly Pens

If you stacked up all the pens you've owned and thrown away throughout your life, you'd likely have a small mountain of plastic. Pens are a top offender when it comes to pollution, and plenty of companies are looking for ways to make their products plastic-free.

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Photo Courtesy: Simply Genius/Amazon

Many of them have even come up with ways to make disposable pens far easier on the environment than their plastic counterparts. Now you can get pens with barrels made from Earth-friendly, sustainable products like biodegradable cardboard or even bamboo. Leave your mark without making one on the environment.

Plant-based Laundry Detergent

Want to clean up your environmental act when it comes to doing your laundry? Now it's completely possible to ditch that bulky plastic bottle of detergent for something more eco-friendly and healthy. You can get non-toxic, plant-based detergents that have no negative effects on streams, rivers or the wildlife that come into contact with them.

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Photo Courtesy: Biokleen/Amazon

Their lack of harsh chemicals is also far easier on the skin for people who have sensitivities to regular detergent. Many companies that produce these alternatives also make their best attempts to take it easy on the plastic and instead offer plant-based and/or recycled containers.

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Reusable Baking “Paper”

If you love baking, then you likely already know the horrors of realizing all too late that you've run out of parchment paper. Not only do you have to constantly stay on top of your supply of paper, but you likely end up throwing a ton of it away after a single use.

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Photo Courtesy: Tonmidej/Amazon

Instead, buy reusable baking sheets that work just like traditional parchment paper. They're designed to withstand heat up to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, cut out the need for cleaning up spray or butter and are reusable for years.

Natural Dish Scrubbers

It's a truth as old as time that a good dish scrubber can be incredibly hard to find. This can lead to tossing tons of plastic scrubbers and sponges each year. That's why someone has finally come up with a better, more biodegradable way.

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Photo Courtesy: Miw Piw/Amazon

Dish scrubbers are now made from plant-based fibers that are both sustainable and compostable. Though it may sound suspiciously simple, these little veggie scrubbers are built to last for up to a year and are designed to get even the toughest jobs done. These are a great idea for vegans or those looking to be a little greener.

Candle Flower Pots

While awesome-smelling candles are great, there doesn't tend to be much use for the empty containers after they've burned out. Until now. One company came up with a cool idea called The Growing Candle. On the surface, it looks like a regular candle and is available in a variety of scents like lemongrass, rosemary and sandalwood.

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Photo Courtesy: Hyggelight/Amazon

But once the wax has burned out, you can take the seed-embedded paper that comes around the wax and plant it inside the empty candle container. Just water it for a few days and soon you'll have a nice flower pot with wildflowers inside.

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