You ever hear or read a line that just welds itself to your psyche? Maybe you smiled or nodded, but that sentence wasn’t done with you. You’d be up to something totally unrelated, your head would start to clear and—bam!—there it was again, floating in front of your mind’s eye. I’ve conducted scores of interviews since starting one5c, and one quote will not go away. “When it comes to climate change, we’re past the point of buying our way to consumer solutions,” Glynwood’s Laura Lengnick said, when we were discussing regenerative agriculture. That’s powerful stuff, and it gets at the very real truth that we can’t just do what we’re doing a little bit differently and save the world. I love it. I also kind of disagree.
Kind of! Lengnick is absolutely right that we need to do more than switch to grass-fed beef and messenger bags made of spent water bottles\. But if consumers are still going to buy things (we are), we need to adopt behaviors that, at the very least, only make this planetary mess a little bit less worse. We should buy local, patronize companies committed to treading lightly, and purchase as little new stuff as possible. But “as little as possible” is still a big number when multiplied by the hundreds of millions of us who regularly summon the hounds of e-commerce to crisscross the country delivering toilet paper. And we need to break our single-use plastic habit—immediately. That’s what I’m concerned with today.
So, as is the style of the time, I made a list of products that my family is using in place of the disposable, world-clotting petro-crap that has become so omnipresent in our lives. The one5c staff researched and evaluated every single item on this list. (We used stuff we didn’t like, too, but I’m not writing about it.) This is, of course, far from an exhaustive catalog; if you have recommendations, I want to hear from you. I always love hearing from you.
A disclaimer about disclaimers
You’ve probably seen those italicized asides on the product listicles that freckle your feeds: autoponytail.com may make a commission on the products we recommend, or something like that? one5c will not make a dime off this list (sorry, venture capital buddies), so click away without fear of acquiring our affiliate pixel. If one5c ever starts monetizing product recommendations, they will be the most authoritative recommendations on the internet, more than one household’s experience. As always, the best way to reward me is to share this with anyone you know who buys things.
It looks weird to me to have a link right after a link button, so here is a sentence. Here is another sentence to end this transitional moment.
I told you I was on the case, and I have good news. I bought every well-rated compostable adhesive bandage I could find, and… 🥁drumroll🥁… they all suck. Except one! Febu’s strips work better than J&J’s flexible fabric. Yeah, I said it. I was pretty shocked, too, but I just had hand surgery, so I’ve had a bandage on my palm for nearly two weeks. The Febus have held up to yard work, toddler-battle, all-day typing, and more. As with most products like this, water is a weakness—especially on the palm. Showers didn’t phase the one on my arm, though, which lasted seven days before a doctor told me I had to take it off to let my skin breathe.
Doctors use this stuff to help surgical bandages adhere, and it works well on what’s in your medicine cabinet, too. You wipe it on, let it dry, put your dressing right on top of it, and behold the magic of a bandaid that actually lasts a couple days. If you buy this stuff, you’ll use less of the other stuff, which means less waste. Most retail stores don’t stock it, though, so get it online or ask your pharmacist to order it for you.
If you take a minute to think about the concept of the trash bag, it’s kind of ridiculous. Why do we buy brand-new, non-degradable garbage to put our garbage in? Most are made of low-density polyethylene, a petrochemical-sourced plastic that won’t break down in landfills for decades. According to Superbio, these bags will “degrade to humus, CO2, and water within 180 days when placed in a standard compost pile.” (Humus is a component of soil. It’s what leaves turn into when they break down.) SuperBio has earned multiple compostability certifications from both US- and EU-based organizations, and I have one buried in my yard right now. I’ll let you know.
If you use SimpleHuman or other trash containers with annoyingly specific bag sizes, this company probably makes liners that fit them. They are not compostable, but they do contain an additive called D2W that reportedly allows them to biodegrade in the presence of oxygen in around two years. That’s better than 1,000 years, which is the high end of what I’ve seen for LDPE. These comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials’s standard D6954-04, which certifies a plastic’s ability to “degrade in the environment by a combination of oxidation and biodegradation.” In other words, I do not have enough post-graduate degrees to call bullshit on them.
I’ve probably used an entire landfill’s worth of zipper-top bags in my life, but I’m not buying any more. I’ve been obsessed with Zip Top since one was mistakenly sent home in our daughter’s lunchbox. I love our stolen bag so much, I haven’t said anything to the school, and some parents are probably crying every day because they miss their cute little stasher with its cute little ears. I would! These 100% silicon containers are great replacements for the disposable LDPE jobs that are such a drag on our planet; they’re dishwasher safe, freezer safe, and microwave safe. They are also expensive—$9 for the little guy we now own. Grand theft snack-pack.
We should all rely on reusable containers as much as possible. But sometimes you need to walk out of a situation with fewer items than you walked in with, and that’s why sandwich bags exist. Plastic zipper bags: Satan. These paper packets: compostable angels. They work almost as well as plastic bags (PB&J-safe, though I wouldn’t use them on the sauerkraut-heavy sandwiches), but you can only seal them once. If you can, skip sealable versions, because the sticky strip makes them non-compostable. (Glue is plastic.) If you must buy the ones that stick shut, they’re still recyclable.
I get angry every time I forget to bring these to the grocery store. They replace those hellish film bags you’re supposed to put vegetables in, and you don’t have to spend 30 seconds trying to find the correct end, blowing them open while some goon stares you down because you nabbed the best kale. I do wish they were a little bigger (kale), and it’d be nice if they had their tare printed on them (0.7 oz), but they are absolutely better than the alternative. Since I already own a set of five, I will use them until they are dust.
Straight-up: This is not as effective as what you currently have in your kitchen drawer. It doesn’t tear very easily and it sticks to itself. Given that 46% of ocean plastic is thin-film, I got over the shortcomings pretty quickly. It’s good enough, and it’s a great example of how addicted to ultra-convenience we are. Yes, you have to be more careful when you pull it off the roll. Yes, you have to cut it with scissors because when you buy it from Amazon you don’t get the reusable cutter. Yes, it turns to goo if you put it in the microwave for too long. But we should all use less cling wrap anyway. Most of the time, you can just cover a bowl with a plate. For the times you can’t, this is more than fine.
It’s cotton cloth coated in beeswax, and it’s another great tool in your no-plastic-wrap kit. Use it to cover things, wrap things, etc. The company even sells a nifty sandwich wrapper that has a cute little button and a string to wrap around it. Two words of warning: 1. If you wrap an onion in this, it will always smell like onions, no matter what you do. Cheese and other stinky stuff didn’t have the same effect, just onions. Warning 2: If you wash it in hot water, that’s game over. The wax melts off, and it won’t stick well ever again.
You may not think of your shoes as single-use plastic, but that just means you haven’t been to a landfill. Even though some brands will recycle their own shoes, landfills are full of old kicks. I’ve been wearing Nike Frees since I started clandestinely borrowing my roommate’s more than a decade ago. (I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this to you, Casey, but thanks!) I wear mine until they have holes in them, and the last time I went to Nike.com for a re-up, I noticed a “sustainable materials” search option. Click that button, and you’ll find products that “contain at least 20% recycled material, by weight.” That’s better than “at least zero” percent, though I hope better choices materialize in the future.
OK, that’s where I am so far. I’m sure I’ll replace more of my life with biodegradable and/or reusable products, and I’ll tell you about it when I find something really good. (Probably on Instagram, where we post more frequently.) If you have ideas or product suggestions, send them my way or leave a comment below.
Take care of yourselves—and each other