10 ways to reduce plastics and chemicals in your home

Bins full of empty plastic product containers

Stretching from the California coast across the North Pacific is a very modern marine feature: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is about twice the size of Texas. While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, much of the debris is actually small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye. These microplastics are finding their way into our bodies through seafood–which we consume, ironically, for its health benefits–and water.

In recent years, plastic waste has become a universally significant environmental problem. Over the past seventy years there has been a sustained increase in plastic production, rising from 1.5 million tons (Mt) in the 1950s to 367 million tons in 2020, reports “Microplastics in Fish and Fishery Products and Risks for Human Health: A Review.”

Plastics in my fish dish?!

Fishery products are an important source of microplastics in the human diet. Once ingested, microplastics reach the gastrointestinal tract where they can be absorbed, release chemical  substances, and potentially toxic elements.

Current studies estimate that 88% of the sea surface is contaminated with plastic waste. About 15 Mt (metric tons) of plastic enter the oceans each year; it is probable that these emissions of plastic waste will increase to around 20–53 Mt by 2030, potentially even reaching 90 Mt. (In the United States of America, one metric ton means 907.18 kilograms or two thousand pounds.)

Researchers at the University of Ghent estimated that  consumers of European shellfish alone–without including finfish–can amount to 11,000 microplastics per year. It would behoove us, then, to reduce the amount of plastics, not to mention other toxic chemicals, we contribute each day to this growing pile, if not for environmental reasons then to feel good about that delicious grilled salmon on the plate.

10 ways you can reduce plastics in your home

We put together some simple but effective ways to reduce your dependence on plastics, ways we practice ourselves. Hopefully you are using some of these or similar products already.

1. Sheets Laundry Club Laundry Sheets

Sheets laundry sheets

More than 30 billion loads of laundry are run every single year in North America alone, resulting in around 900 million laundry jugs being tossed out annually. Ans since only 30 percent of these plastic jugs are recycled, we’re looking at close to 630 million plastic jugs heading to landfills each year.

Instead of bottled detergent try eco-friendly Sheets. They come in sheets–similar to  dryer sheet–only they are detergent. Since they are pre-measured you can’t use too much like you can with liquid detergents. And there is no plastic bottle to throw in the bin. The sheets dissolve completely in hot or cold water and contain no harsh chemicals.

Storage is so much easier than huge plastic jugs (Costco shoppers: looking at you) and one box is good for 50 large or 100 medium loads. Buy them at

2. NaturOil Soap Nuts

Soap nuts for laundry

Washing your clothes with a handful of plant berries might seem, well, nuts. But these little guys will surprise you, as they did us when we began using them instead of detergent several weeks ago. Unlike regular laundry soap, there are no detergents or chemicals in soap nuts.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac, the shells of the soap nut contain a natural soap, called saponin. When the nutshells absorb water, the saponin is released, which creates a soaping effect. Saponin is 100% natural and biodegradable, making it an excellent alternative to chemical detergents.

Leaving the soap nuts in during the rinse will not harm your clothes, and some say they even act as a natural fabric softener. And soap nuts completely and then can be composted, leaving no waste behind.

We have had excellent results using soap nuts—laundry comes out clean and scent free. You will find NaturOil Soap Nuts on

3. Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap


If you grew up in the country you will be familiar with Fels-Naptha: it was the first line of attack after a brush with poison ivy. Developed by the Fels Company in 1893, it originally contained naphtha, produced from coal tar, among other petroleum distillates.

Fels-Naptha no longer has petroleum byproducts. Plant-based sodas (sodium cocoate (or) sodium palmate kernelate, and sodium palmate)  have since replaced naphtha (and the first “h” was dropped from the name of the product). It is primarily used as a pre-treatment of stains, claiming to be most effective in removing chocolate, baby formula, perspiration, and make-up. And it’s still effective at removing poison ivy oils. Find Fels-Naptha in the laundry aisle of your supermarket or buy it on

4. 20 Mule Team Borax

Box of Borax cleaner

There probably isn’t a 60+ who doesn’t remember the Saturday morning commercials for 20 Mule Team Borax. It’s been around since 1891. But what we probably didn’t realize as children is that Borax is actually a completely natural mineral found in all corners of the globe.

Its uses are many–removes tough stains, deodorizes and freshens–so it can replace many of the individual-use chemical products that you have now. For example, in addition to being used as a laundry booster, did you know that Borax can be used to clean appliances, particularly stainless steel, to remove grease and grime and to preserve cut flowers? Buy it at at your supermarket or (because sometimes it’s hard to find).

5. Smart Sheep Six Pack Dryer Balls

Sheep wool dryer balls

Soft, static-free, fresh-smelling clothes are the reason most people use dryer sheets for their laundry. However, heat-activated dryer sheets “can pack a powerful combination of chemicals that can harm your health, damage the environment and pollute the air, inside and outside your home,” according to the Environmental Working Group. The sheets themselves are typically made from polyester, which is derived from petroleum. And dryer sheets are usually thrown away after just one cycle in the dryer, leading to immense waste.

Wool dryer balls are an all natural alternative to dryer sheets: the natural lanolin in wool softens laundry and reduces static. And once you’ve purchased the balls, you can use them for years and years.

Two caveats: don’t use the dryer balls during a dinner party; they bounce around so it may be difficult to hear your guests. And hide the dryer balls from your pet or they will be used like the other balls in the house. And if your pet happens to chew a dryer ball, you don’t have to call Poison Control; no chemicals or synthetics are used. Buy Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls at

6. Reusable Beeswax Wrap

Beeswax wraps for food

It’s time to use up the plastic wrap (which never stuck that well anyway) and vow not to repurchase. You can keep your food just as fresh and protected with this reusable and sustainable option. Beeswax Wrap is made of of waxed fabric so you can wrap it around dishes and containers. And there are no plastics to leach into your food. Buy Beeswax Wrap at

7. Stainless Steel Reusable K Cup

Stainless steel Kk cup

Single-serve coffee machines are a popular and convenient way to prepare coffee. But disposing the single-use pods that accompany each use creates insurmountable waste in landfills.

Consumer Reports cites statistics from the National Coffee Association and Statista, a market research firm, that 27 percent of U.S. coffee drinkers used a single-serve coffee machine on a given day, which means that somewhere between 50 and 60 million used coffee pods are thrown out or recycled every day in the U.S. alone. The global footprint of annual coffee capsule waste is about 576,000 metric tons — the combined weight of about 4,400 school buses.

Recycling those little pods takes some effort.

  • First, check that the cup, or shell,  is made of a plastic that is recyclable, e.g.,  No. 5 plastic, or polypropylene, which can be recycled.
  • Then remove the foil top (its materials can’t be recycled when soiled)
  • Toss or compost the coffee grounds and the paper filter
  • Rinse the plastic pod and add it to your recycling bin.

Stainless Steel reusable K-cups require less work, save you money, reduce plastic waste, and allow you to enjoy a wider selection of different flavors and aromas by refilling your own reusable coffee pod. They are durable and can withstand years of use. And they have a built-in filter so no paper liners are required.  They’re compatible with Keurig and other single serve coffee machines. Begin your new coffee journey by buying a few from Amazon.

8. JUST Water

JUST water bottle eco-friendly

Plastic water bottles are the elephant in the room when it comes to plastic pollution. A million plastic bottles are purchased across the world every minute of the day.

  • 20,000 bottles are bought every second.
  • 1,000 people open a bottle of water every second of the day in the US.
  • 35 billion empty water bottles are thrown away in the US each year, with only 12% being recycled.
  • It takes around 1,000 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade.

But grabbing a bottle of water before you walk out the door is a habit that is difficult to break. Which leads us to this new alternative: JUST Water.

JUST Water is 100% mountain spring water packaged in cartons similar to milk cartons made of 88% plant materials and are fully recyclable. And because it comes with a cap the bottles can be refilled and reused.  But, you ask, how does it taste? According to hundreds of Amazon reviewers it is “crisp and clean,”  “refreshing,” and “the best bottled water I’ve had.” You will find JUST Water in a variety of sizes and bundles on Amazon.

9. Biodegradable Eco-Friendly Natural Bamboo Toothbrushes

Bamboo toothbrushes

Just about everyone owns a toothbrush. And after a few months we throw it away and reach for a new one. Plastic toothbrushes have become a major source of plastic pollution since  they were introduced in 1938. According to a report by National Geographic, more than 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the United States alone. When you do the math you realize that approximately 60 toothbrushes are discarded every minute.

Why fill up landfills with plastic when you don’t have to?

Bamboo toothbrushes are an ecological way to keep your mouth fresh for just as long as a normal toothbrush and help the environment at the same time. Even the packaging is made in craft paper, no worry about it polluting the environment when you throw it away.

But do they work? We found them to brush just as well as a traditional toothbrush although they lack the ergonomic shape of many modern styles. And there is no substitute for that feeling of superiority you get when you’re doing something good for the planet. Buy a pack of 12 on Amazon.

10. Emily’s Choice Heavy Duty Biodegradable Tall Kitchen Trash Bag

Biodegradable trash bag

According to data from the U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS), Americans used 313.8 million plastic garbage bags and trash can liners in 2020. This figure is projected to increase to 322.15 million in 2024. Fortunately, biodegradable trash bags have arrived.

Biologically degradable trash bags from Emily’s Choice break down fast in landfills, faster than traditional garbage bags. D2W technology allows plastics to dissolve faster with oxygen. These 13 gallon trash bags from Emily’s Choice are engineered to hold between 13 and 17 gallons. We’ve used them for close to a year and find them to be sturdier than many of the plastic brands we have used in the past. Our recommendation buy. You will find them on Amazon.

Through our affiliate relationships with Amazon and other retailers we may make a commission on purchases made through qualifying links on this page.

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