Product Swap

This page is a list of the stuff I have swapped over the course of the year in an attempt to use more environmentally friendly products. A lot of them will be based on research from my Greenwashing Index.


Bin liner:

We’re now using newspaper as bin liners. We have 2 bins and use 5 -8 sheets per week. I know the paper would be better off recycled but if the other option is using virgin plastic or even reused plastic shopping bags, I believe it is the lesser of the evils.

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Virgin plastic bags on the left and newspaper lining on the right.

Bread:

We now make bread at home in the bread machine or by hand. I buy Laucke as it comes in a paper bag. The main purpose of this is to reduce soft plastic packaging. I have also been able to purchase bread from the local green grocer using a paper bag. I hope to have made up some reuseable bread bags soon!

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We often purchased bread from Bakers Delight or Coles which come in plastic, now we’ve switched to homemade either in the bread maker or by hand. Top right: homemade pumpkin loaf and Irish soda bread, bottom right: wholemeal bread maker variety.

Coffee:

Coffee is my best friend when Peanut thinks 4 am is an appropriate time to start the day. I love the smell of it, the taste and the experience (I usually indulge in another one at nape time… in complete silence). Unfortunately the coffee we were buying (whatever was on special at the supermarket), all seem to come in foil lined plastic packaging. As far as my research has taken me, it seems these cannot be recycled. fortunately for us we have a local coffee roasters who reuse their own coffee bags. While it’s a little more expensive, the fresh roasted coffee is worth it for the flavour and the savings on waste.

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Coffee beans in a non-recyclable bag to refill bag from The Coffee Company.

Cotton Buds:

We are now using cotton buds with a bamboo stick that can be placed in the compost, rather than using brands that have a plastic stick.

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Cotton buds with a plastic stick versus cotton buds with a bamboo stick.

Dishwashing Detergent:

When I audited our soft plastics I realised how ridiculous it is to individually wrap dishwasher tablets. In order to change this ridiculous use of plastic I thought “why not just make our own = less chemicals going down the drain + less packaging = happy Sam. Again there are loads of recipes online but I settled on this one from The Happy Money Saver because I liked the idea of tablets over a powder. As you can tell from the photos something happened during the process where all the ingredients clumped together before I could form them into tablet shapes. They don’t look pretty but the good news is they still work and are doing just as good a job as the commercial brands!

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Aldi brand tablets to homemade chunks (will seek alternate recipe!)

Multi Purpose Spray:

After looking into Aldi’s multi purpose spray on my greenwashing index I have decided this homemade variety using washing soda, vinegar and dishwashing liquid is the lesser of the evils for it’s more simple makeup and over time it will use less packaging. It works really well to remove stubborn food chunks left around the house by a certain toddler. I have been using literally everywhere from the benches to the toilet, so it has replaced pretty much every other cleaner in the house.

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Aldi’s green action on the left and lectric’s homemade recipe on the right. 

Napkins:

For those messy meals we kept a box of tissues on the table that served at napkins. This was a relatively easy switch to cloth napkins that I picked up in an op-shop years ago for a party I was hosting. Better yet we need to make sure we are only using one if it is necessary, not just for the sake of it.

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We switched facial tissues for cloth napkins at meal time.

Sandwich Bags:

I have never really found a need to use cling film (occasionally I would use it, maybe once a year or so… this roll was left at our house by a friend after a BBQ), preferring to use containers instead, but since having Peanut I found the need to be armed with snack at all times. Last year I used sandwich bags to carry copious amounts fruit, biscuits and crackers around in.

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Cling film and sandwich bags versus reuseable and compostable beeswax wraps.

Soft Plastic

Since auditing our soft plastics I have tried to minimise as much as possible. This includes using produce bags made from old material and jars. It’s been a lot easier than I though for most products, retailers are quite open to letting you use your own bags. I’m struggling with meat and dairy though as many of them pull the old “health and safety” line on me. I’m not convinced that this is accurate or not.

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Clockwise from top left: our local Coles stopped selling loose spinach so I now get it from the green grocer, about 1-2 weeks worth of soft plastics from January, pantry items are now stored in old glass jars, homemade produce sacks from an old shirt, homemade bags from an old curtain.

Toilet paper:

Until this year we were using a mix of non recycled (Kleenex or Aldi brand usually) and Naturale (100% recycled sold at Coles). This year I decided to give Who Gives a Crap a go. We ended up with WGAC because it seems a lot stronger than Naturale and the Coles brand recycled paper… which husband is worried he might accidentally poke a finger though one day. I should probably question his overenthusiastic wiping rather than the paper. There is also zero plastic involved in the packaging! The only downfall is WGAC is made in China rather than Australia and therefore incurs a greater supply chain footprint (another wicked problem). For now I feel it is a compromise that our whole family is happy to use and I support the charity aspect of the company (WGAC donates 50% of profits to those in need of toilets in developing nations.

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Even the recycled toilet paper in the supermarkets is wrapped in plastic.

Toothpaste

Last year we moved away from using Colgate to a range of different brands that were free from fluoride including Thursday Plantation, Red Seal and Grants. I took for granted the fact these were ‘herbal’ toothpaste that they would both be better for our health and the environment. Unfortunately they still contain some nasties that are questionable for health and the environment. Plus the packaging is recyclable but not convenient to dispose of (using the TerraCycle program). So I decide to make my own, using products that for now, are a better environmental choice, that I can source with reuseable packaging from a bulk foods store. I found loads of recipes online and put together a few of the ingredients that seemed most appealing. Ask the Dentist and Authority Dental were great resources.

My first attempt I used bentonite clay, bi-carb soda, coconut oil, cacao nibs and fresh peppermint tea. Bentonite Clay reacts with metals minimising its healing powers so I was ever so careful not to mix it with a metal spoon. after about 3 days I was regretting my decision to use cacao nibs as they were getting caught in my retainer… that is metal! It’s currently glued onto my bottom teeth so there’s no way around it unfortunately. I headed back to the drawing board, this time opting for a very simple paste of just bi-carb and coconut oil with a bi-weekly brush with charcoal for whitening. I must admit, the texture and taste don’t rate as high as commercial toothpaste, but they feel clean and don’t have that weird residue that toothpaste is notorious for leaving behind. I’ll stick with it for now as I can make it using ingredients that have no packaging.

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Top left: commercial toothpaste, top right: bentonite clay toothpaste, bottom charcoal and baking soda/cocobut oil toothpaste.

Tortillas

We eat tortillas once or twice a week, they’re fast and easy and you can make a good vegetarian option with them. I always purchased them from the supermarket as I haven’t come across a bakery or Mexican place that sells them loose. I found a really easy recipe online at The Cafe Sucre Farine and they are sooo tasty! Obviously more time-consuming but we can make these in bulk and freeze them.

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Store bought wraps versus homemade.