I’ve written this as an email, Instagram DM, Facebook message, and text so many times I thought it deserved it’s own post. I might be doing a “no buy year” but that doesn’t mean I can’t give out my advice on how to spend your cash!
There isn’t one special magical *thing* anyone needs to be more eco-friendly and reduce waste. There are easy and free ways to reduce your daily impact and use of materials. Enjoy your coffee “for here” using the coffee shop’s mugs. Say “no straw please” when ordering a drink at the bar. Say “I don’t need a bag” when buying that shirt (from the consignment shop, hopefully.)
The items I’m listing here are the reusable, durable items that my family, friends and readers ask me about time and time again. These are my tried-and-true favorite items that you’ll see over and over again in my home. I’ll do my best to update this post if anything changes, and feel free to send me a message if you ever have a question or need a recommendation on anything you don’t see here.
Pura Stainless bottles are our favorite entirely plastic-free option. Though, note, there is some plastic in the packaging they have when you buy them new. Hopefully that will change someday. We also love the fact that all the tops can be swapped no matter what size/style bottle you have. So we can easily switch out a baby bottle top for a “sippy” top for a straw top as our kids get older. If something happens to a top, it can easily be replaced. AND the whole shebang is really easy to clean (even the straw top), unlike lots of other bottles out there. Klean also makes a good plastic free option.
We also like Klean Kanteen bottles (sometimes on sale at Target) and Liberty Bottleworks bottles for their high quality and excellent company ethics, but they do include some (durable) plastic parts. We just prefer the sport and straw tops.
I’m pretty klutzy when it comes to mugs so thrift store mugs are more my style. However, my favorite for home are these double walled mugs made by Bodum.
For on the go, this is our favorite insulated mug for coffee/tea. A less expensive option that is totally leak free are here. I used them for years while commuting by train and bus in Chicago and loved them, but they are simply not designed to last as long as Hydroflask are.
Reusable snack bags:
We also like zippered Logan & Lenora bags for dry snacks, but Stasher have quickly taken our top favorite spot. We still use the Logan & Lenora bags to wrangle non-food items on the go.
Reusable snack pouches:
These refillable pouches by Squeasy Gear are easy to use and easy to clean. The lid has plastic components but they are durable. You can even use the small one in place of single-use “goo” pouches for long distance running and cycling. We have the smallest 3.5oz and the larger 6oz one. The 6oz is used by my 3 year old on occasion, too. We use these at home and on the go for smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, etc. Single-use food pouches are a trendy kid and baby item but they are creating a tremendous amount of trash. One brand GoGo Squeez has partnered with TerraCycle, so if you do currently use that brand, consider sending them to TerraCycle.
Food storage containers:
For at home and freezing: Snapware glass containers (I’ve also seen them at Target, Costco etc.) are our favorite for keeping food fresh. The lids are plastic but durable. We prefer glass containers because we can see inside. Some brands and styles the plastic or “rubberized” plastic cracks and breaks more easily. There are lots of decent snap-top glass containers on the market, and we’ve even found good ones at TjMaxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods.
While we love stainless for on the go (see my pick above), we don’t love larger stainless containers for longer term storage because you can’t see inside. However, stainless is incredibly durable and easy to clean. Life Without Plastic has a great selection, and regularly hosts sales. There are lots of tiffins and other stainless food containers available on Amazon.
Lunchbox: We currently use the Kids Konserve trio and Snapware mentioned above for lunches at school and work but we will be getting our daughter a PlanetBox Rover or similar “bento” style box when she enters school full time.
Jars: Wide mouth Ball jars are our preference. They’re easy to use for anything. You can freeze/ferment/etc. in them without worrying about breakage because they don’t have a “shoulder” on the top. We bought a case of the tall 24oz ones and a case of the shorter 16 oz ones, both of which stow really well in our cabinet pantry.
Side note: these adorable 4oz jars are also really useful with kids. From storing and freezing breast milk to holding snacks or even small toys, there are endless uses.
The truth is you really can’t go wrong with jars of any kind for food storage at home and on the go. Check your recycling and reuse from sauces/pickles/nut butter/whatever.
You can make your own to-go utensil set using a napkin and some thrifted (or borrowed from your drawer!) utensils. If you want to buy something – or you’re traveling by airplane and don’t want to use metal – this set from To-Go Ware is our favorite. We own several in kid and adult sizes. We also love this “utensil roll” where we can stash whatever we want including straws and chopsticks/etc.
“Un-paper” reusable towels:
We made our own by cutting up an old flannel sheet, but you can purchase beautiful and resilient cloth paper towels too. We like this company and this one on Etsy. Bonus points for the cool prints you can choose to suit your style … to make cleaning up spills and wiping down counters a little more fun.
Hands down best and most affordable option: this etsy shop. They hold up really well. We have maybe 100+ wipes from this company and most look brand new even years later.
If you prefer a thicker, two-ply or organic wipe, the holy grail organic cotton wipes are made by Creekside Kid.
See this post for photos and a list of our family’s cloth diapering set-up.
I will be sharing an updated cloth diaper favorites post soon. Here’s a quick preview:
- Favorite diapers that fit from birth through potty training: Thirsties and BumGenius
- Favorite inserts/prefolds: Geffen Baby super absorbers and fleece prefolds and Thirsties prefolds
- Favorite covers: Anything wool! Can be easy to find in great condition secondhand, so check local pages first. Sloomb and this affordable wool diaper cover are currently on heavy rotation.
Cloth bulk and produce bags:
We have several of these cloth produce bags from Etsy and also like these sets of cotton bulk and produce from Simple Ecology. Truth is I’ve made most of our bags myself! If you have access to a sewing machine, whipping up a few simple drawstring bags are a great way to up-cycle fabrics.
Kids dishes, etc.
Our favorite plastic free baby/toddler/kid utensils are by Kiddobloom. They are well designed to actually work unlike lots of kid utensils. You’ve never seen frustration until you see a kid trying to spear something on a too-dull “kid safe” fork.
While a lot of our kid dishes are just ceramic and glass pieces we’ve picked up secondhand, this segmented stainless steel plate gets used everyday. It’s easy to hand wash and my daughters love eating meals and snacks out of it.
This is one we surprisingly get lots of questions about! We rely on fabric and shade to protect our and our children’s skin first and foremost, but we also use sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Our oldest has eczema and none of these irritate her skin. In fact, they are pretty healing. We tote the Raw Elements tin or Balm Baby jar with us for cuts and scrapes. Multi-use wonders, for sure.
Our favorites in order:
- Raw Elements
- Balm Baby SUN
- Badger Baby – in a plastic tube so not as zero waste friendly but the formula is safe and effective.
If you really want a spray option, the best one I’ve found is by Acure Organics, but it seems to be discontinued. The aerosol can is recyclable in my area. There are also a few other zero waste and safe/non-toxic sunblocks out there that people I trust recommend, but I’ve never tried myself. Those include: Beauty Counter, Avasol, Green Goddess.
I have quite sensitive skin and it is prone to breakouts and even hives from stuff it doesn’t like. The formulas below are on the pricier side but I haven’t seen issues with reactions.
- Raw Elements – tinted definitely a little heavy so I make sure to oil cleanse on nights I wear this so I know it’s fully cleaned off. It has never irritated my skin or caused a breakout, though.
- Coola Face Sunscreen – in a plastic tube which is not zero-waste friendly but this formula is top notch for sensitive or acne-prone skin like mine.
I haven’t tried it yet but I plan to try this Kari Gran mineral facial sunscreen soon.
If there’s something I haven’t covered here that you’re curious about, let me know!
This post contains affiliate links. If you like my recommendations and purchase something, I may get a small commission. Please feel free to reach out if you ever have questions about affiliate links!