Eco-Friendly Products We Love
Have you been shifting to more eco-friendly products? We certainly have! While we don't claim to be zero waste, we do make an effort to create less trash where possible.
It's much easier to reduce waste when you're stationary but we do the best we can as we travel. We might not always be able to find bulk bins or unwrapped produce. So don't sweat it if your efforts aren't perfect. Every little bit helps and awareness leads to better choices.
Why should we try to reduce our trash?
Have you heard about the ocean garbage patches? They are huge patches of trash in our oceans made up largely of plastic.
Sea life may become tangled in it, eat it, which in turn can end up on your plate if you eat seafood, or non-native species can be transported by this trash to an area where they don't belong.
Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to clean up what is already there. So the best thing we can do to help is avoid adding to the problem. The current rate of plastic use is just not sustainable.
Note: Most of these are Amazon affiliate links. Mostly because it's the easiest way to display the images and share the details. That means that if you purchase a product after following one of these links, we will receive a very small commission. The products are the same price whether you follow our link or not.
But what about recycling?
But everything you recycle gets new life, right? Wrong.
We used to ship most of our recyclables to China for sorting, but they've stopped accepting it.
Now, costs are going up for dealing with waste in the U.S. and municipalities are struggling to deal with all the trash we used to send overseas.
We used to be able to sell our recyclables but now it costs money. Americans are terrible at sorting their recycling properly and the labor to sort these items is expensive. So more and more recycling ends up in the landfill or incinerated.
Eco-Friendly Products for the Kitchen
First, beyond the products that you use, the way you shop and eat can help reduce waste. Whole foods usually have less packaging than processed foods. Some chain supermarkets wrap most of their produce in plastic. Try different stores until you find one that doesn't do that. Farmers markets are also a great option.
Also, refilling containers from bulk bins instead of buying a new container full of product will cut waste. Thankfully more and more grocery stores are offering bulk bins for popular items. Sprouts and Whole Foods usually have bulk bins. Many Kroger stores do as well. And don't forget the local co-op. It can be a great place to find alternative packaging and more eco-friendly products.
Going zero waste is certainly the ideal, but taking steps in that direction still helps reduce the strain on the planet.
Alternatives to plastic water bottles
Under sink water filter
Our RV came with a single stage under the sink water filter similar to this one. It's effective a two stage system since we also filter water as it comes into the RV. You can also get two, three, and four stage filters for under the sink if you want. We've been happy with this and it worked well enough for us to rely on it in Mexico. You heard that right, we did NOT buy bottled water in Mexico.
Filtering water pitcher
A water pitcher with a filter is an affordable option. This 5-cup Brita pitcher is small enough to work in most RV refrigerators but there are many brands and size options out there. Pick the one that fits your space and meets your needs. These types of pitchers start at about $15.
Berkey water filters
If you've got fat cash and counter space, get a Berkey. Our friends The Motorhome Experiment love theirs and it also passed the test in Mexico. They come in various sizes but the Travel Berkey or the Berkey Light are probably most practical for RV use. They hold 1 1/2 gallons and 2 3/4 gallons.
Vacuum insulated water bottles
We each carry a vacuum insulated bottle pretty much wherever we go. The liquid inside stays cold (or hot) for a long time! It's so refreshing on a warm day. There are many choices out there, but we both prefer a larger, wide-mouth bottle. Kevin carries a Hydroflask and I have a GSI Microlite.
Other kitchen items
Glass storage containers with locking lids
When we first hit the road, I was allergic to glass items and only brought plastic storage containers. Of course, they stain easily and eventually I gave in and replaced a couple with glass. The brand we have is Luminarc. We picked them up at a co-op. These pictured are similar. I like the vent in the lid and many containers don't have that.
Mesh produce bags
We cook mostly from scratch so finding a solution for plastic produce bags was a must. Sometimes I do without but the grocery checker will appreciate if you don't come up with a cart full of loose produce that they have to chase around. These mesh produce bags are awesome and come with the tare weight right on the tag. We've had them for several years and other than some stains (hi, beets) they show no signs of wear.
Reusable shopping bags
When looking at reusable shopping bags, not all options are created equal. This article has a chart showing the environmental impact of the different types of bags. The big loser is cotton. Most of us have probably received enough reusable shopping bags as free gifts, but if you do need to purchase them, the polyester ones are your best bet.
Silicon Zip Bags
I'd like to say that I've 100% replaced ziplock bags but I do still use them occasionally. But since we've bought some of these Rezip silicon bags in various sizes, our ziplock bag use has plummeted. Now, silicon does stain, so keep that in mind when dealing with colorful foods like beets.
Foldable velcro wrap
Many people are replacing plastic cling wrap with beeswax wraps. We don't use bee products so I've been searching for something similar that would be vegan friendly. We finally found this Ukonserve velcro wrap in a co-op. It doesn't fit over an open bowl but does stand in for many plastic wrap tasks. We use it for wrapping sandwiches and leftover avocado halves. It's easy to clean and has held up beautifully.
Onions are stinky and a cut one can stink up your whole fridge. It makes sense to have a dedicated container for them so the odors don't taint your storage containers, especially if they have any silicon, even if it's just the gasket. (Instant Pot owners know that silicon gaskets can soak up ALL the odors.) We have this onion keeper but there are loads of options out there.
Silicon baking mats
Cut down your use of foil and parchment paper with reusable silicon baking mats. They come in many sizes and shapes from standard half sheet cookie pans to round cake pans. You can even get them for your toaster oven. Bonus: it makes clean-up much easier.
We consider grill mats a camping essential. Use them on your own grill and you won't have to scrub it constantly. Use it on campground grills because you have no idea what's been on that grill. Again, using a grill mat will cut down on your use of foil and they clean up pretty easily.
Silicon stretch lids
If you have a few open bowls without lids that you use regularly, these silicon stretch lids can help you avoid using plastic wrap. You can also use them on some fruits.
We've been using these Scotch brand sponges because, honestly, they're the easiest to find. There are probably some out there that are more environmentally friendly, but these are at least better than conventional sponges. Remember, it's not about being perfect, it's about being better.
Reusable drip coffee filter
Because we boondock so much, we still use coffee filters. They don't require water to clean up and water is at a premium when you don't have hook-ups. But when we had our sticks and bricks, we had a reusable coffee filter like this. They come in different sizes and the cone shaped one too.
Reusable Aeropress filter
With an Aeropress coffee maker, you need a filter per cup instead of one per 12-cup pot. Of course, there are reusable filters for it, too. We have these and use them sometimes when we're in extreme low-power mode.
Reusable utensil set
We've put together our own sets using cases we got in Bali and bamboo utensils and metal straws we already had. But this is a nice kit with everything you need. Having wooden utensils rather that metal might also save you come grief if you fly with it. We had no issues with our metal straws though.
Toddy Cold Brew System
If you enjoy cold brewed coffee, it's really easy to make at home. The Toddy makes it dead simple and with its reusable filter it creates no trash except the used grounds. And those are great for your garden! We love ours but sometimes it leads to too much coffee consumption.
Swedish Dish Towels
These reusable Swedish Dish Towels can replace your paper towels or sponge. Wash them in your washing machine or dishwasher and when they're worn out, toss them in the compost.
Eco-Friendly Household Products
Low Flow Shower Head
Some municipalities hand out low flow shower heads for free. And they're usually terrible. But they don't have to be! We have an Oxygenics shower head like this one in our RV. We find that the water pressure it puts out is better than most campground showers. Limiting your water use in an RV means you can stay off of utilities longer. In a sticks and bricks it can save you money and it helps the environment.
Vinegar For Cleaning
There are tons of ways you can use vinegar as a non-toxic cleaner in your home. And you don't have to buy special cleaning vinegar unless you just feel like paying more. We just use regular white vinegar and that way we can use it in the kitchen and for cleaning. I mean, who doesn't like pickled onions?
Dr. Bronner’s - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap is fully biodegradable, vegan, concentrated soap you can use in many different ways from dishes to laundry to bathing to household cleaning. It comes in an assortment of scents plus unscented depending on your preference. Bonus: many co-ops have Dr. Bronner's available in their bulk area.
Instead of sheets, use reusable dryer balls to help fluff clothing and reduce static cling. Dryer balls can also reduce drying time by keeping clothing from sticking together.
Active Wash Detergent Ultra Concentrated Pod
These Dropps Active Wash Detergent Ultra Concentrated Pods work great in our new RV washer/dryer combo unit. We have a lot of clothes made of performance fabrics and these pods were made specifically to preserve and protect their elasticity and tech properties. And they had no problem getting the odors out of Kevin's workout clothes. 😁
Eco-Friendly Liquid Laundry Soap
If you'd rather have a laundry-specific product for washing clothing, you can make a better choice than those giant plastic containers. Biokleen is just one company that packages their non-toxic concentrated laundry soap in minimal recycled packaging.
Eco-Friendly Laundry Soap Pods
If you prefer the convenience of laundry soap pods to liquid, we really like Grab Green products. We've used these and found them effective even on dirty RVer clothes. The lavender scented one is quite nice.
Recycled Toilet Paper
Recycled toilet paper is pretty easy to find these days. The one we buy the most is Seventh Generation but we also pick up the store brand sometimes. We've tried bamboo toilet paper but there was something weird about it that we didn't like.
Recycled Paper Towels
If we still lived in a house, we would rely more on reusable alternatives to paper towels. But in an RV, storing the cloths, packing our hamper with the dirty cloths, and the extra laundry involved when you don't have a washer and dryer at your disposable makes them impractical for us. So we do the next best thing and use recycled paper towels, unbleached when we can find them. Again, we often buy Seventh Generation or the store brand, when available.
Eco-Friendly Personal Products
Personal care items can be full of tiny plastics called microbeads. These microbeads show up in all kinds of things like body wash, nail polish, toothpaste, among other things. Sadly, these microbeads are not filtered out by most water treatment and end up in our waterways and oceans. Microbeads and microplastics, larger plastics that have broken down into smaller pieces, can in turn end up in fish, including fish people eat.
Avoid buying personal care products that include:
- Polyethylene (PE)
- Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- Polypropylene (PP)
Toothpaste Tabs or Powder
Toothpaste tabs or powder usually come with less packaging than tubes of toothpaste and work just as well. There are many different flavors and formulations out there. Choose your favorite! You can even make your own toothpaste powder easily.
Solid Shampoo Bar
Hair care products come with a ton of waste. Buying larger bottles or in bulk can help but have you tried shampoo bars? They're more compact, easier to fly with and come with minimal packaging.
Eco-Friendly Menstrual Products
Periods are not a fun time but they can also generate lots of waste. Ultimately you need to choose what works best for you but there are a few options available now that can help reduce the impact. Even if you only use these occasionally it can make a difference.
The menstrual cup market has really taken off. There are now tons of options available including different sizes. A cup can last for many years so it one works for you it can save you money in additional to helping save the environment.
You might find that period panties will work for you. Period panties come in many sizes and for different flows. Whether you use them all the time or on lighter days, these panties can help reduce your environmental impact.
Washable, reusable menstrual pads are easier to change when you're out and about than period panties or menstrual cups. Your ideal arsenal might include some of each product.
What are your favorite eco-friendly products or waste-reducing tips?
We'd love to hear from you! Our post here is by no means an exhaustive list of eco-friendly products or tips.
There are so many different things you can do to approach zero waste from DIY products to upcycling to minimalism and more.
What're your favorite tips for reducing waste and sustainability that aren't covered here?
About the Author
vegan. full-time traveler. rv dweller. food lover. cow petter.