Inside the Low-Impact Home

A hectic family life overwhelms enough without carrying the weight of the world upon your shoulders. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from the time I’ve been doing my little Instagram adventure @plasticfreemamma, it’s that the key is to start where you are. Small changes can go a long way toward reducing your family’s environmental impact at home.

Here are some tips for ways to reduce your family’s environmental impact starting in your own home.

DO: Start small
Just start. Unplug from the disposable culture and build some new habits around less stuff and more joy.

DO: What’s affordable
Swapping out some products for others can be too expensive. Do what you can, and don’t feel guilty about what you can’t.

DON’T: Forget shipping
Some #zerowaste and #plasticfree ideas on the internet look good in theory but don’t necessarily equate to being earth friendly once you factor in shipping and packaging.

 bring your own bags to store

Bulk shopping. When bulk shopping, bring your own reusable bag or jar—that’s the waste-reduction point. For shops that insist on plastic, just wash and re-use your existing plastic bags over (and over and over) again.

wax fabric 

Ditch the plastic wrap. Plastic cling-wrap is a no-brainer to give up using. You can get fancy with beeswax wraps (make your own!) or simply use a durable storage container.

 dish soap

Dishwasher soap. Easy change: Olive oil kitchen bar soap is a satisfying swap for bottled liquid dish soap. Use a big block of this soap and add a natural bristle scrub brush to avoid disposable sponges full of plastic microfibers. Find these in Portland at IndigoTraders.com or CargoInc.com.

 cleaning products

DIY cleaners. Cleaning products are easy and fun to make yourself with low-impact, readily available ingredients like white vinegar (buy it in glass) and baking soda (in a box!). Infuse your vinegar with citrus rinds for a couple of weeks for a great smell. Re-use a glass bottle while you’re at it.

bring your own dishes 

BYO. Even swapping a paper bag for a plastic one comes with its own set of environmental impacts. Bring your own cup, bags and to-go containers for just about any occasion. Even if a container says “recyclable” or “biodegradable,” all to-go containers are headed to your trash can.


Plastic-free produce. Your great-grandma had it right when she wrapped her greens in a damp dish towel in the fridge. Go ahead, throw that produce in your shopping basket naked. When you get home, keep it fresh by wrapping it in a damp cloth, treating it like a bouquet of flowers by putting it upright in water or wrapping it in some beeswax wrap.


Zero-waste coffee and tea. It’s super simple to use your own container or re-use a coffee bag (they’re not recyclable) for whole bean coffee at the grocery store or coffee shop. Switch to a French press or reusable filter for an even more low-waste caffeine experience. Tea drinkers have it a bit tougher. Most tea bags contain plastic, and if the teabag happens to be compostable, the sachet it’s packaged in isn’t. Buying bulk tea is a pleasure. Try local TheJasminePearl.com.

cellulose sponge 

Scrubs. Replace disposable sponges with compostable scrubs and cloths, wooden and natural-bristle scrub brushes, and these cute Swedish cellulose dishcloths. Cutting up an old cotton towel into squares works, too.


Fabric napkins. Paper napkins, paper towels, kitchen sponges—these are all things that can be replaced with a washable cloth version. Cloth napkins for kids?! You bet! They don’t have to be fancy. Just reusable.