Design

These Are the Easy Sustainable Swaps Bob Vila Editors Are Making at Home

With a few small changes, learn how you can make your own impact on the planet–and maybe save some money while you’re at it.
An-assortment-of-sustainable-kitchen-products-sits-on-a-cloth-table.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Living green isn’t always easy. Years ago when recycling first came to homes, it seemed like a lot of trouble to sort the garbage into two separate bins. Now, for most families, it’s automatic. So when the editors here at Bob Vila were aiming to up our sustainability game, we took small consistent steps in the right direction. While some changes are big and obvious, like switching to an electric car, others are barely noticeable. But even a small swap we make to improve the environment can add up to make a difference–especially when we all make those changes together. We hope some of our swaps will inspire you to join us.

RELATED: 12 Best Reusable Products to Help You Reduce Waste at Home

1. I swapped a heavy-duty cleaning solution for a handheld steamer.

A blue handheld steamer is surrounded by accessories.
Photo: amazon.com

To get rid of some harsh chemicals in my home, I’ve been buying more eco-friendly cleaning solutions. But for tough jobs, like the gunk that builds up underneath the sink rim where it meets the back of the counter, I struggled to get the dissolving power I needed. Until I found this handheld steam cleaner at Amazon. It does the trick faster than anything else I’ve used, and it only requires a little bit of water to cover a large area. Plus, it is oddly satisfying to watch it work–sort of like hosing down your driveway. – Amy Anderson, Features Editor, Service & News

2. I swapped expensive paper towels for reusable Swedish dishcloths.

Blue and green Swedish dishcloths stand on a blue background.
Photo: dropps.com

Inflation and price hikes have made supermarket trips less than fun over the past year, but nothing is less welcome on my grocery list these days than paper products—especially paper towels. They may be useful, conveniently disposable, and aren’t too environmentally harmful when FSC-certified, but my paper towel consumption more than halved after I invested in a handful of Swedish dishcloths from sustainable cleaning brand Dropps. These machine-washable cloths (made of an ethically sourced blend of cellulose and cotton) are far more absorbent than the thickest wad of paper towels when dry, and they’re perfect for washing dishes and cleaning counters when wet. – Phillip Tinner, Editor, Service

RELATED: How to Replace (Almost) All of the Paper Products in Your Home

3. I started composting organic waste instead of trashing it.

A compost bin with food scraps is lined with a green compostable bag.
Photo: target.com

One way that I’ve been able to do a better job of recycling at home this year is through composting. While signing up for my city’s curbside organics recycling program was easy, changing my household’s food-prep habits was challenging. It took persistence—and these handy compostable bags—to develop a new routine that diverts vegetable scraps, eggshells, and more from the garbage can to the compost bin. At first, it helped to keep the box of bags on the kitchen counter as a visual reminder to recycle rather than trash organic waste, but now that my family has it down, the bags are tucked away in a drawer. – Jenny Stanley, Executive Editor, Service & News

RELATED: I Started Recycling in 2023—Here’s Why It’s Not What I Expected

4. I replaced all of my outdoor and garage CFL light bulbs with LEDs.

A hand reaches up and installs an LED light bulb under the overhang of a roof.
Photo: homedepot.com

We recently swapped out all of our primary use outdoor light bulbs from CFLs to EcoSmart LEDs. One of the immediate benefits we noticed with LEDs is that when you turn them on, they don’t take time to reach their full brightness as is the case with CFLs. Especially as CFLs age or are in a cold outdoor environment, they have a warm-up period of several minutes before they are at their max. Although we haven’t seen any noticeable impact on our energy bill, we know these bulbs are saving us money and will continue to do so over time. We also look forward to not having to replace bulbs as often as before, although despite their claims of lasting for many years, we have experienced an occasional LED that needs to be replaced prematurely. – Becky Helzer, Copy Editor

RELATED: Incandescent Light Bulb Ban—All of Your Questions Answered

5. I stopped using paper napkins and started using cloth.

A-yellow-cloth-napkin-is-folded-in-a-Fiestaware-bowl-in-a-place-setting.
Photo: istockphoto.com

My original motivation for using cloth napkins probably had more to do with setting a nicer table for a gourmet, home-cooked meal my husband and I were making than it did saving trees, but I’m a believer in cloth now. They are more substantial and clean better than paper napkins, and we just throw them in the wash with clothes and towels when the meal is over. Our family’s dinner napkins almost never match and are certainly never ironed, but their colorful patterns and our Fiestaware plates keep the vibe eclectic, festive, and sustainable over here. —Daryna Tobey, Deputy Editor, Service & News

RELATED: Bob Vila’s 11 Ideas to Invest in the Planet

6. I stopped using plastic bags when shopping for produce and got reusable mesh ones.

Fruit and vegetables are stored in white mesh reusable bags.
Photo: amazon.com

It is really easy to reach for a single-use plastic bag when shopping for produce. But, instead of using these bags, I decided to purchase the Natural Home Reusable Produce Bags. These handy bags come in multiple sizes, the drawstrings come in several colors, and they are machine-washable for an added bonus. Not only does this cut down on my household’s single-use plastics while grocery shopping, these are also great for keeping garments safe in the washer and dryer! – Alexandra Mantella, Commerce Content Update Editor