Why an Eco-guide
At Brighten Solar, we find it important to be mindful of what we consume and purchase, and we believe that a more sustainable lifestyle is not only about going solar, but also consuming more environmentally friendly products and services. Thankfully, the recent years have seen many new emerging brands launching more sustainable alternatives, making it easier for us to substitute our traditional products with more eco-friendly options. But these brands, however great, can sometimes have a hard time reaching the general public.
You don’t know what you don’t know
Most of us assume that products sold to the public are safe. Safe for us, and for the environment. In reality, regulations are not as strict as they should and looking at labels to understand the composition of the products you’re buying is a necessity. It can be daunting and overwhelming for most of us who don’t own a PhD in chemistry, though. While researching for eco-friendly products, we got so many “aha” moments, realizing as we were searching that some of the products, so ingrained in our daily lives, were actually total nonsense. Think about these non recyclable plastic laundry jugs filled with 90% water for instance.
Helping our community shift their mindset and lifestyle
We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our community to find eco-friendly products, so we put this “eco-friendly guide” together. To make it even simpler, we linked the products so they are literally just a click away!
Before we dive in, a few things are worth mentioning:
** Brighten Solar Co. (or any of its employees) does NOT receive any affiliate commission for referencing any of the listed products and services. Our mission goes beyond helping people go solar as we believe in helping people consume more sustainably.
** This is an iterative project. We will keep adding more products as we discover and test them.
** We always try to shop local before using online resources, but sometimes we couldn’t find an option locally. We listed some local stores we tested and liked, but the list is not exhaustive and we will keep adding shops as we’re making great discoveries!
** If you think of any items we have missed on this guide, or ideas you have been implementing at home, feel free to reach out and let us know, we will be happy to test and add them to our list!
> Vegetable bag
Keeping your vegetables in a plastic bag in your fridge is not only creating additional plastic waste, but it prevents your vegetables from the moisture they need to stay fresh. Organic cotton vegetable bags are a great alternative!
Tip: if you do have plastic bags, keep them to reuse them next time you shop for vegetables at the market or grocery store.
> Beeswax wraps
Similarly to plastic vegetable bags, plastic wraps used on containers or to store food are contributing to plastic waste. Beeswax wraps are reusable, compostable, durable, and a sustainable way to store food while making a big impact on our planet. Bee’s Wrap – Beeswax wraps, or find them locally at Sunkissed Pantry: Beeswax wraps.
Bonus: Sunkissed Pantry is a woman-owned Zero Waste store in Santa Barbara. We love supporting entrepreneurial women!
> Reusable cutlery set
This can be a great gift idea for someone who enjoys picnics. Bamboo is a good alternative to plastic and helps make the switch from single-use cutlery. Etsy – Reusable Bamboo Cutlery Set
> Cleaning brushes
When it comes to cleaning supplies such as sponges and scrub brushes, a lot of them end up straight in landfills due to their non recyclable composition. Sustainable alternatives such as sponges made from natural and compostable materials, or reusable paper towels are a great switch. https://zerowasteoutlet.com/collections/kitchen
> Solid dish soap
A bar soap, made with natural ingredients such as various oils can easily replace liquid dish soaps that can contain toxic ingredients and come in plastic bottles. Sunkissed Pantry – Dish soap bar
(Photo credit: iStock.com/klenova)
> All-in-one cleaner
Wouldn’t it be great having only one cleaning product under the sink to clean around the house? An all-in-one cleaner is a great solution to get rid of the many cleaning plastic bottles. You can either make your own by mixing water, white vinegar, and baking soda with any essential oils for a fresh scent (several recipes here). Or, this little device called “Force of nature” is another great alternative: it offers a safe all-in-one cleaning solution that uses electricity to convert salt, vinegar, and water into electrolyzed water. Some of us have been using this at home and it has been working great. It is also safe for kids and pets.
> Reusable paper towels
Did you know that paper towels contribute to deforestation, global warming, and increase waste production? You have the option to switch your single-use paper towel rolls with reusable, fabric rolls that you can wash and use over and over to clean up around the house. Sunkissed Pantry – Unpaper towels
> Compostable trash bags
Traditional trash bags are made of polyethylene, a petroleum-based resin that is not biodegradable and contributes to fossil fuel production. Compostable trash bags are a good alternative. HoldOn – Compostable trash bags
> Reusable coffee filters
Many coffee filters are non-compostable, thus increasing our waste production. For coffee lovers, considering buying a reusable, natural cotton coffee filter is another great zero-waste step. Etsy – Cotton coffee filter
> Sustainable lunch box
Whether it is for yourself or your little ones, packing lunch in plastic bags or plastic lunch boxes is adding to the plastic pollution issue. Stainless steel or biodegradable lunch boxes are durable, sustainable, and no more plastic wraps or bags are necessary. Planetbox – Stainless steel lunchbox
> Reusable food storage bags
Storing food items in single-use plastic bags increases the number of plastic in landfills. Switching to reusable storage bags allows you to store your items the same way, while decreasing the amount of plastic waste. Stasher – Storage bags
> Airtight silicone lids
Similarly to plastic storage bags, foil and plastic wraps pollute our landfills and are one-time use. If you do not already have beeswax wraps, another durable alternative is reusable lids that you can put on bowls, plates, and other containers to keep your products fresh. Amazon – Silicone lids
> Reusable bread bag
If you have a habit of buying bread from a bakery, having a reusable bread bag will help reduce single-use plastic. It will also keep your bread fresher at home. ONYA – Bread bags
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Space_Cat)
> Detergent tablets an concentrates
Traditional detergent jugs contain 90% of water and lots of chemicals not so great for your health or for our planet, including phosphate, dyes, formaldehyde, and more. Making the switch to waterless laundry detergent is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and opt for clean ingredients. Blueland offers detergent tablets that come in a metal tin you can refill and are made with clean ingredients. You can also combine the tablets with the laundry booster to tackle stains and odors. Etee offers a concentrated laundry detergent, free of harsh chemicals and plastic of any kind.
**Disclaimer: We have previously recommended on our Eco-Guide to replace detergent jugs with detergent sheets. However, as we continue to learn and discover new products, we have recently found out that most detergent sheets and pods contain Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), a water-soluble synthetic polymer derived from petroleum and marketed as “biodegradable”. Although PVA fully dissolves in water, the caveat is that it requires specific microbes to fully break down, which are not always present in our traditional wastewater treatment plants. Thus, studies (Forbes, Plastic Oceans, Rolsky & Kelkar) explain that PVA is likely to reach and harm ecosystems beyond the treatment plants as it is not guaranteed to disappear through the different treatments.
> Wool dryer balls
Wool dryer balls can replace both fabric softener and dryer sheets, most are made from 100% wool, contain no chemicals or synthetics, and can be used for over 1000 loads! As opposed to dryer sheets and fabric-softener plastic bottles, these dryer balls are waste-free and reduce dry time. Sunkissed Pantry – Dryer Balls
> Stain remover
To completely remove plastic bottles from your laundry routine, you can also ditch the stain remover bottles that are non recyclable and full of harmful chemicals. You can opt for a stain remover bar, which looks just like a bar soap, that you can rub on your stain before washing your clothes. Etee – Laundry Stain Bar
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Helin Loik-Tomson)
> Shampoo bars
Shampoo and conditioner bars are a great gift for someone looking to better their hair care routine and cut their plastic waste. Most traditional shampoos and conditioners come in plastic bottles and contain lots of harmful ingredients. Many brands now propose these alternatives that come in plastic-free packaging, last a long time, and contain only natural ingredients. The Earthling Co – Shampoo bars (cruelty free)
> Wooden hairbrush
Another plastic item from your routine that can be easily replaced with a sustainable option is your hairbrush! You can opt for a biodegradable hairbrush made with a natural bamboo handle, bamboo bristles, and natural rubber. Sunkissed Pantry – Natural bamboo brush
> Reusable makeup remover pads
Trading disposable makeup wipes and single-use cotton pads for reusable cloths is a great way to reduce waste production. Reusable cloths are washable, made from natural materials, and do as good of a job! The Earthling Co – Reusable Bamboo Cotton Rounds
> Bamboo cotton swabs
Traditional cotton swabs are made of plastic and most often come in plastic packaging, which only adds up to the plastic issue. A great alternative are cotton swabs made of natural bamboo and cotton which are biodegradable, and also come in biodegradable packaging. Zero Waste Outlet – Biodegradable swabs
> Bamboo toilet paper
Although not as attractive, it is important to note that traditional toilet paper causes both environmental and health issues. Indeed, toilet paper comes in large part from the Canadian boreal forest, a climate-critical ecosystem on the planet acting as one of the largest carbon sinks. The logging of this forest releases 26 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. In addition, toilet paper contains harmful chemicals such as bleaching agents, formaldehyde, and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) known as “forever chemicals”. PFAS do not break down in the environment and our bodies, they are resistant to water, grease, and heat. They are used in toilet paper when converting wood to pulp as a way to increase the process efficiency. PlantPaper offers toilet paper made from FSC-certified, organically-grown bamboo pulp. Bamboo is one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, requires little water, no fertilizers, and regenerates on its own after cutting. It also has the capability to store a lot more carbon than trees, of which 40% is stored underground and not released when the plant is harvested. The toilet paper is also made without any PFAS, bleach, formaldehyde, and BPAs.
> Bamboo toothbrush
Plastic toothbrushes in U.S. landfills will take over 500 years to break down. Trading disposable plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes is a great idea. Sunkissed Pantry – Bamboo toothbrush. If you are used to an electric toothbrush, you can opt for the SURI toothbrush made from plant-based material and recyclable.
> Biodegradable dental floss
Traditionally, dental floss is sold in a plastic packaging and made of nylon, which can take many years to break down in landfills. Some dental floss now come in plastic-free and refillable packaging such as metal or glass jars, and are made from natural ingredients such as plant-based nylon, corn starch, or silk, and vegetable wax. Better and Better – Natural floss
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Yuliya Apanasenko)
> Natural and refillable deodorant
Do you ever think about the number of plastic deodorant sticks you go through in a year? Imagine replacing that with a refillable deodorant with biodegradable refills, to further reduce waste from your routine! https://www.wearewild.com/
> Metal safety razor
Disposable razors create a lot of plastic waste, and similarly to plastic toothbrushes, a simple care item that we use every day can truly add up in landfills! Metal safety razors are a durable and plastic-free option. Sunkissed Pantry – Safety razor
(Photo credit: Sunkissed Pantry)
> Recyclable wrapping paper
Every year in the U.S., 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is used, and each pound emits 3.5 pounds of CO2 when made. Choosing to use recyclable wrapping paper can have a great impact, especially during the Holidays. Wrappily offers 100% recyclable and compostable wrapping paper with reversible patterns! Wrappily – Recyclable Wrapping Paper.
You can also use Kraft paper, as well as cotton ribbons, burlap or fabric bags, and greenery for decoration.
> Reusable gift bag
Other alternatives to traditional wrapping paper are reusable gift bags, pouches, or wraps! They come in many different shapes and designs, and most are made from natural cotton. Etsy – Reusable Gift Bags
> Ribbons and decoration
To decorate your gift wraps, you can skip the synthetic bows or stickers that are not recyclable and opt for a more natural and earthy look using pine branches, pinecones, holly sprigs, dried fruits, dried flowers, cinnamon sticks, or other greenery.
(Photo credit: iStock.com/marinesea)
> Reef-safe & plastic-free sunscreen
Did you know that many sunscreen products contain chemicals harmful to coral reefs and marine life? Thankfully, there are brands offering products made from alternative and natural ingredients that will protect your skin and the oceans. Raw Elements offers a zero-waste packaging that is fully compostable.
> Bucket hat
This Girlfriend Collective bucket hat will be ideal for all your summer outdoor activities. Bonus points: it is made from 50% recycled cotton and 50% organic cotton, which makes it fully biodegradable!
Sunglasses are summer essentials that come in all shapes, materials, and colors. Blue Planet Eco-Eyewear offers a variety of glasses made from natural and recycled materials to help reduce waste from landfills and oceans.
> Beach towels
Turkish cotton is a strong, durable, and very absorbent material that creates reliable beach towels. Sand Cloud’s towels are made from 100% Turkish organic cotton and come in various designs. Sand Cloud partners with non-profit organizations that advocate for marine life conservation.
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Marcin Roszkowski)
Did you know that swimsuits can be made out of old fishing nets? Berlook and Patagonia design men’s and women’s swimwear made with recycled nylon, which helps divert finishing nets from our landfills.
> Biodegradable beach toy set
Have you ever stumbled across abandoned plastic toys on the beach? Plastic toys can easily be left behind, buried in the sand polluting the beach, or making their way to the ocean to become harmful microplastics. This biodegradable toy set is made of bamboo fibers that will reduce harm for the environment in the degradation process.
> Tote bag
To complete the eco-living summer look, keep all of your essentials in the Neococo tote bag, handmade in Los Angeles from 100% recycled canvas cotton.
> Refillable toiletries bottles
Packing all of your liquid bathroom essentials into reusable travel bottles will help you reduce disposable travel-size plastic bottle waste. Human Gear offers a variety of reusable travel essentials.
> Water filter bottle
When traveling, tap water is not always a safe option, but to reduce plastic water bottle consumption, choosing a reusable water filter bottle is a good alternative. Lifestraw’s stainless steel bottle comes with an integrated filter for better-tasting and safer water while traveling.
> Reusable cutlery set
A portable and reusable cutlery set is a great way to reduce single-use plastic while traveling or eating on the go. This set is made from organic wheat straw fiber, it is durable, non-toxic, and biodegradable.
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Igishevamaria)
> Natural insect repellant
This natural and zero-waste insect repellent contains only plant-derived ingredients, no DEET, and is made in Oregon. Bonus: its packaging is fully compostable!
> Hemp backpack
Why not switch your synthetic material backpack for an environmentally friendly option? 8000 Kicks offers a collection of backpacks made from hemp fiber, which is vegan, extremely durable, and sustainable.
> Yoga mat & mat bag
For all of our yoga fans, there are options to trade a typical PVC mat for a mat made out of biodegradable or natural materials, such as cork, natural rubber, or organic cotton. You can even store them in a handmade recycled sari yoga mat bag made with recycled cotton from saris by Local Women’s Handicraft (LWH) in Nepal. JadeYoga Mats & Mat bag
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Poike)
BACK TO SCHOOL
Many school supplies are made of plastic and often end up in the trash at the end of the school year, eventually polluting landfills. To help reduce the environmental impact of school supplies, we are sharing a list of sustainable alternatives. However, before purchasing new supplies, even made of sustainable materials, remember to reuse what you have at home and to go through your stock of supplies to purchase only what you need!
(Photo credit: iStock.com/netrun78)
> Recycled paper notebook
Made in the USA, this notebook is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, coil binding and printed with soy ink. It also ships in plastic-free packaging!
> Recycled fiber pocket folders
These pocket folders are made from 100% recycled post-consumer fiber and are a great alternative to vinyl-covered pocket folders that are broken down into microplastics.
> Beeswax crayons
Most crayons are made of paraffin wax that is derived from petroleum and can take decades to decompose in landfills. These beeswax crayons are handmade from 100% natural and non-toxic food-grade ingredients. They also ship in plastic-free packaging.
> Recycled newspaper colored pencils
These colored pencils are made from 100% recycled newspaper and graphite, lead-free, and ship in plastic-free packaging.
> Wheat straw pens
These retractable ballpoint pens are made from wheat straw, a natural material and are refillable for years of use!
> Plantable pencil
The Sprout pencil is a wooden pencil made with a cellulose capsule that can be planted once you’ve finished using the pencil. The capsule contains herbs, flowers, vegetables, or spruce trees seeds that will grow once planted and give a second life to your pencil!
> Bamboo pencil sharpener and ruler
> Recycled rubber eraser
These Onyx & Green erasers are made from recycled rubber rather than raw rubber in order to minimize virgin resource extraction.
> Plant-based glue sticks
These glue sticks are made from 100% non-toxic and plant-based ingredients that are safe for kids and adults. They are packaged in recycled plastic tubes and recycled carton boxes.
> Cotton pencil case
What better than a cotton pencil case to carry all of your sustainable supplies? This Etsy shop designs 100% handwoven cotton pencil cases with colorful patterns.
> Recycled fabric backpack
And to complete the sustainable back-to-school look, this backpack made from 100% recycled fabric waste and recycled nylon will fit all of your necessities!
> Hemp accessories
Our four-legged friends can also make the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle! The Good Dog Company creates hemp pet products (collars, leashes, harnesses, and toys) that are made from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton. These products are made in the U.S., hypoallergenic, and durable.
> Biodegradable poop bags
Sunkissed Pantry is a local Santa Barbara shop offering a variety of eco-friendly products, including a pets collection with biodegradable, mint-scented poop bags.
> Zero-waste shampoo
Similar to human bar shampoos and conditioners, zero-waste pet shampoos are also available. The Zero Waste Store offers all natural, vegan, and zero-waste pet shampoo bars.
(Photo credit: iStock.com/Eva Blanco)
The space required to compost can often be a problem. A small compost container, made out of cork and recycled plastic, will make it easy to drop your food waste and create a natural fertilizer for your plants at home, all from your kitchen counter! Learn more about how to compost by reading this article.
ZERO WASTE PARTIES
Between decorations, plates, utensils, napkins, balloons, etc, parties can create a lot of waste! Whether you need to plan a birthday party, kids’ hangout, a Holiday event, or simply have lots of friends and family coming over, opting for reusable and sustainable decoration is the way to go!. Forget about plastic cups, plates and cutlery, paper napkins, and plastic table covers, the following options are amazing alternatives that you can either compost or reuse for every party.
> Reusable Bamboo Plates
> Compostable tableware
> Aluminum cups
> Reusable napkins
> Reusable tablecloth
> Reusable decorations
> Sustainable clothing
In addition to being a large polluter, the clothing industry is known for producing a lot of waste. Purchasing durable and sustainable clothing can make a difference. Organic Basics offers a large collection of clothing, all made from natural, renewable, recycled, biodegradable, and low-impact textiles.
> Sustainable activewear
Girlfriend Collective offers a wide range of activewear that is made from recycled materials like post-consumer water bottles, fishing nets retrieved from the seas, fabric scraps, and other waste. Their packaging is also 100% recycled and recyclable
> Worn Wear
Worn Wear is a Patagonia program through which you can trade in or buy used Patagonia gear. It aims to keep clothing in use for a longer period of time and reduce overall consumption. You can also have your items repaired through this program.
> Zero-waste sneakers
Thousand Fell designs men’s and women’s sneakers made from corn waste, coconut husk, and recycled bottles. These vegan, stain-proof, and waterproof sneakers are fully recyclable. You can participate in a circular economy by sending Thousand Fell your old clothing and footwear to be recycled and earning credits towards your future purchases.
> Kids and women
Asher Market is one of our favorite Santa Barbara shops and has great apparel and gift options for kids and women. It offers a large selection of clothing designed in California and sourced from recycled fabric purchased in Peru. Everything is made out of materials such as Pima cotton and alpaca wool for silky soft and high-quality products.
> Clothing take back bag
Emptying closets often results in a lot of waste, even if you are donating them to your local thrift stores. ForDays offers take-back bags that you can fill up with clothes you no longer need and send it back to them for recycling, reusing, and regenerating. They accept all textiles and make it really easy to participate in a circular economy. We LOVE!
(Photo credit: Asher Market)
Rooted Santa Barbara County is a local nonprofit mobilizing Santa Barbara County to grow health equity and resilience through whole food plant-based nutrition education and support. You can learn how to bring more plant-based and planet-friendly foods into your meals through accessible nutrition and food skills tips. In 2023, Rooted will be launching a free online learning platform for go-at-your-own-pace learning on plant-based nutrition and simple how-to-videos on prepping plant-based foods at home. Check out their website, newsletter, blog, and social media for more information.
> Get Hooked
Get Hooked is a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) offering a subscription-based delivery program of high-quality, sustainably caught, local seafood. The subscription covers 4 deliveries on a weekly schedule to your home or a neighborhood pick-up site, with the fresh catch of the day according to your seafood preferences. The weekly newsletter will also tell you all about who caught your fish, how and where, and provide cooking tips and recipes.
(Photo credit: iStock.com/vaaseenaa)
Yuka is an application that enables you to scan your food and cosmetic products to evaluate their composition. It is a great tool to better understand products’ labels and have the knowledge to make the right choices for your health.
> Environmental Working Group
The EWG is an environmental nonprofit organization that provides public health information through education and research. At Brighten, we like to use this resource to stay aware of health and environmental issues and legislation and get the knowledge we need to continue our journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle.