9 Biodegradable Swaps You Can Make

Biodegradable means that something will, given the right conditions, break down to its most basic elements and go back into the earth. Unfortunately, many single-use products are not made with biodegradable materials, causing enormous environmental damage. If you are willing to swap out some of the more harmful products you use, you can reduce your environmental impact.

four assorted-color straws beside coconut, bananas, and pineapple
Image by Giorgio Trovato

Straws: Switch out plastic straws for bamboo ones, which, although made using biodegradable bamboo, can be washed and reused. If you want a single-use biodegradable straw, paper straws will do fine. These days, more and more food and drink establishments are offering paper straws.

Cutlery: Single-use plastic forks, knives and spoons are detrimental to the environment, as they contribute to the chronic microplastic problem that is becoming a bigger problem each year. Microplastics are showing up in our bodies, the bottom of oceans and even the bodies of wild animals. Bring stainless steel cutlery with you whenever possible outside your home and become a part of the solution. When you do not have your reusable cutlery with you, see if the takeaway restaurant you are at has biodegradable cutlery, including cutlery made from wood.

Trash Bags: When buying trash bags, go for biodegradable options such as ones made out of corn or vegetables. Although it is better to use paper bags whenever possible, garbage that is wet does not work well with paper. In cases when you have leftover food, consider putting it into compost.

Pens: Believe it or not, there are biodegradable pens, and you should definitely get some. With all of the single-use pens thrown away each day, having a biodegradable one is a good idea.

two toothbrush in mason jar
Image by Superkitina

Toothbrushes: When you are waking up in the morning or going to bed at night, think about what you are using when you brush your teeth. Although most people buy and use plastic toothbrushes, there are many eco-friendly alternatives available today, including bamboo bases and nylon bristles. With more of these toothbrushes being made, prices are coming down, so do not hesitate to pick one (or several) up today.

Toothpaste: Speaking of teeth, you can now find toothpaste options that will not contribute to the plastic crisis. Many companies are now selling toothpaste tablets, usually packaged in glass containers, which is an alternative to the usual plastic packaging. After you bite down on a toothpaste tablet, you can brush with it as normal. Your teeth (and the environment) will thank you!

Toilet Paper: A bathroom essential is now available in biodegradable materials. Biodegradable toilet paper is a more environmentally friendly version of regular toilet paper. Its fibres are a bit shorter, and therefore break down more easily. Not only is this option better for the planet, but it is also better for your home’s septic system, which can only take so much!

Sunscreen: As we previously wrote, it is very important to buy sunscreen that is both healthy and nontoxic to your body as well as to the environment. Use sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as these are biodegradable, non-toxic and reef-safe. Avoid using sunscreens with chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. Your body and the coral reefs will thank you!

Bowls, Cups & Plates: When you need to buy single-use plates and bowls, consider biodegradable alternatives, such as those made from vegetable starches, bamboo and sugarcane. It looks the same and feels the same as paper, and can be purchased for around the same prices as traditional paper or plastic bowls, cups and plates. If you wish, there are even some edible options!

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