5 Things You Use That Are Destroying the Planet


As a crusader for the earth, you might be sipping your iced matcha latte from a stainless-steel straw, coyly looking over the rim of your sunnies while hashtagging #sustainability. You’ve stopped using plastic straws and bags, and disposable razors are on their way out of your bathroom too—yay! As much as small efforts like that deserve a gold star, sustainability on a whole is about making conscious choices in ALL products that you buy, even the ones that might not seem obviously destructive. Because guess what? Plastic creeps into even the most unsuspecting of our everyday products, significantly increasing our consumption. 

So, while we should definitely applaud our small wins, true plastic-free living is about taking stock of what we use often and changing up our routines to include more mindful purchasing.

Here are five things that you use that are destroying the planet, and switches that you can make to replace them.


1. Microbeads in face wash

Recently outlawed in Canada and the U.S., face washes that have microbeads in them are hugely popular in many countries, used for that gentle, exfoliating goodness our skin needs. As much as we’re all about #selfcare over here, have you ever stopped to think about what those microbeads are made of? You guessed it: plastic.  

Microbeads are teeny, tiny balls of plastic that swirl away, down our drains and sinks, only to enter into our waterways, destroying our soil, water supply, and marine life. For the literal seconds they are used for, they last an eternity on earth—they never fully break down.


Try this instead:


Find natural beauty brands that have alternatives to microbeads, make your own exfoliating masks using oats, or invest in a silicone cleansing tool. All of these options are great at sloughing away dead skin while ensuring the planet stays intact. 


2. Mylar balloons

While most of us already know that releasing balloons into the air is a pretty terrible thing to do (birds and wild animals often choke on them once they deflate), did you know that Mylar balloons (the big, trendy ones that are often bought for milestone events—think numbers and rings) wreak havoc on the earth even when not released?  

These balloons never fully degrade, as they are made from synthetic nylon with a metallic coating—basically, a recipe for disaster. Animals, both marine and land, often mistake deflated balloons for food, with sea turtles being particularly vulnerable as they confuse them for jellyfish. 


Try this instead:


There are tons of beautiful ways to celebrate, including floral wreaths, reeds, paper banners and bunting, leaf confetti, and bubbles. Get creative and binge all the Pinterest content when planning your next event.


3. Microfiber kitchen cloths

Popular kitchen cleaning cloths made from microfibers are great at keeping surfaces shiny, but come with a not-so-lustrous impact. These types of cloths (as well as your typical green and yellow kitchen sponge) are made from plastic. Their tiny microplastic fibers shed while in use or while being washed, entering our waterways and polluting our planet in an irreversible way. 

Even some cloths that claim they’re eco-friendly might have microplastic fibers in them, a common greenwashing move. Microplastics are one of the worst offenders when it comes to ocean pollution, as they’re basically impossible to capture by filtration systems, ending up in the stomachs of marine life, and oftentimes, ourselves too.


Try this instead:


Biodegradable sponge cloths, also known as Swedish Dish Cloths, are lovely, soft cloths that are made from wood pulp (cellulose) making them 100 percent biodegradable and compostable (that too, at home). They can replace up to 17 rolls of paper towels, last anywhere from 6-12 months, and because they’re made from plant fibers, never harbor that nasty kitchen cloth smell, according to Swedish dishcloth brand Ten and Co. They’re also inexpensive, making them a win in every way.


4. Glitter and sequins

OK, I know this might burst your bubble, but I’m here to deliver some sad new: glitter and sequins, the sparkly bits of joy in our lives, are also made from plastic. Both materials are notorious for ending up literally everywhere (internally shuddering at craft night gone wrong), so you can imagine the havoc they wreak on our environment.  

Because these particles are so tiny, they are almost impossible to capture once in our environment, where again, marine life and unsuspecting animals ingest them, as they will never biodegrade. If you’re someone who eats seafood, you might be consuming last year’s NYE party dress without even knowing it.


Try this instead:


When it comes to wanting to really sparkle in your outfit, consider a luxurious fabric like velvet or silk instead, and accessorize with sparkly jewels. To replace conventional glitter, try a biodegradable option from brands like Universal Soul or Eco Star Dust—these types of glitter are made from plants, not plastic.


5. Dryer sheets

A big trend in the sustainability world is the shift away from dryer sheets. Mainstream dryer sheets are made from synthetic polyester, an under-the-radar single-use plastic that is trashed with one use, lingering in our environment for eternity. Not only are they made from wasteful plastic, but they can contain potentially harmful chemicals and hidden fragrances that haven’t yet been fully researched for their health effects. Rolling around in fresh-from-the-dryer bed sheets doesn’t have quite the same appeal anymore, does it?


Try this instead:


A great alternative to conventional dryer sheets is wool balls. Made from yarn, these balls are multi-use, often lasting years. They take the static out of fabrics, are natural and biodegradable, and you can even add some scent with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. These wool balls also look super cute sitting in a little basket—much better than a giant box of dryer sheets that so doesn’t match your aesthetic. 


Choosing sustainable options over conventional might take some getting used to, but when it comes to the impact mainstream products have on our environment, the alternatives are becoming non-negotiables. With small steps (my motto is always “progress over perfection”) and intentional consuming habits, we can transform into mindful consumers, making our impact responsible and effective.