A version of this story appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Uncommon Path.
Living more sustainably doesn’t require denying yourself life-affirming pleasures, like the joy of slurping a smoothie through a straw before your next hike. Start by making small changes, like paying attention to how much single-use plastic waste you generate and buying products that are made more sustainably. These 10 products can make you feel virtuous and still leave plenty of room for fun.
These sheets made of beeswax and cotton are a great alternative to single-use plastic wrap. The assorted sizes can pack up food like bread, cheese and veggies, or cover a bowl. Plus, they’re easy to clean, so you can deploy them again and again. ($18 for 3)
Investing in a reusable container can help you stop using single-use plastic water and soda bottles. We especially like the 32-ounce Hydro Flask, which keeps your drink hot for up to six hours or cold for up to 24. ($39.95)
Made with a moldable recycled-cork base, these inserts provide ample support. Although they’re ideal for hiking, the insoles are customizable to fit your everyday shoes, too. They also have an antimicrobial topsheet to inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria. ($59 a pair)
Ditch plastic in favor of these reusable flexible containers. Beyond storing your lunch, you can use them to bake, microwave and even cook sous vide. They can also be used as your quart-size bag for TSA-compliant toiletries. ($11.95 each)
Houdini Mr Dunfri and Mrs Dunfri Jackets
This lightweight synthetic outer layer (its Swedish name, Dunfri, translates to “down-free”) is breathable, warm and quick-drying. It is made with recycled materials and can be returned to Houdini to be recycled when it’s worn-out. ($320) Available soon at REI stores and on REI.com.
We’ve probably all used a plastic foam cooler at a cookout, during a float down the river or on a car-camping trip. But plastic foam can’t be easily recycled at most facilities. That’s why Igloo created the reusable Recool Cooler. It’s made with recycled materials and retains ice for up to 12 hours. ($9.95)
All SAOLA shoes are made with recycled plastic bottles, organically grown cotton, cork and algae foam. Yes, that’s right: The slimy gunk you see floating on lakes and rivers is turned into lightweight, durable foam for the insoles in these kicks. This process clears algae from waterways, and SAOLA says each pair recirculates 240 bottles of filtered water back to natural habitats. ($99.95)
Americans use about 500 million plastic straws daily, but most recycling facilities won’t accept them and they don’t biodegrade. As they break into smaller pieces, those microplastics can get into our oceans and waterways. Instead, opt for a stainless steel model. This one folds into a tiny keychain case. ($24.50)
The next time you upgrade your phone, choose a case you won’t have to throw away. The Pela, which comes in several sizes, is made from plants and is compostable. The brand also invests 1 percent of its total sales in nonprofits that help protect coastlines, oceans, parks and more. ($39)
Raw Elements Sunscreen and Lip Rescue
This SPF 30 sunscreen and lip balm both feature a biodegradable, water-resistant, zinc-oxide-based formula. With these, you can head for the beach free of oxybenzone and octinoxate—two common UV-blocking chemicals that can harm coral reefs. (Sunscreen: $18.95; Lip Rescue: $5.95)