Staff Writer Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…See full bio
Whether you’re an eco-friendly expert or just starting to lower your impact on the planet, it’s never too late to swap over to more sustainable products, and thanks to California’s plethora of eco-conscious brands, it’s easier than ever to go green. If you’ve been doing your research, you’ve likely heard of Plastic Free July—an initiative that challenges people around the world to reduce the amount of single-use plastics and disposable items they go through in their daily lives—but every month is a great opportunity to reduce waste and find products you can love for years to come.
While it might seem daunting to lead a trash-free lifestyle (or even to make a simple swap), it’s important to remember that every small act counts and that a lot of people making small changes leads to a large impact. As many incredible plastic-free industry leaders will tell you, a group of people imperfectly living sustainably is more impactful than one person living perfectly sustainably—so do what you can, and don’t sweat it if you’re not making eco-friendly swaps for everything in your life.
Also note that the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already own; you don’t have to rush out and implement every change right this minute, so use what you have and switch to a sustainable version when you need to make another purchase. Once you’re ready to make the jump and choose low-impact alternatives, these are the Golden State’s best eco-friendly products you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.
There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint, so we’ve rounded up our favorite swaps for every area of life. From eco-friendly kitchen products and sustainable clothing to environmentally-friendly cleaning products and sunscreens, these items will help you leave the harmful plastics behind and care for Mother Nature.
Plastic straws are very harmful to the environment—consumers typically only use them for a few minutes, but they stick around for our lifetimes and beyond, polluting the ocean and harming marine animals. Santa Barbara’s FinalStraw offers eco straws that conveniently fold into a carrying case for easy transportation. Whether you’re enjoying lemonade on your porch or drinking iced coffee on the go, these rust-proof, stainless steel straws (with silicone ends so your lips never have to touch the metal) make the ideal drink companions.
Bags and Food Containers
Single-use plastic bags and food containers are among the most wasteful items in our kitchens, so trading in these items can make a huge difference over time—and save you money in the long run. Opt for multi-use alternatives such as Emeryville’s Stasher Bags and Pleasanton’s MIRA Brands metal food storage containers, and watch your plastic consumption rapidly decrease. Whether you’re filling your fridge with leftovers or packing up seasonal produce from your favorite CSA box for a picnic in the yard, these plastic-free options are ready to take on whatever you have planned.
Invest in some eco-friendly produce bags, too, in order to decrease your footprint even further. Not only are they great for shopping at the grocery store and avoiding plastic produce bags, but also for storing all your loose items in the pantry. From onions and apples to oatmeal and grains, reusable bags—such as those from Los Gatos’ Simple Ecology—can handle it all.
Traditional drip coffee makers use paper filters, making them unnecessarily wasteful. When it’s time for an upgrade, get a French press from Pleasanton’s MIRA Brands to avoid disposable filters altogether, or go with a travel-friendly coffee maker from Palo Alto’s AeroPress. Choose the AeroPress Go so you can take it with you on your camping and boating adventures—and everything in between. This nifty brewer can make regular coffee, espresso, and cold brew–style coffee, and the small filters are both biodegradable and compostable, so your mind can rest easy.
If you’re looking for go-to reusable products, you absolutely need a reliable water bottle—one that isn’t made of single-use plastic. Invest in a glass water bottle from San Francisco’s bkr or a metal water bottle from Klean Kanteen, and you’ll be ready for whatever adventures come your way.
Another easy way to live more sustainably is to get a reusable to-go mug so you can take your homemade brew with you on your weekend excursions or on your way to work. Opt for a ceramic travel version from San Francisco’s Soma mugs, and you’ll be sipping in style while keeping single-use cups out of the landfill.
When you first start thinking about living an eco-friendly lifestyle, clothing might not strike you as one of the most impactful swaps, but the truth is, sustainable fashion makes a huge difference for the planet. After cheaply-made clothing is discarded, most of it sits in landfills. To compound this issue, microplastics are released from the cheap, synthetic plastic fibers, polluting the waterways, air, and public lands. Choosing ethically-made, sustainable fabrics reduces the amount of resources necessary to make the garments—for example, growing enough non-organic cotton to make a T-shirt takes 2,500-plus liters of water, while organic cotton typically uses around 80 percent less water.
California brands—such as the North Face, Athleta, and Patagonia—provide eco-friendly alternatives to fast fashion and can take you everywhere you need to go. Whether you’re hiking at Mount Diablo, doing downward dog at a yoga studio, or walking around your favorite cities, you’ll always feel good about wearing these sustainably made clothes.
Sustainable outdoor gear and workout equipment uses renewable resources and avoids microplastics, so you can enjoy the places you love without harming them. Grab a picnic blanket from Burbank’s Laguna Beach Textile Company, a hydration pack from Camelbak, a sleeping bag from Marmot, and a yoga mat from Manduka to reduce your plastic footprint and get ready for whenever adventure calls. While you’re at it, pick up some sustainable backpacks, a tent, and hiking shoes from these incredible companies, and you’ll be set season after season.
There’s a surprising amount of chemicals and harmful ingredients in the vast majority of beauty products. Since cosmetics and skincare items aren’t meant for ingestion, they’re not subjected to rigorous standards, but if you’ve ever put on lip balm and then sipped a drink, chances are you’ve consumed the products. So instead of worrying about these toxic ingredients, it’s time to make the switch to natural and non-harmful products.
Upgrade your skincare routine with hand and body soap from San Francisco’s J.R. Watkins. Then, soothe your skin with products from OSEA, Ama Sea Beauty and Le Prunier—but make sure to start with a layer of mineral sunscreen from Raw Minerals or All Good. Lastly, opt for clean beauty products and eco-friendly hair care items to complete the look.
Finally, it’s time to clean the house with sustainable cleaning products from San Francisco’s Grove Collaborative. Grove is a 100-percent plastic-neutral company with exacting standards; every item it makes and sells must be cruelty-free and comply to non-toxic, efficacy, and sustainability standards. Offering everything from laundry detergent and dish brushes to reusable paper towels and multi-surface sprays, Grove gives you the supplies you need to clean your place without worrying about toxic chemicals or pollution.
Now that you’ve got all the eco-friendly products you need to live a more sustainable, lower-plastic life, you’re ready to take on the world.
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