Between trying to limit my proximity to others during the pandemic and challenges finding some products, grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic has been extremely stressful. I’ve been trying to order groceries for delivery or curbside pickup as much as possible to maintain distance between me and others. I normally try to shop as sustainably as possible by bringing my own produce bags and containers so I can buy things in bulk. For obvious reasons, however, most stores have temporarily paused allowing customers to bring their own containers. I think this is for the best. I’m not willing to compromise on the ingredients of some of the cleaning products I use, though, and there are some products that have been challenging to find whether you’re looking for “regular” or sustainable versions. I’ve realized that this time while I’m already getting creative with grocery solutions is a good opportunity to try out some new-to-me sustainable brands. If you’re also looking for workarounds for some grocery products, or if you’re interested in switching to sustainable brands, here’s a list of some brands I’m trying out, as well as a few that I already trust and love:
- For laundry and dish detergents: I’m trying out Dropps, which makes detergent pods for doing laundry and dishes. The pods come in recyclable and compostable packaging, so I’m hoping they’ll help us eliminate single-use plastic from our laundry routine. I’m still waiting for them to arrive in the mail so I don’t have a product review yet, but I’ll keep you posted!
- For hand soap and household cleaner: Blueland makes tablets that you dissolve in water to get foaming hand soap, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and multipurpose cleaner. The water content in home cleaning products counts for the majority of the volume of traditional products. This contributes to a higher weight for shipping, which in turn translates to more carbon emissions from transport vehicles. Concentrates are a great alternative to this because you can mix them with tap water and cut out a lot of the emissions from transportation. We had some foaming hand soap dispensers so we’re using the hand soap tablets, which we’re liking so far. I also ordered glass cleaner tablets to use when our glass cleaner runs out in the next week or so. I had previously been using a glass cleaner concentrate from Grove, but I wasn’t a fan of their order management system so I’m trying out Blueland, which ships in recyclable and compostable packaging.
- Counter-specific cleaner and laundry detergent for delicates: I ordered the surface cleaner and wool and cashmere soap from The Laundress. Our normal all-purpose cleaner is a mix of vinegar, water, and Dr. Brommer’s castile soap, but I don’t like to use it in the kitchen. We recently put in quartz countertops in place of the heavily damaged laminate that came with our house. Some stone counters (especially marble and granite) can have issues with etching from cleaning products that are acid based (like my vinegar mixture), so I don’t like using that on the kitchen counters, but I still want something that has as few toxic chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds-common in artificial scents) as possible. We usually use rubbing alcohol diluted with water to disinfect the counters, but rubbing alcohol has been impossible to find lately. I ordered The Laundress’ surface cleaner in the interim because it’s made from non-toxic plant-based ingredients and is safe for stone countertops. I will say I’m not a huge fan of the scent, but this isn’t a permanent solution so I’m okay with it. You know how dudes who wear too much cologne always seem to be wearing the same scent? That’s what this cleaner smells like to me. I also ordered the wool and cashmere shampoo after reading an Apartment Therapy article outlining how most “dry clean only” items can actually be cleaned at home. I’m hoping to cut out the little bit of dry cleaning I do since the chemicals involved are terrible for the environment.
- For regular produce deliveries: I’ve been using Imperfect Produce. This is one that is more of an emotional security thing, but I’ll continue it as long as we’re social distancing at home. Imperfect produce delivers a box of produce to your door. It’s helpful because you get to choose what kinds of produce go in your box (and they have some other grocery items like meat and grains), but I’ve occasionally had times when the things I selected ended up being unavailable so I didn’t receive them. Their sustainability benefit is they help divert produce that doesn’t meet supermarkets’ strict appearance requirements from getting sent to landfills. I’ll be honest, it’s not a service I’m planning on continuing once I feel comfortable going back to a grocery story because there’s a lot of extra packaging. For now while I can’t use my own sustainable bags and containers at the store and while some things aren’t available at my regular grocery store, it gives me some peace of mind to have an extra source of grocery staples. It’s kind of like diversifying your stock portfolio.
- For feminine hygiene: Thinx is a sustainable brand that I’ve been using for almost a year now. It’s a brand that I absolutely love and will advocate to any women in my life who will listen because I genuinely feel it has made my life better in addition to more sustainable. Thinx makes period panties that can be used instead of pads or tampons. They can be washed with your delicates and reused. At first I was a little weirded out about the reusability of them, but they’re really easy to clean. The other thing I love about them is the fabric is really great at wicking moisture away, so it’s much more comfortable than a regular pad. Tampons have often been really uncomfortable for me, so Thinx were a game changer to eliminate the “I’m wearing a diaper” feeling you often get from pads. The company is not new to me because of the pandemic, but it has been helpful to not have to worry about staying stocked on feminine hygiene products during the pandemic so I’m including it in this list.
Some of these products may be more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but for me the major benefit sustainable brands offer in decreasing waste and reducing the number of toxic chemicals in my home is worth some extra cost. The added bonus during the pandemic has been that a lot of these sustainable brands still have stock of categories of products which have become hard to find in more traditional variations. I’m really hoping that using this time at home to think deeply about the products I’m buying and their impact on the environment will help our family emerge from social distancing with many more sustainable practices in place.
What grocery gaps are you figuring out right now? Are there any sustainable brands you love and would recommend? We’d love to hear from you in the comments and connect with you on social media! Sustainability is an important topic to us, so we’ll be posting more about this over time in our Adulting category. Another post to check out is my 6 month review of electric car ownership.
**Update September 2020: After using Blueland’s glass cleaner for awhile I found it was leaving really bad streaks on our mirrors, so I stopped using it. I’m still looking for a good glass cleaner concentrate. I also learned the coating on the Dropps pods is a type of plastic that I don’t want dissolving into the water in our laundry, so I’m switching to laundry pods Blueland has released since this post was originally published.**