Use this, not that

Use this, not that’ is going to be a regular series where I show products that we commonly use, and make suggestions for more ethical alternatives. With each I’ll include a little note as to why I made each suggestion. They’re all just ideas, so feel free to add your own!

To tie in with my recent posts about food, I thought I’d focus on eating and drinking…

Use this,               Not that


Cast iron skillets, or frying pans, are a safer option for your health. Non-stick or Teflon pans are coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE). At high temperatures, the PTFE releases toxic fumes which can be harmful. Read more about this here.

Another advantage of cast iron is that it is highly durable and can be passed down through generations (in fact, they get better with time!)

Use this,               Not that      


While plastic containers are a step up from disposable sandwich bags, cling wrap or tin foil, you can do better with glass. Glass is easier to keep clean, and you have the assurance that no toxic chemicals will leach into your food. As EWG writes here, “In addition to the core ingredients, plastics can contain additives that color, scent, strengthen or improve the durability of a product. It’s impossible to know exactly which chemical additives are in any plastic container, nor to ascertain whether they’re safe.” Many known chemicals are unsafe.

Mason jars offer stylish storage, and if you don’t break them they last forever(ish).

Use this,               Not that


Linen serviettes and napkins are not only re-usable, but they look and feel nicer! Paper serviettes can come in fun colours and designs, but are unnecessarily wasteful, so rather opt for neutral linen that will fit into most colour themes.

For the same reasons, avoid kitchen towel and try to use cloths to clean up. (Old t-shirts make great clean-up cloths, and are a good re-use for when they’re really worn out!)

Use this,               Not that


Don’t use the cheap, throw-away chopsticks with your Chinese take-away. Rather buy some pretty wooden chopsticks that you can keep and use over and over again.

Use this,               Not that


Plastic straws drive me mad – partly because you don’t really need them, you can sip out of a cup just fine without one! However, maybe I just don’t get it and there is lots to love about straws. If this is the case, you can purchase a re-usable stainless steel straw and avoid a lot of cheap plastic going to landfill – or worse yet, landing up in the ocean or rivers. (Some places can recycle plastic straws, but really – but not all, so it’s a toss up of what will happen to them.)

Use this,               Not that


This one probably seems a little obvious, but it’s a hard habit to break since drinking water is lovely and healthy. If you buy yourself a glass or steel drinking container that you really like, it should go a long way to helping you drink more tap water and avoid resource-intensive disposable bottles of water. Refer to the point above about using glass instead of plastic to see why a glass or steel container is best.

Use this,               Not that


On the topic of drinking, how do you like to take your tea? Loose tea leaves give loads more flavour, while lots of tea bags and their tags contain plastic, as explained in a Trash is for Tossers post. Another plus with the leaves is that there are some awesome designs for tea strainers made out of steel. (Don’t forget to look out for Fair Trade tea, while you’re at it!)

Use this,               Not that


If coffee’s more your thing than tea, rather invest in a machine or plunger that uses ground coffee (without a paper filter) instead of using coffee pods. As convenient and fun as they are, the pods cannot be recycled easily because they are made from a mixture of aluminium and plastic. They are also a resource intensive product that only gets a single use. Hamburg, a city in Germany, has banned the use of pods in an attempt to reduce this unnecessary waste!

Plus – I’ve drunk a lot of coffee and I really think the alternative usually tastes better. (Again – look out for Fair Trade coffees, like the delicious Bean There range.)

Use this,               Not that


While not always possible, if you can, shopping at a market or store where the fruit and vegetables are loose is better than buying pre-packaged items. For starters, you can pick exactly what you want, and in the right quantities for you (to help avoid wastage at home). Plastic bags are often supplied to pack these in, but you could find out if your local store is happy for you to take your own brown paper bag. However, even if you use a plastic bag, I think it’s preferable to the goods packed in both polystyrene and cling wrap – which not all recycling centers can accept.

Use this,               Not that


This takes a little effort, but home grown herbs are so much nicer than buying in-store (whether the ‘fresh’ herbs in packets or the dried herbs in containers, both come with packaging). They’re usually healthier too!

Use this,               Not that


And lastly – buy in bulk whenever you can, in order to reduce the amount of packaging you are also buying. (Plus you’ll save money!)

What suggestions do you have?




  1. I completely agree with you on the straws and especially the coffee pods. We don’t need more disposable stuff! Very pleased to see that my living checks most of the “do this” boxes 🙂

    While I’m glad to never have to experience it, parents should consider using cloth diapers instead of disposables. I was horrified to find out how many nappies go into landfill, per child, per year (more than 1 200… along those lines) 😮

    Also, rice paper cupcake cups and other edible baking accessories instead of their paper-based predecessors.

    Mmmmm… cupcakes…


    • I’ve spoken to moms who use cloth nappies, and they love them! Like this mom:

      There are also biodegradable nappies on the market, but cloth makes more sense. (And from what I’ve heard, cleaning them is not as gross as you might think.)

      It feels weird to jump from that topic to edibles, but here we go… I love the idea of replacing the paper with tasty alternatives when baking, it’s a win-win for everyone. Paper contaminated with food can’t be recycled, so the amount of waste that can be avoided by doing this is significant.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I find using baking paper many times when baking works fine……one does not need a clean sheet every time. Baking powder makes a lovely fine scouring powder and gets the baking trays and tins de-greased in a short time. We should carry our own cutlery if getting takeaways. Linen serviettes in a range of colours is a great option….mine give each person a colour and can be used for a few meals and then washed. With a good shake and hung up straight and right away, they do not need ironing.


    • Thanks, mum! 🙂
      Good point about shaking out the linen napcloths after a wash, to avoid ironing – saves you the hassle and also energy-usage.


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