Sustainable Smart Swaps




We would love for eco-friendly living to be the norm, but knowing where to start when moving away from our usual ways of doing things is not an easy task. We’re trying to support each other to make Sustainable Smart Swaps: exchanges in items we buy or ways we behave which will have a positive impact on our carbon footprints. So we’ve put together this guide on how to make big and small changes to our behaviours and shopping baskets which will help to reduce waste and live more sustainably.

We know that making big changes all at once can feel pretty overwhelming and daunting, so we’ve including smaller ‘good’ steps we can take as we move towards the ‘best’ swaps. We’ve also included local retailers where you can buy the products listed.

Get involved

Share a photo or video of your Sustainable Smart Swap in the comments below – together with how it’s benefitted you – and you’ll be entered into a draw to win vouchers from a local zero waste store!

And please please tell us if we’ve forgotten about a local shop, missed out a great Sustainable Smart Swap, or if you have some tips to include – you can either contact us or comment here.

General tips for making sustainable swaps:

  • SIMPLIFY: Is there a simpler version of what you’re buying?
  • MAKE AND DO: Rather than buying can you make it yourself, or do it yourself in a more sustainable way?
  • REUSE AND REPURPOSE: Before you throw anything away take a moment to consider whether it might have another use for you. Think jam jars as vases, baked bean cans as pen holders, and t-shirts as cleaning cloths
  • ORIGIN AND DESTINATION: As you are shopping think about where an item came from, how it was produced, and where it will end up when its no longer required by you.
  • BORROW AND LEND: Before buying check if you can borrow from friends, family or neighbours, and be willing to share your stuff too.
  • MEND: Check if an item can be fixed before you throw it away


Anti-perspirant deodorant

Most deodorants come in plastic packaging, which isn’t easily recycled. Anti-perspirant deodorants stop our bodies from sweating (obviously!) but by blocking up pores and not allowing sweat to be released from our sweat glands it can cause skin irritation. They also often contain parabens, sulphates and aluminium.

GOOD: Recycle your plastic roll-on deodorant (via Terracycle) or your deodorant aerosol can (through your household recycling collection)

BETTER: Use natural deodorant in recyclable packaging

BEST: Make your own deodorant

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores and Eco Bonobo stock natural deodorant. The Holland & Barrett website has some homemade natural deodorant recipes.

The Terracycle Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Programme accepts roll-on deodorant; see Recycle for Buckinghamshire for information on what can go into your household recycling collection.

Cotton wool buds

Plastic cotton wool buds were banned in England from April 2020 and increasingly you will see paper and bamboo buds available in shops. If you do use these take care to dispose of them appropriately (an estimated 10% of cotton buds are flushed down the toilet and ending up in the ocean as a result). As always think about the single-use items you’re using, whether you can swap it for a reusable version, or indeed whether you even need it at all.

GOOD: Biodegradable cotton buds (find those which can be composted after use) in recyclable packaging

BETTER: Reusable silicone swab

BEST: If you usually use them on your ears, don’t use cotton buds at all (they’re not recommended by health professionals to clean your ears)

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores, and Eco Bonobo sell bamboo cotton wool buds. Reusable silicone swabs can be found online.

Cotton wool pads

Many of us use disposable cotton wool pads as part of our cleansing routines. The growing of cotton uses pesticides, water, and destroys wildlife habitats – all for the convenience of a single-use, disposable product. Reusable pads – preferably made from a sustainable fibre – are a great replacement, as are flannels.

GOOD: Reusable cotton face wipes

BETTER: Reusable bamboo face wipes and cloths

BEST: Look at what you already own, like flannels and towels, and use those in place of cotton wool pads. An old t-shirt, cut up into squares, would work well and cost nothing.

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores, Eco Bonobo, Polka Dots and Roses and Memories Re-Stitched sell reusable make-up remover pads. There are a number of tutorials online for how to make your own, but our favourite is this one!

Plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, handwash and shower gel

A significant amount of plastic we use ends up as plastic waste – that which ends up in our environment, adversely affecting wildlife and habitats. Even if plastic is recycled, it’s estimated that the carbon footprint of an average plastic bottle is 82.8g. Take a scan around your bathroom and see which bottles could easily be replaced with a bar or liquid refill.

GOOD: Recycle your plastic bottles (see the Recycle for Buckinghamshire plastics guide to check what can go in your household recycling collection)

BETTER: Buy liquid refills of soap, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel

BEST: Replace your bottles with bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores, Eco Bonobo, and P E Mead & Sons sell liquid refills and solid soap, shampoo and conditioner bars.

Sanitary products

Sanitary products contain up to 95% plastic, and the average woman throws away up to 200kg of menstrual products in her lifetime, and these can take around 500 years to bread down. But if you switch you could save money and the planet – a reusable menstrual cup used for a year has less than 1.5% of the environmental impact of disposable alternatives, and you can make back your outlay in just a few months.

GOOD: Biodegradable single-use sanitary towels and tampons, with a reusable tampon applicator (or no applicator at all)

BETTER: Reusable sanitary towels

BEST: Menstrual cup

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores and Eco Bonobo all sell sanitary products.


How many toothbrushes have you used in your life? Did you know that it’s likely they’re all still around, sitting in landfill? Luckily disposable plastic toothbrushes aren’t the only option, and bamboo brushes are widely available. Bamboo is natural, fully biodegradable, fast-growing and requires little water.

GOOD: Recycle your plastic toothbrush with the Terracycle Colgate Oral Care Programme, or reuse it for cleaning around the house

BETTER: If using an electric toothbrush look for ones which don’t have removable batteries, are made from recycled plastic, have removable heads, and can be recycled. There are even bamboo replacement heads now available.

BEST: Use a bamboo toothbrush and compost the handle

Fillable, Aylesbury Eco Stores, Eco Bonobo, and P E Mead & Sons sell bamboo toothbrushes.


Aluminium foil

Creating aluminium foil takes a great deal of energy, but recycled foil uses 95% less energy to produce than traditional new foil made using raw materials. Instead of opting for a single-use product at all, think about whether something reusable could take its place, like a silicone baking mat rather than lining a baking tray with foil.

GOOD: Wash and reuse your foil, and recycle in your household recycling bin when no longer required

BETTER: Buy 100% recycled aluminium foil

BEST: Use reusable silicone baking liners or reusable silicone covers rather than foil wherever you can

Fillable, P E Mead & Sons and Waitrose sell If You Care 100% recycled aluminium foil, and Aylesbury Eco Stores stock reusable silicone baking liners.

Cling film

Cling film is pretty rubbish for the environment: at best it will end up in landfill where it won’t degrade; at worst it will make its way to the sea or land, where it is a risk to wildlife or fish who may eat it or get caught up in it. There are so many alternatives to cling film it can be hard to decide which is best. When you’re assessing what to use think of how many times you will be able to use it and where it will end up when you’re finished with it. And don’t forget to think about options you may already own, like tupperware containers, or even tea towels or an upturned plate to cover food.

GOOD: Keep and reuse any containers like bread bags and plastic takeaway boxes, or dig out the tupperware languishing in the back of the cupboard

BETTER: Paper snack and sandwich bags, reusable silicone film wraps, lids and bags

BEST: Wax food wraps (which can be refreshed when they start to wear out)

Beeswax wraps are available at Polka Dots and Roses and Fillable. You can buy vegan food wraps from Aylesbury Eco Stores and Eco Bonobo. Fillable also stock reusable sandwich bags.

Dish washing sponges and cloths

Those green and yellow sponges and scourers with which we’re all so familiar not only come wrapped in plastic packaging, but are also made from polyurethanes, which are based on fossil fuels and not biodegradable. The blue and white washing up cloths are also energy-intensive to make, and unlikely to biodegrade in landfill. For this one we’re just suggesting one simple swap.

BEST: Biodegradable washing up pads and cloths, like LoofCo products and coconut scouring pads

Buy biodegradable washing up cloths, pads and brushes from Eco Bonobo, Aylesbury Eco Stores, P E Mead and Fillable.

Freezer bags

Freezing surplus food is a great way to be eco friendly, prevent food waste and save money. And batch cooking and freezing portions can save time and mean there’s always a meal to hand when you don’t fancy cooking. So many reasons to use the freezer, but using disposable bags, trays and wrap can generate so much waste. Here are a few ideas for how to ditch the single-use freezer bags.

GOOD: Buy reusable silicone storage bags for the freezer or use glass containers with flexible silicone lids

BETTER: Reuse containers destined for the recycling bin, like plastic milk cartons and takeaway boxes with lids

BEST: Freeze with wax food wraps (don’t use for long-term freezing or for meats)

Beeswax wraps are available at Polka Dots and Roses, Fillable and Freya Jones Art and Craft. You can buy vegan food wraps from Aylesbury Eco Stores and Eco Bonobo. Fillable also stock reusable sandwich bags.

Kitchen roll

Paper kitchen roll is non-recyclable, and production of single-use paper products causes deforestation, unnecessary energy use and pollution. The plastic packaging is also not recyclable.

GOOD: Buy recycled kitchen towel in plastic-free packaging, or more sustainable and biodegradable bamboo kitchen roll wrapped in paper

BETTER: Buy reusable kitchen towel. Look at ones which can be composted at the end of their life

BEST: Make your own kitchen towel using old clothes and towels, or whatever scrap fabric you have in the house

You can pick up bamboo kitchen roll from Aylesbury Eco Stores, or Eco Bonobo sell reusable kitchen cloths. If you want to make your own there’s an easy-to-follow tutorial here, or you can keep it simple and just use the fabric scraps as they are!

Paper napkins

Like kitchen roll, paper napkins are non-recyclable, with their production using energy and water. If you are looking for a disposable option, bamboo is a more sustainable alternative to paper. If looking at a reusable napkin, linen is much less impactful than cotton (see here for more information on environmental impacts of different fabrics).

GOOD: Disposable bamboo napkins

BETTER: Reusable fabric napkins, preferably made from linen

BEST: Reusable fabric napkins made from upcycled fabrics such as worn out clothing or scraps from charity shops

Plastic straws

A ban on single-use plastic straws came into force in October 2020, as UK citizens were using on average 130 straws each per year, adding up to a total of 8.5 billion plastic straws annually!
When eating out, maybe just take a moment to consider whether you really need a single-use item being offered to you, and refuse it if not. Or prepare ahead and bring your own reusable version.

GOOD: Paper straws

BETTER: Reusable metal or bamboo straws

BEST: No straws (if you don’t really need them)

Most supermarkets now sell paper straws, but watch out for the plastic packaging in which they’re often contained. Aylesbury Eco Stores and Eco Bonobo sell stainless steel straws and cleaning brushes; Fillable and Freya Jones sell both bamboo and stainless steel straws.

Food and Drink


Brewing beer requires a lot of energy and water – around 5-6 pints of water are used to create just one pint of beer. Then if you add to that the waste from production, bottling and transportation there’s definitely room for improvement. Luckily lots of breweries are making efforts to become more sustainable and working towards being carbon neutral, so you can enjoy your pint with a clear conscience.

Local refills don’t require any recycling, nor packaging and transportation. Even better, a pint of home-brewed beer has half the carbon emissions of an internationally-produced lager (How green is your beer?).

GOOD: Beers from breweries which use techniques to reduce their carbon footprint; and don’t forget to recycle cans and bottles in your household recycling

BETTER: Refills in a growler (a refillable, airtight jug used to transport beer) from your local brewery

BEST: Brew your own beer

The Chiltern Brewery (and its pub, The King’s Head) offer refills of their award-winning ales.

Bottled water

There are so many reasons why bottled water isn’t a good idea: it’s expensive and unnecessary when we have safe, clean water on tap; the plastic bottles cost in energy to produce and transport, and cause huge amounts of plastic waste; and many companies have been implicated in the exploitation of scarce water sources in drought ridden countries, siphoning water from their communities.

GOOD: If you must have bottled water buy it in glass bottles or cans (for sparkling water)

BETTER: For sparkling water, buy a SodaStream to make your own. If you’re worried about contaminants in tap water use a charcoal water filter

BEST: Always bring a refillable water bottle out with you.

Reusable water bottles are available from a wide number of retailers, and you can download the Refill App to find out where to top it up. Charcoal water filters are available from Ethical Superstore.


Many tea bags contain plastic to prevent them falling apart in hot water. Increasingly manufacturers are moving towards biodegradable plastic bags, and although these are better than plastic they use fertilizers to grow, and divert land from food production.

GOOD: Put used tea bags in your food waste bin or home compost bin (see What to do with tea bags from Recycle Now)

BETTER: Buy organic, biodegradable plastic bags and put the used tea bags in your food waste or compost

BEST: Use loose leaf tea with reusable tea bags or a tea infuser

Holy Cow Home stock a wide range of teas including their own bespoke blends. Eco Bonobo sells tea and reusable tea bags; Fillable sell loose leaf tea and tea strainers.


Large coffee plantations, established to meet the huge global demand for coffee, often encourage deforestation and the use of chemical fertilizers. It’s predicted that within a few decades the areas suitable for growing coffee could halve, so it’s important to support coffee growers who invest in become more resilient to climate change.

GOOD: Use reusable coffee filters and pods.

BETTER: Buy coffee with a certification like Fairtrade so farmers are supported to grow the best way for the environment, and they can thrive. Compost used coffee grounds.

BEST: Use simpler, low-tech methods to brew coffee, like a cafetière, aeropress or moka pot



Replacing all the bulbs in your home with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) could reduce your carbon emissions by up to 65kg a year, as well as saving money.

GOOD: Switch off lights whenever they’re not in use, and use natural light wherever you can. Recycle your energy saving bulbs (incandescent bulbs should go in household waste)

BETTER: Replace traditional (incandescent) bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

BEST: Replace traditional (incandescent) bulbs and CFLs with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

Find out where to recycle your light bulbs at Recycle for Buckinghamshire. The Energy Saving Trust has helpful advice on saving energy and money on lighting.

Shopping bags

Charging for single-use shopping bags, introduced in 2015, has led to a huge reduction in their use and therefore a reduction in plastic pollution. But as this article from The Conversation shows, we need to use alternatives many, many times before their impact is lower than a standard plastic bag, so make sure you keep your reusable bags going for as long as you can!

GOOD: Buy and reuse bags for life, and recycle any plastic carrier bags through supermarket recycle schemes

BETTER: Reusable canvas bags

BEST: Make your own bags from unwanted clothing

There’s a simple tutorial on how to make your own bag here.


Globally over 1.6 billion pens are thrown away each year! Step away from the plastic biro and consider these alternatives.

GOOD: Recycle pens via Terracycle scheme

BETTER: Digital notepad and pen

BEST: Refillable pens (you can also get refillable ink cartridges) and recycled pencils

Wrapping paper

Wrapping paper is a single-use item, often covered in glitter and containing plastics, and almost always with sticky tape attached, making it unrecyclable. It’s estimated by DEFRA that 50,000 trees are cut down each year to make the paper to wrap our presents. Not only that, but much of our paper here in the UK comes from Scandinavia, meaning it has a hefty transport carbon footprint too. With a little bit of imagination you can forgo the gift wrap and still offer beautifully-wrapped gifts.

GOOD: Buy and reuse fabric gift wraps and bags

BETTER: Use old fabrics, scarves and clothes to wrap gifts (don’t forget to reuse too).

BEST: Reuse wrapping paper, ribbons, gift bags, newspapers, magazines, children’s art, etc. and secure with paper tape. Look around at what you have and be creative about how to wrap your gifts!

Furoshiki is the Japanese art of fabric wrapping – there is some information and a great tutorial on how to use fabric wraps here. Fillable and Aylesbury Eco Stores sell paper tape; Freya Jones stocks fabrics, including beautiful recycled sari silk ribbon.



Living car-free is one of the highest-impact individual actions we can take to reduce climate change (having one fewer child, avoiding air travel, and eating a plant-based diet are the other high-impact changes – see here for further information on this analysis). Going without a car for a year could prevent about 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

GOOD: Walk or cycle journeys one mile or under, car share, stay more local where possible, and learn how to use your car economically

BETTER: Replace petrol or diesel with electric car (whilst also following the “good” tips above)

BEST: Live car free, engage in active travel and use public transport.

Gemstone routes is a network of nine colour-coded and signposted cycle routes across Aylesbury which give information on the time in minutes it takes to reach a destination. Aylesbury Garden Town and Buckinghamshire Council have created a new Aylesbury travel web app to support residents in finding ways to get around the town using sustainable modes of transport.

Air travel

Aviation is responsible for about 2% of the world’s global carbon emissions and this is set to rise. However just 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018, showing only a small number are responsible for these emissions. If those of us who do fly regularly reduce or eliminate our air travel, the impact would be significant. And it doesn’t mean that travel is off the cards, just that we have to reconsider how we get to our destinations. For example, a Eurostar journey from London to Paris emits 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent flight.

GOOD: Offset the carbon emissions of your air travel

BETTER: Travel by car or ferry

BEST: Travel by train

This doesn’t mean that travel is off the cards, just that we have to reconsider how we get to our destinations. For example, a Eurostar journey from London to Paris emits 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent flight. You can compare the environmental impact of different modes of transport between destinations on the Eco Passenger website.

Motts Travel, Chiltern Railways and Eurostar offer less impactful ways of travelling.



All books have an environmental impact, whether they’re electronic or paper. E-book readers require mining of rare metals to create them, but paper books use water, paper and ink, and require transportation. If you are an avid reader you might want to consider buying an e-book reader, but you need to keep using it for at least four years, and read more than 25 books each year to ensure its impact is lower than buying physical books. Also, at the end of its life it should be recycled. For a more detailed analysis, see E-Readers Vs. Print Books. Below we have considered the different options for paper books.

GOOD: Buy paperbacks rather than hardbacks, and donate or share when you’re finished with them.

BETTER: Buy second-hand books, and when you’ve read them you could start your own Little Free Library

BEST: Avoid buying at all: use the library or share with friends

  • Aylesbury Library is a wonderful, free resource for book lovers. The Oxfam Bookshop on the High Street has a great selection of books, or you can have a browse in your local charity shop.


Baby wipes

1.3 billion wet wipes are used every day across the world, and each one can take around100 years to biodegrade. Containing plastics and chemicals – not good for the environment or little ones’ skins – ideally we’d avoid them completely. But if this isn’t possible, there are smaller steps to make to help reduce the impact of dirty hands, faces and bottoms.

GOOD: Use biodegradable, plastic free wipes and dispose of them properly – NEVER flush wet wipes down the toilet.

BETTER: Try reusable wipes, flannels or cloths in the kitchen for cleaning grubby hands and faces, and only use wet wipes for nappy changes and when out and about

BEST: Reusable bamboo wipes or cloths soaked in water (and baby-safe oils for soothing)


Open-ended toys are those which can be played with in multiple ways: a blue scarf could be a princess’s shawl, the sea for some play animals to swim in, a blanket for a teddy, or used in a game of peekaboo. Buying these rather than always opting for toys with one fixed purpose allows children to use their imagination, but also means you don’t have to buy so much stuff!

GOOD: Open-ended toys which don’t just have one purpose, but can be used in a number of play situations

BETTER: Toys made from sustainable materials

BEST: Buy toys second-hand, and share toys with friends and family; borrow toys through a toy library or subscription service

  • There are a number of local charity shops to which you can donate toys you no longer require, and pick up bargains too.
  • Online marketplaces like Ebay and Facebook Marketplace also offer a great way to buy and sell children’s items.
  • Or why not set up a toy-sharing rotation or toy swap party with some local families, exchanging items to add some novelty to your children’s play whilst saving resources, money and space?
  • Rental services like Whirli, Toy Box Club and Build Ur Bricks mean you can have access to a variety of toys without the associated costs or environmental impact.

5 thoughts on “Sustainable Smart Swaps

    • Author gravatar

      I swapped liquid shampoo in plastic bottles to a shampoo soap bar. It lasts a long time and lathers up really well almost better than the liquid soap and my hair feels equally as clean.

    • Author gravatar

      I’ve made quite a few swaps.. this is a selection of swabs from my bathroom..
      Shampoo and conditioner bars, refills for bubble baths and refill shampoo for my husband who doesn’t get on with the bars, metal razor, recycled toilet roll in recyclable paper, colgate smile tootchpaste which is natural and all recyclable as well.. menstrual cup and reusable pads and finally i either use ocean wave or iron and velvet for cleaning the bathroom.

    • Author gravatar

      Some of the best – and simplest – smart swaps I have made are:
      Bamboo toothbrush
      Safety razor
      Refilling various cleaning products and whole foods
      Bamboo Charcoal water filters
      I’ve recently swapped disposable sanitary towels for reusable bamboo ones and so far so good! 🤞🏻

    • Author gravatar

      Some kitchen swaps I’ve made include refillable laundry detergent and softener so the bottles are reused over and over again, refillable washing up liquid, iron and velvet cleaning products that dissolve in water so again my bottle is being reused, micro plastic free cloths was cleaning surfaces and bamboo washing up brush. I also started making my own laundry fresher using Epsom salts from wholefood earth that comes in a recycle package, bicarb that is refilled and some essential oils, i am currently using oils from cosy owl as they seem to be ethically sources from what i can read.. love the smell it makes.

    • Author gravatar

      Smart swapInstead of fabric detergents (and when i was desperate after running out recently!) i remembered this swap. Its cheaper and the glass bottle can be recycled or up-cycled.

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