Living a more sustainable life can be hard. Figuring out which products can actually reduce your waste and sticking to them can often require a lot of research and time. Luckily, there are sustainable subscriptions that can deliver low-waste alternatives to products you use every day right to your door that make being more eco-friendly easy and convenient.
To figure out if a sustainable subscription is right for you, we talked to sustainability experts to determine if these services can help lower your impact and which ones are actually worth your money. “Perhaps the biggest environmental benefit to sustainable subscriptions is that when you have products shipped to your home, you rely less on your own automobile to drive around town to perhaps multiple stores to stock up on what you need,” says Stephanie Seferian, sustainability blogger and author of “Sustainable Minimalism.” “When done right, online shopping and subscription services can eliminate unnecessary car trips and the excess carbon emissions that come with such reliance on our gas guzzlers.”
Dr. Kaitlin Mattos, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at Fort Lewis College, says it’s important to remember that online shopping can also be harmful to the planet. “Online shopping can be a major convenience, but the shipping and delivery have significantly larger environmental impacts than shopping at local stores,” she says. “Products at a store can be shipped in bulk and usually have lower carbon footprints for the delivery to the store.”
When choosing a service to sign up for, Mattos says to look for products you use on a regular basis. “Subscriptions that specifically fill needs in our home could reduce waste and trips to the store to buy frequently needed products,” she says. “For example, households that use certain food products at predictable intervals (baby formula, canned goods) can order these products through subscriptions and save trips to the store (that often emit greenhouse gases).”
How to choose a sustainable subscription
There are tons of eco-friendly subscriptions on the internet, which is why you need a critical eye to figure out which ones can lower your impact and which ones are just trying to rope you into recurring payments. To avoid buying things you won’t use and creating even more waste, Mattos says to ask yourself a few questions before clicking the subscribe button. “Think about your consumption habits in general first — do you really need the things you are buying?” she asks. “Is there a way to buy them from a local supplier to support your local economy and businesses? How much shipping and packaging will the product require compared to buying it from a store?”
Seferian has a few product recommendations that are perfect for a subscription. “Household goods like laundry detergent, toilet paper, trash bags and more are ones many homes need each month, and swapping out the less eco-friendly products on the market with sustainable ones is a powerful way to live with greater intention,” she says. However, Seferian recommends trying out the products before locking yourself into a subscription so you can ensure you like them before you get monthly deliveries.
Lastly, Seferian says to watch out for subscription services that use greenwashing, a marketing tactic to portray brands as more sustainable than they are. “It is very difficult for the average consumer to discern which products are actually eco-friendly versus ones that are simply marketed toward eco-conscious consumers,” says Seferian. “If a product makes a bold marketing claim, ask yourself, ‘Where’s the proof?’ Don’t simply rely on cute images or fluffy language; support brands that have sustainability embedded within their mission. Look for credible third-party certifications to help you identify the companies who are acting ethically and sustainably, as these are the ones you want to support.”
With all these expert tips in mind, we’ve rounded up 12 sustainable subscriptions that can help lower your household’s impact.
Mattos suggests signing up for a local CSA box so you can get farm fresh produce from your community. “Local food, like produce from a CSA, is the best product to get via subscription because the subscription supports the farm that produces your food and it gives the farmers a chance to even out the produce market,” she says. “You are also eating more sustainably when you eat food that is in season and has traveled [fewer] miles.”
Not only does eating local food support the farms around you, it also reduces emissions since you’re not buying fruit and veggies that were flown in from around the globe. To find a local CSA box, check out the CSA directory from the USDA or LocalHarvest.
From $21.99 for 13-gallon bags at HoldOn
Seferian says she subscribes to this brand, which offers heavy-duty, plant-based trash bags that are 100% home compostable. You can use them to collect your food scraps before dumping them in a compost pile or replace your traditional trash bags to reduce the plastic you’re sending to the landfill.
$27.90 every 3 months for the Dish Duo at Blueland
Mattos recommends Blueland, a home cleaning subscription that sends you concentrated tablets for all sorts of messes in zero-waste packaging. Blueland offers a wide variety of cleaning products from countertop cleaners and dishwasher tablets to laundry detergent and toilet cleaners. Plus, once you sign up, you can cancel, pause or skip your subscription deliveries at any time.
From $77.94 per week for 6 servings at Purple Carrot
Another way you can reduce your environmental impact is by going vegan. A local CSA box is a great way to get creative in the kitchen on a vegan diet, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend as much time meal planning, Purple Carrot is a meal subscription service that makes eating a plant-based diet easy.
Prices vary, $29 order minimum at Grove Collaborative
Grove Collaborative is an online marketplace that offers tons of low-waste and eco-friendly alternatives to everyday products. Grove’s subscription is a flexible, monthly delivery that can be edited or postponed at any time. You can add anything to your cart from soaps and cleaners to reusable bags and dog treats, and edit how often you want each product. While Grove has a strict standard for products, not all of them are plastic-free, so you might have to do a bit more research into the products within the site. Grove also requires an order minimum, which means your boxes are more consolidated and easier to ship, but can also be annoying if you’re just a few dollars short.
Personal hygiene subscriptions
From $38 for 24 rolls at Who Gives A Crap
Our favorite recycled toilet paper, Who Gives A Crap, offers paper products such as toilet paper, tissues and paper towels made from postconsumer recycled paper or bamboo. You can subscribe and customize your delivery for every two, three or four months and delay shipments or add products to your box at any time.
$59.95 every 2 months at Bevel
Mattos recommends swapping your plastic razors for metal ones since metal razors can be recycled. There are plenty of metal razors on the market, including Leaf and one of our favorite razors for women, Oui the People; however, most don’t offer automatic shipments. Bevel, on the other hand, does give you the option to subscribe so you can get pre-shave oil, shave cream, post-shave balm and blades delivered right to your door. Bevel was our pick for the best safety razor for men, so you know you’ll get a comfortable and close shave; plus, you can adjust, skip or cancel your subscription at any time.
From $34.99 for 24 rolls at Cloud Paper
Seferian says she subscribes to Cloud Paper, a subscription that sends you bamboo toilet paper and paper towels on a two-, three- or four-month basis, with the option to delay or cancel at any time.
$58.95 per month at The Detox Market
The clean beauty space can be a confusing one, which is why sites like The Detox Market do the hard work for you. All products listed on the online store have met The Detox Market’s strict standards for clean ingredients, performance and cruelty-free formulas. If you love to try the latest and greatest in beauty trends, check out The Detox Box, a monthly delivery of the brand’s favorite products. Prepay for three or six months, or sign up for a monthly subscription that you can cancel at any time.
From $16.96 for 60 loads at Kind Laundry
“I subscribe to Kind Laundry detergent sheets,” says Seferian. “I like that their product is free from potentially harmful chemicals and known toxins; I also like that their detergent comes in compostable paper (not a plastic jug).”
You can order Kind Laundry’s detergent sheets as a one-time purchase or a customizable subscription that can be delivered every one to six months; however, you can’t cancel your deliveries until you’ve been charged three times. For more sustainable laundry brands and tips, check out our full guide.
From $19.50 for 64 loads at Dropps
One of our favorite sustainable laundry brands, Dropps delivers ultra-concentrated laundry pods (and other cleaning supplies) to your door in a recyclable box. Your subscription can be changed or canceled at any time, and you can choose your delivery frequency at an interval between one and six months.
From $39.96 for 256 loads at Clean Cult
With options for laundry, hand soap, dish soap and other cleaning sprays, Clean Cult sends you coconut-powered cleaners on a regular basis. Your first shipment will include a glass bottle for whatever cleaner you choose and refills will arrive in a 100% recyclable carton. You can edit, delay or cancel your subscription whenever you want.