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.
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
$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
Prices vary, $29 order minimum at Grove Collaborative
Personal hygiene subscriptions
From $38 for 24 rolls at Who Gives A Crap
$59.95 every 2 months at Bevel
From $34.99 for 24 rolls at Cloud Paper
$58.95 per month at The Detox Market
From $16.96 for 60 loads at Kind Laundry
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.