The “Swap-by-Swap” Method Is the Cheat Code to Being More Eco-Friendly at Home

published Apr 22, 2024
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As a recovering perfectionist, I’m determined to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Historically, I would learn about, say, toxic candles and immediately replace every phthalate-spewing votive with an eco-friendly alternative. The disinfectant sprays of my childhood are hazardous too? I’d better upgrade all my cleaning products to nontoxic ones in one fell swoop. 

In these discovery moments, it feels as if I need both a side hustle and a research assistant to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Luckily, that’s not the case. There’s a low-commitment, easy way to be greener: swap by swap.

What Is the “Swap-by-Swap” Method?

“The cheat code to becoming ‘eco-friendly-er’ is to do it swap by swap,” says Skylar Saba of Happy Earth Habits (@skysaba), in a TikTok explaining the method. Whenever you run out of a product, shares Saba, that’s the time to try out an eco-friendly alternative. Instead of replacing all your candles, cleaning products, clothes, and cosmetics at once, just wait until you naturally need to purchase more of these items and give something greener a try. 

How to Do the “Swap by Swap” 

Let’s say it’s time to restock toilet paper in your home. In the video, self-described “Mama Earth fan girl” Saba suggests opting for Who Gives a Crap paper products instead of the bleached, plastic-wrapped version at the grocery store. Who Gives a Crap delivers bamboo and/or recycled toilet paper in bulk to your door, and each roll is wrapped in seriously cute, reusable paper. 

Worried about the environmental impact of individual delivery? “It ships carbon neutral,” says Saba, with “no plastic.” Even the price is competitive, at “$0.36 per 100 sheets.” I subscribe to Who Gives a Crap, and not only does it make me chuckle every time the box arrives, but I also never have to remember to pick up toilet paper at the store. 

Saba has an entire series highlighting other swaps like this one. I have plans to try the shave bar Saba recommends when I run out of Trader Joe’s Honey Mango Shave Cream — but not before.

Why “Swap by Swap” Works

  • It’s realistic. Trying to go carbon neutral or zero waste overnight is completely overwhelming. If I try to fix everything in my lifestyle all at once, I’m more likely to burn out than save the coral reefs. But becoming a little greener, one swap at a time? That I can do. 
  • It’s easier on the budget. Sometimes eco-shopping saves money, and other times it costs more. The swap-by-swap method may or may not save money depending on what you choose to buy, but the method does spread out the investment over time, making it easier to meet monthly budget goals.
  • It’s less risky. I tried the Public Goods Compostable Trash Bags, and they weren’t strong enough for me, because I stuff my trash can to the gills before taking it out. It was disappointing, but not a big deal because it was one purchase, not a complete lifestyle overhaul. I’ll just try something new next time. 
  • It’s fun. Buying something new to me when I run out of a product turns a chore into a scavenger hunt. Occasionally I discover something truly delightful, like these durable, reusable grocery bags that can fit in a small purse or adorable beeswax wraps

Thanks to the swap-by-swap method, every week I take one easy step toward the eco-lifestyle of my dreams. Turns out “eco-friendly-er” is good enough for me. 

Need ideas for your next swap? Check out these six budget-friendly swaps for a zero-waste kitchen.