When you hear the phrase “zero waste living”, does it instantly freak you out?
You’re not alone.
It’s easy to get bogged down in reaching the *end goal* and assume you have to dive headfirst into the zero waste lifestyle to succeed at all.
But the zero waste journey starts with small steps — or manageable, easy swaps — that will lead you to other sustainable practices.
The more small changes you make, the closer you’ll get to having a zero waste kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and so on.
Here’s how to go zero waste: use the simple tips below, then incorporate other switches as you go to complete your zero waste journey.
Zero waste swaps for the beginner
Switch from single-use to a reusable water bottle
One of the easiest ways to go zero waste has already been demonstrated by the hydration obsessed co-worker in every office: a reusable water bottle.
Now, using disposable plastic bottles second-hand may seem like a good idea at first. But aside from having a flimsy structure, they also contain traces of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical harmful to your body.
Refillable bottles are accessible and convenient to use, much like the single-use versions but without the environmental impact.
Switch plastic-lined coffee cups for mason jars or insulated flasks
Coffee holds a special place in our hearts, but our go-to coffee spots usually hand our caffeinated drinks to us in a plastic-lined coffee cup.
Instead of the usual takeaway cups, you can use mason jars for cold coffee and stainless-steel insulated flasks for hot coffee.
You’ll have your usual takeaway latte but without all the unnecessary plastic.
If you make your coffee at home using a French press or some other brewing tool, an eco-friendly flask or keep cup may also come in handy when leaving the house with your beverage in hand.
Replace plastic bags with reusable ones for shopping and produce
Grocery shopping is another aspect of modern consumerism that results in copious amounts of plastic.
The next time you visit the grocery store, bring reusable bags for your items and leave less waste behind.
A canvas tote bag, for example, can hold heavy grocery items with the added bonus of being a fashion statement.
As for fresh produce,you can find organic cotton bags that will hold your vegetables and fruits just as well as their plastic counterparts.
Change plastic straws and cutlery to reusable straws and utensils
Disposable straws and utensils may seem like small items with little consequence, but we throw away tons of them each year, while landfills pile up higher, so you can see the problem they pose.
Metal straws and cutlery can help with that problem. You only have to keep them in a small pouch, and you’ll be ready to eat wherever you go. Bon apetit!
Start using more sustainable toilet paper, paper napkins and paper towels
Tissue is a major part of our lives now, especially with recent (cough) events, yet you can still go zero waste by reaching for a box of bamboo tissues.
Bamboo is a highly renewable resource that can easily supply the world with all its tissue needs. (No trees were harmed in the creation of these tissues.)
For an added touch, you can also use cloth napkins for meals and easily wash them afterwards.
Up your bathroom routine with these hygienic swaps
(Bathroom zero waste swaps to bring your sustainable game to the next level.)
Ordinary toothbrush vs a bamboo one
Did you know that every plastic toothbrush produced since the 1930s still exists today?
Not one of these brushes has broken down; even the bristles remain untouched. That’s how long plastic can last. So, swapping to a bamboo toothbrush is the best choice for anyone starting their zero waste journey.
Use a safety razor
Disposable razors contain plastic that leaves behind toxic chemicals. They also can’t be recycled, and according to a survey from the 90s, 2 billion throwaway razors and blades end up in landfills in the US each year.
Use a safety razor instead, and you might save some money from all the disposable ones you used to hoard. Perhaps you’ll even end up with a superior shave.
Switch to a plastic-free toothpaste
Can toothpaste be a pollutant? Yep, definitely.
Steer clear of any product with a plastic tube. You can find better alternatives that have sustainable packaging. Some brands make toothpaste that comes in a metal tube that you can recycle.
Invest in compostable dental floss
Glass or steel, on the other hand, can still be salvaged and used for other functions.
Dental floss may seem small and thin but lay it flat, and it will stretch for metres. And, as we usually use floss made from nylon (a crude oil), this creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas way more potent than carbon dioxide.
A biodegradable floss will work better. Use it for your teeth then add it to your composting pile. Say goodbye to non-biodegradable floss!
Conditioners, body wash and more
To complete your bathroom zero waste swapping, step inside the world of packaging-free bar soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. 🛁
Body washes and other plastic-containing bathroom essentials are of little use if you have shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and soap bars. Bars may even be cleaner and smell better too.
Keep your home clean and organised with sustainable cleaning products
Wrap food in beeswax wraps instead of plastic
Plastics are involved in almost every part of life, even in cleaning and organisation, but you can quickly remedy that.
When keeping homecooked meals fresh in the pantry or the fridge, you likely use plastic to wrap the dishes.
This kind of plastic, though thin, still wreaks havoc on our natural surroundings, so switch to beeswax wraps, which you can wash and reuse from meal to meal.
Keep food fresh with low waste food storage
Alternatively, you can also keep food safe in glass or stainless-steel Tupperware instead of plastic containers.
Although you can reuse plastic boxes, depending on the type of plastic, they can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill.
Bring food on the go with reusable silicone baggies
In addition to reusable containers, consider placing your lunches or snacks in silicone baggies when you need to carry food on your way to work or school.
They will keep your food fresh, and you’ll be thankful when it doesn’t leak. Although made from silicone, these products can last for several years.
Wash dishes with sustainable dish soap
Liquid soap for dishwashing usually comes in a plastic container. It may not be a perfect solution, but you can buy your soap in bulk to minimise plastic waste. 🧼
Otherwise, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can look for pure Castile soap in zero waste stores.
Get your laundry sorted with zero waste detergent
Detergent for your washing machine also comes in plastic packaging, but like soap, you can buy detergent in bulk to minimise plastic waste.
And while most laundry liquid isn’t biodegradable, Spacewhite’s laundry sheets dissolve in seconds, so you don’t have to worry about it clogging up the ocean.
At the same time, you can find all-natural laundry detergents from eco-friendly stores with sustainable packaging. Or, if you’re feeling crafty, you can go the extra mile and DIY your own detergent.
Personal care while caring for the planet
Menstrual cups over tampons and pads
Menstrual cups and period undies have only become popular in the last few years, but they’re the personal hygiene items that you never knew you needed.
Think about it; you probably use multiple pads a day when you’re on your period, and tampons might need changing every 4-8 hours.
But one menstrual cup will last you up to 10 years.
You’ll save hundreds on pads and tampons, and better yet, the environment will thank you too, as traditional period products can take 500-800 years to biodegrade.
Zero waste deodorant without the nasty chemicals
Deodorants contain multiple chemicals to ensure your underarms don’t perspire or smell, yet nothing beats a natural remedy.
There are many eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives available. It’s simple: pick what works best for you.
Practice makes perfect
Some things are easier on paper (or plastic) than in practice. But going waste-free doesn’t need to be a massive task.
It starts with one small step followed by another, and you’ll be zero waste (or minimal waste) before you know it.
The aforementioned swaps are more than enough to set you on your way towards a zero waste (or close enough) life.
But it’s a learning process, and there’s always room to evolve, discover and explore (not to mention fail and learn from your mistakes).
You may even develop your own list of eco-friendly swaps.
You’ll be surprised at how far you can go with your zero waste mission. So keep up the excellent work, and you’ll be an eco-warrior in no time. ♻️