If you’re anything like like me, when you think about reducing your impact on this planet, all of these big changes seem overwhelming to make alone. It seems impossible to start today because there are so many things that need to be done.
But what if I told you there are some simple changes you can start making pretty much straight away? That’s right! And you don’t even need to go out and buy a compostable toilet, a set of solar panels or change everything about how you’ve been living.
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The zero waste swaps I’m going to share with you will help you to reduce your carbon footprint while also being kind to your wallet and making your life a little easier at home.
Start with one or two easy zero waste changes each week until they become habit for you. You’ll feel better knowing that every change counts towards helping the environment!
Table of Contents
- What is zero waste?
- The zero waste five R’s philosophy
- Why practice a zero waste lifestyle?
- Zero waste swaps
- Zero waste kitchen
- Zero waste bathroom
- Zero waste around the house
- Zero waste laundry
- Zero waste on the go
What is zero waste?
In a nutshell, zero waste is a lifestyle where no trash is produced.
There are so many different ways to go about being zero waste but it’s generally known as making changes in your lifestyle so that you produce no garbage or landfill-bound trash.
The goal is to send nothing to a landfill or leave behind any trace that you were ever there!
Of course this takes time and patience (and money), especially if you’re committed to living this way for life. I wouldn’t expect you to be able to fit three years of waste into a mason jar – see below TedEx Talk by Lauren Singer!
The zero waste five R’s philosophy
These 5R’s are all equally important in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Whether it be recycling, buying sustainable products or reusing every last piece of scrap material you have lying around, each step counts towards reducing our environmental impact. The ultimate goal being to create zero waste – a completely circular economy in which nothing is wasted, ever.
- to take on products with excess packaging
- single use plastic items (bottled water, straws, grocery bags)
- business cards
- unwanted freebies
- unnecessary purchases
- clothes hauls
- let go of the things you don’t use anymore
- bulk orders
- handkerchiefs instead of paper towels
- period panties instead of disposable sanitary products
- canvas tote bag instead of plastic bags
- food containers instead of tin foil or plastic bags
- glass bottles
- drink cans
- leftover scraps into rich soil for your garden.
Trying to keep up with all five steps can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but I find that just starting somewhere is the best way to get into a routine . Take baby steps towards making each one easier than before until it becomes natural for you! Once one of them becomes second nature, move onto the next.
Why practice a zero waste lifestyle?
There are so many reasons to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. The first being that it’s better for the environment. This might seem obvious, but the amount of garbage that ends up in our oceans and on our landfills is getting ridiculous.
Each year, approximately 91% of global plastic isn’t recycled. Marine life has also been documented eating plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish.
Reducing landfill waste also means reducing our carbon footprint. Landfills are responsible for 16-18% of greenhouse gas emissions each year, making it one of the leading causes of climate change.
It’s also better for your wallet. While starting off with some of these zero waste swaps can be costly, they eliminate the need to buy and buy again each month, thus being kinder to your wallet.
Zero waste swaps
Here are some of my favourite zero waste swaps I’ve come across that you can make in your home and on the go to get you started on your zero waste journey.
To be clear, I have only recently began my own journey to a zero waste life and am not fully there yet. But I’m very hopeful I can make as many swaps possible in a bid to live a more sustainable life.
It’s important to note that you DO NOT have to throw out everything that isn’t sustainable or eco friendly in your house. That would counter the premise of zero waste. These zero waste products are for when your current items have run out or lived their life.
Zero waste kitchen
#1 Water filter
Invest in a water filter so you can drink the tap water rather than having to buy plastic water bottles. Plastic can leach into your water when it’s exposed to high temperatures which is something you never want to ingest.
Pro tip: fill up a reusable water bottle before leaving the house so you don’t have to buy plastic bottles of water on the go.
#2 Dish washing soap bar
Instead of using disposable dishwashing soap that comes in plastic bottles, switch to using a bar soap instead. It may take some experimenting, but it’s simple to use once you get used to it. Simply rub on a dishcloth or sponge and wash your dishes in the normal way.
#3 Biodegradable cleaning sponge
These are one of my favourite zero waste swaps. These biodegradable cleaning sponges are made from natural fibres such as plant pulp and coconut husk which are plant-based materials that have the same basic properties as cotton pads, but without all the negative side effects. They also break down in soil after 6 months to 1 year.
#4 Stainless steel food containers
Ditch the ziplock bags and plastic containers and instead store you leftovers in stainless steel food containers. They’re great for storing your lunch when you’re on the go too.
#5 Cloth produce bags
Cloth produce bags are great for shopping at the grocery store and making your own snacks like trail mix, mixed nuts and dried fruit. They eliminate the need for plastic bags when you go to do your weekly shop. You can also pop your fruit and veg in these bags instead of using the small plastic bags they give out.
#6 Unpaper towels
There are a tonne of alternatives to paper towels out there. Have you heard of unpaper towels? They’re usually made from cotton or flannel and can be washed and reused over and over again, eliminating the need for everyday paper towels.
#7 Silicone ice-tray
BPA is found in hard plastics, like many food storage containers and bottles. It mimics the hormone estrogen, throwing off your body’s natural balance which can lead to issues like breast cancer, reproductive problems and obesity
Switch out your ice trays for silicone ones that don’t contain harmful chemicals found in plastics. Silicone ice-trays are actually much easier to use too – the ice-cubes just push right out without the need to keep banging the ice-tray on the counter!
#8 Eco-friendly dish brush
Wooden and bamboo brushes are another eco friendly alternative to plastic dish scrubbers. When you find your old brush has lived it its life, why not switch to an eco-friendly bamboo dish brush.
#9 Silicone cupcake liners
If you’re a cupcake lover, try switching from paper liners to silicone cupcake liners. They can be reused over and over again and make for easy clean up when baking. And who doesn’t love cupcakes?
#10 Compost at home
If you really want to get serious about going zero waste, and this is a big investment, you can start composting at home with a Food Cycler. This is great for any food scraps, egg shells, cereal or meat.
Zero waste bathroom
#11 Soap, shampoo & conditioner bar
Shampoo, conditioner and soap are all available in solid bar form. They eliminate plastic packaging because they come in paper or cardboard boxes instead. Simply rub the bar in your hands to lather up before applying to your hair. These bars are typically better for your hair too since they’re less likely to strip it of its natural oils, unlike liquid soaps and shampoos.
#12 Safety razor
It’s estimated that around 2 billion plastic razors are disposed of each year. And disposable razors are one of the most difficult things to recycle.
You may not be familiar with them, but safety razors are all the rage right now. The blades are made of stainless steel rather than plastic and are very durable. Replaceable blades can also be purchased for less price than disposable ones, making it a more economical way to shave over time too. For zero waste shaving, switch to safety razors going forward.
#13 Period products
There are so many zero waste period products on the market these days, which means no need for disposable products anymore.
#14 Bamboo toothbrush
Traditional toothbrushes are made from plastic with nylon bristles, which eventually end up in landfills. Bamboo toothbrushes are a sustainable alternative. Switching to bamboo is one of the best ways to reduce your overall plastic use.
#15 Silk dental floss
Not only is traditional dental floss made from plastic and comes in a plastic container, it is also coated in highly toxic substances so is really bad for your health.
Silk dental floss is a great alternative because it’s made from natural silk fibers, so no plastic involved.
#16 Toothpaste in a jar / homemade toothpaste
Rather than buying the usual toothpaste which comes in a plastic tube, instead buy the toothpaste that comes in a glass jar, which can later be recycled or reused for something else.
Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, here’s a handy recipe to make your own zero waste toothpaste!
#17 Wooden Qtips
Plastic Qtips are a huge contributor to marine pollution every year because they’re extremely difficult to break down after disposal. That’s why it’s best to go with a more sustainable option like bamboo or wooden Qtips.
#18 Wooden hairbrush / comb
Combs and hairbrushes are also usually made with plastic and extremely hard to dispose of after use. Opt for wooden or bamboo hairbrushes or combs instead to reduce the plastics consumption at home.
#19 Toilet paper
Instead of buying the toilet paper that comes in large plastic packaging, buy the ones that come wrapped in paper which is easier to recycle. You can also get recycled toilet paper, often up to 100% recycled.
More and more makeup brands are beginning to use zero waste packaging and eco-friendly ingredients in their sourcing. Swap out your makeup to zero waste alternatives or give it a try to make your own, like this DIY lip balm!
Zero waste around the house
#21 Paper bills
Switch the paper bills and bank statements out for electronic copies instead. Not only will it eliminate the paper waste, but it will also be cheaper for you, since a lot of companies are now starting to charge customers for hard copies to be posted to them.
#22 Donate old clothes
Rather than adding to the landfill when you’re done with an item of clothing, instead pass it on to a family member or donate to charity. If you have clothes that are torn, have them mended and keep wearing them instead of getting rid of them.
If you need to buy any clothes, consider buying second hand from a thrift store or borrowing from friends.
#23 Don’t buy magazines/newspapers
If you want to keep up with the headlines or the celebrity gossip, read about them online instead of buying single use newspapers and magazines.
You might also like: Creating a Serene Sustainable Gallery Wall with Poster Store
Zero waste laundry
#24 Reusable lint roller
Traditional lint rollers are usually made with plastic that you can’t break down after disposal, plus they come in plastic packaging. Opt for a reusable lint roller instead with a wooden handle which is much more sustainable.
#25 Plastic free laundry pods
Laundry detergent pods have been gaining popularity because they’re really convenient to use, but unfortunately, they too come with plastic packaging
Switching laundry pods to a more sustainable alternative like these plant and mineral based powder pods will be much better for our environment.
#26 Wool dryer ball
Wool dryer balls are reusable and help reduce static in your clothes to reduce drying time. Not only is this a more sustainable option, but it’s also much cheaper than buying disposable dryer sheets over and over again, which come wrapped in plastic.
#27 Bamboo drying rack
If you don’t have a dryer and need to dry all your clothes on a drying rack, choose a bamboo drying rack to air dry your clothes.
Not only is it sustainable, but it’s also way cheaper than buying a new one every couple of years when your plastic-coated metal version starts rusting.
Zero waste on the go
#28 Reusable grocery bags
Plastic bags are one of the biggest contributor to marine debris so it’s important to reduce its consumption as much as possible. In a bid to reduce the amount of plastic bags being used in grocery stores, a lot of stores are now charging per plastic bag.
But it’s shocking to see how many people are still choosing to pay for the plastic bags! Bringing your own reusable grocery bags instead of buying the plastic ones is much more sustainable. There are so many options available to meet everyone’s preference too! Some fold up so small it’s easy to have it in your purse for the next time you unexpectedly need a bag.
#29 Stainless steel straws
Plastic straws are one of the most common plastic items found on beaches after beach clean-ups. Instead of continuing to use them, get yourself some reusable stainless steel straws instead. You can have one in your purse every time you leave the house and you’ll never need to use a plastic straw again.
#30 Reusable coffee mug
Reusable coffee mugs are not only sustainable, but they’re also a great way to reduce the amount of disposable cups being used. A lot of coffee shops have started to offer discounts for people who bring their own reusable cup, so be sure to ask your local coffee house if they do.
#31 Cloth napkins
Foldable paper napkins are single use items that you can easily replace with reusable cloth napkins instead. Cloth napkins can be used, popped in the laundry and reused again and again. If you want to get really fancy, have your cloth napkin embroidered with your initials!
#32 Reusable water bottle
I carry my Hydro Cell water bottle absolutely everywhere I go. Having the reusable water bottle means I can fill up with water from home, work or the gym without ever having to buy plastic water bottles.
What’s also great is that I can use it as a flask if I wanted to carry soup or tea and it stays hot for just as long as it does when I use it for cold drinks.
#33 Buy fresh produce instead of supermarket
Fruit and vegetables that you buy in the supermarket often come packaged in plastic wrapping but when you buy fresh from the farmer’s market, you have the opportunity to bring your own reusable bags. It’s also nice to buy from small owned businesses rather than the larger supermarkets.
#34 Take your lunch in a mason jar
Mason jars are not only insanely cute and totally Instagrammable, but they’re also great at keeping your lunch fresh without having to use plastic wrapping or plastic boxes.
I always prepare my lunch the night before work and use a mason jar to keep it nice and fresh until I’m ready to eat it
#35 Use your own utensils
This is actually something I’ve found myself doing more and more recently. When heading to the office, I pack my own utensils from home, my stainless steel straw, my water bottle and, of course, my lunch!
As you can see, there are a lot of simple swaps you can make in your daily life to reduce your waste.
Hopefully, these zero waste swaps have inspired you to be more mindful about the resources you use and your impact on the environment. Start by making one or two swaps, and before you know it, you’ll be living a zero-waste lifestyle.
If you found these zero waste tips helpful and would like to know more about how you can practice zero waste living, take a look at the documentary, “Before The Flood,” which does a great job of highlighting how people can be more sustainable around the world.
As a final word of encouragement, I want to say that it is possible for everyone to make small changes in their lifestyle so they can achieve environmental sustainability goals. It all starts with one simple swap!
Do you already make any of these changes at home?