Going zero-waste might sound overwhelming at first, which is completely understandable. That’s why I gathered 30 easy zero-waste swaps anyone can make today to get you started. You don’t have to do them all in one day though. Maybe set a challenge for yourself: do one zero-waste swap a day for 30 days. If you want to take it a step further to see how much impact these swaps have on your amount of waste, try tracking the number of items that would have usually gone to waste before you swapped. For example: ‘Because I used a reusable cotton wipe today, I didn’t have to waste 3 single-use cotton wipes.’
1. Plastic bags to a reusable bag
You’ve probably heard this one over a hundred times by now but it is one of the easiest, yet most impactful zero-waste swaps you can make. Just carry a foldable bag in your purse or backpack at all times, just in case. You never know when you need one.
2. Package-free groceries
Try to go for package-free groceries as much as possible. There is no reason for apples to be packaged for example. If you can choose between packaged and non-packaged apples, please go for the ones without the unnecessary packaging.
3. Install a bidet
This one is pretty straightforward, although I understand it’s not for everyone. If you are open to the idea, at least try to use a bidet a few times to see if it’s for you. If you are not comfortable with it, try to opt for toilet paper made from reused paper instead of your regular toilet paper. This alternative might not be zero-waste like a bidet would be, but at least it reduces waste significantly.
4. Single use cotton wipe to a reusable one
Personally, I don’t even understand why single-use cotton wipes exist. What is wrong with using a washcloth or microfibre cloth to clean off your make-up? If you find these too rough on your skin, you can even make your own reusable cotton wipes from fabrics that feel softer to the touch. If you want to take it to the next level, try making them from old clothes that you don’t wear anymore.
5. Silicone cupcake liners
This one might sound counterintuitive because cupcake liners are usually made from paper and paper is fine, right? Wrong. A silicone cupcake liner can be reused time and time again. Which means you have no waste after eating your cupcakes. This has a huge impact on the environment because by reusing silicone cupcake liners, you don’t contribute to the demand for more products to be made.
6. Plastic free soap
Soap doesn’t need the plastic packaging to do its job, right? There are plenty of soap options that don’t come wrapped in plastic. Try to find a nice soap bar instead of liquid soap for example.
7. Reusable water bottle
By having a reusable water bottle in your purse or backpack at all times, you rarely have to buy water in a disposable bottle again. If the tap water in your country is safe to drink, a reusable water bottle will allow you to stay hydrated without contributing to the landfills.
8. Carry an ‘on the go’ coffee cup
Similarly to when you bring a reusable water bottle along, you can also bring a reusable coffee cup wherever you go. Not only does this allow you to get your coffee waste-free, but it also keeps your drink hot for longer if you have an insulated one.
9. Cloth diapers
This one is for all the new parents out there. Because let’s be honest, babies are messy. But just because they can’t control when their bodies dispose of waste, doesn’t mean they need wasteful products like single-use diapers. Cloth diapers can be washed and reused over and over again. This way you save a tonne of waste and money that single-use diapers would cost.
10. Reusable period pads
Similarly to reusable diapers, there are also reusable period pads available. These pads allow you to wash them so you can use them time and time again. This will also save you a lot of money on pads each month.
11. Period underwear
Period underwear is best explained as underwear with reusable pads built-in. You can use a pair all day without leaking and throw it in the washer when it’s full. Using period underwear eliminates the use of pads and the waste that comes with them completely.
12. Use a menstrual cup
A menstrual cup is another reusable period product that eliminates the need for tampons and pads. They are similar to tampons in use but instead of them soaking up the blood and needing to be thrown away, they catch the blood in the little cup so it can be emptied and reused.
13. Buy from bulk bins
Not everyone has bulk bins available to them but if you do, buying from them is a very impactful zero waste swap. The idea behind bulk bins is to eliminate packaging as much as possible. If you bring your own reusable produce bags or containers you don’t have any waste at all.
14. Organic loofah
Not many people seem to know this but loofahs actually grow on plants. Why would you need an artificial plastic loofah that’s very harmful to the environment (in terms of both production and waste), if you can get an organic one? If you want to take it a step further, you can even grow your own!
15. Fabric napkins instead of paper napkins
Honestly, I think no reason can justify the use of paper napkins over fabric napkins. Fabric napkins can be reused time and time again, while paper napkins need to be thrown out after one use. Aside from being a great zero-waste swap, fabric napkins are also much more gentle on your skin than their paper twins.
16. Fabric towels instead of paper towels
Fabric towels are reusable instead of single-use paper towels. You can use them to clean your house and then throw them in the washer to use again. Try to count all the paper towels you’ve used over the past week or so. Now imagine that you would have used a fabric towel instead. You can’t go back in time to eliminate waste that you already created, but you can look forward to the future and think about all the waste you are going to save by implementing this simple zero-waste swap.
17. Silicone food bags
So many people use single-use ziplock bags or freezer bags. You essentially use 1 bag for 1 food item you want to keep fresh. But what if you could use one bag to keep hundreds of food items fresh? You can by using a reusable silicone food bag. After you used it, you can easily turn it inside out and put it in the dishwasher. Another option to keep your food fresh with reusable items is by using airtight storage containers or glass jars.
18. Reusable produce bags
Just like bringing a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store, you can also bring your own reusable produce bags with you. You can even make your own from mesh fabric. If you want to take it a step further, try making your own from old bedsheets or clothes that you no longer wear.
19. Beeswax wrap
Beeswax wrap is a great alternative to replace saran wrap or aluminium foil. It is made from organic cotton and beeswax. This means you can reuse your sheets of beeswax wrap over and over again.
20. Safety razor
A safety razor is a razor that you can reuse multiple times. Unlike single-use razors, you won’t need to throw your safety razor in the trash after shaving. Aside from lasting much longer than most modern razors, safety razors are more often than not free from plastic. Another bonus is that most companies that produce these razors also opt for plastic-free packaging as well.
21. Cloth tissues
Why is it even socially acceptable to use single-use tissues? You blow your nose only once or twice and then throw them in the trash. A much more sustainable and waste-free option is to use cotton tissue instead. Cotton tissues can be reused after simply throwing them in the washer. If you don’t want to have a snotty tissue in your purse all day (which honestly was the reason I didn’t want to make this swap at first), bring along a silicone bag to put it in after using it. Silicone bags can easily be cleaned in the dishwasher or the sink. Aside from being waste-free, cotton tissues are also much more gentle on the skin around your nose. This is especially relieving when you catch a bad cold. By using something more gentle to blow your nose in, you won’t need some type of lotion to relieve your damaged skin either. Since those lotions usually come in plastic packaging, that’s another item you don’t have to waste.
22. Bamboo toothbrush
This one is not entirely zero-waste in the sense that you never have to replace your toothbrush but when you do, you don’t contribute to landfills. Because bamboo is a natural material that breaks down and composts in the time span of approximately six months, it is a much more sustainable option than our usual plastic toothbrushes.
23. Bamboo dish brush
Just like your toothbrush has to be replaced every few months, so does your dish brush. By choosing a more sustainable bamboo dish brush you don’t contribute to landfills when it is time to replace it. Aside from that, the production of bamboo brushes is much more eco-friendly than the production of their plastic counterparts.
Imagine how many trees have to be cut down to fill an entire book store. Now multiply that number by the number of bookstores you know. By switching your traditional book for an e-reader, you stop contributing to the demand for paper that is needed to create those books. You also make a significant impact when you look at production demand. If you use an e-reader, only one has to be manufactured for you to read countless books. While traditional books have to be created per book you want to read. By using an e-reader you also save a lot of space in your home, since it stores so many books on a small device. And when it’s time to purge your book collection, you can simply delete the file instead of sending an entire book through a recycling process.
25. Loose leaf tea
This zero-waste swap might not sound that impactful, but it makes a huge difference. You see, the tea leaves themselves decompose in approximately three to six months but the bags themselves don’t. Teabags are made from microplastics that are not biodegradable or recyclable. That means that for every cup of tea you make, you add another decomposable piece of plastic to a landfill. By switching out your traditional tea bags for loose leaf tea and a reusable tea strainer, the only waste you have from your cup of tea is the completely compostable tea leaves. If that sounds like your cup of tea, try it!
26. Reusable coffee filter
A reusable metal coffee filter is similar to our traditional paper coffee filters but you don’t have to throw it away after just one use. By simply throwing out the used coffee grounds (which are compostable by the way) and rinsing it thoroughly, you can use your metal coffee filter for years to come. Just imagine how many coffee filters will not be sent to landfills when you make this easy zero-waste swap!
27. Reusable plates and cutlery
Sigh… Why this is not common sense still baffles me. In the day and age where dishwashers are getting more and more common in every household, you have no excuse to use single-use plates, bowls and cutlery. I can imagine it might sound appealing to use them when hosting a family barbecue, but even then you can just use your regular plates and cutlery. It might mean you have to run your dishwasher twice or a family member has to help you wash the dishes after the party, but does that small inconvenience really justify sending a set of plates and cutlery per person to landfills? Even if you don’t have enough plates for everyone, getting single-use ones is still not justifiable. Just ask your guests to bring their own reusable ones with them to the party.
28. Bring a lunchbox
When at work, I see many people bring their lunch in little plastic or paper bags. Some people even wrap their sandwich in aluminium foil. But why though? A simple reusable lunchbox is just as effective as using wasteful packaging. Aside from being much more sustainable, it also protects your food much better from being crushed and smashed by other items in your work bag.
29. Bagless vacuum cleaner
Aside from it being a pain to replace vacuum bags, they are also very wasteful and unnecessary. Many vacuum cleaners these days come with containers that you can easily take out and empty in the trash can. You still throw out the dirt and dust you usually would, but you eliminate the need for vacuum bags.
30. Silicone baking mat
If you love baking, as I do, you probably have a stash of baking sheets hidden somewhere in your kitchen. As it is completely understandable to not want to clean your oven after just one use, this is no reason to add waste to landfills. An easy to get alternative is a silicone baking mat. They are heat resistant and work just like a regular baking sheet would. The difference is that you don’t have to throw it out after using it only once. You can easily clean and reuse them for years to come. Aside from being much more sustainable, they also save a lot of space in your kitchen drawers since you only need one or two of them.