Do you want to start a zero waste lifestyle, but you’re feeling overwhelmed? Going zero waste can be confusing at first. With these easy zero waste swaps, you’ll be able to reduce your waste right away. It’s easier than it seems!
What is zero waste living?
Zero waste is a part of sustainable living that tries to reduce the amount of packaging waste. Think about all of the plastic bottles and tubs that get sent to landfills – that’s what zero waste living aims to reduce.
Since only 9% of plastics actually end up recycled, simply trying to recycle these old containers isn’t enough.1 The majority of the plastics you use will wind up in the landfill, even if try to avoid that route!
The problem isn’t just plastic, though. We’re addicted to buying stuff that we really don’t need and that’s made so poorly, it’s destined to break. Some products are even made to break just so you’ll have to replace them! Electronics waste can add heavy metals to your local landfill and many electronics components are mined in unsustainable conditions worldwide.2
Plus, foods that we send to landfills are not able to break down naturally. They release methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide.3
How can you start a zero waste lifestyle?
It’s pretty clear that we have some big issues to confront. When you focus too much on the negatives, it becomes harder to take action. As much as you might want to revamp your whole lifestyle overnight, you’re actually way more likely to be successful if you choose small actions.
Don’t think of zero waste like a diet. Instead, think of this as a zero waste journey. It is a process you will be working on gradually one step at a time. Even done imperfectly, zero waste can make a difference!
Zero Waste Swaps for Beginners (Room by Room)
Let’s jump into some simple zero waste swaps! You can truly a difference by replacing products you currently use with sustainable alternatives. It’s truly that easy!
We’ll go room by room to help you see the simple changes you can make throughout the whole house. Lots of these can help you save money, too!
Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps
The best place to start transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle is in the kitchen! There are so many sustainable swaps that make going zero waste easy. Plus, you can simply take care of the products you have to make them last and last!
- Bring reusable cloth bags to the grocery store for plastic-free produce
- Hit the bulk bins for package-free shopping
- Shop for products without single-use plastic packaging
- Bring your reusable grocery bags to skip the plastic bags
- Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles
- Try a zero waste dishwashing soap like a dish soap block
- Use compostable sponges
- Switch to compostable wooden dish brushes
- Run the dishwasher instead of handwashing to save water
- Purchase or make plastic free dishwasher detergent
- Ditch the paper towels and use reusable cloths like unpaper towels
- Skip the plastic wrap and snag some cloth bowl covers
- Add a composting bin or service
- Save veggie scraps and peels in the freezer for stock
- Store foods in zero waste food storage containers
- Use silicone mats instead of parchment paper
- Make your coffee with a reusable filter or a French press
- Choose loose-leaf tea to avoid synethic tea bags
- Bring your own cup to the coffee shop
- Take plastic containers for leftovers at restaurants
- Shop in-season to minimize shipping fuel
- Meal plan to only buy what you need
- Set up a zero waste pantry
Try a zero waste alternative to disposable products like:
- Silicone bags
- Mason jars
- Reusable fabric bowl covers
- Silicone baking sheets
- Beeswax wraps
Waste Free Shopping
You can’t shop your way into a zero waste lifestyle. These plastic free swaps and zero waste items are helpful, but it’s wasteful to throw away all your plastics to buy new items. Instead, you need to work on becoming a conscious consumer who slows down their purchases and makes intentional buying decisions.
- Start by shopping secondhand instead of new
- Wait 2, 7, or 30 days before purchasing to make sure you really want it
- Ask yourself these 7 questions before buying new
- Support local and small businesses
- Look for zero waste stores in your area (or online!)
- Focus on high-quality products made to last
- Shop with a list (and stick to it!)
- Try to shop with cash so avoid overspending
- Bring reusable shopping bags or shop without a bag
Zero Waste Bathroom Swaps
These are so many zero waste alternatives to common bathroom items! Unfortunately, some of these may cost slightly more than your standard products. But, I encourage you to keep an open mind.
Many of these products will outlast less expensive items that are destined for the landfill. Plus, many zero waste products are safer for you than conventional products. Always check the safety of your products with the Environmental Working Group (EWG)!
Learn more about setting up a zero waste bathroom here.
- Snag a zero waste toothpaste (there are so many options!)
- Switch to compostable dental floss
- Brush plastic-free with a bamboo toothbrush
- Make or buy zero waste mouthwash
- Try a reusable swab instead of disposable cotton swabs
- Switch to recycled content toilet paper
- Consider adding a bidet or family cloth
- Replce disposable razors with a stainless steel safety razor with replaceable blades
- Make your own zero waste shaving cream with coconut oil with this recipe
- Incorporate a menstrual cup, cloth pads, or period underwear
- Find a low waste reef-safe sunscreen
- Switch to bar soap for hand washing (or rehydrate this paste for liquid soap)
- Try soap bars for body washing
- Grab a soap saver bag to use up all the leftover soap bits
- Consider zero waste shampoo bars (or refillable containers)
- Switch to a low flow shower head
- Add a half-gallon jug of water to your toilet tank to reduce water
- Buy cotton earbuds or a reusable ear swab
Zero Waste Beauty Swaps
This is one area where you are more likely to use low waste swaps instead of zero waste products. When you have to balance specific needs (like supporting sensitive skin), you might need to be okay with a better-for-you product than something entirely zero waste.
- Use reusable cotton rounds or a washcloth instead of facial wipes
- Make your own lip balm and lotion bars
- Order low waste skincare products
- Look into low waste makeup brands
- Make your current makeup brushes last by washing them gently with castile soap and allowing them to dry
- Upgrade to makeup brushes made with wood and natural fibers
- Make your own body scrub
- Upgrade to a wooden hairbrush to avoid plastic waste
Easy No Waste Cleaning
You can easily overcomplicate zero waste cleaning. Keep things as simple as possible. White vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and castile soap are zero waste essentials.
Learn about the exact cleaning products I recommend for wherever you are in your journey to an eco friendly lifestyle. See my zero waste cleaning swaps right here.
- Make your own natural cleaning products
- Use a low waste cleaner like Sal Suds to clean with less trash
- Switch to our DIY zero waste toilet cleaner
- Replace your old toilet brush with a wooden alternative once yours wears out
- Use cleaning cloths with natural fibers like cotton
- Grab some glass spray bottles to minimize plastic use
Zero Waste Laundry Swaps
Your zero waste laundry routine is more about what you no longer use than the swaps you need to make.
- Skip the fabric sheets
- Stop using fabric softener
- Find a zero waste laundry detergent (this one bar of laundry detergent paste makes enough for 256 loads!)
- Ditch dryer sheets and use wool dryer balls to help dry faster
- Line dry when possible & wash on cold
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can zero waste save you money?
Absolutely! When you live a zero waste lifestyle, you typically buy fewer items. When you do buy something, it’s often secondhand, which is usually cheaper. By reducing the amount you spend and switching to secondhand outlets, you will usually spend less money overall.
There are some zero waste swaps that may cost more money upfront, like unpaper towels or a silicone menstrual cup. Because you will use these products again and again, they will cost less over their lifetime than the cheaper disposables.
Does this mean every item will save you money? Not necessarily. The sustainable swaps that do save you money should help offset higher prices here and there.
How do you go zero waste on a budget?
You can absolutely be zero waste on a budget! Think back to how people used to live before Big Box stores and chains. They saw everything as a resource, everything as a tool. They stretched foods, repaired items, and bought to last.
Start seeing the items you already own as capable of being more. Plastic yogurt tubs could hold leftovers and glass jars can be used for a huge variety of purposes. Upcycle your paper milk cartons as soap molds or for starting seeds! Cut old shirts and sheets into rags.
Look for the simplest solutions out there instead of expensive, trendy options. For example, one bar of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap can be turned into an entire gallon of liquid soap that you can use for hand washing, body washing, and dishwashing. For $3-4, you can replace a variety of products.
Plus, simple cleaners like baking soda and vinegar are incredibly affordable. We’ve started replacing more expensive eco friendly products with them and are just shocked how well they work.
You may enjoy:
– Frugal Sustainable Living Tips
Does going zero waste make a difference?
Yes! Although there are conversations in the zero waste community about the role of individual consumers, you can absolutely make a difference. Learn more about this here in my post about how to be sustainable in everyday life.
Have you noticed the surge of “green” and “natural” brands these days? Companies are noticing the sea change. They see that consumers want to make a difference and aren’t accepting the status quo anymore. By these small actions, we can prompt broader change.
Learn more about living a non-toxic, sustainable lifestyle with these posts:
What are your favorite easy zero waste swaps?
What was your first zero waste swap? Which part of the house do you want to make no waste first? Tell us in the comments!