Contrary to what you may think, opting for a more Zero Waste lifestyle does not necessarily entail drastic and costly changes.
Being proud low wasters ourselves, we first wanted to distance ourselves from single-use items that were hard to recycle, such as bathroom essentials. We rapidly realized that we were living more simply, reducing waste and saving money. This is a perpetual process and search for more eco-conscious habits.
At the end of the day, we encourage you to find your own rhythm, and in this case, the most appropriate swaps and DIY ideas that work for you and your loved ones.
If you are unsure of where to begin, then you probably want to start slowly and progressively, trying out here and there until you find the right fabric, ingredient, dose, or brand.
Our article first sheds light on what makes a swap Zero Waste and why it is a beneficial change for you and the planet. Then, we will share a few reusable, long-lasting items that easily fit into a more eco friendly home.
What Is A Zero Waste Product?
One of the goals of Zero Waste is to focus on waste prevention and avoid sending as much waste to landfills as we can. As you probably know, waste that is not properly recycled often end up polluting our soils and waterways.
Long-lasting Low Waste products help us reduce the damage done to nature by reusing as much of what we own as possible.
At Puratium, we will first advise you to reuse, upcycle, or repurpose what you already have at home before buying anything new. The purpose is not to throw away perfectly working plastic containers for example to buy more eco friendly ones (however cute they may be).
Should you then be in need of new items, opt for ethically and sustainably made products that can be reused and easily recycled, instead of having to buy more, for recurring tasks. While some can be no-brainers, other options can be a bit more difficult to adapt to.
Lastly, another way to reduce waste at home is to make, build, upcycle, or sew your own product. Check below for a few DIY ideas.
Swapping Out Paper Products
Even though paper can easily be recycled in most of Europe and Northern America, a practical way to reduce your dependency on these paper products is to switch for reusable, washable ones that will last years (not seconds).
A highly used product, getting rid of paper napkins, is a quick, easy zero win. Naturally, this zero waste swap might seem tricky. Napkins are used extensively, mainly to put them at tables when eating.
That being said, it is definitely doable; for context, in American families, the number of households purchasing paper napkins dropped from 60% 20 years ago, to 41% now, which is excellent!
You can replace paper napkins with cloth napkins. It is one of the easiest Zero Waste swaps you can make. Rather than using a paper towel, you use cloths.
However, do keep in mind that you’ll have to wash them consistently.
If you are worried about the impact of swapping out less use of paper for more laundry, then you should read our guide on Zero Waste Laundry Detergent.
Cutlery made of plastic/wood
Another quick alternative in regards to kitchen materials. Namely, use real cutlery; if you are a big user of plastic cutlery, then try to make the switch slowly(i.e., only use the plastic cutlery when you have visitors or for last-minute events).
Alternately, use bamboo-made cutlery whose origins are transparent; it is crucial to ensure these reusable items come from sustainably managed forests.
Probably the most difficult in this entire list to swap out. Paper towels are quite popular, particularly for cleaning.
Nevertheless, you should take a look at alternatives such as reusable dishcloths that will keep you away from the garbage.
Replacing Plastic Products
Wrap: We believe that swapping wrap paper with beeswax wrap is the way to go here.
Plastic water bottles: Easy Zero Waste management starts by firstly getting rid of the day-to-day essentials you discard after a few minutes of use.
Reusable water bottles are one of the easiest and readily available items you can get: use them at home, when traveling, or in the office.
You can find a brand to your liking and purchase your own. If you need two quick reasons why you should, here are two from the national geographic: it takes 450 years for a water bottle to degrade completely, and over 1,000,000 plastic bottles are sold every minute!
Here is another no-brainer; whenever you buy groceries, make sure to bring your own bags ideally made from renewable materials like organic cotton. If you already have plastic bags at home that you can reuse, then please do so as long as possible.
Moreover, bring your own reusable containers and buy fruits, vegetables, nuts, and the like in bulk. If reducing waste when food shopping is something you are interested in, have a look at this article.
In terms of zero waste swaps, this is arguably the easiest. Zero waste straws are quite popular. If you are out in public, and they don’t have a steel or glass option, then simply do without one.
The bottom line, there are over five types of straws you can replace plastic straws with, so this is a quick win in terms of “going zero”.
Zero Waste toothbrushes are quite common. You will likely have heard of a bamboo toothbrush.
They are quite practical and get the job done. It is one of the rising Zero Waste swaps to get rid of plastic, so why not use one? Since they are biodegradable, you don’t have to worry about them ending up in a landfill.
If it’s not feasible, then start with an electric toothbrush, which seems to be all the rave these days and contribute a lot less plastic.
Nevertheless, take into account that electric toothbrushes are still not the best of options, especially if they use replaceable batteries.
Here’s a motivating factor, in North America, the number of plastic toothbrushes in landfill easily surpass one billion every year.
One of our favorites, namely for the coffee drinkers. In case you did not know, over 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used every year, and they tend to be coated with plastic.
The best way to replace this is by having your coffee mug at work or a water bottle that’s insulated.
One of the best zero waste swaps available. Mason jars are the easiest way to be plastic-free when doing your groceries.
Whether you want to put liquids or solids at the grocery store, you cannot go wrong with this. Additionally, you can turn anything into a reusable mason jar and save some money.
Storage-wise, you are bound to have some, for example, the jars you use for tomato sauce, juices, among other things. Namely, you can find them everywhere.
The key here is that body wash is usually packaged in plastic. Zero Waste swaps like this have an immediate impact. You can simply replace your body wash with a regular soap bar.
In the United States, close to 250 billion people use body wash in disposable bottles. You can contribute to decreasing this number by merely switching to soap. Moreover, there are plenty of soap options to match what you like.
Reusable Food Containers
Another easy way to get rid of plastic. Swaps of plastic food containers for glass ones are straightforward to achieve.
They are available just about anywhere, and from an aesthetic point of view, its one of the Zero Waste swaps you can purchase to your liking. If you are looking for lighter alternatives, silicone Tupperwares are ideal solutions when doing groceries. And, just as easy to reuse and clean!
Therefore, get yourself a glass container; from our experience, you will not regret it.
There are quite a few reasons why you should be careful with certain waste swaps—for example, the materials of some non-stick pans.
In this regard, play it safe and stick with pans made of stainless steel.
The point here is simple, we use a lot of razors, and of course, from an environmental point of view, these razors get dumped in a landfill, and we know the rest, disposables that we never see again.
So the idea here is to replace these with a safety razor.
You can, for example, find a razor made of stainless steel. Zero Waste Shaving is becoming quite popular for a good reason. If you are looking for eco-friendly razors, then take a look at our guide here.
Whether it is bleach or products such as window cleaners, these are excellent Zero Waste Swaps options. These are generally stored within plastic containers.
Additionally, you can start using things such as vinegar spray and baking soda for scrubbing.
If you are looking to develop habits in your house with products, then definitely take a look at plastic-free sponges, as well as bamboo brushes. Another excellent option is to go for reusable lint removers instead of regular ones.
These are quite common in any household, whether because you have pets or close that accumulates a lot of lint. Make sure you take a look at our Zero Waste Cleaning guide as well.
A lot (if not most) of dental floss comes rolled in a plastic box.
While floss is made up of nylon, you have to remember that nylon comes from oil and also takes quite a significant amount of years to decompose.
However, there is plastic-free floss available. Otherwise, take a look at our vegan floss guide.
Pen & Other School Supplies
We consider this option a dark horse. However, if you are willing to try it, you can swap out your regular pen for a fountain pen.
In terms of swaps, this is quite fun, you can find fountain pens made of bamboo, they are quite elegant, and even their cases are usually made of bamboo.
If you like exploring original DIY ideas related to similar products, this article on school supplies from Julia, our expert, will get you started.
Instead of using regular plastic filters, try activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal purifies the water as a regular water filter would but without removing any of the good minerals that some plastic filters remove. Additionally, they are quite affordable.
There are plenty of ways of “going zero.” You can start making small life changes and easy Zero Waste swaps; this is list is just a few ways for people to change their lives.
Remember that, as customers, what you do not buy (or buy differently) cast a crucial vote to the industry and global corporations; thus, as often as you can, try to replace single-use items with reusable ones, and be creative to make the ones you currently own last longer.
CO-Founder @ Puratium. Lover of Belgian Beer 🍺, and debating endlessly over 🏀. That being said, actively doing my part for the 🌍.