Eliminating waste from your life with suitable zero waste swaps are easier said than done, sometimes it’s as if you can’t seem to get away from all the single-use plastic and disposables.
But all is not lost, replacing disposable and short term products for durable and more sustainable options take time. There is no need to rush out and buy everything all at once as that will just create more waste, right? Replacing things as they come to the end of their usable lives is a sensible approach to reducing waste.
Some swaps are easier than others and some essential products do not currently have workable zero waste or sustainable alternatives. Medical products would often fall in this category, we’d say for these do as much as you can and accept that it’s a journey, not a sprint.
If you can invent an alternative it might be the business opportunity of the century, otherwise joining a charity initiative to fight for the cause might be the only option. Nonetheless, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. With all that said let’s have a look at simple zero waste swaps, you can start with.
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17 Super Simple Zero Waste Swaps
1. Coffee Pods and Filters
Even though some coffee companies now offer recyclable pods, getting either a reusable pod that you can refill, switching to French press coffee making or a Moka pot is much better. Alternatively, if you are still hankering for a coffee machine instead, we’d say rather go for an espresso machine than machines that use disposable filters. Also, remember to switch your machine’s warming plate off once your brew is made.
2. Swap Plastic for Reusable Food Wraps and Bags
Plastic baggies and cling-film/plastic wrap can easily be replaced with reusable bags and beeswax or vegan food wraps. Cling-film is generally not recyclable and even though some plastic bags are, going reusable is still a lot better. Think food storage bags, shopping bags and produce bags as well for further zero waste swaps.
3. Swap for Toxin-Free Bamboo Utensils
When the time comes to replace your plastic utensils you can look at materials such as Bamboo or stainless steel if you’re looking for something less porous. These will last a long time and can be disposed of sensibly, you might even be able to pass stainless steel utensils on to the next generation if you look after them!
If you’re looking for a softer material then silicone sets are also an option, be aware that it’s tricky to recycle so will need to check locally for a special facility to take them to.
4. Liquid Soaps for Bar Soaps
This is one of our favourite zero waste swaps as you can stop a lot of waste this way and contrary to popular belief bar soaps clean just as well as liquid soap and potentially fewer toxins.
If you think about it, you can replace your dishwashing liquid with a dish block, hand and body wash with bar soap and potentially shampoo. Although switching to a zero waste shampoo can be a bit harder, it’s still possible for most. Read our post about zero waste shampoo for switching tips.
5. Switch out Plastic Kitchen Sponges
Most traditional kitchen sponges are made of plastic, but there are workable zero waste sponge alternatives. Switch your sponge out for a compostable cellulose sponge – that’s a good start. When it comes to scrubbing power you can go for a pot brush (as our great grandparents did), a loofa scrubby or coconut scourers.
The bristles of pot brushes can be a bit stiff to start with, but these soften and become easier to use over time and they last ages. If you’re not keen on these then coconut and loofa scrubbers are always an option and both these are biodegradable.
6. Swap Plastic Loofas for a Wash Cloth or Natural Loofah
Plastic loofas are pesky little plastic bombs that arrived in our bathrooms somewhere around the noughties, or perhaps before that. They are lovely to use but unfortunately made of plastic. Before their arrival, the washcloth was probably the most widely used, they can easily go into the washing machine and if you buy 100% cotton it can be cut up and composted when they’re worn. Alternatively, you can use a natural loofah or a brush, if you’d like something a bit more scrubby.
7. Paper Napkins
Even though paper napkins might seem harmless, swapping them for cloth ones will create a lot less waste. We think cloth napkins are a lot more elegant in the first place, they last a long time and can go straight into the washing machine along with your general load without much fuss.
8. Go, Straw Less,
This isn’t just a zero waste swap, it’s a waste-free swap. Get rid of plastic straws by going without. It’s perfectly normal to drink straight out of a glass, even in a restaurant. If you absolutely have to use a straw then you can go for a stainless steel one or perhaps bamboo. But straw-less is always best.
9. Take a Packed Lunch in a Reusable Lunchbox
Lunch on the go usually involves a plastic package of some sort, preservatives and plastic cutlery. Packing your own lunch in a nifty little lunch box is better for your waistline and the planet. Read our post on making packed lunch for a few ideas.
10. Plastic Water Bottles
Unless you live in a country where the water is not safe to drink, or you have a dehydration emergency there is no reason to buy water in a bottle. The bottled water industry is very controversial sometimes selling water that’s not theirs to sell. So carry a reusable bottle when you’re out and about, it reduces plastic waste and helps the communities where water is sourced.
11. Shop Bought Dips for Homemade
Dips and spreads like hummus or guacamole is so easy to make at home, taste much better, comes without any preservatives and doesn’t come in a plastic tub. Make your own with our guacamole and hummus recipes, we promise you won’t regret it one bit.
12. Ditch the Teflon
Teflon is potentially toxic, even though the company that makes it tries to convince us otherwise there is evidence that it can release toxins into your food. Switch to stainless steel or cast iron pan without any fancy coatings as the coatings often contain toxins and will deteriorate with time forcing you to replace it.
13. Swap Binning Food Waste for Composting
Food and other organic waste won’t break down in landfill because it’s not aerated. Landfills release methane gas and are tightly packed which means organic waste won’t decompose. Composting your food scraps are much safer. You can do this in your apartment or check locally for a collection service if you don’t have curbside collections. If you’re interested in composting indoors read our posts about apartment composting or see what you can compost indoors or outdoors.
14. Dry Shampoo
Shop bought dry shampoo contain all kinds of nasty ingredients that are best avoided. Rather go for a zero waste dry shampoo or make your own DIY dry shampoo with a few simple ingredients, it costs a fraction of the price and is just as effective.
15. Store Food in Glass
Even though supermarket plastic containers are technically re-usable it can leach chemicals into your food and doesn’t last very long. If you have to go with plastic you can go with the original brand name Tupperware containers as they do last a lifetime, carry a warranty and can be returned to the company for recycling. However, for toxin-free food storage, you can use glass jars or snapware. These are super versatile and can even go in the freezer. Read our article about freezing in glass jars for tips and tricks to do so without breaking them.
16. Build a Plastic Free Dental Routine
A few zero waste swaps when it comes to your dental routine can go a long way. Change plastic dental floss for a zero waste floss, consider using a zero waste toothpaste and swap for a zero waste toothbrush when the time comes to replace yours. Don’t worry if have an electric toothbrush, you can now buy recyclable and bamboo toothbrush heads as well.
17. Beauty Routine Zero Waste Swaps
Reduce waste in your daily beauty routine by swapping for reusable makeup pads that you can easily drop in the washing machine. If you’re routinely using makeup remover you can swap for a base oil such as coconut or jojoba oil, both these are usually packaged in glass, is a fraction of the price and works just as well if not better. You can also make your own DIY facial oil and go for zero waste makeup next time you shop.
These are simple zero waste swaps that you can easily make over time. Add your own favourite swaps in the comments below.