There’s no hiding from the fact that we’re living in an increasingly wasteful world.
We’re repeatedly told that we must act fast to prevent further damage to our planet. But plastic and single-use is everywhere and our shopping trips are shrouded in packaging. So how can we even hope to make a difference?
We don’t all have the resources to go on an expensive eco shopping haul. (Nor is there any need to do that.) So we’ve put together some affordable zero waste swaps that won’t break the bank.
Being a Zero Hero: What Exactly is Zero Waste?
Zero waste is about choosing to live a more sustainable lifestyle that reduces waste. In particular, plastic or non recyclable, non reusable waste.
It involves using more sustainable products and reducing negative impact on the environment. Both when they’re made and when they’re no longer in use in the future.
It’s not a shift that happens overnight. Becoming zero waste takes time and planning. But it’s important to make small but significant changes to the way we all consume.
Minimising our waste helps wildlife, the planet and even our own health. So taking a stand against plastic and unnecessary waste in our own homes is a good place to start.
There’s often some confusion around going zero waste. It’s easy to think it means throwing out every single piece of plastic, then going out to buy eco stuff to start all over again. But it’s quite the opposite.
When we throw away plastics they end up in landfill. So buying less plastic and repurposing what we already have makes more sense. We also need to make conscious decisions to make more eco friendly swaps at every opportunity.
There are zero waste swaps you can make all over your home. Here, we’ve thought of everything from baking to makeup removal.
Fed up with all the plastic?
Rid your food cupboards of single-use plastic with the Plastic Free Pantry Project.
Follow along step by step and transform your kitchen – and your life – in as little as a weekend.
Achieving the Impossible: A Zero Waste Kitchen?
The kitchen is usually the heart of the home. It’s also the place where most waste is created. Either through excess packaging from shopping or from wasting food. But a zero waste kitchen can be a reality.
Keep all those plastic takeaway containers, Tupperware boxes and empty jars. They’re perfect for filling up and reusing time and time again.
Swap paper napkins for cloth napkins (and tissues for handkerchiefs). They can be washed and used over and over again. You can even make your own from old clothes. Use them for when you’re out and about too, and for picnics and packed lunches.
Switch shop bought food items, such as bread, for home cooked loaves to avoid packaging. Or buy from a local bakery rather than buying plastic-wrapped varieties from the supermarket.
Use deli counters, butchers and fishmongers too. Bring your own containers and ask them to fill them for you.
If you have children it can be tricky to avoid the novelty of straws. But alternatives to plastic straws come in all sorts of different materials, colours and patterns to suit any occasion. (Or a fussy little person.)
Recycling and upcycling cereal bags can make fun piping bags for adding frosting to home baked cakes. Or they can be used for wrapping food items before you freeze them – such as homemade bread or rolls.
Mesh bags from oranges can be used as a washing up scourer. Or use them to store craft items like wool or threads. If you buy loose oranges, even better!
Glass jars can be used over and over again. Reuse them for storing bulk buy grains, nuts and pasta or when making your own preserves and chutneys.
Cleaning out the Cleaning Cupboard
Under the sink can hide a multitude of plastic bottles, many of which you might not even remember buying. Here’s how to streamline your cleaning cupboard:
- Old towels or sturdy clothing cut into squares make excellent cloths. You can even knit your own if you have yarn lying around (and some knitting skills!)
- Make your own cleaning products using ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
- There are many plant based and zero waste washing up utensils available now. Most are made from coconut husk or bamboo that can be composted when it’s no longer of use. You can get everything from a scourer to a bottle brush.
- Refilling stations are also opening in bulk buy and zero waste shops across the country. Ecover offer washing up liquid, laundry detergent and all purpose cleaner refills.
Reducing Plastic Bathroom Waste
The bathroom is often overlooked on our mission to achieve a zero waste home. But there are plenty of zero waste bathroom swaps you can make:
- Swap your dental floss for a plastic free version made from corn starch.
- Bamboo toothbrushes are everywhere now. A plastic toothbrush takes hundreds of years to decompose so this zero waste swap is a good move.
- Bars of soap are definitely making a come back with the plastic free revolution. There are lots of eco friendly options available and they look great on a bamboo, glass, wood or metal soap dish.
- You can even swap your plastic toilet brush for a wooden one.
- Reusable makeup wipes are great because you can wash them and reuse them countless times. The same goes for using a muslin cloth with your cleanser or face wash. Or you can even cut up old clothing that’s no good for charity.
- Bamboo or wooden cotton buds instead of plastic ones are another simple zero waste swap.
- Biodegradable bamboo plasters are really great. Especially in a house with small children who have regular bumps and scrapes.
Zero Waste Swaps Deep in the Depths of the Storage Cupboards
Be brave, and pull everything out of your storage cupboards. We dare you! You’ll find heaps of useful things to help you on your zero waste quest.
Before throwing out or recycling food packaging think if it can be used again to lengthen its life. Containers from takeaways, jam jars and coffee containers are ideal for storage.
Old tubs and jars can be used to tidy away hair accessories, pens and pencils and all those other bits and bobs. Even screws and picture hooks can be tidied away.
Glass candle holders are also perfect for storing small items once the candle is spent.
Instead of cling film, cover food with an upside down plate or tea towel then pop it in the fridge. Ideal if you’re planning to use it the following day.
For longer term storage, if you don’t mind investing in a few things then beeswax wraps are a perfect zero waste swap for cling film.
Handy Zero Waste Swaps When out and About
Shopping bags are something we still use a lot and buying a 5p plastic bag can nearly always be avoided. Always carry a spare, folded up in your car, pocket or bag for those last minute shopping trips.
Avoid plastic wrapped produce and head for loose fruit and veg instead. This is also a great way to support local greengrocers or farmers’ markets. They sell a wide variety of local produce that helps to reduce packaging waste.
If you haven’t picked up a bamboo coffee cup and water bottle yet, think about investing in one. It’s a great zero waste swap to keep you hydrated on the go.
Reusable cutlery is great too. But you don’t have to buy fancy bamboo sets. Wrap your existing cutlery up in old fabric and whip them out when you’re having your packed lunch.
Affordable Zero Waste Swaps That Don’t Cost the Earth
Sometimes we need to buy something quite significant. For example, a kitchen gadget such as a blender or smoothie maker. Rather than buying a new one, look for one on eBay or Freecycle, or browse your local charity shops or car boot sales.
Using something that’s been preloved is an excellent way of reusing resources and keeping them out of landfill. You’re also helping to reduce the amount of virgin materials used.
Swap parties, often advertised on local Facebook groups, are great too. Take along that unused breadmaker from the back of the cupboard and give it a new home! You might pick up something you really need too. These are also brilliant for swapping kids’ toys.
Many zero waste swaps involve little to no expense on your part but also come at no cost to the planet.
Learning new habits is the key to living sustainably. Many items can be repurposed, or you can buy second hand. Always think twice before you throw things away – most things can be given a new lease of life!
Living a Lifestyle Free From Clutter and Waste
There are many options that now enable us to make better choices. But you don’t have to do everything and certainly don’t have to do it all at once.
Small zero waste swaps leads towards a more sustainable lifestyle. And knowing that you’re making better choices to help support the planet feels good.
So get rummaging, invest in a few zero waste items and enjoy your new zero waste lifestyle!