17 zero waste essentials ideas for a sustainable and plastic-free lifestyle.
Can I be totally honest here? A lot of environmental activists and green movements play the guilt card too often.
Here’s what I mean.
People new to a zero waste lifestyle, or someone who just doesn’t know where to start are turned off by shaming and constant blame.
But guess what? Going green can and should be uplifting. It begins with a feeling of wanting to change. Furthermore, it begins with specific actions you can take today.
Hear me out: if you’re just starting on your zero waste lifestyle, I’ve curated this list of 17 zero waste essentials to get you on your way.
Personally, changing my habits was empowering, and I hope you feel the same.
Part One: Kitchen and On-the-Go Products
Plastic forks, spoons, and knives are so last decade. And you know what else? Reusable, wooden cutlery aren’t just for camping.
Take EcoRoots’ bamboo cutlery, for example. This five-piece set comes with a bamboo straw, a spoon, a fork, a knife, and a pair of chopsticks.
Ideally, you’ll use this set when eating out or even just enjoying a picnic.
Want to hear a sad, but powerful fact?
Disposable utensils are the seventh most common plastics found during beach clean-ups. One powerful thing about this is that you can actively fight against this problem.
How? By switching to reusable bamboo cutlery. Moreover, by encouraging your friends and family to do the same.
You can convince them with these great value factors about EcoRoots’ bamboo cutlery:
Bamboo naturally resists bacteria. Also, it’s completely biodegradable and compostable. What’s more, our bamboo cutlery is ethically-sourced, which means the wood was harvested with eco-friendly processes.
Lastly, it’s zero waste and is not shipped or packaged in plastic. Otherwise, this list wouldn’t be a true zero waste essentials list.
Let’s move on.
2. Reusable Water Bottle
What’s arguably more important than reusable cutlery? A reusable water bottle.
Every minute, we buy one million water bottles globally. Sadly, most bottles aren’t recycled even though they can be. Needless to say, it’s a widespread problem.
And it’s a problem with a simple primary solution. Yes, if you buy and use a reusable bottle regularly, you’re cutting down on a huge amount of plastic waste. That’s something to be proud of!
Personally, I use a stainless steel bottle because I can keep cold and hot drinks inside, depending on the weather. However, there are so many options out there that I’m sure you can find one that fits your lifestyle.
Here are some popular styles:
Water bottle with a spout lid, stainless steel with screw-on tops, reusable plastic with a built-in straw, wide-mouth water bottle, and more. Luckily, there are also a wide range of sizes, so you can keep a bigger one for when you’re at work for a long time, and a smaller one for a quick trip to the gym.
I will say, though, that some water bottles are harder to clean than others, so pay attention when you’re making a decision. For example, a water bottle with a built-in straw will take more time to clean, while a wide-spout screw-on lid bottle just needs a quick brushing.
Whichever style you choose, bring your water bottle with you everywhere you go so it becomes a habit--it will save thousands of pounds of plastic waste.
We’ve covered cutlery and water bottles. I know, it seems like you’re bringing the whole kitchen with you on this zero waste journey, but bear with me. We’re making big, planet-saving changes here.
If you’re attending an outdoor event where drinks are served, our stainless steel tumbler is a great accessory. Unfortunately, plastic party cups and styrofoam cups still exist. While you can’t get everyone to get on board with a zero waste lifestyle, you can set an example to people in your life.
Our 12-ounce stainless steel tumbler is suitable for adults and children. It’s non-toxic, recyclable, and plastic-free.
To top it off, you can clean it in the dishwasher without worry.
On the same vein, we also offer a stainless steel straw as an alternative to single-use plastic straws.
Did you know that ocean plastic waste grows by 8 million tons a year?
Surprisingly, just one percent of this waste is plastic straws, but imagine how much plastic we’d keep out of oceans if we eliminated them.
I gladly recommend our stainless steel straw, which comes in a silver or rose gold finish. It measures eight inches, but is slightly bent, so it’ll stand well in most drinking cups.
Good news is you can wash this straw in the dishwasher, but I also recommend rinsing it out as soon as you can after each use. I know it’s not always easy when you’re out and about, but it’ll make clean-up easier later. This is especially true if you drank something other than water or clear juice.
If you’ve switched to reusable steel straws, great!
It’s important to remember, however, that people with disabilities like Parkinson’s disease need plastic straws to safely and independently drink from a cup. We respectfully suggest a reusable silicone straw, in this case, but we fully understand if this is a problem, too.
We at EcoRoots encourage able-bodied customers to switch to our reusable stainless steel straws because every single plastic counts.
Let’s face it.
Reusable produce bags are the epitome of zero waste essentials. If nothing else, you should at least have a trustworthy, reusable go-to bag. Luckily, we offer different sizes and designs to help you find the one best for you.
Consider our reusable organic cotton bags that come in a set of nine. With this purchase, you’ll receive a small, medium, and large bulk bag and two small, two medium, and two large mesh bags.
You’re probably thinking: I don’t need this many bags for grocery shopping! Well, our reusable bags are ideal for storing produce and other items like toys, small gadgets, toiletries, etc.
I use these when I go to the farmers’ market or my local grocery store. They help me keep track of how much I’m buying. The cool thing is the tare weights are on the bag labels, so I don’t have to write it down every time, and it makes bulk shopping so much easier.
Additionally, these biodegradable bags keep my fruits and veggies from rolling out of my tote bag. That’s because the cords are made of stainless steel, and the bags themselves are double-stitched for durability.
And another thing--the bags are washable so even if produce or veggies soil them from the inside, you can restore them to their former glory.
Already have reusable produce bags? Check out our organic cotton string bag. Seriously, this bag has saved me from many a plastic bag.
I keep at least one reusable bag on me at all times, and I usually carry this with me. It carries up to 40 pounds and its long handles make it easy to carry as a shoulder tote, which is how I use it.
What are some things you can store inside? Think notebooks, your reusable water bottle and cutlery, clothes, produce, and snacks.
Most importantly, it’s made by fair wage and fair labor. It’s also made of certified organic cotton by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). As far as zero waste essentials go, this should be at the top of your list.
Are you just looking to replace a bag or add to your collection? You can purchase our organic cotton medium or large bulk and mesh bags separately. Both bulk and mesh bag mediums measure at 10 inches by 11 inches. The large bags measure at 11 inches by 15 inches.
Close the bags with the nifty drawstrings and keep items in--perfect for bulk shopping.
This recyclable textile is package free and made of GOTS certified-organic cotton that’s durable and high quality. Wash with cold water and air dry for maximum use.
6. Silicone Sandwich Bag
Single-use plastic sandwich bags were great for school lunches back in the day. What’s the better alternative now? Silicone sandwich bags!
The great thing about them is not just that they’re reusable, but most are BPA-, PVC-, and lead free. For parents with young kids who eat packed lunches everyday, or people who often bring lunch to work, this is great news! Silicone bags are safe, and environmentally-friendly alternative.
Most sandwich bags come in packs of different sizes and at least one other bag. Despite their name, you can use them for other foods like cut-up fruit, vegetables, and pastries.
Worried about food leaking or falling out? Good news: they’re usually built with a zipper and waterproof design. If you’re looking for larger containers or ones for liquids, I suggest checking out stainless steel tupperware or wooden lunch boxes.
7. Bee’s Wrap
Another great option to try is Bee’s Wrap, which is a food wrap made of beeswax, jojoba oil, and resin. Before you object to using animal products (beeswax!), this company uses sustainable harvesting policies. Additionally, the jojoba oil is organic and the actual cotton wrap is GOTS organic-certified.
What’s the difference between these and regular cloth napkins? The jojoba oil and resin coat the cotton fabric so the fabric holds its shape.
Here’s how it works. Say you have leftover cookies but don’t want to use a disposable plastic bag. Simply warm up the wrap with your hands and then fold the fabric around the cookies.
The sandwich wrap comes with a button and string for more security, but their variety pack is great for loose produce in the fridge. Anything from cheese to bunches of parsley goes.
Sounds impressive, right?
You can also use these wraps as bowl or plate covers. Unfortunately, these don’t last forever. You can wash them many, many times, though.
When they’re no longer fully functioning, like they’ve lost their “grip,” you can toss them in your compost bin to complete their zero waste life cycle.
Now that we’ve covered kitchen and outdoors products, I’d love to introduce you to zero waste essentials bath and beauty products.
Part Two: Zero Waste Essentials for Beauty & Bath Care
Let’s start with something almost everyone has in their bathroom. Razors. Chances are you've used disposable razors in your life.
No worries or judgment here.
I get it, plastic razors come in packs. They come with perks like built-in, water-activated shaving cream strips, triple (or even quadruple) blades, and replaceable plastic heads.
But the catch?
These are extremely wasteful, and there are plenty of green options available. Take EcoRoots’ rose gold safety razor, for instance. I know safety razor sounds intimidating and old-school, but it’s actually the future of shaving!
EcoRoots’ double-edged blades give you a smooth shave. Usually, safety razor blades should be replaced after every seven uses or so. We offer five blades with your razor purchase for free. Our separate replacement pack includes 10 blades which can last a few months depending on how often you shave.
To keep the razor clean and working properly, rinse with warm water after use, wipe off excess water, and keep it somewhere dry.
For really smooth and soft skin, I recommend using a shaving soap. Remember, it’s always best to wash skin before and after shaving to avoid razor bumps and skin irritation.
Bonus tip: after using our rose gold safety razor, moisturize your skin with Meow Meow Tweet’s vegan body oil. By and large, it’s one of the most luxurious all-natural products I’ve tried.
I’ve used it as an all-body oil and I love it, especially right before bed. The lavender and lemongrass soothes my skin after a shower and ends my day on such a relaxing note. It’s the perfect way to shrug off the day’s stress.
I know what you’re thinking--aren’t the bottle and pump wasteful and technically not zero waste? Not necessarily. The glass bottle and plastic pump are both refillable and recyclable. What’s more, the company is certified organic and supports fair trade practices.
Bottom line: it’s made of vegan and organic ingredients and uses a reusable container. It belongs on this zero waste essentials list.
Thankfully, the beauty product industry is shifting towards greener products. Sadly, many make-up enthusiasts use and throw away make-up wipes daily. Whether it’s a wet wipe or disposable cotton pad, it’s easy to use them without really thinking about waste.
Here’s a solution.
EcoRoots’ reusable cotton rounds are made of 100% biodegradable and compostable cotton and bamboo. One pack comes with ten, so you can rotate between rounds even if you use them every day.
These rounds can do anything disposable pads can--spreading face lotion, wipe off make-up, or applying serum, for starters.
This product is plastic-free and as always, we use recyclable packaging - a must have product on your zero waste essentials list.
Let me tell you, zero waste beauty care products can be so difficult to find. Especially when everything is new to you.
Still, when you find an environmentally-friendly product, it’s a great feeling because you know you can trust the ingredients. That’s how I felt about YayforEarth’s zero-waste facial lotion.
The ingredients? Just four organic and natural things your face will love--olive oil, locally-sourced beeswax, shea butter, and pomegranate seed oil. Let’s break these down.
First, the organic olive oil is a good base because it’s a natural antioxidant and hydrator. Second, beeswax helps keep the product together while keeping bacteria out of the container and your skin. Third, shea butter helps skin heal and prevents irritation or swelling. Finally, pomegranate seed oil helps protect skin from the sun.
Of course, you should still wear sunscreen over this facial moisturizer, but an extra layer of sun protection can’t hurt.
Good thing it’s also suitable for all skin types!
To top it off, this lotion comes in a reusable/recyclable glass jar and metal screw-on top.
Unfortunately, a lot of soaps contain plastics or palm oil along with synthetic scents and ingredients.
Our natural rose clay soap is made with only plant-based and natural ingredients.
Here’s the breakdown. It features French kaolin clay that helps remove old skin to encourage new cell growth. To make sure your skin stays hydrated after exfoliation, we added moisturizing organic coconut oil, virgin shea butter, and mango butter. Lastly, we blended organic essentials like rosehip and ylang ylang together to make a nourishing soap.
You might wonder what ylang ylang is, and let me tell you: it’s the flower of a tropical Asian tree that helps soothe sensitive or irritated skin. It’s especially helpful if you’re prone to acne, skin rashes, or other irritated skin conditions.
What’s one of the best parts about this soap?
The scent! You’ll smell like fresh flowers without being too intoxicating. Of course, we send it to you without plastic packaging, and recyclable shipping materials.
This soap in particular is typically used for the face, but you can use it on the rest of your body.
If you’re picky about deodorant or have sensitive underarms but still want to reduce plastic use, I urge you to try this zero waste deodorant.
What’s zero waste about it? The biggest game-changer is that it comes in a fully recyclable and compostable cardboard tube. You simply push up to get more of the deodorant out instead of twisting a plastic part at the bottom.
I know, cardboard tube and natural deodorants aren’t perfect. You’ll have to warm up the stick on your skin for a few seconds to make it spread evenly. Sometimes, the deodorant won’t push up so easily, but for the most part, everyone who’s tried it has really enjoyed it.
Besides, it’s made of USDA organic coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, cornstarch, and baking soda. What’s more, we added jojoba oil and rosemary extract to make it as effective as mainstream deodorants.
It’s also available in a tea tree and lemongrass scent if you prefer that over the natural coconut scent. Each stick comes with 2.1 ounces (62 grams), but even one will last a while.
Ever heard of solid shampoo and/or conditioner bars?
If you have, let me guess. You didn’t want to try it because it seemed like it wouldn’t work or be too much work.
Truthfully, shampoo and conditioner bars are so easy to use and they cut down on so much plastic. Get this: only about half of Americans actually recycle personal care product containers like shampoos and conditioner bottles. If we all switched to products in reusable containers, it would make a huge difference.
Now, I’m telling you we can switch to products with zero packaging.
Solid shampoo and conditioners work very well after you get over the first few bumps. The first is knowing how much product you need. This means knowing how much of the bar you should rub onto your hair. Next, your hair and scalp will probably need an adjustment period if it’s your first time using solid products.
I’ve been there. It’ll feel strange at first, rubbing product onto your hair instead of squeezing out liquid shampoo or conditioner. But think of how much more natural these products are.
For instance, our 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner bar is made of USDA organic coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut milk, mango butter, sunflower oil, rosemary extract, and castor bean oil. We use sodium hydroxide (Don’t worry, it’s just a fancy name for lye!) to bring it all together and make an extremely hydrating shampoo and conditioner bar.
If you want to keep your shampoo and conditioner separate or prefer to mix different scents, we have over ten other options. One of my favorites is the Citrus Fresh conditioner bar, but the Moroccan Oil shampoo bar is also popular in our community and between my friends.
Need more proof? Try it yourself and let us know how it goes!
For now, let’s move onto our last essentials--dental hygiene products.
Oral Health Care Products
Zero waste essentials also includes oral hygiene products. Arguably, plastic toothbrushes are one of the easiest items to replace. Whether you want to stock up or gift a pack to a family, our four-piece set is an ideal choice.
Do you hate the feeling of wasting plastic every three months when you replace your toothbrush? Me, too. That’s why we created an ethically-sourced, completely biodegradable and recyclable toothbrush.
The bamboo handle evokes a minimalist design and feel. What’s more, the soft BPA-free bristles are recyclable. I trust bamboo because it naturally keeps bacteria away, unlike plastic bristles and handles that could build up bacteria.
You’ve probably heard of zero waste toothbrushes, but have you heard of zero waste floss? Yes, that little spool of plastic string in the plastic container might not seem much, but all that waste adds up.
Our zero waste floss is made of compostable bamboo. Instead of a plastic case, it comes in a refillable glass jar with a metal top to cut the floss.
In any case, zero waste floss are usually made with added benefits that traditional brands don’t have.
Exhibit A: our floss is infused with activated charcoal, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and a plant-based vegan wax. Tea tree oil and peppermint oil keep your gums healthy by keeping germs and bacteria in check.
Each spool comes with 30 meters or 33 yards of floss. Ideally, you’ll use 18 inches every time, so each spool will last over a month.
Finally, I’ll show you a vegan toothpaste and explain why it’s a better choice than convenient brands.
Davids Toothpaste is popular for a reason. It’s a vegan and fluoride-free alternative that’s made with safe ingredients like Earth-mined calcium carbonate, water, baking soda, seaweed powder, and peppermint oil.
The metal tube is recyclable, as is the paper box it comes in. The neat thing about this is it comes with a “key.” Do you ever have trouble squeezing out the last bit of toothpaste? Not anymore! Use the key to roll the tube forward and use every last drop.
If you’re looking for something stronger besides the original peppermint, it’s also available with charcoal to polish and whiten your teeth more effectively.
Remember: before tossing the tube into the recycling bin, cut it open and rinse off remaining product with water.
So there you have it. You have 17 zero waste essentials ideas. Bookmark this nifty list for the holiday season, birthdays, or even housewarming parties. When we’re introduced to eco-friendly habits from people we know, we’re more likely to adopt these habits.
No, you don’t have to go out today and restock your whole home with zero waste replacements, but this is a great place to start.
Nevertheless, I’m sure there are other great items we don’t know about yet, either--let us know what’s on your zero waste essential list!