Zero waste swaps for everyone who wants to start their zero waste lifestyle.
Sometimes the process of becoming zero waste can seem overwhelming.
Whether you’re just starting to learn about it, or you’ve been working towards it for months now, you’ve probably figured out that it’s not something that happens overnight.
It’s hard to change the ways we’ve done things all our lives.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of easy swaps you can make to eliminate waste from your day to day routines.
When you make these changes, not only will you be eliminating plastic from your waste stream, you may find the zero waste versions work better than their plastic counterparts.
So, without further here are my 17 zero waste swaps to get you started, or continue you on your way:
Number 1: Straws
My first zero waste swap pick is straws! If you have sensitive teeth like me, or just prefer your cold beverages sipped through a tube, you may find yourself throwing away more of these little plastic guys then you’d like to admit.
There are alternatives! The most popular replacement straws on the rise are stainless steel. And not without reason.
Our stainless steel straws are durable, easy to wash, and fit in with the other utensils in your drawer as if they were made to.
Combine with your favorite tumbler and bam! To-go cups and plastic straws be no more!
Well¸ I wish it were that easy.
One hurdle you’ll likely encounter as you begin to incorporate a reusable straw into your routine is that people will constantly be trying to give you disposable ones.
Once those paper-wrapped straws hit the table at a restaurant they are as good as garbage.
So don’t forget the fourth “R” of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Refuse!
Service staff already have a tough gig, so always be sure to be polite when telling them you won’t need a straw.
Number 2: Produce Bags
Ah, produce bags. Perhaps the most redundant of bags!
You put your produce in a bag just for its journey down the cashier’s belt to put inside yet another bag!
They aren’t completely useless, however.
Produce bags expedite the checkout process by keeping all like items together for quick counting or weighing.
That’s why next on my list of zero waste swaps is reusable produce bags!
I’ve been using reusable produce bags for a couple of years now and I loathe the day when I forget and go without one.
You don’t have to worry about ears or corn ripping through and ending up on the grocery store floor, or if you will be able to reach the stupidly high dispenser.
Plus, the drawstrings make it so easy to keep everything contained going through the checkout line.
Best of all:
Our produce bags are made of organic cotton. Many reusable options out there will still be made of synthetic material.
While this is arguably better than the single use option, washing them may not be great for our water ways.
The Guardian reported that each load of laundry containing synthetics releases as many as 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers.
Last, but definitely not least:
This set comes with a set of bulk bags! Many reusable produce bags have too loose of a mesh to handle bulk items like bulk grains.
But we’ve got your back!
The set comes with six regular produce bags and three bulk bags.
Number 3: Utensils
Have you ever sat down to eat with a group of friends, ready to chow down on some good food only to look around and see everyone is eating with plastic utensils?
So disappointing. Right?
Not only is single use plasticware incredibly wasteful, they are often flimsy and unpleasant to eat with. That’s why the next of our zero waste swaps is a travel set of bamboo cutlery.
That’s where these babies come in!
The bamboo is lightweight, fits easily into most medium purses or backpacks, and won’t jangle around with every step.
The set comes with chopsticks, a fork, knife, spoon, and straw. Best of all it comes with a straw brush for easy clean up on the go!
Keep them in your lunchbox, purse, backpack.
Where ever you need them, they are good to go!
Number 4: Water Bottles
Some may say that us Americans may have a bit of an obsession with staying hydrated.
Personally, I don’t go anywhere without a bottle of water.
For me, drinking plenty of water is a must to stave off migraines. But whatever your reason for keeping water handy, I really want to encourage you to get a reusable one! Which is why I just had to include this as one of my zero waste swaps!
Across the U.S. the old everyone’s-face-has-touched-this drinking fountains are getting an upgrade. Water bottle filling stations are popping up all over.
If I had one tip for this one it would be to pick a quality water bottle.
I know what you’re thinking:
What kind of dork sits around researching water bottles?
This one! That’s who! My last water bottle only held on about a year before the leaking started.
While that’s probably hundreds, maybe thousands of refills, I am hoping to get even more of my new one.
Number 5: Coffee Cups
If there is one liquid American’s are more obsessed with than water, well, it’s probably hot water that’s dripped through ground up beans.
Coffee beans, that is.
How many times did you stop for coffee last year? And how many people did you wait in line behind each of those times?
Even just in your local coffee shop that is a lot of cups.
Most coffee chains use plastic coated paper cups for their hot coffee and plastic cups for their iced drinks.
Perhaps one of my favorites on this list of zero waste swaps—maybe just because I am obsessed with coffee—are reusable coffee cups!
Most chains will happily prepare your favorite hot beverage in your reusable mug instead of a paper cup.
A nice insulated tumbler will keep that cold brew cold for hours. Not to mention it won’t sweat everywhere.
And some chains, like Starbucks, will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup!
Number 6: Toothbrushes
While we don’t toss them out after one use, plastic toothbrushes make up an enormous amount of the plastic waste in landfills.
We should, according to the ADA, be replacing our toothbrushes every three months. That’s one dozen toothbrushes per person per year.
All said and done that translates to one billion toothbrushes a year in the U.S. alone.
There is no good reason that toothbrush handles should be made from plastic! Which just may make this one of the easiest zero waste swaps on the list!
We have high-quality bamboo toothbrushes that do the job just as well. So, when the time comes to toss the one your dentist gave you at your last cleaning, replace it with bamboo!
Bamboo is great because of how fast it grows as well as its anti-microbial properties.
From now on, start off your day without plastic!
Number 7: Floss
Every night, if I am being good and listening to my dentist, I take a strip of plastic and weave it between my teeth.
It sounds weird when you put it that way, doesn’t it?
It’s no doubt that flossing is an important part of dental health. But does it have to be plastic? If you’re like me this may have been one of those things you had simply resigned yourself to.
I mean, what else could they make floss out of, right?
Turns out, there are alternatives, even vegan ones!
Our bamboo charcoal floss is compostable and comes packaged plastic-free.
Which is enough to make you and your dentist smile!
Number 8: Shampoo
If you are like me, you have spent a decent amount of time on the floor of stores reading the backs of shampoo bottles trying to find products with the natural ingredients that will treat your hair right.
Ok, so maybe you are not like me.
Either way, something you may not have wondered is this:
Why are these in a bottle anyway? Or even: why are these liquids when there is plenty of water in my shower?
The answer—if you are keeping up with the theme here—is that they don’t have to be!
Our plant-based shampoo bars will help you bust build-up and leave the bottle behind!
Number 9: Conditioner
The next of the zero waste swaps I have for you today should have been obvious.
Shampoo bars have been on the market for some time now, but I think a lot of us were skeptical about how a companion conditioner would work.
Well wonder no more, we’ve done it!
I don’t know exactly what magic was used to condense conditioner down into bar form, but it is more than impressive that they work beautifully!
If you happen to be a follower of the curly girl method, these conditioner bars are curly girl approved! I even double checked.
And with things like coco butter, Moroccan oil, and jojoba oil, these should leave your hair feeling beautifully soft and moisturized.
You can pair these with a shampoo bar, or, if your hair is on the drier side like mine, use it as a co-wash!
I almost forgot the best part:
No checked bags! If you can’t live without your favorite hair products when traveling, fear not! Bars are compact, solid, and you don’t have to put them in a checked bag at the airport!
Really, what more could you want?
Number 10: Razors
I am going to let you in on a little secret, I stopped shaving with plastic razors a long long time ago.
But I get it:
There’s nothing quite like the feel of freshly shaved legs, and it’s a great way to clear off dead skin as well.
It almost seems that at some point in time, companies decided that if it lived in the bathroom it had to be made of plastic.
Even when it came down to the traditionally metal razor.
Many people shave daily, but disposability reigned supreme over durability in the razor wars. Who says it has to stay that way, right?
So, if you’re not quite ready to embrace the beast and love your body hair—but are tired of tossing plastic razors—we’ve got you covered with the next item on this list of zero waste swaps:
Now you may be thinking:
One blade? But my old razor had five!
Trust me when I say that in this case less really is more. You’ll be amazed how much hair that one blade can tackle, and it will leave you with fewer ingrown hairs. Try and top that!
Number 11: Shaving Soap
Have you ever considered the major flaw of traditional foam, shaving cream?
In addition to the resource-intensive packaging, shaving foams make it impossible to see where you are shaving.
Which—if your someone who doesn’t shave often like me—can lead to those surprise patches of long hair on otherwise smooth legs.
While many shaving cream cans are made of mostly aluminum and steel, they contain plastic components in the dispenser and the lid portions.
This makes recycling them a difficult process according to the National Recycling Coalition as the remaining propellent, which may be hazardous to the ozone, has to be drained and the materials have to be separated.
What if I told you that we have a travel-friendly, plastic-free, and vegan alternative for you?
Well, we do: it’s the next of our zero waste swaps, shaving soap!
Our shaving soap comes in a solid bar and while it does lather nicely, you’ll still be able to see the hair as the razor glides over your perfectly slippery skin.
Not to mention that it is scented with notes of citrus and lavender and packed with moisturizing ingredients your skin will thank you for!
Number 12: Deodorant
The plastic twist-up style of deodorant package has become a ubiquitous member of the plastic army that lives in most American bathrooms.
Personally, I have tried several different zero waste deodorants.
Some gave me rashes because of the baking soda, others just didn’t do anything at all, and many were a nightmare to apply and would stick to my fingers.
There is a better way!
The next product on our list of zero waste swaps doesn’t require you to sacrifice any convenience!
Instead of plastic, this cruelty free deodorant by Meow Meow Tweet uses a compostable and recyclable paper tube.
Not only does it come in an adorable package that works just like a push pop, but it also works!
Number 13: Cotton Rounds
Many of us, myself included, have been guilty of falling for the convenience of face wipes and other disposable products.
In the case of wipes, not only do we throw away the package they come in, but we also throw away the entire contents of the package.
This is why these reusable cotton rounds are a must on my zero waste swaps list.
Pair them with your favorites sustainably packaged products like toners, washes, make-up removers and more!
Then toss them in the wash with the rest of your linens and use them again!
Number 14: Dish Scrubber
An unfortunate side effect of a love of cooking is the amount of time spent doing dishes. Dishwashing is another place we employ an army of plastics to get the job done.
Think about it.
From the dish soap bottle to the sponge, to the scrub brush.
Plastic, plastic, plastic!
Today I want to focus on the scrub brush. For some time, I thought being zero waste would eventually mean giving up my scrub brush.
As someone who only cooks with cast iron, that was a scary prospect.
Turns out there are other materials to make tough bristles out of.
Not only is our dish scrubber plastic-free, but it’s also tough and ready to get the job done!
The bristles are made from hard plant fibers and they are strong enough for even the most baked-on foods.
What other kitchen problems can we tackle by making zero waste swaps?
Let’s see with our next item!
Number 15: Soap Dish
If you’ve been paying attention, a lot of these zero waste swaps lead to switching from something liquid in a bottle to a bar.
If you are using bar soap to do your dishes, or anything else really, you’re probably going to want a soap dish with good drainage.
The quicker your soap is able to dry after you are done using it the longer it will last.
As more and more things in your life start to revolve around bar soaps, you may be tempted to buy a couple of plastic soap racks.
But, while you will get quite a bit of life out of them, you’ll eventually have to throw them away, and your dollar will be supporting the continued production of plastic products.
Instead, I’d like you to consider our bamboo soap dish. Not only do they look lovely on the side of the sink, but these soap dishes will also help water drain off your bars of soap.
Number 16: Dish Brush
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
Didn’t we already do a dish brush?
Well, yes, but the scrubber probably won’t be right for the items that may need a softer touch. This brush will also give you a nice distance between you and the dirty dishes with its long handle.
This brush has natural sisal bristles, a lovely wooden handle, and—best of all—the whole brush head can be removed, composted, and replaced when worn out!
On top of it all:
The brush is simply gorgeous!
Number 17: Solid Dish Soap
Last but not least on our crusade through the kitchen is the dish soap block. With the last three zero waste swaps under our belt, we are well on our way to zero waste dishwashing!
There’s only one thing left to swap out. That big plastic bottle of soap.
That bottle of dish soap may be tough on dirty dishes, but it’s also tough on the environment. Like before, I am going to recommend you ditch the liquid for a solid option. And when I say solid:
I mean solid.
This dish washing block is dense, long-lasting, and powerful.
Plastic-free, vegan, and free of harsh chemicals our dishwashing block is another great way to ditch the bottle. It looks so nice and minimalistic on the side of the sink that it is an easy product to love.
A lot of these things may seem small and insignificant.
When plastic production continues to double every 15 years since it first hit the markets, and only 10% of it gets recycled, cutting plastics out of our daily lives has to become a priority.
When you make some of these zero waste swaps in your life, people will take notice.
Every time someone visits your home and sees your beautiful, reusable, natural products…
Every time you pull out your shampoo bar out on a vacation and your friend’s excitedly ask “What’s that?”
You become an example of what living a life without plastic can look like.
Together we can change the tides and shift our culture away from wasteful plastics.