Long before I ever heard about minimalism, I was concerned about producing less trash. My journey to live a more zero waste lifestyle started long ago and I have never given up on it.
Most of the time, my path to be zero waste aligns with minimalism. Both lifestyles are ultimately about consuming less.
Over the years, I’ve found a few things that I consider easy ZW switches. There are still many more things I could do, but I wanted to share these “easy” items for anyone in the early stages of switching to zero waste.
But first, and this is very important, do not throw out anything functional to replace with a zero waste option. That is the opposite of zero waste. Wait until an item you have wears out or is used up before replacing.
Zero Waste Swaps
Here are a few simple things that I’ve done to be more zero waste, in no particular order.
Reduce to-go food – I really limit how I often I order to-go food as food packaging is a major source of single-use plastic waste. Instead, I make food at home, bring food from home for work lunches, or eat at a restaurant with real plates and cutlery.
Say “no” to plastic straws – Plastic straws are a huge source of plastic waste. When I eat out, I usually skip a straw altogether. But when I do want to use a straw, I carry a reusable steel straw in my purse.
Travel mug for coffee – I have really cut back on my coffee shop runs, but I carry this reusable cup with me just in case, for those times when I do grab a coffee on the go. Metal travel mugs keep the coffee too hot for me, but this one works great. Plus, it’s completely plastic free.
Glass cup for cold beverages – I bought a glass cup at Starbucks last summer and I use it all the time! It’s double-walled so it’s comfortable to hold and all of the parts are machine washable. The lid and straw are plastic, but there are options out there that are plastic free. Here is a similar one to mine. If you want to go plastic free, you can buy a straw lid for a mason jar. Here’s an option and another.
Buy bulk at the grocery store – My local co-op allows people to bring in their own containers for the bulk section (not all stores allow this, so you might want to check ahead of time). I buy tea, spices, flour, and rice in bulk. The best part is I didn’t buy any new containers to do this. When I decided to make the switch to bulk buying, I started saving glass containers such as pickle jars, jam jars, and spice jars.
Bar shampoo and ACV rinse – This has been a game changer for my hair. Bar shampoo leaves my hair so soft! I will never go back to liquid shampoo. Plus, I’m avoiding plastic waste by ditching the bottle. This is the one I use but there are many brands and options. ACV stands for apple cider vinegar. Here’s a recipe for a homemade ACV rinse.
Safety razor – Razors used to be all metal, but today most razors are disposable plastic. I made the switch to an all metal safety razor. It was a little scary at first to load the razor but I got over it quickly.
Hemp coffee filter – I bought a hemp coffee filter to replace the usual paper filters. Coffee tastes exactly the same.
Reusable bags – At this point, who doesn’t own at least one reusable bag? The problem is remembering to grab them when you go to the store. I was having a hard time remembering my bags, so I created a rule for myself: If I forgot my reusable bags, then I had to buy more at the store, I could not use paper or plastic bags. I only forgot my bags twice after making this rule.
Cloth napkins – An easy switch from paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are admittedly not as absorbent as paper towels, but they work fine for wiping your hands and face while eating. For spills, I use cloth hand towels.
So that’s it! If you want to read more about zero waste, there are a ton of blogs out there. If you have any easy zero waste swaps, I would love to hear them in the comments.