Since I started my zero waste journey almost 2 years ago, my mission was to reduce my effects on the planet and reverse what I had already done years before.
Sharing my experiences online, I received an influx of questions about replacements and what each person could do to make changes in their own life.
To help everyone started, I will be creating a 3 video series of zero waste Replacements (beginner, intermediate and advanced) on my YouTube channel. I will also be posting a full recap highlight of all the videos here on my blog as well. Hopefully, these small changes will make us look at what we are currently using and how we can make better choices moving forward.
Zero Waste | Sustainable Lifestyle Hacks
Before we start, make sure that you are replacing these items as you run out, or if something breaks on you and needs replacing. It isn’t about adding more waste into the environment, it’s using what you have and then replacing it with a better option.
So let’s get started! 20 products, here we go…
Reusable Bags –
Reusable bags are one of the easiest swaps you can make. Companies give them away as swag at events or you can purchase them at grocery stores for well under $1-2 each.
Plastic bags are a big contributor to the overall waste problem. When you think about each time you go to the store you are handed a small bag. Seems innocent right? – In actuality most homes accumulate HUNDREDS of bags and they usually get thrown out.
Some grocery stores will give you a discount for using your own bag, and that savings can add up! On average we save 5-10 cents per bag
If you are looking to get rid of a stash that you have have at home, consider taking them to grocery stores that will recycle your plastic bags for you.
I keep a small bag in my purse, and a few spares in my glove box.
If you still forget, you can also skip the bags all together and place your items back in your cart and load them into your car!
Reusable Cups –
Convenience isn’t what we think it is. Each time we purchase a hot or cold drink we are handed a cup that is either made of plastic, lined with plastic or full styrofoam. In most cases, majority of these cups cannot be recycled and for the ones that can be, rarely end up being recycled.
Swapping your cups for reusable options reduce trash while still being able to enjoy your delicious beverage.
To help you remember, keep a mason jar or spare cup in your car incase you forget!
Reusable Produce Bags –
Back to my gripe about plastic bags, not only is the plastic bags a problem, but for some reason stores give you an additional plastic bag to cover your produce etc.
These bags are already trash because before my zero waste days, they would tear or just suck in general, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to give this one up.
Opting for cloth product bags not only will keep your produce organized but we all know produce bags are the absolute worst and should be removed all together.
There is no cost savings associated with this swap but is completely necessary for all grocery runs.
Keep these bad boys in your reusable bags as you unpack your groceries so you remember them each time. Or just not use them at all and continue to be a rebel that cannot be tamed.
Fabric Facial Rounds –
If you wash your face, remove makeup, apply toner, remove nail polish or all of the above, reusable fabric facial rounds are a game changer.
Not only do their cotton counterparts fall apart, but the fabric versions just go right into the washing machine for repeated use. This has by far been one of my favorite swaps because I actually feel like the soft exfoliation from the cloth has improved my skin and has saved me a bunch of money.
Reusable Zip Lock Bags / Beeswax wraps –
Lots of people love their plastic zip baggies for meal prep or TSA, but those bags cannot be recycled.
The average American uses 500 Ziploc bags every year. … When they do end up in the landfill, oceans, or other areas of the planet they can be detrimental to our health and the environment.
There are so many silicone bag replacements these days that allow you to ditch those plastic baggies all together. You can even cook, freeze, throw them in your purse or travel with them at the airport.
The best part, they are dishwasher safe!
Wool Dryer Balls –
Swapping your traditional dryer sheets for wool dryer balls will reduce drying time, reduce wrinkles, static, and even soften clothes.
Removing these sheets will remove harmful chemicals off of your laundry that can ruin absorbency. In addition to keeping them out of the landfill.
Bar Soap –
Solid body wash and hand soap, use less packaging and require less water to produce. They are also one of the easiest eco swaps to make!
Not only are they cheaper than their plastic bottle counter parts, but one bar can replace up to 3+ bottles of traditional soap/body wash.
With liquid products I always felt like I would always use more than I needed contributing to excess of waste. With bars I find myself only using what I need, allowing for longevity.
Sustainable Toilet Paper –
Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day, which are either flushed or dumped in landfills every day. That’s over 9.8 MILLION trees per year!
Switching from your traditional toilet paper to more sustainable brands can help the trees do what they do best:
- Taking carbon out of the air
- Shading the earth and cooling the temperature
- Being a home for animals and critters
- Just being pretty and making nature magical.
There are options out there like Bamboo toilet paper, which is made from bamboo that produces significantly more fiber, on less land, then trees traditionally used to make tissue paper. It’s also stronger, cooler and softer than most traditional paper.
Similarly, if bamboo is too much of an expense, opt for recycled toilet paper which is just as fantastic for the environment.
Travel Cutlery –
Each time you take your food to go, or accept those plastic utensils – None of them can be recycled. The only way to extend the life of those plastic devils is to rewash them and reuse them (which I have done before). However, it’s better to just decline the plastic and use your own travel cutlery. You can either just carry a set of your own metal utensils or opt for a travel bamboo set.
Just remember, you sadly have to let restaurants or people know when ordering take out etc. (Ive been frustrated when I find them already placed in my order.
Bamboo Cleaning Brush –
Replacing plastic sponges, you can scrub your dishes clean without dirtying the environment. Dish Brushes come with fully compostable brush heads which can be replaced when they are all worn out (just remove the bristles).
If bamboo brushes aren’t your thing, traditional cotton towels can also be used to clean dishes instead of sponges. There are also some sponges made from sustainable materials (almonds) as well.
Silicone Baking Mat –
Have you heard of silicone baking mats? These are silicone sheets that can be placed on a baking sheet to replace parchment paper or aluminum foil – keeping all that waste out of the landfill.
Not only are they easy to clean and reusable, but they’re also non-stick. These baking mats can also prevent browning on the bottom of baked goods and reduce the risk of burning.
Bamboo Toothbrush –
Don’t put plastic in your mouth, plastic toothbrushes are made from a mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil. Replace your traditional toothbrush with a bamboo alternative.
North America wastes over 1 billion toothbrushes, which could wrap around the world 4 times. So instead of adding to this statistic, opt for a bamboo toothbrush instead and decline the extra waste from your dentist.
Compostable Trash bags –
A compostable bag will almost completely biodegrade within six months – a big improvement on the 100-plus years it would take for something like a normal plastic bag to break down in a landfill.
Because plastic takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, microorganisms inside of the regular plastic bag will decompose in an unnatural manner. This increases the likelihood of it producing toxic substances that can contaminate the environment.
Therefore, opt for compostable bags to allow these bags to be absorbed by the soil to be converted into compost, or allow the contents inside to break down quicker and safer.
Dental Floss –
Regular dental floss is just waxed nylon, rolled up in a small unnecessary plastic box. Just like its plastic counterpart, nylon is derived from crude oil, which we are flossing between our teeth, yum.
Select sustainable options like plastic-free silk floss, bamboo or even charcoal variations without the contaminating plastic packaging.
Laundry Pods and Dishwashing tabs –
Almost 1 million single-use plastic bottles, jugs, pouches and tubs avoided from entering our oceans and waterways if we just chose dissolvable laundry and dishwashing pods.
Products like Dropps are made from a water soluble film made of polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH). When the film dissolves in your washer/dishwasher and enters the water stream micro-organisms (including bacteria, yeasts, and fungi) that commonly exist in water treatment plants are capable of breaking down polyvinyl alcohol to water and carbon dioxide (Plastic and chemical free!).
Rechargeable batteries –
Rechargeable batteries produce less waste because they can be recharged with a simple battery charger and reused hundreds of times. They also use less energy because recharging batteries with a battery charger is more energy efficient than the cost and energy of making new batteries.
Reusable Straws –
I think reusable straws really started the big wave of the zero waste movement in the media. But did you know, 99% of all straws are plastic being consumed every day. Only 1% are either stainless steel straws, glass straws or even wooden ones.
Say no to single-use, disposable plastic straws. With so many options on the market these days, it’s easy to find your favorite to bring with you on-the-go.
Reusable Tea Bags –
In traditional tea bags, 20-30% of the product is made of plastic. Since plastic products can’t fully break down once they are disposed of, they negatively impact the environment. The result: huge amounts of waste are added to landfills around the globe. These small bags with wrappers and stringed tags at each end are polluting the ocean as well.
Select a reusable strainer or tea bag and skip the plastic and waste.
Opt for sustainable materials –
The fashion industry emits large amounts of greenhouse gases per year, contributing to global warming. The vast majority of clothes are petroleum-based and made from fossil fuels, including polyester, acrylic & nylon (check your clothing labels, you may be surprised). These materials require significantly more energy in the production phase than natural or recycled fibers.
Sustainable brands often use materials from natural or recycled fabrics that require significantly less or no chemical treatment, little water, less energy and no fertilizers or pesticides to grow.
Whooo, 20 items is a lot and I know that these zero waste items can take time to swap and or replace. In conclusion, I have created a full recap video with all the links here. Also, each recommendation above will have links to each product as well. Scroll up if you missed any of those!
If you are curious to find out why I started making more zero waste choices check out my previous blog post here.
Let me know what zero waste swaps you have already made or what products you want to switch in the near future.