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Want to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle? Here is the ultimate list of zero waste swaps to get you well on your way!
Are you looking to move to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle? Maybe you’ve decided you want to lower your carbon or water footprint, or you’ve gone vegan and realize a lot of the products you use aren’t vegan so you need to switch them up anyway, or whatever you’re reason for being here – welcome! These zero waste swaps are meant to make your life easier so don’t get stressed out.
You also don’t need to go out and buy these things and just toss your old things. That defeats the zero-waste purpose. Once you use the last of your paper plates, just vow to not buy anymore. Still have five rolls of paper towels? It’s okay! Just have a plan in place for when you run out.
And, the best thing to remember? You don’t have to be perfect! As someone with ADHD and anxiety, I want to do everything PERFECTLY and that leads me to procrastinate or never do it at all. If you do all these things except for composting, don’t beat yourself up. And, so on.
Also, please let me know in the comments if there’s a zero-waste alternative you’re looking for that I didn’t mention here. I tried to be thorough but possibly forgot something.
Kitchen Zero Waste Swaps
The kitchen is definitely the place where you’re likely to have to make the most zero-waste swaps and changes. But, don’t let it overwhelm you.
Start with the easiest things first, acknowledge the things you already do that you may not even realize (like using rags instead of paper towels), and make an action plan as to how you want to tackle swapping over.
A lot of people use aluminum foil for a lot of different things – baking, grilling, and storing food. But, there are several alternatives that are eco-friendly and cheaper in the long run.
A great alternative for aluminum foil when cooking in the oven are these silicone baking mats. A one-time investment should last you probably forever if you take care of them.
A composting bin is a great investment. And, it’s not just food scraps you put in here. We put toilet paper rolls, dryer lint, pet hair, all food scraps, plant clippings, some cardboard, and more.
We use a local service that picks up our compost weekly. But, you can also get a countertop compost if you live in an apartment but don’t want to pay for a service. You can also start a garden compost or start your own bin compost.
Make cupcakes and muffins in style! These silicone baking cups are a great alternative to traditional paper liners.
There are a ton of great options out there if this one does get you excited.
A reusable coffee cup is one of the easiest zero waste swaps and one that makes a huge difference right away. You may not realize how many coffee cups you throw away, but if you’re a regular coffee drinker, I’d bet that it’s a lot.
Keurig or Coffee Maker
Let me just get right to it and say – Keurigs were one of the worst environmental inventions. Those k-cups are terrible and such a waste. Don’t get me wrong – I had one too before I realized.
If you already have a Keurig, don’t throw it away, however. Instead, get yourself one of the reusable k-cups. You just put the ground coffee in like a regular coffee maker, but it still only makes your one cup.
If you don’t already have a Keurig, but you want a coffee maker, may I suggest a french press? They’re inexpensive, make you slow down a little bit, and I think the coffee actually tastes better!
And, even though coffee filters are compostable, you won’t have to spend money on them if you have a french press.
Napkins and Paper Towels
You don’t need paper towels or napkins, friends. Use rags instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of disposable napkins.
Paper plates and plastic cutlery
Regular plates and cutlery are great. And, it’s prettier and it’s not flimsy.
Reusable shopping bags are one of the best and easiest zero waste swaps. No need to go out buying a ton of them though – I find they’re often given away at events and such.
Trash bags are the main thing I have trouble with. There are plenty of compostable trash bags out there, but unless they’re actually being composted, it’s not really useful.
The best thing to do is have the least amount of trash as possible and that way you’re very rarely putting a trash bag in the landfill. That being said, I use these trash bags as I feel it’s better than nothing.
Plastic produce bags
I love my reusable produce bags. I often will just put mine in my cart with no bag, but I know many people think that’s gross.
I have the mesh drawstring ones, but there are plenty of options.
Instead of disposable Ziploc bags, consider using these reusable plastic bags. Again, you’re saving money too.
Bottled water is a rip-off. Saying goodbye to it is one of the best ways to reduce your water footprint. Use a reusable water bottle instead – Klean Kanteen continues to be my favorite.
Plastic straws are one of the worst things for marine life and if you love sea turtles at all, I’d consider skipping them.
You could also not just not shampoo at all or some people use soap the same as shampoo.
Or, if you want to get real metal with it – just shave your hair.
So, the most zero waste swap for toilet paper? Probably a bidet. Next, would be using washable materials. It sounds gross, but a lot of people do it. It’s not that big of a deal.
If neither works for you, then there are a few things to look for when buying toilet paper.
Look for toilet paper that contains 100% recycled content and is unbleached.
Also, look for toilet paper in paper so you can recycle or if it’s plastic, recycle the film with the plastic grocery bags (which you’re hopefully not using) at the grocery store recycling.
Or, you can buy toilet paper by the case which usually comes loose in the box instead of wrapped in plastic. A few options that offer this are Seventh Generation, Marcal, Green Heritage, Natural Value, and Tork.
Instead of plastic toothbrushes, use a bamboo toothbrush. They’re compostable once you need to replace it.
Laundry may just be the easiest part of the home to move to zero waste. Even though you may not be producing waste though, consider looking at ways to reduce your water footprint when washing clothes.
I don’t personally use dryer sheets or dryer balls, but if you prefer to have them. Consider these hedgehog dryer balls (yep, you read that right). Most dryer balls are made out of wool which isn’t vegan friendly, but these guys are!
I use Dropps for my laundry detergent and I love them! They’re zero waste, vegan, cruelty-free, and the box is compostable.
I’ve never had any issues with things not being clean or skin sensitivity.
Ashley Hubbard is a blogger and freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. She shares these experiences on her website, wild-hearted.com.
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