Changing to a zero waste lifestyle basically means that you don’t want to be wasteful and help save the planet, so switching away from these single use products can be a little tricky, especially trying to figure out where to start. Of course, you can take this completely at your own pace and you don’t need to switch over completely just yet.
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When starting out, a lot of things will feel very expensive but also tempting to get things you don’t need – you might not necessarily need to buy reusable straws if you don’t own plastic disposable ones, the same goes for travel cups if you work from home/don’t buy to-go drinks. You could even look to see what zero waste swaps you already have.
If the price of things is starting to put you off, remember that you can always do one switch at a time. A good thing to keep in mind as well with reusables, is that they’ll save you money in the long run, because you don’t have to keep replacing them every week/month/year. You might want to put them on a gift list for Christmas or birthdays – it’s what I do!
Donating your products before changing them to zero waste alternatives is a great way to see if what kind of things you still use in your home, and how much value they bring into your life.
You can either donate these items to friends or family, but also charities, food banks, and shelters might take them too. There are also loads of online donation and trading sites/apps too, as well as local facebook groups which you could use.
Of course when it comes to donating perishables or toiletries, I suggest only donating when they’re unopened/unused unless they are things such as dried food. The best way to deal with opened toiletries is to use them up yourself or give them to a family member, because you wouldn’t want a half used deodorant stick from a stranger, would you?
I’ve separated these off into categories, so take from this what you need.
Bathroom and toiletries
Period Pads and Tampons Swapping out your menstrual products is actually more of a big deal than you would expect. Used tampon applicators litter coastlines all around the world, and do not break down due to being made of plastic.
Making the swap to reusable products is easier than you’d think – and although if you’re on a budget, they might seem expensive at first, but you’ll be saving lots of money in the long run after buying them! You can get a range of different reusable pads, menstrual cups, and also period underwear which will last you years!
Brands such as WUKA and Modibodi do amazing period underwear, and Mooncup make silicone menstrual cups in replacement for tampons. If you’re not quite ready to change to reusables just yet, there are also brands such as Daye which sell organic cotton tampon completely plastic free!
If you own quite a few unopened packs of disposable products, being able to donate them to shelters or places online is a great idea, as it’s helpful for the people who can’t gain access to them.
Deodorant & Toothpaste One of the relatively easy ways to swap deodorant and toothpaste is that you can make your own versions. They are inexpensive to make and will last you just as long as the store-bought kind, but you won’t have the plastic packaging guilt! Toothpaste tubes and deodorants can be made of mix materials so most of the time you can’t even recycle them.
You can also get toothpaste tabs (which you chew on to make the paste) if you’re not up for making your own, toothpaste in jars or aluminium tubes, and deodorant in crystal form, powders, or refillable sticks. You can get plastic free toothpaste from brands such as Waken, Georganics, and EcoLiving. I currently have two deodorants, one from Wild which has a reusable case and the deodorant itself comes in paper, and one from Salt of the Earth which is a deodorant crystal.
Donating these is also a great idea as it may be harder for some people to get a hold of them, but remember to only donate unopened ones and use up the rest!
Cotton Buds / Cotton Swabs Cotton Buds usually come with a plastic tube or stick, and so you just throw them away when you’re done, but it’s coming more common to find them with paper or wooden sticks instead of the plastic!
This means they are completely compostable (which is great if you have a compost bin to put them in!). They do usually come in plastic boxes though, even some with cardboard tubes if bought from a large supermarket, so it’s a great idea to research your local area to find package-free or cardboard packaged ones.
Aside from disposable ones made of bamboo or paper, you can also get reusable cotton swaps. You can get wooden or bioplastic Oriculi, which are simply wooden/bioplastic sticks with a little scoop at the end to remove the earwax.
Or if you’d prefer the style of an actual swap, you can get reusables such as the ones from LastObject, who make the LastSwab which is a recycled ocean-bound plastic and silicone swab, or you can also find other ones made of bamboo and silicone – you just use these like normal and just clean with soapy water after each use.
Cotton Rounds Although cotton rounds are basically just cotton, they are usually packaged in plastic and they all go into the bin once you’re done! Much like the cotton swabs above, you can easily get reusable rounds.
If you’re on more of a budget route, you can also easily make your own by simply cutting squares or circles out of fabric and using them as you usually would. You can easily find reusable cotton rounds all over now, so etsy is always a great place to look!
Some specific brands though are LastObject who make their LastRound products (just like their LastSwab) which are made of cotton and a recycled ocean-bound plastic container, and UpCircle also make cotton and hemp pads which come with their own mesh washing bag.
Tissues I think when we get colds, we don’t really think about the amount of waste we produce just from tissues alone! The boxes themselves sometimes even have a plastic lining to them, so instead, ditch the paper tissues and swap them for a handkerchief! You don’t even need to buy actual handkerchiefs for that use, any fabric will do the job. (I’ve made my own from old fabric, and even use an old bandana as one!)
Razors Sometimes I think this swap is so obvious and easy to do, but then remember how it’s still “normal” to use a disposable razor. Since most come in packs of 3 or 5, once you’ve used them up, invest in a safety razor. They aren’t that expensive, and providing you keep them dry after using, they’ll last you years – and you only have to change the blade every so often!
There are so many different ones to choose from, such as the typical safety razor. Most eco brands sell their own now, such a Wild and Stone, UpCircle, and also the more popular (and expensive) Leaf razor. Prices are usually around £20-£30, though the Leaf razors are around £80/$84.
Of course, you could still keep a disposable razor for other uses, such as removing the bobbles off your clothes.
If you’re new to zero waste, make sure you check out my beginners guide too.
Plasters / Bandaids Recently I found out that you can now get compostable plasters, from the brand Patch. Plasters are made of plastic, mainly so they can be sticky, waterproof and to stop any germs getting past it. So before you invest in some more sustainable plasters, consider using up the ones you already own or donate them to someone you might need them more than you!
Sponges Again, most sponges are made of plastic – surprise! What’s worse is that they also break down from usage and end up going down your drain and into the water system. This is not only bad as it can clog up your pipes, but also it might get into main water where it can enter the food chain by being eating in mistake for food.
There are many alternatives to plastic sponges, such as sponges made from cellulose (plants), metal scrubbers (be careful not to use these on non-stick pans though!), and wooden pot/vegetable brushes. All of these can be either composted if they are made of plant material, or recycled if they are metal!
Plastic Wrap Plastic wrap is one thing that I absolutely hate to have in the kitchen, even though I don’t use it, it’s still there. Plastic wrap isn’t recyclable, so no matter what it just goes straight to landfill. But there is an alternative that you can use if you’re one of those people who use a lot of plastic wrap already, which is wax wraps.
Wax wraps are amazing at keeping things fresh in your fridge and are completely reusable. You can get them made with either beeswax or soy wax – helpful when you’re also vegan! – and are usually made of cotton. You can get these pretty much everywhere, such as brands like the Beeswax Wrap Co (who also make vegan wraps too).
Toilet Roll Now usually it’s not so much the toilet paper itself that’s the issue, but more what it comes in. Loo roll is usually wrapped in thin plastic – which in the UK you can usually recycle with plastic bags – but it’s still plastic waste. Though there are loads of companies out around the world now that use recycled paper or bamboo for sheets, the rolls are either unwrapped (apart from the shipping box) or are wrapped in plastic! You could even do one further and cut out the rolls entirely and install a bidet to your toilet.
Cupcake Cases Okay so if you’re into baking like me, you probably go through a decent amount of cake cases each time you bake. Not only is this using up unnecessary paper and ink for the cases, but each pack will come in a plastic case.
One way you can cut out the increase in plastics to your house – and save some money in the long run – you can buy some silicon cases. They’re really common now and inexpensive – and reusable! You just use them as you would usually with a cake case, then wash them when you’re finished and you can reuse them!
Laundry Detergent Laundry detergent is one thing everybody uses, but a lot of the time the packaging comes in plastic resealable bags, boxes, or bottles. Even if the product you use comes in a paper box, sometimes these can’t be recycled fully – but at least it’s a step in the right direction. You can now get refill packets of both laundry powder and detergent, so you can reuse old bottles or boxes to store them in, rather than buying new cartons every time.
There are lots of detergent alternatives becoming available, such as Smol, Tru Earth, and Fill (which is great if you prefer liquid detergent rather than sheets or pods).
You might also like: Zero Waste Kitchen essentials
Of course this isn’t an extensive list of all the swaps out there, but I usually find these are a great place to start. Let me know if there’s any swaps you recommend from when you started out!
Looking for more sustainable ideas? Check out my other posts!
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