25 Easy Zero Waste Swaps for Busy People

I don’t like to say I’m zero waste because it sounds like a lot of pressure to be perfectly sustainable all the time, which is simply not possible unless I live off the grid, grow my own food, and make all my own products and possessions. While we can do our part, it’s up to governments and corporations for real change to take place.

Luckily, there is hope in new companies such as Loop to help us reduce waste on a mass scale. I’m hopeful for the future. In the meantime, I am conscious about the way I shop and consume. But no, I’m not going to use my free time and energy to make my own toothpaste, makeup, hair products, cleaners, etc. Even if the recipe calls for a few ingredients, I still have to hunt down these ingredients (which will likely come in their own containers) and assemble them together. I don’t like to cook and clean, so I’m not adding more chores to my schedule.

The following zero waste tips, however, will take little to no effort. These conscious swaps happened in my home so gradually that I didn’t realize that I was doing anything special until a friend requested that I write this post on eco-friendly tips and switches. They’ll help you save money too because you’re cutting down on single-use items.

Easy Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps 

BAR SOAPS — instead of liquid hand soap. You can usually find soaps in bulk at Whole Foods and health food stores, and they last a long time. I use these silicone soap dishes that allow the water to drain right into the sink.

REUSABLE STRAWS — I prefer glass straws, but I have metal ones too. Recently, I’ve seen silicone straws in stores, and I think they’re a good safe option for kids.

GLASS JARS — for bulk shopping, leftovers, etc. I like ’em big, I like ’em small, I like ’em all. You don’t need matching, Instagram-friendly jars or anything. I use a mixture of old spaghetti sauce containers, mason jars, and Weck jars. If you’re looking for sleek containers to sit on your counter, these Crate and Barrel jars are nice. These are cool too.

SILICONE STORAGE BAGS — instead of ziplock bags. The big bags I use for storing chopped fruit and veggies in the freezer. There are smaller ones you can use for sandwiches, snacks, etc.

SILICONE BAKING SHEETS — Great replacement for parchment paper or aluminum foil. To cook something such as salmon or baked potatoes, I simply lay a second silicone baking sheet over the food. To clean them, I throw them in the dishwasher.

BEESWAX FOOD WRAPS — sustainable alternative to plastic wrap. I usually use it to wrap halves of vegetables. I don’t use them so much because I have to wash them by hand.

SILICONE STRETCH LIDS — Another alternative for plastic wrap. Throw them in the dishwasher to clean.

COMPOSTABLE TRASH BAGS — I go out of my way to buy Natur-Bags from a health food store across town, so I stock up when I do.

SWEDISH DISH CLOTHES — Sustainable alternative to paper towels. Reusable and biodegradable. They can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine.

WORLD’S BEST POT SCRUBBER —I’ve been told you can throw these pot scrubbers in a compost bin and they will break down. I can’t verify that or even tell you what these are made of, but they’re likely more eco-friendly than regular sponges and scrubbers. (I have a brush scrubber too, but these work better on grime.)

Easy Zero Waste Bathroom Swaps

GLASS MICROFIBER CLOTH — I use this to clean mirrors instead of paper towels.

SILK DENTAL FLOSS — Biodegradable and comes in a little reusable glass container. I can simply buy floss refills. I get mine from Whole Foods.

REUSABLE COTTON ROUNDS — These work well with my toner. To clean, throw them inside the mesh bag to wash with your laundry. Mine have stayed white so far, but I don’t wear mascara or heavy dark makeup.

MENSTRUAL CUP — I’ve been using silicone menstrual cups since I was 16. I probably saved a lot of money not buying tampons or pads throughout the years. I used to use DivaCup, but I switched to OrganiCup when I had to get a new one. They are pretty similar, but I prefer the OrganiCup because its larger holes make it easier to clean.

REUSABLE SHOWER CAP — So kitsch. The listing say there’s a microfiber lining, but mine doesn’t, which is good because I can use the cap for leave-in hair treatments.

SHAMPOO BAR — Right now I’m using ones by Ethique, which I really like. I still use liquid conditioners, however. I wanted to continue using bar soaps for my body, but my dermatologist said it was too harsh for my skin, so now I use this nontoxic baby wash.

CRYSTAL NAIL FILE — Sustainable option to emery nail files, and works better too. Just wash after each use. I’ve had mine for 2+ years now.

See the all sustainable makeup I use in this post.

Note: Many will recommend switching to a bamboo toothbrush. While the nylon bristles are not biodegradable, it’s still a more sustainable option if you like manual toothbrushes already. I find that my rechargeable electric toothbrush cleans better so I’ll continue using it.

Zero Waste Hacks for Grocery Shopping

SHOPPING CART — For the longest time, I didn’t think to buy a shopping cart and just lugged around my groceries in bags. Maybe a good workout… but what was I thinking?! Now that I have a little granny cart, it has made bulk shopping easier because I can put my glass jars and containers in here. I heard Rolser makes good ones but my Ikea cart has held up really well.

REUSABLE PRODUCE BAGS — I also throw a few of these EcoBag in my shopping cart when I go grocery shopping.

GLASS JARS — for bulk shopping. It’s surprisingly easy to shop with your own jars. In most bulk shops, the cashier will weigh the jars and write the number on the lid or at the bottom of the jar. Depending on the store’s policy, you’ll probably have to do this only once as long as the number is clearly marked on the jar. Again, you don’t need to use fancy jars. Any old jar, even yogurt containers, will do as long as they are clean.

GLASS FOOD STORAGE — I take glass food containers to the butcher or fish stall instead of getting meat or fish wrapped.

Ask your local shops on how you can arrive at sustainable solutions. For example, I shop at a family-run grocery store where they bag their own washed organic lettuce in ziplock bags. I asked if I can return the ziplock bags for them to reuse. They said no, but suggested I bring my clean empty bags so they can transfer lettuce into them on the spot, which is what another customer did. (Sure, I can buy my own lettuce, wash it, and chop it myself, but come on, that would be more time spent in the kitchen.)

My local green dry cleaners will take back hangers, plastic clothing covers, and safety pins.

Zero Waste On the Go

See my post on the 3-Piece Zero Waste Travel Kit, which contains a mason jar, handkerchief, and bamboo spork.

REUSABLE COFFEE CUP — I like Keep Cup. Other options are in this post.

BKR BOTTLE — I always take these girly water bottles to the gym. Perfect for barre class.

QUE COLLAPSIBLE WATER BOTTLE — When I don’t have a lot of room in my purse, I take this collapsible water bottle. It can be washed in the dishwasher.

BAMBOO TRAVEL UTENSIL SET — If I know I’ll be eating a quick eatery type place, I’ll bring this utensil set. They can be washed in the dishwasher. Of course, you can take them on trips.

BAGGU REUSABLE BAG — Most of the time, I keep a reusable bag in my purse in case I buy something.

Do you have any zero waste tips to share that takes little to no effort? Let us know in the comments.

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