Not sure where to start with zero waste? Well, here I provide 15 easy zero waste swaps with a bit of information on why these things are wasteful and some even toxic to products that are healthier and more sustainable.
380 million tons of plastic every year, and some reports indicate that up to 50% of that is for single-use purposes – utilized for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years. It’s estimated that more than 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. Statistics from plasticoceans.org
Now let’s get inspired and get swapping, yay!
1. CELLOPHANE / PLASTIC WRAP
Oh jeez, this one gives me flashbacks. Anyone else’s parents use cellophane on everything?! A single potato, around food containers, individually wrapped pieces of pizza, you name it!
Whelp, not today! Let’s leave that behind us, and move on to bigger and better things. In all my years I have never, and I mean never bought cellophane, life is totally doable without it.
Easy zero waste swaps for cellophane/ plastic wrap:
OR skip to #2 for more options!
2. PLASTIC FOOD CONTAINERS
Don’t throw it away, please! Try finding other uses for plastic food containers; some examples are in the garage organizing small bits, small toys, or maybe crafting supplies. They are still useful and handy. However, I recommend swapping them out for a healthier alternative.
Plastic containers can melt, release harmful BPAs, microplastics, and other toxins into our food.
Easy zero waste swaps for plastic food containers:
Glass food containers are great because they can easily be reheated!
Tiffins are widely known and very popular in India, Indian cultures actually try to have mostly stainless steel in their kitchens.
Stainless steel containers are amazing because they are so lightweight, easy to travel with, and extremely durable. Ukonserve specifically stands out because they have a lid recycling program for when the lid rips or breaks after a while. The lid is replaced, and then the broken one is upcycled into tracks or even playgrounds.
There are many sizes and shapes listed in the shop, squares or rectangles fit in coolers and the fridge easier.
3. CUTTING BOARDS
Have you ever noticed those deep grooves that get cut in the plastic cutting boards? Whelp those can harbor bacteria. Did you know it’s recommended to replace and throw out a plastic cutting board every single year because of this? Did you?
Plastics from the cutting boards can also end up in your food. I mean, if we sit and think about it, where is the plastic from those grooves going? The answer is probably in our bodies.
It’s said that a plastic cutting board takes up to 1000 years to fully break down in a landfill. I often wonder why these exist.
How wasteful and unnecessary, there are so many other wonderful alternatives. I’ve even seen local artisans make beautiful handmade and wood-burned cutting boards from their scratch wood. What a beautiful alternative! Or what about a bamboo cutting board that took no trees? Yes, please!
Another fun tip: Wood cutting boards also make beautiful charcuterie boards!
Easy zero waste swaps for cutting boards:
4. BEVERAGE BOTTLES – WHAT AN EASY ZERO WASTE SWAP!
A plastic water bottle is one of the simplest and easiest swaps out there. But first some statistics!
An estimated 1,500 plastic bottles end up as waste in landfills or thrown in the ocean every second. It takes 1 PET plastic bottle 700 years to start decomposing
Plastic bottles contain BPA, phthalates, Bisphenol A, and other chemicals that wreak havoc on the body and cause illness. Statistics from theworldcounts.com
Okay now that we have that in our minds; Plastic bottles are so easy to swap out. Try reusing an empty jar lying around. I’m sure there is one in your recycling right now! Here are some more below.
Easy Zero Waste Swaps for beverage bottles:
This is the water filter I will have in my van, it’s aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and gets the job done. It also removes heavy metals! No need for a plastic water bottle when you’ve got great water. We deserve to invest in ourselves, our health, and the planet.
Stainless steel water bottles are truly the best option, I’ve personally dropped so many glass ones I don’t buy them anymore, but an empty glass jar you have also worked. Stainless steel keeps the beverage cold or hot longer and is extremely durable.
Glass jar or bottle
5. SPONGES & DISH BRUSHES
Sponges are entirely made out of plastic, but I had no idea till months later after looking into swaps. Sponges also harbor bacteria, not the good kind either. Most manufacturers spray antimicrobial chemicals on them so that they don’t end up harboring those chemicals. So we have a chemical on a chemical plastic, let’s opt for something better. We can do better!
Easy Zero Waste Swaps for sponges and dish brushes:
Great for scrubbing hard spots on glass or on stainless steel utensils and cookware. DO NOT USE ON TEFLON OR NON-STICK!
There are great because loofahs actually grow as a crop, no cutting down trees, no mass production, and they are full compostable at the end of their lifetime. Surprisingly they last a while and are quite durable!
These are actually completely comprised of plant-based materials and can be composted at the end of their lifecycle. I’ve often cut them into smaller rectangles and used them as sponges, but they can also be used as reusable paper towels too!
As soon as the sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled out of it’s nose video went viral, there was a massive movement away from the plastic straw. However, they still aren’t banned and people still continue to use them.
I’m going to say this loud for those that are in the back, I only ever use a straw for kombucha and smoothies. I rarely use one! However, maybe you use one? Whelp, it’s an easy solution, just swap them out and take them around with you for when you do decide to use them.
These are great to carry around in your purse or backpack; want me to make an article on what else I carry around with me? Comment below!
Easy zero waste swaps for straws:
8. PACKAGE FREE SOAP
This one has been rather fun to experiment with. After trying different liquid soaps I began to realize that the liquid dish soap was mostly glycerin, is not very concentrated, they almost always come in a plastic bottle, and bar dish soap lasts twice as long!
Easy zero waste swaps for package-free soap:
Cedar soap dish – for the dish soap bar to sit on
9. FRUIT AND VEGGIE BAGS
Often times we store our produce with these bags in the fridge. Did you know that the natural ethylene gas that foods give off gets trapped inside the plastic produce bags and causes the food to rot faster?! I guarantee you know what I’m talking about, ever have some greens in a plastic bag and then a week later they are mush. Ew!
Annually, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
Statistics from plasticoceans.org
Easy zero waste swaps for fruit and veggie bags:
Both the cotton bags double as a food preserving bag is slightly dampened when placed in the fridge. Greens will last twice as long!
10. UTENSILS & CUTLERY
Plastic cutlery and utensils just never seem durable enough, but yet they take hundreds of years to break down.
I remember distinctly watching parents use melted serving spoons and melted spatulas from them leaving them by the burner or having the pan too hot. We also had stainless steel utensils, but I’d watch them out of pure confusion.
Stainless steel, silicone, and even bamboo utensils and cutlery are way more durable and long-lasting.
Have you ever ate spaghetti with a single-use plastic fork and noticed the stain it left? I can only imagine how porous those things are. I’ve often wondered why they can’t make thin bamboo utensils (like chopsticks) more widely accessible and pushed instead of plastic.
Easy zero waste swaps for utensils and cutlery:
My absolute favorite utensil of all time has been this light my fire titanium spork. It’s so lightweight and durable. It’s the ultimate spork!
11. GARBAGE BAGS
This one is actually quite a fun subject for me because I offer a perspective most people don’t think about. Has it ever just blown your mind that people pay for something that is literally made to be thrown away? It adds up in price and waste!
I just don’t understand it. Let’s face it, we end up with some sort of plastic bag or container out of the blue sometimes. Here are some examples of ways I accrue waste: Leftover food from a friend, family gifting me stuff, electronics almost always come in plastic, and home renovation stuff comes in plastic.
When transitioning out of the plastic bags we are using and searching for better alternatives, save those bags, and use them as trash bags. Interested in a zero-waste swaps article for these items? Comment below and I will make one!
Guess what?! The best way to put these plastics that cannot be recycled to use is to use it as garbage bags.
These bags are small in comparison, but once we are in the zero waste / sustainable lifestyle for a while the trash will be less and less, making it easier to use these smaller bags for our waste.
Starting to compost will cut most people’s garbage in half! I’ve got another article with some information on composting within your community you make like as well. Check it out! Have you heard of ShareWaste?
Some people even prefer to use compostable trash bags, my housemate does. It can be a much easier transition, however, without the proper living organisms the compostable bags don’t break down as well as they would in commercial composting.
Most landfills are almost completely absent of such organisms, making it almost impossible for any organic matter to be broken down into the earth. Instead, it’s being choked by all the plastics. The pro is that the compostable trash bags are not plastic, but the best is to reduce your waste altogether. That’s why we are here, to learn how! Thank you for joining me on this journey! ♡
Easy zero waste swaps for plastic trash bags:
I highly suggest Biobags if you do decide to go with compostable bags, theirs are quite a bit more durable than other brands.
12. PAPER TOWELS
Paper towels are definitely overused and easily swapped. Rags are the easiest and most affordable replacement for paper towels. However, there are also more fun swaps like Swedish Dish Cloths or even unpaper towels.
Swedish dishcloths are purely plant-based and fully compostable at the end of their lifecycle.
Easy zero waste swaps for paper towels:
13. BAKING PAPER
Baking paper is just so darn wasteful and gets to be expensive with a single-use and then being thrown into the trash. Did you know parchment paper can also contain toxic dioxins? Silicone on the other hand has no known health hazards.
Silicone baking mats are great for replacing parchment paper. A great reason silicone baking mats are great is that often times baking pans are made with aluminum, very small amounts of exposure to aluminum is said to be fine but in high doses, it can actually be increasingly harmful. (Referenced from Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
So there is the option of buying stainless steel or glass baking pans or upgrading to this silicone baking mat as an alternative.
Easy zero waste swaps for
14. TEA BAGS
Teabags have been known to be dipped in waxes or have a thin layer of plastic coating on them to “preserve freshness”. That stuff ends up in our bodies and in the landfill, no thanks! Plus they usually have a staple in them and come wrapped in a foil or plastic baggy.
Teabags also require so much manufactured processing that they are just beyond wasteful. Tea strainers are simple to use, easy to clean and allow us to mix up the flavors. YAY!
Easy zero waste swaps for tea bags:
What was the very first swap you did in your kitchen?
What items in your kitchen you know need to be swapped out, but you haven’t found a solution for? Comment below, I would love to help!