If you want to reduce your home expenses drastically and you are unsure of how to get started, this review is for you.
Whether you are a confirmed Low Waster or just starting your reflection on the impact waste has overall, these few swaps will be of great help.
We took the average yearly consumption of an American as a baseline. We then compared the numbers’ as is’ with the amount of money you could be saving each year.
We looked at our experience with Zero Waste so far and put these swaps within the context of a two adults’ household.
Let’s start counting to save money together, beginning with the highest gain in terms of (past) cost.
Throw Away Food Vs. Food Waste as an Asset
Throwing food away is expensive: you have to pay for trash bags, for the service of picking them up or when disposing of more significant items in landfills.
When it comes to food, there are several Zero Waste behaviors that you can adopt. Namely, behaviors that are beneficial for the environment, and pleasing when it comes to saving money:
- Let’s start in order: buy less and become smarter when entering a grocery store. Make a list of what you need (and ideally, what you don’t need, to avoid any temptation). Food planning is critical, and we have done a 360 review on this topic here.
- Implement these new strategies in your fridge: tag what needs to be eaten first, and use transparent containers to have a better view of what is left.
- Buying in bulk has many advantages: it cuts down on product packaging and single-use purchases. And, if ordered online, you save money on the shipping costs.
- Cook from scratch: avoid processed food! By cooking your meal, not only is it healthier (less salt, fat, and the like), it is also more affordable. Thus, preparing your bolognese for two or three days is, on average, twice cheaper than if you had to purchase it ‘ready to eat’ from a grocery store, a real money saver.
- If you’re lucky to have a garden or a patio: take time to compost your leftovers and grow your vegetables. We find this review from Gardenista particularly useful (1).
Our Savings In Details
This particular section is more challenging to quantify in terms of how much money you can save by going Zero Waste in your kitchen. Therefore, we have analyzed the facts from the eco journey we started a few years ago:
- Grow our lemons, tomatoes, salads and aromatic herbs: 8 USD per week
- Replace processed food by cooking (in our case, mainly frozen pizzas and vegetable lasagnas): 9 USD per week
- Compost: we contribute to our neighbors’ composting bin: considering we throw away 75% less food compared to a non-low waste lifestyle (and we buy less!), we have estimated that we save around 20 USD per week. Bear in mind that this number would be even higher in Europe, as there, disposing of garbage bags can cost you a few dollars/euros each time!
==> Total saved: 1,924 USD per year
Plastic Bottles Vs. Filtered Water
Did you know that ‘Americans discard approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles each year?
Producing that number of water bottles consumes approximately 20 billion barrels of oil and generates more than 25 million tons of greenhouse gases.’
In 2014 alone, it is estimated that barely 37% of PET beverage bottles were recycled.
Moreover, bear in mind that to bottle one gallon of water, you’ll need an additional two gallons for the processing part (2).
And there is the dilemma faced by most eco and health-conscious people: mineral water or tap water? We have opted for a compromise: filtered water.
Activated charcoal and ceramic pearls are our favorite options for filtering water and avoid plastic bottles in our home.
Moreover, we always carry our reusable water bottle around. It is one of the easiest ways to avoid the last-minute ‘on the go’ purchase.
We are also big fans of our infused water. It has helped us cut off the habit of drinking (and buying!) sodas.
Our Savings In Detail
On average, we were buying around 20 Liters (5.3 gallons) of mineral water every single week (for a household of two!).
We switched for ceramic pearls (20 USD, and they last a lifetime!) and bought two reusable water bottles (50 USD).
Let’s estimate that tap water costs about 10 USD per 750 gallons (New York as a reference point (3)).
This means we paid 74 USD for that year, that we switched, and only 4 USD the years afterward (we continue using our water bottles and ceramic pearls). That is a significant amount of money.
==> Total saved: 1,226 USD
Single-Use Packaging Vs. Reusable Items
In essence, single-use means you will have to buy the same item over and over again. This means regular amounts that could be avoided by buying a long-lasting, reusable item.
- When doing your groceries, apply one of the core Zero Waste lifestyle principles and refuse plastic bags. Bring reusable cotton bags, for example, as well as your washable containers such as Tupperware or glass jars.
- This goes hand in hand with unnecessary packaging: did you know that, on average, buying in bulk is about 9 % cheaper than its pre-packaged equivalent. Indeed, the University of Florida demonstrated the average cost of packaging: 1 USD for every 11 USD spent (4).
- Add the burden of producing and disposing of plastic bags, and again, going Zero Waste is a winner for your household and your city. Basically, it costs around 14 USD a month for trash disposal (5).
- There has been a positive change in the industry, though. Grocery stores like Target and Whole Food’s incentives program will hopefully trigger a long-lasting switch when it comes to banning plastic bags. Namely, they reward you with 0,05 to 0,10 USD discount for every reusable bag you brought! Therefore, do not hesitate and BYOB at the store to save money.
Our Savings In Details
Following a rough estimate of our spending before and after starting our Low Waste Journey:
- We now buy 80 % of our food in bulk instead of conventional packaging to save money: we used to spend around 750 USD a month. We have repetitively noticed that buying in larger quantity was cheaper in the long run. However, let’s stick to facts and take the 9% benchmark, and then the total yearly saving reaches 810 USD.
- Let’s apply the same rule to the 14 USD a month for trash disposal; this means that we now only barely spend 3 USD per month. Total yearly savings: 132 USD.
- We have reused our mason jars and Tupperware for years(part of the Zero Waste strategy). We only bought a few washable, highly resistant cotton bags for 25 USD to ease our food shopping (and intend to keep them for years). If you know how to sew, don’t buy any! There are a lot of DIY grocery bags made from old T-shirts or rags, for example. This will allow you to avoid store bought bags.
==> Total saved: 917 USD
Buy New Clothes Vs. Second-hand Ones
Let’s admit it, we all fell for fast fashion at some point in our lives, or because we could not find a particular item in any of the sustainable brands or second-hand shops.
And that is fine, from time to time. At Puratium, we encourage you to reflect on your habits and how you can be part of the Zero Waste Living community in your way.
We calculated that we were spending between 80 and 110 USD per month on clothing and accessories that we mostly don’t need. From our experience, we found that second-hand products were, on average, saving us between 40 to 60% of its original price.
If you are curious to understand better how fashion works, and how to look for sustainable brands and materials, have a look at our review.
==> Total saved: 540 USD
Conventional Periods Vs. Zero Waste Periods
Have you ever wondered about the impact your periods have on the planet? Each year, waste related to menstrual products has a significant effect on the environment and our carbon footprint.
Fortunately, there is a growing number of alternatives, such as menstrual cups or reusable, washable panty liners that will help you reduce waste. And save money.
We did an extensive analysis of the normal waste menstruation generates, and which switch you could opt for.
This depends on your current habits. For example, are you comfortable inserting and emptying the cup? If not, you could opt for panty liners, but this means washing two or three of these each day.
The good news is, there are solutions for all ages, sizes, and styles!
Let’s take our example: we switched for the cup (20 USD) a few years ago. Before that, we used to spend between 5 and 10 USD a month on tampons. So this was a quick way to switch to products that would save money.
==> Total saved: 90 USD
Liquid Shampoos & Soaps Vs. Bars
Did you know that most shampoo and soap bottles contain 80 to 90% water? It is a lot of money spent for a limited amount of active ingredients for your hair care.
We, therefore, decided to switch to shampoo and soap bars a few years ago. It took us a few trials to find the perfect match for different types of hair.
We strongly believe that the ecological transition can genuinely take place (and last!) across all countries, cultures, and ages. Mainly, if the switch to sustainable products is made easier without any compromises on quality.
Looking at our experience, we used to purchase about 320 USD to 340 USD every year in conventional liquid items. Switching to bars has helped us reduce our spending by three!
==> Total saved: 220 USD
Conventional TP VS. Bidet
To clarify: an add-on bidet is a small device that you can attach to your toilet bowl. It does not require any plumbing unless you choose an additional unit (i.e., the case with standalone bidet).
Be aware that it has proven to be much more hygienic than using toilet paper alone, as a bidet will adequately rinse and clean your private parts, thanks to its integrated vertical jets.
As part of our goal to reduce waste at home, replacing conventional toilet paper was the most frightening one at first.
Rest assured, once you get used to your bidet and washable cloths, buying single-use TP in a store becomes outdated!
Cost-wise, we used to spend about 350 USD to 400 USD a year on TP. Yes, we have always had a lot of friends and family visiting!
We bought the Tushy bidet and its cloths and occasionally offer bamboo TP for our guests.
==> Total saved: 245 USD
Conventional Cleaning Products Vs. Simple DIY Alternatives
A Zero Waste attitude often equals to going back to basics, to the most simple and natural ingredients that have been used for centuries.
No need for you to throw away your current products made of plastic provided that you try to reuse/recycle them later on.
Indeed, buying new (even if reusable and sustainable) items come as a last resort, i.e., after all the other Rs of Zero Waste.
Therefore, if you just emptied your last jar of soap, have a look at our favorite plastic-free cleaning products.
Our Savings In Details
- We ditched paper towels (and paper napkins!) years ago and use microfiber cloths instead(money savers). Just a bit of warm water and vinegar, and you can clean your whole kitchen. Did you know that paper towels were invented by accident? They did not fill any need back then, and shouldn’t now.
- We made our laundry detergent with five ingredients, in less than 20 minutes.
- We no longer buy any other cleaning products as we use different combinations of white vinegar, baking soda, lemon, Marseille soap, and Terre de sommelier (clay), depending on a specific need.
- Saving money with the above DIY products was quite visible as from the first month: we used to spend about 240 USD per year on regular cleaning items. Since we started our Zero Waste journey and switched to DIY ways for cleaning, the number dropped to 55 USD.
==> Total saved: 185 USD
Be Mindful Of Water & Electricity Consumption
There are different ways to reduce your water and electricity at home. Think of the (small) efforts you could implement that can work with time, and a bit of discipline:
- Take short showers instead of a bath; this could save you up 15 fewer gallons of water than a full bath (6).
- Consider watering your plants (and garden) with rainwater rather than tap water. As well as reusing the water that to use to cook for example.
- Use cold washing rather than warm whenever feasible. Avoid drying and hang your laundry; for example.
- Unplug devices at night, and turn the lights off whenever you leave a room.
- Choose hand-operated devices over electric ones, such as a coffee grinder.
- Opt for highly performing machines and devices that save energy. Consider a dual-flush toilet, for example, or a water saver. Switching your light bulbs to LED can also make a significant difference when you want to save money.
Our Savings In Details
- We have been raised in a way that reminded us how precious resources are, whether water or other commodities at home. It is, therefore, difficult to quantify the gains we have made as they have always been part of our habits.
- However, we now have a programmable thermostat, and we calculated that is saved us about 160 USD a year compared to not having one at all.
==> Total saved: 160 USD
Going Zero Waste won the battle against conventional waste treatment and saving money.
Pay less for your trash and avoid unnecessary (often single-use) purchases. In addition to saving money, it will save you time, as demonstrated in several of our reviews on Zero Waste.
We hope this article has convinced you of the potential of reducing waste, beyond the benefit of preserving the environment from further damage.
Every single change (that went through a transition phase!) towards an Eco Friendly home will prove efficient in the long run.
Our household saved 5,507 USD per year, by opting for reusable items and other sustainable changes. And we can still do more.
Join us in the community! Whether you are just starting, or if you want to help and share more on how to save money thanks to a Zero Waste lifestyle.