If you are unsure of where to begin when making changes towards a Zero Waste lifestyle, then you probably want to start slowly, hence, why we came up with this list of Zero Waste Swaps that should help you out.
However, let’s take care of a practical question first.
What Is A Zero Waste Product?
As we point out here. One of the goals of Zero Waste is to focus on waste prevention and avoid sending as much waste to landfills as we can.
Zero Waste products help us achieve this by reusing as much of what we own as possible.
Namely, products that can be reused instead of having to buy more, for recurring tasks. While some can be no-brainers, other options are difficult to adapt to.
Thus, the point below is to try to apply as many as feasible. Moreover, if you have any swap ideas that are not listed below, please let us know!
Swapping Out Paper Products
If you want to start swaps with any product, you should probably start here:
Napkins: A highly used product, getting rid of paper napkins, is a quick, easy zero win.
Naturally, this zero waste swap might seem tricky. Napkins are used extensively, mainly to put them at tables when eating.
That being said, it is definitely doable; for context, in American families, the number of households purchasing paper napkins dropped from 60% 20 years ago, to 41% now, which is excellent!
You can replace paper napkins with cloth napkins. It is one of the easiest Zero Waste swaps you can make. Rather than using a paper towel, you use cloths.
However, do keep in mind that you’ll have to wash them consistently.
If you are worried about the impact of swapping out less use of paper for more laundry, then you should read our guide on Zero Waste Laundry Detergent.
Cutlery made of plastic: Another quick alternative in regards to kitchen materials.
Namely, use real cutlery; if you are a big user of plastic cutlery, then try to make the switch slowly(i.e., only use the plastic cutlery when you have visitors).
Paper towels: Probably the most difficult in this entire list to swap out. Paper towels are quite popular, particularly for cleaning.
Nevertheless, you should take a look at alternatives such as reusable dishcloths that will keep you away from the garbage.
Replacing Plastic Products
Wrap: We believe that swapping wrap paper with beeswax wrap is the way to go here.
Plastic water bottles: Easy Zero Waste management starts by firstly getting rid of the day-to-day essentials you considered impossible.
Reusable water bottles are one of the easiest and readily available items you can get.
You can find a brand to your liking and purchase your own. If you need two quick reasons why you should, here are two from the national geographic:
It takes 450 years for a water bottle to degrade completely, and over 1,000,000 plastic bottles are sold every minute!
Plastic bags: Another no brainer, there are plenty of options for reusable bags. Bagpodz, for example, is quite popular.
Don’t forget about the grocery bags you use for products like fruits and vegetables as well! Managing your groceries with the type of produce bags you use is critical.
Straws: in terms of zero waste swaps, this is arguably the easiest. Zero waste straws are quite popular(take a look at our comparison of the best zero waste straws here).
If you are out in public, and they don’t have a steel or glass option, then simply do without one.
The bottom line, there are over five types of straws you can replace plastic straws with, so this is a quick win in terms of “going zero”.
Toothbrush: Zero Waste toothbrushes are quite common. You will likely have heard of a bamboo toothbrush.
They are quite practical and get the job done. It is one of the rising Zero Waste swaps to get rid of plastic, so why not use one?
Since they are biodegradable, you don’t have to worry about them ending up in a landfill.
If it’s not feasible, then start with an electric toothbrush, which seems to be all the rave these days and contribute a lot less plastic.
Nevertheless, take into account that electric toothbrushes are still not the best of options, especially if they use replaceable batteries.
Here’s a motivating factor, in North America, the number of plastic toothbrushes in landfill easily surpass one billion every year.
Cups: one of our favorites, namely for the coffee drinkers. In case you did not know, over 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used every year, and they tend to be coated with plastic.
The best way to replace this is by having your coffee mug at work or a water bottle that’s insulated.
One of the best zero waste swaps available. Mason jars are the easiest way to be plastic-free when doing your groceries.
Whether you want to put liquids or solids at the grocery store, you cannot go wrong with this.
Additionally, you can turn anything into a reusable mason jar and save some money.
Storage-wise, you are bound to have some, for example, the jars you use for tomato sauce, juices, among other things. Namely, you can find them everywhere. We recommend you also read this article.
The key here is that body wash is usually packaged in plastic. Zero Waste swaps like this have an immediate impact. You can simply replace your body wash with a regular soap bar.
In the United States, close to 250 billion people use body wash in disposable bottles.
You can contribute to decreasing this number by merely switching to soap. Moreover, there are plenty of soap options to match what you like.
Reusable Food Containers
Another easy way to get rid of plastic. Swaps of plastic food containers for glass ones are straightforward to achieve.
They are available just about anywhere, and from an aesthetic point of view, its one of the Zero Waste swaps you can purchase to your liking.
Therefore, get yourself a glass container; from our experience, you will not regret it.
There are quite a few reasons why you should be careful with certain waste swaps—for example, the materials of some non-stick pans.
In this regard, play it safe and stick with pans made of stainless steel.
The point here is simple, we use a lot of razors, and of course, from an environmental point of view, these razors get dumped in a landfill, and we know the rest, disposables that we never see again.
So the idea here is to replace these with a safety razor.
You can, for example, find a razor made of stainless steel. Zero Waste Shaving is becoming quite popular for a good reason. If you are looking for eco-friendly razors, then take a look at our guide here.
Whether it is bleach or products such as window cleaners, these are excellent Zero Waste Swaps options. These are generally stored within plastic containers.
Additionally, you can start using things such as vinegar spray and baking soda for scrubbing.
If you are looking to develop habits in your house with products, then definitely take a look at plastic-free sponges, as well as bamboo brushes.
Another excellent option is to go for reusable lint removers instead of regular ones.
These are quite common in any household, whether because you have pets or close that accumulates a lot of lint. Make sure you take a look at our Zero Waste Cleaning guide as well.
A lot (if not most) of dental floss comes rolled in a plastic box.
While floss is made up of nylon, you have to remember that nylon comes from oil and also takes quite a significant amount of years to decompose.
However, there is a plastic-free floss available.
We consider this option a dark horse. However, if you are willing to try it, you can swap out your regular pen for a fountain pen.
In terms of swaps, this is quite fun, you can find fountain pens made of bamboo, they are quite elegant, and even their cases are usually made of bamboo.
Instead of using regular plastic filters, try activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal purifies the water as a regular water filter would but without removing any of the good minerals that some plastic filters remove. Additionally, they are quite affordable.
There are plenty of ways of “going zero.” You can start making small life changes and easy Zero Waste swaps; this is list is just a few ways for people to change their lives.
If you have other suggestions that someone you know does, please let us know.
CO-Founder @ Puratium. Lover of Belgian Beer 🍺, and debating endlessly over 🏀. That being said, actively doing my part for the 🌍.