Zero Waste seems to be the term of the day among green living communities. If you’re new to the idea, but interested, we’ve got five easy zero waste swaps that are going to save you money in the long run, and will have a positive impact on the earth.
First of all: what does “zero waste” even mean?
Zero waste is a term that’s used to describe a lifestyle that supports sustainable, eco-friendly living. Specifically, it’s a movement that avoids the products and packaging that end up in landfills, but choosing diy, or compostable or sustainable alternatives. While it’s nearly impossible to be completely without waste, the goal is to change our habits to reduce our household waste output as much as we possibly can. As Anne-Marie Bonneau, the Zero Waste Chef, has said, “We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
We’re not suggesting an immediate overhaul of your whole way of life, but ease into it and you’ll see how simple it can be. Start here, with our 5 easy zero waste swaps that are going to save you money.
1. Reusable Cleaning Cloths
I don’t know about you, but I think generations before us were a lot more savvy about saving money and resources. My mom would turn old towels into cleaning cloths that she would wash and reuse until they fell apart. Now, we (more often than not) rely on paper towels to do our cleaning and dusting, and then we throw them out. Think about it: we’re paying money to make garbage. How much money would you save if you used old towels or fabric to do your cleaning, or made a one-time purchase of cleaning cloths that could be used and re-used? Personally, I bought a pack of microfiber cleaning cloths online, cheap, and I’ve now been using them for years. I still keep paper towels at home, but they last much longer and I have more room in my budget because I’m not buying them so often.
2. Washable Make-up Cloths
Thinking along those same lines: what are you using to wash your make-up off? I admit I was using those moistened make-up wipes for way too long. Again, I was paying money to make garbage. Then I discovered the world of washable, reusable make-up cloths. They are often made of fleece or velour, and you could even make them yourself. I bought mine, and they came with a bag to wash them in (they go right in the washing machine). Use a bottled makeup remover (some people make their own, some people even just use coconut oil), and wash the cloths afterwards. So simple, and I’m not paying for those wipes anymore.
3. Use Your Reusable Shopping Bags
You might be thinking this one is obvious, but how is it saving me money? Well, many retailers will give you a small discount if you bring your own bags, including Target, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. By now, we all know that plastic shopping bags are just terrible for the environment. Estimates are they could take 500 years or more to biodegrade – and we can’t even be sure of that. And you know what? Plastic bags aren’t free, you’re paying for them in the price of your groceries. If your favorite store doesn’t offer a bag discount: tell them to. Write them an email, make a phone call, talk to the manager. Make sure that these stores know what their customers want, if they want to keep our business!
4. Stop Buying Pre-Cut Fruits and Vegetables
Sometimes it’s so tempting to buy those mushrooms that are pre-cut, I know. But you’re paying more, and you’re getting unnecessary plastic waste in the deal. Pre-cut fruits and veggies come in plastic containers (sometimes called “clamshells”), or with plastic wrap, and it’s not worth it. Did you know that only 9% of plastic is actually recycled? The rest of it ends up in landfill. And you know what? You can slice your own cantaloupe. And I know how daunting a whole butternut squash can be, but you can do it! You’ll pay less and waste less if you diy that bad boy!
5. Avoid Food Waste
I admit this is one I am guilty of. I’m sometimes over-eager at the grocery store and buy too much, especially of perishable items that go bad before they get cooked. In America, it’s estimated that 30-40% of our food supply goes to waste. Here’s how I’m changing: I’m planning my meals so I know exactly what I’m going to make, how long it’s going to last us, and what day I’m going to make it. Next, I’m buying less on each trip to the grocery store, scheduling another trip in a few days, so that items I buy are as fresh as they can be and not wilting in my fridge. And lastly, I’m buying in bulk (with my reusable produce bags). This way, I can make sure I’m only buying exactly the amount I need, and avoiding unnecessary packaging. For example, many stores have bulk areas, so if a recipe calls for a small amount of pecans, or raisins, or another item I don’t use frequently, I can just buy what I need instead of a pre-packaged container that will have more than I need.
Are you feeling ready to ease into a zero waste goal, or what’s holding you back? Or have you been doing it for years, and have more tips to share? Tell us all about it in the comments below!