The concept of living a ‘Zero Waste’ lifestyle is one that sounds quite daunting especially when plastic and packaging seem like an inevitable part of our lives these days. However, when faced with the fact that the US alone generated about 139.6 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2017, we are reminded of why it’s so important to lessen our personal contribution to this statistic (1).
Plastics accounted for about 19% of the 139.6 million tons of waste (1). Widening our scope, we see that around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year (2). This is an unfathomable amount of waste considering that only 8.4% of all plastic is actually recycled.
Therefore, the best way to make sure that plastic doesn’t end up in landfills is to buy products that don’t use it. Even if you recycle, it’s hard to guarantee that your recyclables actually end up getting recycled and therefore we need to reduce plastic generation at its production.
Also, when talking about zero waste, it is important to remember that the phrase “zero waste” really means less waste. In reality, it’s not feasible to not produce any waste at all; however, we can all aim to produce as little waste as personally possible.
The Easy Zero Waste Swaps!This blog will show you that there are simple ways for you to start or to deepen your zero waste journey with just a few easy zero waste swaps that don’t require major lifestyle changes. These zero waste swaps will be categorized into beauty, food, and home so that you may more easily find the swaps that you need.
Category 1: Beauty Related Products
- Single-Use Cotton Pads → Reusable Cotton Pads
- Single-Use Q-Tips → Reusable Silicone Q-Tips
- Tampons → Menstrual Cup
- Makeup Removing Wipes → Coconut Oil
- Bottled Sunscreen → Anato Sunscreen
- Bottled Body Wash/Bottled Hand Soap → Anato Black Cedar Soap
- Bottled Shampoo → Shampoo Bar
- Plastic Toothbrush → Bamboo Toothbrush
- Tubed Toothpaste → Toothpaste Tablets
- Disposable Plastic Razor → Metal Razor
Category 2: Food Related Products
- Plastic Water Bottle → Refillable Water Bottle
- Plastic Straw → Reusable Straw (bamboo, metal, silicone)
- Plastic Cutlery → Bamboo Cutlery
- Baking Pan Liners → Silicone Baking Pans
- Disposable Coffee Cup → Thermos
- K-Cups → Reusable and Refillable Silicone K-Pods
- Single-Use Coffee Filters → Reusable Hemp Filters or French Press!
- Tea Bags → Tea Strainer
- Plastic Wrap → Beeswax Wraps
- Plastic Produce Bags → Mesh Reusable Produce Bags
Unfortunately, K-Cups are not recyclable which means that almost all of them end up in landfills. Although, there are brands which offer recyclable K-Cups such as Trader Joe’s, getting a french press is a much better alternative for both the planet and your wallet especially if you drink multiple cups of coffee a day!
Category 3: Household Related Products
- Paper Towels → Washable Towels
- Plastic Trash Bags → Biodegradable Trash Bags
- Plastic Bags → Tote Bags/Reusable Bags
- Cleaning Products → DIY (Water, Vinegar, and Essential Oils)
- Sponges → Old Rags or Compostable Bamboo Brush
- Dryer Sheets → Wool Dryer Balls
- Fragrance Diffuser → Essential Oils
Bamboo products are a great alternative to cotton products or paper products because bamboo itself regenerates from its roots and therefore it doesn’t have to be replanted and bamboo is capable of growing up to four feet a day! If you’re curious about regenerative agriculture, we have a blog post dedicated to explaining regenerative agriculture!
In addition to swapping out specific products and items, you can practice larger conceptual habit swaps that will allow you to make even greater advancements in your zero waste journey.
One of these easy habit swaps include swapping driving for something more sustainable such as carpooling, public transport, biking, or even walking if that is an accessible alternative for you. Something as simple as this may make a bigger impact than expected given that transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States (3).
Did you know that burning one gallon of gasoline releases about 20 pounds of CO2 (3)? Therefore, if you switch to public transportation you would lower your carbon footprint by about 4,800 pounds annually if your commute is 20 miles round trip (3).
If public transport, biking, etc. isn’t a viable option for you, then consider swapping your car out for one that has a higher mile-per-gallon ratio or opt for an electric vehicle. An electric vehicle not only reduces your carbon footprint but it can also save you money.
Another habit swap would be to compost food scraps/waste instead of tossing them into the trash. Earlier it was mentioned that plastics accounted for about 19% of the waste in our landfills; however, what we didn’t mention was that food accounts for about 22% of the waste (1). Food waste in landfills not only takes up a lot of physical space, but also releases a large amount of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide.
In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, compost can be added to your soil to help your plants grow and thereby reducing your need for chemical fertilizers (4).
What’s Next for You?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully you’ve found a couple of easy zero waste swaps that are pertinent to your life and therefore easy to implement into your daily routine.
In addition to what has been listed above, remember to shop local, shop secondhand, and shop small zero waste brands such as Anato which will provide you the guarantee of receiving a zero waste product that will come without single-use plastic packaging.
Working towards a zero waste lifestyle is one that is rewarding in so many ways. It’s empowering to know that you’ve taken combating climate change into your own hands and to know that you’re making a difference for everyone and every organism that is around you. So keep on swapping out those plastic products!
If you’re curious about where you are in your zero waste journey and what steps lie ahead, take our Zero Waste Quiz! With this quiz, we’ve helped you with some of the research so that you don’t have to make all of the difficult decisions on your own.
(1) National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling. (2020, March 13). Retrieved August, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials
(2) Beat Plastic Pollution. (2018). Retrieved August, 2020, from https://www.unenvironment.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/
(3) Reducing Your Transportation Footprint. (2017, October 27). Retrieved August, 2020, from https://www.c2es.org/content/reducing-your-transportation-footprint/
(4) Composting At Home. (2019, November 13). Retrieved August, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home