I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but zero waste living is not what you think it is. When browsing the hashtag feed #zerowaste on Instagram, it’s easy to think zero waste living is colour coordinated mason jars, aesthetically pleasing wooden toothbrushes, and organised fridges.
Sure, my toothbrush is made from bamboo, and matching mason jars definitely float my zero-waste boat, but Instagrammable items is far from what a zero waste lifestyle should really about.
Instead, think: using every single part of a broccoli head in your stir fry and hating it, wearing your underwear until it’s so holey it literally falls off your bum, and spending five entire minutes standing by a dishwashing liquid bulk bin pump, while it drips slowly into your glass jar.
True zero waste living isn’t glamorous at the best of times, but holy-moly (do people even say that anymore?), it’s affordable.
I would actually roll my eyes at ‘zero wasters’ when I saw their photos on social media; who has the money or inclination to spend $50 on matching mason jars? Seriously? Now after two years of consciously reducing my waste, I can now honestly say that living zero waste is really cheap – and despite my unflattering comments about broccoli and underwear – it brings more joy too.
(Disclaimer: Zero waste doesn’t mean I do not produce any waste at all. It’s simply a term used to describe a lifestyle where decisions are made to minimise waste as much as possible. For example, my waste for this month, including my recycling, fits in one medium-sized box).
So here’s how adopting a zero waste lifestyle saves you money:
You avoid sales and bargain bins
Avoiding waste means being careful about what you bring into your home. I particularly avoid shopping sales and bargain bins. Ignoring sale signs means I never buy what I don’t need. If there’s something non-perishable on sale (let’s say a can of peaches; which I use every few weeks), I’ll totally stock up, but I’ve definitely turned from a sale shopper, into a sale avoider.
You stop buying what you don’t need
One of the main reasons why a zero waste lifestyle is cheaper, is that you simply stop consuming single-use things.
Here are five things I stopped buying when I went zero waste:
Now that plastic bags are banned in most supermarkets around Australia and New Zealand, everyone is gawking at the extra cost of buying their own bin liners. Not I! Bin liners are the biggest money waster. I stick to a ‘naked’ rubbish bin, and rinse it with water when required.
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Also, why put something designed to hold your waste in something else that was specifically designed to hold your waste too? It would be like putting a sock in another sock, because you don’t think one sock will contain your foot well enough.
2. Muesli bars
I haven’t yet worked out the exact cost saving, but making my own muesli bars has been highly successful *high fives herself*. It takes me around 20 minutes to make a batch that will last me two weeks, and aside from the massive mountains of plastic I’m reducing, it keeps coins in my pocket too.
3. Spray deodorant (and other pointless beauty products)
To freshen up between meetings or classes, I used to spray a deodorant around my body, particularly my armpits. Now that I’ve found a deodorant that actually works for me, that comes in a compostable container, and helps to control the smell of my sweat, rather than stop my pores from releasing sweat naturally, I don’t buy nasty deodorant spray any longer. I’ve also come to terms with the fact we don’t all smell like strawberries. This is just one of the beauty products I’ve decided to go without since shopping zero waste.
4. Packaged biscuits and baked goods
I’ve broken up with biscuits that come in plastic, and it feels so good. They’re deliciously tempting, but the thick plastic container they sit in, plus the wrapper around them, was enough to put me off. Since avoiding packaged biscuits and sweet treats, I either make my own (from ingredients bought at the bulk bin store), or go without.
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5. Pointless cleaners
Turns out, you don’t need a different cleaner for every single surface in your home. When I thought about this properly, it made me feel like an idiot for ever having anything more than a simple anti-bacterial cleaner in my cupboard. There’s a time and place for something that works better on those mouldy spots, but buying one basic cleaner and using it to clean all surfaces, is an efficient time and money saver.
Your zero waste lifestyle can be whatever you want it to be so long as the aim of every decision you make is to reduce waste. And if you’re doing it right, I can 99% guarantee, you’re saving money.
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