If you’re keen to embrace a zero waste lifestyle (interchangeably called low waste lifestyle, low impact lifestyle, minimal waste lifestyle and waste-free lifestyle) here are the 20 things you will need to get started.
Some of these you will already own, some you can borrow and others you will need to buy (to keep your environment footprint light, we recommend searching for it second-hand first before buying brand new). While you may need to invest a small amount to begin with, most of these items will only need to be purchased once – that’s the beauty of zero waste products after all!
So without further ado, here’s what you’ll need to live minimal, low, zero waste:
1. Reusable cup
One of the easiest zero waste swaps to make, just take your reusable coffee cup with you and say no to disposable takeaway coffee cups. Some cafes even offer a discount if you do!
Say no to plastic bags and take your own. With governments around the world banning many types of plastic bags and customers forced to pay for plastic bags, just bring your own and you’ll avoid plastic pollution and extra expense.
Forget plastic produce bags and use reusable organic cotton ones instead. Those flimsy plastic bags aren’t good for much after single-use, imagine all the fossil fuel resources that could be saved if it weren’t being used on producing single-use plastic!
Save money, save resources and just take your water bottle with you when you’re heading to work, to school or on a travel adventure. Tap water is drinkable in many Western countries and you can fill up at airports, gyms and hotels where water fountains and filtered water can be found.
Reduce waste by taking your own food containers. Perfect for takeaway meals, packing picnic lunches or taking home restaurant leftovers. We recommend the Cheeki range of stainless steel food containers are stylish and functional.
Straws are a luxury for some and a necessity for others. Many people can actually do without (lips are made for drinking after all!). For some however, plastic straws are required due to physical limitations and disabilities. But if you are able-bodied and prefer to drink with a straw, switch to a reusable bamboo or metal straw and you’ll be doing your bit to reduce single-use plastic waste.
If you commute, travel or eat out often, take another zero waste step and say no to the disposable plastic utensils that come with most takeaway meals, airplanes and hotels by using your reusable cutlery kit instead.
If you love ordering takeaway milkshakes, juices, smoothies or iced coffees, save on plastic and packaging waste by taking a reusable smoothie tumbler with you. Check out the MontiiCo insulated smoothie cup which makes a stylish addition to your zero waste list.
9. Tea infuser
Did you know that some disposable tea bags are made with plastic? For zero waste tea, purchase looseleaf tea and use a stainless steel tea strainer such as the Love Tea Spring Handled Tea Infuser.
Ditch disposable plastic razors and opt for the traditional safety razor that is made from stainless steel and metal blades that can be recycled. Over the longer-term, this is also the more cost-effective option as a pack of five blades costs just $2.95.
11. Menstrual cup
The menstrual cup is an economical replacement for disposable tampons and menstrual products. Its upfront cost is between $36-$53 but will save you around $500 over its 10-year lifespan. Menstrual cups are made from 100% soft medical grade silicon so is safe to use and can hold up to three times more fluid than tampons and pads. Just wash hands before use, tip blood out after use, wash and insert. For tips on how to use, read this post.
If menstrual cups aren’t your thing, you can buy reusable sanitary pads that can be washed after use. Hannahpads produce organic cotton pads with a patterned waterproof layer and is available in light, medium and overnight absorptions.
13. Period underwear
No matter how careful you are, periods can and do spill and overflow. Rather than use disposable liners and pads, invest in comfy, padded period underwear. Wear them like you would your normal undies but you’ll have the added bonus of period protection. Modibodi produces ethically-made vegan period undies made from bamboo and comes in sizes 8-18. You’ve got the choice of light or heavy absorbency.
Say goodbye to disposable cotton balls and makeup wipes with the reusable cotton makeup remove pads. A 10-pack of Green + Kind reusable and washable bamboo cleansing pads costs $25 but will last you a lifetime if you care for them right. Just throw in the wash when you’re done, dry and reuse. Rinse and repeat.
15. Shampoo bar
Avoid shampoo and conditioner packaging by opting for shampoo bars, a zero waste way of washing your hair. Prices for shampoo bars range from $12.95 – $28. We recommend Clover Fields Shampoo & Conditioner Bar for lush, soft and silky locks. It’s a two-in-one shampoo and conditioning bar, is vegan, palm oil free and has stylish and recyclable packaging too.
While not completely zero waste because the bristles are made of BPA free polymers that will need to be removed and disposed of before the bamboo handle can be composted, it’s much better than non-biodegradable plastic toothbrushes that sit in landfills. There are plenty of bamboo toothbrushes on the market; check out the Environmental Bamboo Toothbrush it was created by a Brisbane dentist and there’s a size to suit the entire family.
Forget plastic hairbrushes, your mane deserves high performance, eco-friendly brushes that will work when your hair is wet or dry. Bass Brushes produce a range of hairbrushes and combs made from sustainable wood.
It’s a blast from the past, but with eco-consciousness on the rise, people are rejecting single-use tissues in favour of carrying a traditional handkerchief as our grandparents were accustomed to doing You can make one from old cotton cloth, but if you’re not much of a DIY-er and purchasing second-hand turns you off (completely understandable) just purchase one off of Etsy. There are ones made of organic cotton, linen, recycled materials and come in classic colours or patterns. Use and then throw in wash. You’ll never need to buy a box of tissues again.
Most people purchase bread from the supermarket as it’s cheap and more convenient, but it comes in single-use soft plastics packaging. While this packaging can be recycled (at select locations) the aim is to reduce waste. If a local baker accessible, buy package-free bread and store it in a reusable, washable bread bag like the Bread Swag storage bag below.
Cling wrap will be a thing of the past with handcrafted reusable food wraps. While some contain beeswax, there are also vegan wraps available. These can be reused for up to one year and are great for covering leftover dinner or salad bowls, or wrapping half eaten food, cut vegetables and sandwiches.
Want to help your friends and family kickstart their zero waste lifestyle? Make sure to pin and share this post!
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Disclosure: The curated list is based on the writer’s research and does not fully take into account all ethical considerations that are unique to each individual. This list also contains affiliate links. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to do your own research paying particular attention to the supply chain and your own particular set of ethics. For more information on our policies, click here.
Feature image via The Clean Collective.