Easy zero waste swaps to begin your zero waste journey painlessly

When we first started on our zero waste journey there where a few things that we felt were so big and took so much commitment that we felt totally overwhelmed. This of course meant that we put of changes because we just could not deal with them at that moment. I can’t even remember what those things were, but looking back I do feel a bit silly. We made it a lot more difficult than it should have and could have been. Why? Probably because we are scared of change, and we were terrified of giving up our convenience - no matter in which form that might have been.

Skip forward a few years, and we have really bitten the bullet. There have been many changes, some minute, and others major. But because we do not want to overwhelm you even more, here are our list of easy, relatively cheap and painless zero waste swaps:

  • Glass water bottle

Much better, and cheaper, than the plastic alternatives. Plus glass keeps the water colder for longer! Find yours at most retailers, or through our online shop

  • Decent coffee

One of the best places to start. You win almost more than the planet, goes who doesn’t rather want good coffee? Invest in a French press (plunger) or a stove top espresso maker, then buy good quality fair-trade coffee beans. You get the cutest hand coffee grinders, or you can just buy the beans already ground to the correct coarseness.

  • Loose leaf tea

Another much tastier option. You get the most interesting teas, from black to green to white to fruit. Do yourself a favour and find a loose leaf tea merchant, then stop by to smell and taste some of the teas before buying. We love The Tea Merchant, and they have an online shop as well.

  • Ecoffee cup or similar

I bought mine from Faithful to Nature, and they have a wide variety of different brands, sizes, and prices. Invest in at least 2 so that you are never caught without one.

  • Cloth bags for shopping

I have big ones and an assortment of small ones. The big ones I use to carry my shopping from the store to the car, and from the car to the house. The small ones are used to weigh and carry loose fresh produce, as well as dry goods that I can get in bulk such as nuts, rice, seeds, etc. I bought mine from various retailers, plus some of the bigger retailers now sell them at the fresh produce section.

  • Bowl covers

We have a set of beeswax wraps that are simply amazing. You get vegan alternatives, and another option is simply using a piece of cloth that you tie with a string or a rubber band. I have done both.

  • Counter-top compost bin

Oh Bokashi my dear friend. It fits on our counter top, and the bran that you add to speed up composting helps to neutralise the smell. If that makes you squirmish, you can place a bowl with a lid on the counter, throwing all your compostable waste in there and then empty this bowl into your compost bin or heap at the end of the day. There are many alternative options, but I am a Bokashi fan.

  • Cloth “paper towels”

This specific change costs me nothing. I simply took a towel that was too ugly to use anymore, and I cut that up into squares. We use these to clean spills, wipe counters, clean hands, dry dishes and more. When dirty, I simply wash them in our washing machine.

  • Spray bottle for cleaning

Even a plastic one will do. Using plastic here is half ok since you will be using it more than once, especially if you already have a plastic bottle. You can even use the spray bottles that normal conventional products come in. In your bottle, fill up half with white vinegar and the rest with water. Add a few drops of essential oils (tea tree, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus are good options) and viola! You have a very effective all purpose cleaner.

  • Reusable straws

We bought bamboo straws. Not because Husband and I like straws, but because the kids do. They were cheap, from Faithful to Nature and I wash them in the dishwasher.

  • Baking soda and vinegar

Used separately or together, these two are a natural cleaner’s best friends. Baking soda removes odours, unclogs drains and gives enough abrasive cleaning power to clean even the dirtiest oven. Vinegar degreases, whitens and disinfects. Together they can be explosive, so use with caution.

  • Coconut oil

Another one of those must-have ingredients. We cook with it (no more oil in plastic bottles), use it as bath oil, hair conditioner, to hydrate our skin, after-sun treatment, rashes, and more. Just be careful to not get it on your clothes as it can leave an oil stain!

  • Bar soap

No more liquid soap that comes in plastic. You can pick up a bar of soap relatively cheap, and most of the time you can even get them without any plastic packaging. The artisinal mmovement is big and picking up speed, so look there to get creamy, hydrating and cleansing soaps. One such an example is Bee Natural Old Fashioned soap bar, available in our shop.

  • Bamboo toothbrush

Switch to a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush. The only part of the toothbrush that is not degradable are the bristles, but these you can simply pull out and add to your eco brick.

  • Library membership

I love books, and I love reading. But I find it wasteful to buy a book that I will only read once (I very rarely reread a book) so instead I have taken out a library membership from my local library.

  • “No junk mail” post on your gate

This is something I should have done years ago! I made a big sign saying “no junk mail” and put it up on our gate. Since doing this we have been receiving about 20% of the amount of junk mail that we used to get. Yeah unfortunately there are still people who either cannot read or cannot be bothered with the sign.

  • Cloth tote instead of plastic bags

For carrying your groceries. I have a few different ones, and I invested in an insulated one for when I buy milk/butter/yogurt/etc. and know I won’t be going home directly after shopping.

  • Pack your own takeaway containers

Carry a small container with you to use for takeaways should the need arise. I know people who carry jars with them, but I find them too heavy and bulky plus you stand the chance of breaking them. I have plastic containers, and I will keep on using them until they are impossible to use further. Part of the zero waste journey is using what you have to stop the need for consumerism.

  • Go paperless

Change your monthly bills to electronic format, keep a digital planner, etc. Everything in our lives are paperless except my planner - I think better with a pen in my hand, and so that is one of the things that I refuse to let go of.

  • Shop pre-loved

This includes clothes, shoes, toys, home appliances and furniture. Very often things go up for sale not because there is something wrong with them but merely because the current owner has grown tired of it, or they have no further use for it.

  • Make your own

Instead of buying,make your own. Especially in the kitchen, but also in other spheres of your life - you can make your own hygiene products (toothpaste, mouth wash, soap), cleaning products (all purpose cleaner, carpet cleaner, furniture polish, etc.), makeup and more.

  • Soda stream

This was one of the first things we bought. Now we make our own sparkling water, colddrink for the kids, and mixers for when we feel like having a drink. We save on money and on plastic. Some of the newer models even have glass bottles!

Those are my easy swaps for going zero waste. Have anything you would like to add? Please share!