Our Best Zero Waste Swaps
A comprehensive guide to all the swaps you need to go zero waste
Use a thermos for hot drinks or a mason jar for cold drinks when buying a cup of coffee instead of using the disposable, single-use cups most cafes provide.
Go to a deli counter and see if they will put it in your own container!
Instead of single-use cupcake liners, use silicone liners to hold your desserts, or just go without and grease the pans a bit more.
Use cloth bags, glass jars, bottles, and reusable containers to buy food from the bulk sections of grocery stores. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.
Try using reusable k-cups or convert to a french press – no filter needed!
Use a french press or reusable cloth coffee filters.
Instead of parchment paper, we suggest using reusable silicone baking mats.
Try using reusable silicone, aluminum, glass, or bamboo straws. Note: Be cautious when giving metal or glass straws to children.
To store cheese, wrap in a linen tea towel.
Use organic cotton produce bags or reusable grocery bags to carry your fruits and vegetables when shopping in the produce section or farmer’s market.
Simply wrap sandwiches in fabric or make your own sandwich wraps using an alternative material (such as beeswax!)
Store vegetables and herbs by wrapping them in damp tea towels, sealing them in glass containers, or storing them upright in a jar filled with an inch of water (this is especially good for carrots, celery, etc.)
Use loose leaf tea and a tea strainer instead!
Store leftovers in a bowl with plate over the top instead of using plastic wrap or freeze in heat stable glass container (e.g., Pyrex).
Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and water: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.
Fill pan with a layer of water, add 1 cup of vinegar, and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda (note: it will fizz). Empty the pan and wipe clean.
Instead of buying cleaning rags wrapped in plastic, recycle old towels, clothes, and sheets that you no longer use. Cut them up, use, wash, and use again!
Combine 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 cup water in a microwavable container. Microwave until the mixture comes to a boil (about 3 minutes), then let it stand in the microwave for 10 mins. Wipe the inside of microwave with a damp cloth.
Pour a little vinegar onto a rag and wipe mirror. Then, dry with a clean rag.
Sprinkle baking soda into the toilet bowl, then add vinegar and scrub.
Fill the kettle halfway with a solution of equal parts cold water and white vinegar (a natural descaling agent). Repeat once and dry with a cloth.
Use wool dryer balls or tennis balls instead!
Simply add one cup of white vinegar to the laundry machine during the rinse cycle.
Instead of using a store-bought laundry whitening product, throw a pair of jeans or another blue garment in with your whites.
We suggest buying soap tablets from Blueland.com, which dissolve in water to create liquid soap! You can also find liquid dish detergent in bulk at your local co-op or zero waste shop.
This is a rare “just buy it” situation!
Use cloth napkins, tea cloths, or cloth rags, then load into your washing machine when dirty.
Try using an activated charcoal stick instead. To use effectively, place the stick in a glass carafe full of tap water and let it sit for several hours. The activated charcoal naturally bonds with toxins, removing contaminants like mercury, chlorine, copper, and even lead!
Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and spray the screen. Leave for 3-5 minutes, then wipe down.
Polish cutlery with a paste of baking soda and vinegar.
Rub with a peeled potato dipped in baking soda or salt.
Soak in a solution of vinegar and water, then dry with a soft cloth.
Pour 1/3 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Immediately seal the drain with a plug and leave 1 hour. Lastly, pour boiling water down the drain.
Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda to hot dish water.
Mix 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of salt. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the “soap/tablet” compartment of the dishwasher. Then, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the “rinse agent” compartment before starting the cycle.
Dissolve 1/4 cup of baking soda in warm water. Let the cloth diapers soak in the solution overnight, then wash the cloth diapers as normal.
Use a bar of soap that you can often find zero waste at a grocery store or farmer’s market.
Make your own! Simply mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water. Experiment with the amount of vinegar; the dryer your hair is, the less you need.
The easy solution is to wear glasses! However, if you are committed to contacts, purchase contacts with the longest possible time before disposal is needed, such as monthly or two week lenses.
As of now, there doesn’t seem to be an effective zero waste alternative for contact solution, so try to buy more sustainable saline solutions like Clear Conscience.
Try using a (reusable) safety razor.
Use a mixture corn starch and/or cocoa powder depending on your hair color.
Try making your own facial scrubs at home with baking soda, cornmeal, rose almond, oatmeal, azuki bean, milk and honey, banana, honey sugar, pumpkin, or greens.
Make your own face mask! In a small jar, mix 1 tablespoon of matcha powder or bentonite clay and 2-4 tablespoons of water. Apply to clean skin and leave for approximately 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Instead of using regular floss, which is mostly made of plastic and coated in the same material used to coat teflon pans, try completely plastic-free silk floss. Or use a waterpik.
Try using an organic loofah, the actual plant!
Use a menstrual cup or reusable cloth pads. It takes some trial and error, but finding the right cup can prevent thousands of disposable products from going into the landfills & can save you money since these products can last 5-10 years! If using a cup seems too daunting and intimate (although I prefer to think of it as empowering), then use pads/tampons made with organic cotton which take less energy and water to produce, and avoid chlorine, bleaching, pesticides, fragrances or dyes which can otherwise cause allergy and irritation!
Use a reusable stainless steel or wood pick.
Use cloth handkerchiefs and consistently wash when dirty. If you have really bad allergies or need to use tissues for a different reason, we suggest whogivesacrap.org.
This is technically a zero waste exception, but if you want to take it a step further, try using toilet paper with recycled content such as from whogivesacrap.org or installing a bidet.
Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush. Simple!
Social & Travel
Get a growler and fill up at your local brewery!
Instead of buying plastic decorations, opt for natural things like local flowers and plants!
Try giving digital gifts like gift certificates or giving experiences like concert tickets or shared outings.
When you hit the road, make sure to pack the following items: water bottle, cutlery, cloth napkin, handkerchief, tupperware, travel coffee mug, and snacks!
Try tying physical gifts up in cloth, using a reusable container, or no wrapping at all!
Buy rechargable batteries!
Hit the thrift store. It saves money and is better for the environment!
By second-hand furniture.
Try using a reusable fountain pen or invest in biodegradable options.
Instead of single-use tape, try substituting for string, ribbon, or a reusable clamp/clip.
Substitute single-use diapers for cloth ones!
Use hand-me-downs/second-hand toys from friends or opt for baby toys made from ethical materials like sustainably-sourced wood, upcycled plastic, or natural rubber.
Buy seeds and grains in bulk when you make a grocery shopping trip. The nifty thing is, you won’t have to stray far from where your groceries are!
Check out this homemade chicken-and-potato zero waste cat food recipe or find a pet store that sells cat food in bulk.
Take your own containers to the butcher and fishmonger for bones, fish, and other meaty treats. To store bones or meat in bulk, first separate and freeze them on a tray, then put them into a container in the freezer until needed.
Talk to your greengrocer or stalls at the farmers market and ask/negotiate for outer lettuce leaves, blemished and imperfect vegetables, etc.