Living almost zero waste is not that impossible!
However, to be more sustainable, you have to say “goodbye” to some unsustainable products, as well as some of your previous buying patterns.
That doesn’t mean that you should start shopping like crazy ALL these zero-waste swaps, that I’ll mention… Not at all!
You don’t need to get ALL of these zero-waste products. Depending on your living choices, you will need just a few of these. Just be mindful when you pick your zero waste swaps. Also, make sure you check some second-hand stores for some of the items below!
The point of this blog post is to share with you more sustainable choices of some everyday life essentials.
Also, always use everything you have before switching to these zero-waste products. Remember, the point of living a zero-waste lifestyle is to:
refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (compost).
For example, if you have a plastic bottle of shampoo and the zero waste swap for it is a shampoo bar, do not get it right away! Use first everything you have and when it’s over — buy the zero waste alternative.
Before we start with the massive list with zero-waste products, I want to mention a few points briefly.
First, DON’T FORGET THIS:
- REDUCE the number of things you use
- REUSE anything you can (such as glass jars, containers)
- UPCYCLE and REcreate things (DIY!)
- COMPOST (things like paper packaging and food scraps)
Second, HOW TO START SLOWLY SWITCHING TO THESE ZERO WASTE SWAPS?
1 – Check what you already have. Find possibly forgotten things that are lying down in your home and start using them!
2 – Visit local second-hand stores for the specific items you want to get. Check online second-hand shops, too.
3 – Find some things that you can DIY!
4 – Go around your local stores and try to find the items you need.
5 – Shop online, in case you can’t find the things you are looking for (remember to check online second-hand shops too!).
Third, WHAT ABOUT ONLINE SHOPPING? HOW SUSTAINABLE IS IT?
Well, there are a lot of factors, and the answer is highly subjective. It is a hard question so answer, but a study figured that online shopping tends to have a better environmental impact than traditional shopping when taking into account the entire buying process. However, that doesn’t include the ”fast delivery” options, since they have a higher environmental impact.
If you would like to know more about this, let me know in the comments, so I can make a separate post about it!
Now, let’s go through a list with zero waste swaps and 142 zero waste products! To make it easier, I divided everything into a few categories:
Toiletries / Personal
Traveling / On-the-go
Office / School
Cleaning / Laundry
BONUS: Zero Waste / Plastic Free Online Shops
Disclaimer: SOME of the links within this article may be affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through direct links in this guide, I will receive a small commission, which will support creating further resources like this one.
Now, let’s begin!
Toiletries / Personal
Shampoo in a plastic bottle –> Shampoo bar
Why it’s a problem:
Almost every shampoo, in a regular shop, comes in a plastic bottle. The problem is that:
- They are hard to recycle
- Around 552 million shampoo bottles end up in landfills every year. That’s A LOT!
Why the alternative is better:
Because they will come package free. One shampoo bar will last you between 3-4 months.
Zero waste shampoo brands:
– Jason And The Argan Oil
3. Unwrapped life – soap bars
6. Dry Shampoo (vegan & organic)
7. Plaine Products – | USA |
There are a bunch of choices. I’m currently using LUSH cosmetics, and I like it, but I’m going to explore some other brands, once I finish the ones I have.
Conditioner (in a plastic tube) –> Conditioner bar
Same as the previous item, you can swap your conditioner in a plastic container, for a package-free conditioner bar.
The brands that offer conditioner are the same as the one from the shampoo:
– Sugar Daddy-O
3. Unwrapped life – Conditioner bars
Single-use cotton rounds –> Reusable rounds
2 alternative options:
Why the alternative is better:
Current cotton production methods are environmentally unsustainable. For example, to produce a kilogram of cotton, it’s needed 20,000 LITERS of water.
The better solution is to either buy reusable rounds or even better – make them by yourself. All you need is a big cotton towel that you will cut into squares or rounds.
If you know how to sew, you can check how to make them from scratch on youtube! Then, you can store them in a small jar. Once you use a cotton round, you will wash and reuse it.
You can use them with organic coconut or olive oil, which will help you to clean your face from dirt & makeup.
Deodorant spray/stick –> Deodorant cream in sustainable packaging
The packaging of deodorant products that you can find in every shop is plastic, plus they often contain pretty nasty ingredients.
Fortunately, there are more and more eco-friendly products, and that includes some great deodorant bars/creams!
Like the previous product, here you have two options:
- DIY deodorant
- buy deodorant with safe ingredients & sustainable packaging
Soon, I’ll make a DIY tutorial of how to make your deodorant, but basically, you need:
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup arrowroot powder/cornstarch
- 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
- Optional: essential oil for scent
Instructions: Mix the first two ingredients in a bowl. Then, add the coconut oil (and essential oil, if desired). It’s best if the oil is not melted, it can be a bit soft though. Mix it until you create a nice, solid paste. Once it’s done, transfer in a jar!
Zero waste deodorant options:
1. Dirty Hippie Cosmetics (etsy)
- aluminium salt free
- compostable eco packaging
- refils available
- baking soda free
- check their recycling program
- Aluminum & Baking Soda Free
4. RAINWATER BOTANICALS (etsy)
- sustainable paper or glass packaging
- vegan & palm oil free
- No aluminium, no parabens, no propellants, no alcohol
- 100% natural in a glass jar
Plastic hairbrush –> Bamboo hairbrush
In case you need a new hairbrush or your old one breaks – get one made from bamboo!
The truth is that wooden brushes are much better for your hair. Using a plastic comb regularly causes your hair to break more, and to look dry.
Wooden bristle brushes are smooth, and your hair will slide over it so that it won’t break your hairs.
What is more, the wood bristles spread your scalps natural oils, maintaining your hair conditioned and smooth.
Lastly, plastic brushes will eventually end up in a landfill, so a wooden/bamboo brush is a much more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative.
If you buy a high-quality wooden brush, it will last for years, too.
Tissues –> Cloth handkerchiefs
I remember that when I was a kid, I used to have reusable thin cloth towels. They are cost-effective, simple, zero waste swap.
These old-fashioned, 100% cotton hankies will reduce tremendously the paper/tissue waste you might create.
You can find plenty of different handkerchiefs online, for instance, on Amazon or Etsy. And the best part is that it’s such an easy & cheap zero waste switch.
Ten thousand villages – handmade, eco napkins
Now, that’s a bit tricky. At least for me. I can’t use whatever face moisturizer, because my skin is weird and acne-prone.
I tried a bunch of different moisturizers, and it wasn’t easy to find something suitable for my skin.
Some low-waste/zero waste face products that I recommend:
- vegan, cruelty-free, glass jars
- if you order $80+, you can use this link for $20 OFF.
- vegan, cruelty free
- for dry & mature skin
- suitable for both day or night
- acne-prone skin
- SPF 50
4. Moonbeam cream (etsy)
- for all skin types
- glass jars with aluminum lids
- contains beeswax
- high in vitamin E
- reduce inflammation
- great for sensitive skin
You can use a soap bar, facial milks, cleaning oil, etc. Some good options that are out there:
3. Oil-cleansing with:
- Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil
- Hemp oil
- Coconut oil
NOTE: Keep in mind that you have to find the OIL that works best for your skin type.
DIY face masks
It is super easy to make your face mask! A few of my favorite DIY zero waste mask includes just one of a few components. All of the ingredients can be found in sustainable packaging (like glass) or bulk.
Some DIY face mask ingredients are:
- clay, matcha powder, charcoal, oats, coconut oil, etc.
While some of these ingredients may be a bit pricier (such as my beloved matcha powder), but it’s worth it.
The truth is that you will need a minimal amount for one face mask. So, in the long turn, you will save money, because you will be able to make hundreds — if not more — face masks, scrubs, serums, etc.
I’ll have a full post on different DIY masks, but let’s mention one DEAD simple recipes here.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- 1 tbsp of matcha powder OR bentonite clay
- a few tbsp (2-4) of water
- 1-2 drops of hemp oil (optional)
- Small mixing jar
me & my roommates with DIY matcha face mask! 😀
- In a small jar, place your matcha powder /or bentonite clay/, and then add some water. Mix it well, until you don’t create a nice paste texture.
- Apply to clean skin, and leave it for about 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water!
NOTE: If you use bentonite clay, DO NOT MIX IT with a metal utensil or in a metal bowl. They will interfere with the clay, and it will reduce most of its healing properties. It is best to use a glass / wooden utensils.
You can make it by yourself, or you can get one in sustainable packaging. Again, some ingredients might seem a bit pricey, but in the long run – it’s cheaper.
Spray against bugs –> Natural bug repellent lotion bar
There are natural alternatives to chemical-laden insect repellents. Plants have been repelling insects and bugs to protect themselves since the beginning of time.
Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve is a company that I really like. They are certified organic and their products are plastic-free. They offer:
- Packaged in eco-friendly, recyclable, compostable cardboard push-up tubes
- The moisturizing base of virgin shea butter and jojoba oil soothes and softens skin
- with citronella, cedarwood, lemon eucalyptus, neem oils – well-known natural bug repellents
- comes in an aluminum tin
Use the link for $5 OFF your order.
Body cream –> DIY body cream
I never learned to use body cream daily. I guess I’m just a bit lazy. But in case you are crazy about body creams, you can check the following package free lotion bars:
Lip balm –> DIY lip balm
I have a lip balm from Lush that I’ve been using for the past year! It goes slow, and it smells like chocolate. Mmm! 😀 Otherwise, there are a few other cool options, or if you like to experiment, you can even make a DIY lip balm.
DIY lip balm (full guide coming soon)
Makeup in plastic packaging –> Makeup in sustainable packaging
Here, I have to be honest. I’m not a makeup person, so I don’t have a lot of experience.
But I wanted to show you that there are a lot of alternatives and sustainable options for makeup.
While I was researching, I found the following brands:
Foundation, highlighter, blushes – sustainable *bamboo* packaging
Offering a refillable program!
Mascara from KeepingItNatural
Mascara, foundation, blush cream, eye shadow, lip balm, and more from RAWBeautyLLC
Natural makeup and skincare products from VyanaPlantBeauty
Blushes, lipsticks, face masks, concealers, mascara and more from Dirtyhippiecosmetics
Mascara, eyeshadow, lip balm, blush, bronzer, foundation, highlighter and more from CleanFacedCosmetics
Toiletries / Personal
Disposable & plastic razor –> Reusable stainess steel razor / epilator
Disposable razors consist of several different materials. That makes them a challenge for the recycling facilities, so regularly, disposable razors are not recycled.
Luckily, there is an eco-friendly alternative to a disposable razor, and it is – a stainless steel safety razor! These are great not only for the environment, but they also cause less irritation to your skin.
You can find some pretty cheap ones here:
Otherwise, you can also use an electric hair removal epilator. I own this one and I’ve been using it for the past few years already.
Plastic toothbrush –> Bamboo toothbrush
Probably one of the first zero-waste swaps many people make. Because it is so simple! Nowadays, you can find bamboo toothbrushes in a lot of stores.
Honestly, this is not the perfect zero waste swap. It is just that some toothbrushes are simply better than others.
Plastic toothbrushes are still used by a massive amount of the world’s population, which generates a tremendous amount of waste in landfills & oceans.
Since they are created by various materials (nylon bristles, a metal staple that holds the bristles, a plastic handle), they are also hard to recycle.
Bamboo toothbrushes are a better alternative because:
- bamboo plants grow quickly, need little care and may thrive without fertilizer or pesticides.
- Bamboo does have a smaller ecological footprint compared to plastic.
- It is biodegradable — you can compost the handles of bamboo toothbrushes. (note: you first have to remove the bristles)
- Bamboo toothbrush handles can take around six months to compost (while a plastic one takes hundreds of years to break down.)
You can try to look for a bamboo toothbrush in your local area or order it online:
Toothpaste tube –> Plastic-free toothpaste
Because plastic toothbrushes are not enough…
Toothpaste tubes are horrible to recycle. Oral care products can include different types of plastic, aluminum, steel, and nylon. In a recycling facility, each of these components must be processed separately. This makes the recycler’s job pretty hard.
That’s why you can find a toothpaste that is in more sustainable packaging. Or even better – make your toothpaste!
For the easiest recipe, you will need:
Equal amounts of baking soda and coconut oil. For more DIY toothpaste recipes, read my full article here!
Otherwise, there are some great products, such as:
Single-use cotton swabs –> Oriculi eco-friendly bamboo ear pick
Super cool, economical & eco-friendly zero waste swap! A few essential notes, when using oriculi:
- Disinfect the Oriculi before and after use.
- Use the “spoon” end to remove earwax.
- Use once or twice a week.
- Only use the Oriculi at the entrance of the ear, to remove the visible ear wax. Don’t go further! Earwax is an asset because it protects the eardrum.
Bottled body wash –> Soap bars
Soap bars often include less packaging, less water to produce, plus, they tend to last a lot longer.
A study found that liquid soap requires:
- five times more energy to produce
- nearly 20 times more energy to package
- we use about seven times more liquid soap than bar soap for each handwash
So, a soap bar seems like a pretty good & efficient zero waste swap.
Soap bar options:
Plastic dental floss –> Compostable floss
The regular dental floss comes in a small plastic box, and it is usually waxed nylon. This synthetic material can take between 30-40 years to decompose.
An eco-friendly option for dental floss are:
TreeBird Biodegradable Dental Floss – they offer eco-friendly floss refills too!
Plastic-Free Dental Floss from Natural Silk Refills – refillable option, too
Toilet paper –> Recycled/Bamboo toilet paper
While we can’t just stop using toilet paper, we can REDUCE our consumption AND look for sustainable options.
Most of the toilet paper is bleached, and it comes in unnecessary plastic packaging. If you have bulk stores close by, you will be able to find recycled & package free toilet rolls. Otherwise, you can order online.
It’s good to do a quick google search and to see which is the best & most convenient option for you. Otherwise, my recommendations are:
Menstrual single-use products –> Menstrual cup / Reusable pads / Menstrual underwear
In this article, I calculated that on average, females spend about:
- $140.4 for one year on tampons OR $79.2 per year on single-use pads.
So, for a few years, that’s already a lot of money and tons of waste. Getting a menstrual cup is a great choice, and it is:
- good for the environment because it reduces waste.
- good for your pocket, because it reduces expense on single-use menstrual products.
- good for your health, too.
Synthetic shower curtain –> Hemp/cotton shower curtain
Shower curtains are a standard household product that contains PVC.
The worst part is that PVC (and possibly other harmful chemicals) goes to your skin and lungs, while taking a hot shower and breathing deeply.
In case you have to change your old shower curtain, make sure to check some healthy and environmentally friendly options, such as this HEMP shower curtain.
Plastic toilet brush –> Wooden toilet brush
We use a toilet brush for a couple of months. Once it gets nasty, we trow it and get a new one. It is an easily disposable item, which is not usually recyclable.
As you can guess, it ends up in landfills, waterways or the oceans.
A low-waste, natural, non-plastic, and even compostable option is a wooden brush set.
When looking for a wooden brush set, try to get one that is sustainably collected.
Paper towels –> Reusable towels
Once I started my zero waste journey, the paper towels were the thing that annoyed me a lot! It was such an unnecessary thing that costs a lot of recourses, and it creates a lot of waste.
It was disturbing me, mainly because the alternative was SO SIMPLE, and so much better – switch them for some reusable towels:
Baking paper –> Reusable baking mat
I LOVE to bake! Vegan cakes, cupcakes, granola, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, veggies. I enjoy food that it’s baked, so I was using a lot of paper. Even though I was reusing one sheet for at least two times, I was still creating a lot of paper waste.
But then I found out about reusable baking mats. They are made of silicone, and the mats are washable & non-stick.
They are undoubtedly essential zero-waste alternatives, for baking lovers like me!
GRIDMANN Silicone Baking Mat – set of 2
Disposable cupcake liners –> Reusable cupcake liners
Same as the previous option, in case you like making cupcakes from time to time, probably its good to consider reusable cupcake liners.
Silicone baking cups – pack of 24
Plastic K cups –> Reusable K cups / Fresh press / Mocha
Globally, we drink over 100 million A DAY. All of the K-cups sold just in one year (2013) can wrap around the earth… 10.5 TIMES!!!
You don’t have to stop drinking coffee, but you can do it in a more trash-free way.
Find a bulk shop, where you can get sustainably produced coffee. Then decide how to drink it. You can’t go wrong with:
My boyfriend introduced me to the MOKA pot, a few years ago, and since then, it’s my preferred method of drinking coffee.
I recommend to first look for a Moka pot or a french press from your local area, second hand, or online. It is tricky if you order it online since it might come with some plastic packaging. After all, if you decide to get it online, write to the website first and ask if the product can be delivered without unnecessary plastic wraps.
Paper Napkins –> Reusable napkins
The first step here is to reduce your use of napkins. Then, you have a few solutions. Make some by yourself or buy recycled cloth napkins.
Plastic dish dryer –> Metal dish dryer
Do you own a plastic dish dryer? That’s fine, keep using it! In case it breaks, then you can consider a metal one.
Sponge for dishes –> Plastic-free sponge/brush
Sponges are made with polyurethane, a petroleum-based ingredient. They can contain dyes and other synthetic disinfectants, too. What’s more, your kitchen sponge is full of gross bacterias.
Luckily, there are sponges from natural and sustainable materials. The best option you have here:
Plastic-Free Dish Washing Brush – Hard Bristles
Plastic-Free Dish Washing Brush – Replacement Head – Soft Bristles
Dish Soap –> Dish soap in bulk / Bar soap
Dish soap usually comes in a huge plastic bottle. It also contains questionable ingredients. So, what is the zero waste alternative here? It’s simple – buy your soap in bulk. You can look for pure castile soap.
In case you are limited with the bulk options, then check the following options:
Water filter –> Charcoal stick
Usually, water filters or other purification systems use plastic, which sucks!
Charcoal can absorb impurities from water and the air. Furthermore, these charcoal sticks are an entirely natural way of water purification.
It is also a good solution if the taste of your tap water sucks since it also results in better-tasting drinking water. The stick will need at least 3-4 hours to filter the water.
Depending on the way you take care of it, one charcoal stick can last around 3-4 months. Afterward, you can place it somewhere to use it as a natural deodorizer, or you can compost it.
It is easy to find charcoal sticks online. They also sell them in eco-friendly, zero waste shops, too.
Some online options here:
Plastic cutting board –> Bamboo cutting board
A better & eco-friendly option to the traditional plastic cutting board is one made from sustainably grown bamboo.
Bamboo cutting board – Renewable, antimicrobial, formaldehyde-free, BPA free, non-toxic, with natural antibacterial properties and coated with food-grade mineral oil.
Plastic baggies –> Reusable silicone baggies
Eco-friendly solution for the hundreds of single-use plastic bags! You can use silicone baggies to store different food – sandwiches, fruits, veggies, or even other things, such as valuables at the beach.
They are leak-proof, freezer safe, and they keep your food fresh for longer.
Reusable Silicone Baggies, 6 pack – eco-friendly recyclable kraft material in their packaging
Trash can –> Reusable recycling bins & Compost
Becoming trash-free requires time. So, at the beginning of your zero waste journey, you will still create some waste. But that’s completely alright!
The way to go is to recycle your waste correctly and to compost your food scraps.
A great alternative to a trash can is a reusable bag, that has different sections for different types of trash. A good example is:
- Three parts to help sort recyclable materials: metal, paper, and plastic
- Heavy-duty aluminum handle
- Easy to clean
Furthermore, your waste will decrease when you start to compost your food scraps. I have a full article with 8 awesome compost bins (suitable for apartment composting, too!) so make sure to check it out. 🙂
Trash bag –> DIY paper linear + Compost
You don’t need a plastic trash bag for your trash. That’s right. That’s because you can use the trash can you already have, or a reusable sorter bag, and
You can create a DIY paper linear. It is very easy to do, you can check some simple tutorials on youtube.
And, of course, don’t forget about composting your food waste!
Plastic / Paper bag –> Reusable bag
A lot of energy and other resources go to create plastic or paper. It is not sustainable since we often dispose of the items after a single-use.
Interestingly, to produce paper takes twice the energy used to provide a plastic bag. So, paper bags are probably not the best solution, too.
The zero-waste swap is – REUSABLE bags. Even though it is a controversial topic for some, they are a better option. Sure, they also require energy and other resources, too.
But the point is to REUSE them over and over and over again. Plus, you probably already have some tote bags, hanging around your house.
Or you can do a quick check-in your local second-hand stores and find reusable bags there.
Food in plastic packaging –> Bulk store & Farmers market, OR more sustainable packaging
The truth is that shopping from a bulk store will reduce your waste from food packaging tremendously.
Just remember always to bring cloth produce bags, jars, and containers so that you can fill them up.
If you don’t have bulk stores, then try to visit the farmers market.
They often have not only veggies and fruits, but also nuts and grains in bulk.
Lastly, you can buy food with less packaging in a regular supermarket too. Look for the loose veggies & fruits, check for nuts/grains in bulk bins (even regular shops are sometimes having small bulk sections).
Lastly, buy things that are in a glass jar, aluminum, or paper. You can reuse the glass jars, upcycle & recycle the aluminum and compost the paper!
Plastic cling-film (wrap) –> Vegan wax wrap
Ideal long-lasting, eco-friendly vegan wax wraps! They will replace cling-film to keep your food and leftovers fresh. The vegan wax wraps are made with 100% cotton fabric, plant waxes, tree resin, and organic oils.
Vegan Wax Wrap – alternative to beeswax wrap
Traveling / On-the-go
A super important part! Luckily, it is one of the easiest ones, too. The thing is that you can reduce a lot of the trash you are possibly creating with better planning.
What I mean by that is:
Whenever you go out, or you travel somewhere, you should have a few items with you. These items will surely prevent you from buying things in plastic or in any other sort of packaging, which will reduce your waste A LOT!
Plastic cutlery –> Reusable To-Go cutlery set
In case you feel hungry and you want something on the go, having a mini spork in your bag can be a lifesaver. Okay, I exaggerated a bit, but it can prevent you from wasting plastic, single-use cutlery.
Plastic straw –> Reusable straw
Another cool thing to have (even though not really necessary). Plastic straws are gaining a lot of negative popularity, which is great! 😀
The pollution, created by single-use items, such as plastic straws, makes a lot of people to look for alternatives.
I don’t find reusable straws a “MUST HAVE”, but a lot of people like them. So the 3 most popular options you have are:
Plastic water bottle –> Reusable water bottle
A huge game changer! In this article, I calculated that approximately, the price of getting water in a plastic bottle equals to $288 per year. For a few years, that’s a lot of money.
Getting a reusable water bottle won’t only cut down your waste, but it will also save you up some extra cash!
Disposable To-Go cup –> Reusable mug
The single-use coffee cups are lined with plastic polyethylene, which makes them waterproof. Furthermore, they are contaminated with a drink. So these two factors make coffee cups very difficult to recycle.
That is why only less than 1% of single-use coffee cups are being recycled.
A reusable mug is a zero-waste swap that is ideal for coffee lovers. Ultimately, it is best if you have the option to order and stay in the coffee shop. But in case you want it to go, then consider a reusable coffee mug.
Another alternative is that you can make coffee at home and take it with you. Plus, you can always take your reusable mug on a trip, in order to avoid trash.
Disposable To-Go containers –> Reusable To-Go container
One of my favorite swaps is reusable containers. Stainless steel containers are great because they are:
- less wasteful
- 100% recyclable (stainless steel can be recycled endlessly!)
- less expensive over time
Check the following options:
School / Office supplies
Cleaning / Laundry
- DIY (a guide coming soon!)
- Meliorameansbetter – Laundry powder, dish soap, stain removal, etc
- Laundry detergent pods
A simple DIY spray for cleaning
– 1 part water
– 1 part vodka
– 4-5 drops of essential oil (optional)
Mix everything together and store in glass/aluminum container!
Zero Waste / Plastic Free Online Shops:
Zero Waste Store – US | International
Package Free Shop – US | International
Life Without Plastic – US | International
The Kind Store – UK | European & international delivery
Kick Plastic – UK | Europe
Zero Waste Club – UK | International
Plastic Freedom – UK | International
Sin Plastico – Spain | Europe
Green Revolucia – Bulgaria
Original Unverpackt – Germany | Europe
Naturalou – Germany | Switzerland | Austria
Did I missed a cool zero waste swap or a plastic free website?
Let me know in the comments below so I can update the list!