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Some of you are probably with the wrong idea that trying to live waste-free is very expensive.
Sure, some zero waste products may cost a bit more, since they are often created to last for a very long time, as well as the quality is higher.
But the truth is that when you are in the transition period, you don’t have to spend your money to reduce your waste! There are a lot of zero waste changes that won’t cost anything, and in fact, can save you up some cash.
So if you wonder how to go zero waste on a budget, I’ve got you covered with some easy, and FREE zero waste living tips!
We will go through 16 changes you can implement quickly, to reduce your waste, which won’t take any money from your pocket.
1. Reusable cotton pads
An essential point of zero living waste is: reusing/repurposing things.
Instead of buying cotton rounds for one single (that are packed in plastic, too), you can make your own!
Swap them for reusable homemade rounds that you can easily make from a tower/or a cotton t-shirt that you don’t use.
You can cut it in small squares, or any other form that you wish, place them in a small jar and voila!
In that way, you won’t only save money, but you will also stop wasting the single-use cotton and the plastic packaging that they have. It’s a win-win situation!
If you read my “How to start a zero waste life” article, where I write about the 5R’s, you probably remember that one of them is: REFUSE.
This zero waste living tip requires you to say ”No, thanks!” to the things that you don’t need. That could be anything from:
single-use products such as plastic straws, bags, cups or cutlery, paper for wrapping food, napkins
freebies like stickers, brochures, pens, etc.
This action doesn’t cost you anything, but it will save up a bunch of waste in the long run!
You don’t need to buy mason jars. You wonder why? Remember that living a cost-effective zero waste lifestyle often goes down to repurposing things.
You can always reuse glass jars from foods that you bought from the store. I think that’s a great, cost-effective trick!
You can easily separate the small jars that you get for things like spices or seeds. Furthermore, you can use bigger jars for legumes, your oats, etc.
4. Reusable bags
I bet you have at least one cotton/reusable bag in your home! Just start using it. Place it in a visible place, somewhere close to your front door and take it every time you go out.
If you have a car and more than one cotton bag, make sure to place one there, too.
This will be the game-changer that will help you to stop buying/using plastic bags.
5. Food prep
You don’t have to do crazy meal prep for every single day & 3 meals. For instance, start bringing your lunch with you, instead of eating out.
Often times, it happens that we don’t think and plan our food, until the point, we feel extremely hungry.
Then, the easiest and fastest solution for our starving bellies is packaged in plastic snacks, sandwiches, salads, etc.
So thinking in advance about what to eat and having something from home will definitely help you to save up some money, but also you will eliminate trash from the packaged food, takeaways, plastic cutlery, etc.
Also, it is beneficial not only because you will save money & eliminate trash, but also because you will eat much healthier!
Oftentimes, the packaged food contains a lot of coloring, additives, oils, sugars – things, that you can definitely live (better!) without.
6. Clothing swap with friends
The truth about fashion and, more specifically, fast fashion is quite disturbing.
We live in a world where new brands and clothes are popping up constantly to meet the demand for the latest trends.
Therefore, increased consumption also means more waste, which is having a huge, negative impact on our environment.
So, instead of shopping for clothing, organize clothing swaps once in a while.
I can’t recommend this more! It is a fun activity that will help you to get rid of clothes that you no longer need, and it will be an opportunity to get some ”new” clothes for free.
Then, everything that’s left can be donated to your local charity/thrift shop.
7. DIY more!
Cleaning products, makeup, shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, different self-care goods, and other products are coming 99% of the time in plastic packaging.
What is more, they are often filled up with ingredients that you don’t need, and they can even cause skin irritation or similar negative reactions.
Plus, some of the products can be quite pricey.
The cool thing about zero waste is the fact that you start seeing the benefits of making more products by yourself.
It often takes just a few natural ingredients that you probably already have and is super easy to create your own:
– toothpaste (check out 5 ways of DIY toothpaste!)
– face mask from stuff in your pantry
– DIY lip balm
– all-purpose cleaning spray
– facial cleanser
– cleaning products
8. Don’t buy anything impulsively
Clothes, food, electronics, or anything in between!
For example, don’t go shopping if you feel sad or even bored, or don’t go for groceries if you are hungry!
Oftentimes, you can buy things that you think you want to eat, just because you are starving. It is an impulsive decision that is based on how you feel.
To avoid such purchases, try to be more mindful whenever it happens. Just try always to ask yourself ”Do I need this?”
If you feel down or bored, try to find some more fulfilling activity, such as reading a book, going for a walk, doing some yoga, or whatever any other satisfying activity.
For food, remember the previous tip: try to meal prep and to have always something in hand! It doesn’t matter if its something cooked or a banana.
How many times did you throw a shirt or a sock with a hole? Did you even bother to fix it? Or what about something electronic?
The thing is that sometimes, we don’t try hard to fix something, or what’s worse, we immediately give up, especially if the broken item is something cheaper.
Instead of giving up or throwing it, try to repair it! If you have damaged clothing, sew its hole or fix its button!
If it’s something else, such as electronic, try to google it! The enormous advantage that we have nowadays is that we can find a tutorial for almost anything online.
Do a quick search and try to fix the problem.
10. Store your food properly to make it last longer
This is a big one.
That is 4 TIMES the amount required to feed the world’s 795 million hungriest people.
This is horrible, taking into consideration the millions of people that are starving every single day.
Going further, food makes around 20% of the solid waste in landfills.
This is a problem since organic matter cannot decompose properly in such an environment; it creates landfill gas – a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills.
This landfill gas contains both methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) that are trapping heat in the atmosphere.
One of the solutions is to store your food properly to avoid food waste. Another one is to start composting, but we won’t talk about this one here. If you are curious, though, you can learn about 7 different ways of apartment composting.
So, back to storing your food.
First, don’t buy more than you need. Always try to empty your fridge before filling it out.
Then, if you see, some fruits or veggies are starting to get softer or bad, freeze them! The fruits you can always use for smoothies and the veggies – for soups and stews.
Furthermore, you can put some veggies in water, such as carrots and celery, to keep them crispy.
Then, you can also keep some vegetables and fruits in the fridge to keep them fresh for longer.
11. Avoid junk mail
An estimation is that around 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year in the U.S.
Moreover, Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year, about 680 pounds per person.
This is insanely much. So to avoid this waste, you have to be persistent, and you need to put some effort to reduce this unnecessary waste by:
placing a sticker on your box, saying “Only addressed mail” or “NO SPAM!”
go on dmachoice.thedma.org and get help
get off the list of ALL direct marketers (you can directly contact them)
12. Walk more & Drive less
Try to walk or even ride your bike whenever you can. Especially if it’s a walk for around 30 minutes or less.
The convenience of having a car can often prevent you from taking a long, nice walk.
But the truth is that walks are a fantastic way to switch the setting, to clear your mind, to get some fresh air, even get some new ideas and to overall feel better!
At least for me, every time I take a walk, afterward, I feel so much better, especially if I was feeling down before.
13. Go paperless for all your bills
Do you remember the 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year?
This includes the receipts from your bills, too.
The truth is that we often take the receipts as a habit or to double-check if the bill seems a bit too high, and we feel like we were charged more than we should. 😀
But you can calculate the price roughly, plus you can take an eye on the machine, that is checking the products. If something costs more than it should – say right away.
This will save up a bunch of paper in the long run!
14. Avoid palm oil
Another simple switch that won’t cost you any money but in fact will help you to save up!
This is a bit too specific so that I won’t go in-depth here, but the palm oil industry is creating a lot of damage.
It is the cause of deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, and animal cruelty.
And the truth is that a lot of products are using palm oil – from foods and snacks to beauty products, cleaning products, pet food, etc.
So, by simply checking the labels and avoiding it, you will not only save money, but you will also won’t support the harmful palm oil industry.
It is not exactly zero waste, but it’s a decision that it’s better for the environment.
We will go more in-depth why palm oil is so bad in another article, but until then, you can always read more about it online.
15. Loose instead of packed in plastic
You probably noticed that in most shops there are often two alternatives:
loose veggies and fruits
wrapped in plastic
We can all agree that this is entirely unnecessary.
The ones that are wrapped in plastic are sometimes more than you need. For instance, a package contains:
– a kilo of apples
– a bunch of bananas
– a kilo of potatoes, etc. etc.
This often can lead to food waste too, because imagine that you want just a few apples, but you buy a kilo.
When you choose loose veggies and fruits, you will reduce your plastic consumption, but also you will take exactly the amount of product that you need.
A trick is to give yourself a few DAYS anytime you feel like buying something new, and it is questionable if you need it.
Just stop yourself and give it a few moments. This will allow you to think. If it was an impulse, you would forget about it the next day, or you will find that you can live without it, too.
So give it some time and ask yourself if you truly need it before making any purchases.
Overall, as you can see, there are a lot of zero waste changes that don’t really cost any money.
What is more, they even have the potential to save you some money!
And don’t worry, you don’t have to start doing EVERYTHING at once! Start by implementing these small changes, one by one.
It will probably take some time to adapt to some of these, and it is possible that you will ever forget doing some of zero waste changes.
But try to come back in a month or two and see which one you started doing on a daily basis, and then try to implement something new!
Slowly but steady, you will be able to reduce your waste and you will get used to making more sustainable choices!