Even You Can Be Zero Waste(ish)

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste sounds intimidating but, it’s just about making conscious decisions about what you buy or refuse to buy with the goal of not throwing anything away to a landfill or incinerator.

What you do buy can then be reused, repurposed, composted, or recycled.

The Zero Waste Movement can be traced back to the 1990s but has only recently taken hold as something beyond stereotypical, hippy, tree-hugging zealots.

Zero waste is about living in a way that is sustainable for the planet’s resources.

For us beginners, it’s not about being perfect straight out the gate. We won’t be the “perfect” people only producing a jar of waste a year.

At least not yet.

Cutting out plastic and waste can be difficult when there are no other alternatives on the shelves, and you don’t know where to go.

But that’s why you’re here. You found me, and I’m here to help you get to zero waste as I figure it out, too.

I’ll do the work, so you don’t have to.

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What do I do first?

First, don’t go through your house and start throwing away anything that’s plastic. You will be wasting your money and are just creating waste. We don’t want that, remember?

Instead, look at items that are running low and need replacing soon. Can you replace the item with something not in a plastic container?

And that’s where you start.

Don’t try to do it all at once, you’ll go crazy, curse that it’s too expensive to be zero waste and give up.

 

Simple First Switches

• Cleaning wipes and kitchen roll.

I used to love using wipes. They were so easy. And so wasteful.

I decided a while back to make my own cleaners because I wanted something safer for when Olivia crawled around, licked the mirrors, and ate off the floor.

But I was still using kitchen roll and wipes for my floors, counters, toilets, windows, and my kids’ messes. I was still creating a lot of waste.

I felt very proud when I made the switch to cloths. Microfiber cloths.

Ugh! I didn’t know. I figured I was doing a good thing not wasting anymore while cleaning.

If I knew microfiber really meant microplastic and is the leading cause for plastic in our water, I would have looked for cotton.

(Synthetic fabrics lose fibres in the washing machine putting tiny microplastics in our water supply that are too small to be filtered out).

But being zero waste means I will still use them till their death.

Until then I grabbed myself a Guppyfriend to help keep the microplastics out of our water system.

You see? Not perfect.

I’m still learning, but hopefully you haven’t made that mistake yet and can make a better choice.

 • My family’s toothbrushes

I found a fabulous 4 pack on Amazon. They came in cardboard packaging and had really helpful customer service to answer my question about the bristles.

Yes, they are nylon a synthetic fabric, but the only alternative is boar’s hair, which doesn’t clean teeth as well anyway.

So, when your toothbrush reaches the end of it’s lifespan, you can either use it for cleaning (I have three that I use for different things) or remove the bristles and compost it.

Both lead to almost no waste.

This was a change I even got Lee on board with as well. He really likes his new toothbrush so this is a replacement that will stick!

Bamboo toothbrushes are easy to find. I’ve seen them at Boots and they were even in cardboard packaging.

• Stainless steel bottles and insulated cups.

I had a cheap stainless-steel bottle and the bottom warped the first time I dropped it. It no longer stands up. I still have it, but it’s not my go to bottle now.

Instead I splurged and bought a Kleen Kanteen which I have dropped several times and though it has a dent, it still stands. I love it so much I bought my daughters each one and love that the caps are interchangeable on all of their bottles.

I say this because Penny had a sippy cup topped bottle, and all I would have needed to do is get her a sports cap so she could have continue using it.

But it was knicked.

They are that good.

Kleen Kanteen has replacement seals available so there is no excuse not to use them forever. No leaching plastic either.

And no plastic packaging.

I don’t drink coffee and don’t normally go out for take away tea, but Lee does. And he swears by Costa’s insulated cup. (Be sure to grab this one in store as the price online is crazy expensive.)

He’s bought a couple from Amazon and they stained easily and didn’t retain the heat as much as he would like.

But the Costa one? He won’t buy any other (if he ever needs another). An added bonus is you get a 25p discount on your drinks when you use your cup in store.

I can vouch for him on this. He left his tea on the counter one day on his way to work and said I should just have it.

Well by the time I could get to it, it had been on the counter for over two hours. Still piping hot.

I think I just found the answer to enjoying a hot drink when you have kids.

You’re welcome mums everywhere.

• Bars of soap

I switched my bodywash for some lovely handmade soap I found at a National Trust shop. I love the scent, it’s gentle on my skin and it had absolutely no packaging.

None.

I was given a paper bag at the till but when I need another, I will just bring a container.

When I ran out of handsoap, I replaced them with Dove handsoap I had on hand from when my parents visited.

They come in a cardboard box, so no plastic there (unless you buy a multi pack) and there’s no waste when it’s “run out.”

Hubby is not on board with this one yet. He still insists on using shower cream. I just need to keep looking to find a soap he too can be happy with, or figure out how make some shower cream for him.

 

It’s a Good Start

I know it may not seem like a lot, but I have made a start. I’ve been able to eliminate 3 plastic bottles from entering my home.

I’ve eliminated my family’s need to purchase bottles of water even if I must be the one responsible for filling and remembering to bring them.

I also have eliminated countless rolls of kitchen roll reducing the plastic and saving some trees as well.

I’m already saving money as well. A bar of soap (depending on the type you buy) can cost anywhere from £1-5. Shower cream 90p.

This doesn’t look like money saving but I made a bar of soap last 4 months at £2.50 and the hubby used 10 bottles of shower cream at 90p each, which is £9 for the same time frame.

And I won’t be stopping there. I’m starting to get a rush finding plastic free alternatives and it’s even easier now that they are becoming more readily available.

If everyone made the same changes, think of the plastic we’d eliminate and the resources we would save.

Other Easy Swaps to Make

 

Start with things you buy regularly in your weekly shop.

• Produce

This is much easier if you have a local farm shop but even at larger stores buying unwrapped produce when and where it’s available sends a message with your money to manufacturers that you will not tolerate this wasteful, single-use plastic anymore.

I have found (in my local shops) Tesco is the winner for the most unwrapped produce.

I was able to get almost all my produce, aside from lettuce, with no packaging!

Almost everything in my Asda is still in plastic. Asda is the worst when it comes to my local shop choices.

Morrisons and Aldi are split offering some plastic free alternatives, but not enough.

Avoid the paper bags if they are offered as well. You’re still wasting trees.

Bring a reusable produce bag. These in particular are great because they are cotton and can be washed easily. The weight of the bag is printed on the label. And when they are not being used for vegetables, they work as laundry bags or packing organisers.

Old nylons would work in a pinch.

Worst case let them be loose and wash your produce before eating (which I know you would do anyway).

• BYOC (Bring Your Own Container)

Some stores are allowing customers to bring their own containers for the deli section. Try it. Worst they can do is say no.

I have not done this yet as I don’t make a lot of deli purchases, but I’m going to give it a shot the next time hubby and I need lunch meat for a picnic.

See? Easy!

Keep some containers with you and be willing to be a bit cheeky using your own for restaurant leftovers or take-away.

I just came across a chippy that gives you a discount for bringing your own container. Bummer it’s not closer to home but encouraging to see places taking these steps.

• Refuse the Straws

Declining a straw with your drink and, don’t forget, your children’s drinks is a quick, easy, eco-friendly choice.

Plastic straws are quickly being banned worldwide, but now we have replacement paper straws. Do you seriously need a straw with your drink? Do you use one at home? I don’t.

When you have littles like Olivia and Penny, straws just lead to disaster at restaurants. It’s better to just bring their favourite sippy cup and pour their drink into it.

The only place a straw seems useful and necessary is milkshakes and smoothies. In this case I would recommend these silicone straws that you can carry with you.

I’m not a fan of stainless steel ones as I feel like they are accidents waiting to happen. And when you have kids or an adult like me that tends to bite on straws, stainless steel will not work.

• Pack Your Lunch in Reusable Containers

Sandwiches, wraps, and other on the go lunches that are often wrapped in cling film can simply be packed in a reusable box.

I will admit this was a tough one for us at first. Lee is in charge of making our picnic lunches for family outings but used to wrap the sandwiches in cling film.

Luckily, it didn’t take him long to discover that a plastic container we already had can hold all four sandwiches perfectly.

This is another example of using what you already have instead of buying an eco-friendly alternative.

If you don’t have containers or want something more compact and lighter, then beeswax wraps are a great alternative.

The wraps last at least a year and can either be rewaxed or composted so no waste.

Zero Waste Not Wasteful

Zero waste is not about buying everything made from bamboo and throwing everything else away.

When items wear out, yes, find an eco-friendly alternative if you still need that item, but this is not time for a shopping spree.

Think about a more minimalist approach.
If you’ve never needed the product to this point, don’t buy it now just because it’s eco-friendly.

That only perpetuates the consumer mindset that got the planet into this mess in the first place.

You CAN Make a Difference

Collectively, our choices will get back to manufacturers and the ones that are first to jump on packaging their products in materials other than plastic, are the ones to earn loyalty first from consumers like you and me that are willing to make a change.

Other companies will then follow suit, thus making responsible choices easier for everyone.

Waitrose is piloting a bring your own container bulk section.

Sainsburys is selling reusable fruit and veg bags for 30p and some of their loose produce is cheaper than the packaged.

Tesco sells water in cans.

The stores are listening.

Continue making our voices heard with what we spend (or don’t spend) our money on.

Little changes, conscious decisions are what is going to change the world.

We need everyone to make choices for good, and realise that, no, not every choice will be perfect. But if everyone does a little bit, then a little bit more, bigger changes will happen.

We can’t rely on just a handful of people being perfect.

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5 Easy Zero-Waste Changes in Your Kitchen

Most of our waste happens in our kitchen and our bathrooms. Those two rooms by far are the ones with the most items that need regular replacements.

But going zero-waste doesn’t have to be hard, expensive, or take up extra space.

Here are 5 easy swaps in your kitchen that will reduce your waste and can even save you a few quid in the long run.

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1. Zero Waste Alternative to Cling Film

Cling film. Literally a roll of unrecyclable plastic that doesn’t hold up well enough to reuse.

Just another disposable destined for landfills.

The truth is though; it’s handy.

A product so versatile that is conforms to any shape and makes preserving leftovers a cinch.

Well, fear not, there are easy replacements here that aren’t expensive and don’t take much space.

 • Beeswax Wraps

These wraps can be moulded into any shape as easily as cling film and can wrap anything from sandwiches to blocks of cheese to sealing the top of a half full soup can.

Beeswax has natural antibacterial properties as well as antifungal properties which are great features when we are talking food preservation and storage.

They are easy to clean and last about a year.

At the end of their life you can either rewax them with new beeswax or so long as the wraps are 100% cotton, they can be thrown in the compost bin.

The only downside is you don’t want to use these to store meat.

Silicone Lids

Silicone lids are pretty cool in that they can expand to fit any size can, bowl, baby food container, melons, you name it. I’ve even seen rectangular ones available as well.

Silicone is non-toxic and has a lower chance of leaching chemicals into your food the way plastic can. They are easy to clean and won’t take much storage space.

If taken care of you may only need one set in your lifetime.

If their lifespan doesn’t last that long, silicone can easily be recycled and if it ends up in an incinerator it reverts back to harmless ingredients-silica (which is found in sand), carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

2. Zero-waste Alternative to Baking Paper

If you bake on a regular basis, you know the joy of baking or parchment paper.

You line your cookie sheet or pan, bake, and voilá, nothing stuck to the pan, crumple up the mess and throw it away for easy cleaning.

Only it’s another disposable item that we can easily replace.

Silicone Baking Mats

I bought myself a set of these because I bake chicken or vegetables at least 3 nights a week and the one chore I hate more than any is doing dishes.

So before I used baking paper I would grumble at scrubbing off chicken bits or burnt on broccoli.

Then I decided to start using baking paper and my world felt better.

And then I started going zero-waste and realised baking paper was now bad.

Luckily, I found the silicone mats.

You can order sets with different sizes, but I went with three of the same because they fit my baking trays and since I use them mainly for chicken breasts and veggies that’s what worked for me.

My mats work just as well as the parchment. They are also a breeze to wash, though they are slippery suckers and don’t always want to stay in the drying rack.

To store I just roll them up and stick them in my cupboard. To take less space they can easily be stored flat as well.

Magic Reusable Non-Stick Baking Tray Liner

I have not used these personally as I am not an avid baker, but I have been told about them numerous times.

This roll of baking paper is PTFE (akaTeflon) coated fabric sheet.

Normally I would cringe at the idea of Teflon because of effects I had read about years ago, but it turns out the biggest health risk in the chemical PTFE was the chemical process using PFOA.

Teflon has been PFOA-free since 2013, so we’re good.

Now the reason I am suggesting these is because of the very cool feature that they can be cut to any shape or size to fit your bakeware.

I feel like this could be a big deal for people who bake regularly. And with continuous use the liner can last at least 5 years.

3. Zero-waste Alternative to Kitchen Roll

Kitchen roll is another product that just seems to make life so easy. Wipe the mess and throw it away. The end.

Unfortunately, aside from the fact that kitchen roll comes packaged in single use plastic, the only thing that can be recycled is the tube.

Kitchen roll goes in the bin.

Sorry to have to break the news. Just because it is a paper towel doesn’t make it recyclable.

Often kitchen roll (and tissue) are made from already recycled paper and can’t be recycled again because the fibres are too short.

Once kitchen roll is used to wipe up, it is contaminated and can’t be recycled.

If your council has a food recycling scheme, they may allow some in there, but you would have to check.

Flour Sack Tea Towels

There are plenty crafty people out there that can use scraps of fabric to make reusable kitchen roll and even go as far as adding snaps so they can link together.

I am not that person.

As a mum of a 3 year old and 1 year old, I just don’t have the time or desire to do so.

You can support crafty people that sell their wares often using recycled fabric so this is a good thing.

Or if you have a set of cotton tea towels these can do the trick, too.

Let’s think about why we use kitchen roll. My biggest guess would be you use them for mopping up spills and messes.

Any towel can do the same job just as well. Toss them in a sanitary wash if you cleaned something extra mucky and that’s it.

Kitchen roll restocked every time you do a wash.

I’m sure you will find that one tea towel can mop up as much as multiple sheets of kitchen roll.

When the towels break down, cut them into cleaning rags. When the cleaning rags break down, if you are using 100% cotton, compost.

Reusable and zero-waste. This is one that saves so much money in the long run as well.

I used to buy kitchen roll in bulk at Costco and spent about £40 a year on just kitchen roll.

It may not seem like much over a year, but what could you do with an extra forty quid in your pocket?

4. Zero-waste alternative to Kitchen Sponges

Another easy to use, easy to throw away item. I enjoyed my sponges because of the mildly abrasive side made scrubbing easier.

Now that I have gotten better at cooking, became willing to let stuck food soak overnight, and of course my silicone baking mats, I’m finding I’m not using as much elbow grease as I used to, so the reason for needing the sponges no longer exists.

Cotton Dish Cloths

My mom always used dish cloths. Still does. Why I didn’t do the same given I grew up learning to wash dishes in her house is beyond me.

Well better late than never.

Here I am using dish cloths just like my mom. I can easily wipe worktops, table tops, and clean the dishes with one rag.

Pop it in the wash with the next load of towels and I end up with a never ending supply.

Again, like with the tea towels, if you get 100% cotton these can be composted.

Coconut Scourers

If you need to do some scrubbing, why not try coconuts?

They are safe for non-stick items and each one lasts at least 3 months.

Because they are made of the husks of coconuts, they are biodegradable and the metal wire inside can be recycled.

Coconut scrubbers do tend to shed at first, but rest assured it is a natural fibre going down the drain and not microplastics.

They seem to be a bit big for cleaning things like glasses and bottles, but bottle brushes are also available.

At the moment, I have a sad plastic brush that really should go to the bin, but it still does the job when I need it. So, when the time comes to replace it this will probably be what I try next.

Unfortunately, coconut scourers are an item that does cost more than the cheap kitchen sponges, but you did just save £40 on kitchen roll, and of course, no plastic.

5. Zero-Waste Alternative to Hand Soap

You probably thought I would have said dish soap next, but I am trying to make this easy for you and unless you live by a zero-waste shop that does refills of washing up liquid, this isn’t as easy of a swap.

Hand soap, on the other hand, is an easy swap.

Bar Soap

Bar soaps were often demonised as being bad for your skin, it dries them out, etc.

But I would like to think that bar soaps have come a long way since then. Lots of natural ingredients, lovely smells, and they simply wash away leaving no waste.

Every store I’ve been in has at least one soap available without plastic, so no excuses. 

Look for soaps sold in just a box or even better, naked! Gasp!

Check out your local Maker’s Market; you are bound to find at least one soap maker.

I found lovely soaps in a National Trust shop.

You can even pop into Lush for some heavenly smelling soaps.

None of them have packaging.

So, bring a soap container or a paper bag with you and make soap buying the ultimate zero-waste purchase.

Now I realise you can’t just leave soap by the sink or it will turn to mush, so the switch does require some kind of soap dish.

I am currently using a travel case in my kitchen until I find one I love.
I stumbled across a cute one for my bathroom in a charity shop, but haven’t come across anything I love for my kitchen sink.

There are lovely handmade and upcycled soap dishes out there, but they can be pricey so I may have to save that for a special treat if I do find THE one.

Until then my travel one does the job and Lee has yet to complain.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you have seen some easy simple swaps to get you going on your zero-waste kitchen. These swaps don’t require special shops or crazy amounts of money.

Start slow, one item at a time as you run out of each item. That way you won’t have a big extra expense all at once.

Use what you have even if it’s not zero-waste. There’s already a carbon footprint created, you already have the item, so don’t let it all be in vain by throwing it away to buy an eco-friendly alternative sooner.

As always, leave me a comment below and let me know how your journey is going.

You can also follow me on Instagram where I share tips, news, and some motivation to help you along the way.