Easy zero waste swaps for beginners


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When you start living a sustainable lifestyle, you may realize that a lot of items you’re using are disposable. You may consider switching to reusable options since many zero waste swaps are widespread and easy to make for beginners.

Most single-use items are made of plastic, so they’re a nightmare for our environment and the planet.

They are polluting beaches, rivers, forests, and many other natural landscapes.

And they also cause a serious threat to wildlife, since animals might eat them or get trapped in them, which can result in death.

When they don’t end up in nature, they are sent to landfills where they can take up to hundreds of years to decompose. And they emit greenhouse gases in the process.

The thing is, the pollution and waste we are creating with our over-consumption of disposable items are, for a major part, avoidable.

By switching to reusable options, we could make a huge difference to help the environment and the planet.

Here are 15 super easy zero waste swaps for beginners that you can make to be more sustainable every day!

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15 zero waste swaps for beginners

1 – Organic cotton bags

One of the easiest zero waste swaps you can make as a beginner is to bring a reusable bag everywhere you go.

Plastic bags can take 10 to 20 years to decompose in landfills. So stop accepting plastic bags at the store and use a reusable organic cotton bag instead.

If you’ve already accumulated plastic bags, don’t throw them away. Try to reuse them as much as possible.

At the end of their life, you could use them as trash bags as well.

But once you finish all your plastic bags, don’t forget to bring your reusable ones with you when you go shopping.

When I’m out of my house, I always like to have a reusable bag in my backpack, just in case I need it.

Ditching plastic bags by bringing your reusable shopping bags with you is a super easy way to reduce your waste and go green!

2 – Reusable bamboo utensils

When you’re ordering take-out food or when you’re on the go, restaurants often give you disposable plastic cutlery for you to eat with.

It is such a shame because you can easily avoid it by bringing your own cutlery with you.

I’ve personally owned a wooden cutlery set for years and I take it everywhere I go.

You can find many reusable options online, but the most common one is a bamboo cutlery set.

Also, The Other Straw makes handmade bamboo cutlery and donates 50% of its profits to ocean cleanups, which is amazing for our planet!

This swap is very practical when you’re on the go and you want something lightweight in your bag.

But it is not essential if you decide to simply take a fork and spoon you already have in your kitchen drawers.

It’s a bit heavier but it has the benefit of not costing you anything if you’re on a budget.

3 – Reusable water bottle 

This one is also one of the most obvious zero waste swaps for beginners you can make!

Stop buying disposable water bottles by investing in a reusable water bottle you can refill with tap water.

Making this swap is good for the environment and it will save you a ton of money because tap water is almost free.

Bringing your reusable water bottle with you on your trips is also a great way to travel more sustainably.

I love my stainless steel water bottle, but we, unfortunately, can’t find it online anymore.

But there are so many options out there that are high quality! I’ve heard great things about the brands Hydroflask and Klean Kanteen!

If you don’t like stainless steel bottles, glass ones are a great alternative as well. Once you have the bottle, you can reuse it indefinitely.

Even though most plastic water bottles are recyclable, most of them aren’t recycled.

They take up to 450 years to decompose in landfills, and we can recycle most plastics only once. So recycling is not a solution, compared to using a reusable bottle.

4 – Reusable coffee cup

If you got into the habit of ordering coffee in a coffee shop, maybe before going to work, this one’s for you.

Bring your own reusable coffee cup with you and ask the employee to pour your coffee into it.

This will avoid unnecessary waste since you won’t have to use the disposable ones they give.

Coffee shops often provide paper cups, but these are often lined with plastic so they aren’t recyclable.

Another benefit is that more and more coffee shops offer you a discount for bringing your own reusable coffee cup.

So it’s a win-win situation! I personally don’t own any because I don’t order coffee or tea on the go.

However, if you need one, the best options are glass cups as well as stainless steel ones. Some are even insulated to keep our coffee warm longer. 

A reusable coffee cup is one of the easiest zero waste swaps for beginners.

5 – Bamboo dish brush

Sponges are a household item where bacteria love growing.

So, if you don’t change your sponges regularly, they can quickly become nasty and unhealthy to use.

The problem with this is that it creates a lot of waste that we can easily avoid.

Sponges are also harmful to the planet because they’re often made from Polyurethane foam which is plastic.

When in use, they can break down and spread small particles of plastic into the water stream. This contributes to ocean pollution so it’s a great reason to stop using them.

Try replacing them with a wooden dishbrush. This swap is reusable and inexpensive for the amount of use you get from it.

You just need to change the head every once in a while when it is beaten up. But we can compost most of them when they’re made from natural materials. 

6 – Tea strainer / French press 

If you’re a tea lover like me, try to stop buying disposable tea bags. Teabags are lined with plastic which makes it hard for them to decompose.

And it is bad for your health to use them: when you heat plastic, it can leach harmful chemicals into your food or drinks.

Instead, buy loose-leaf tea and use a tea strainer to make your tea.

If you prefer drinking coffee, avoid using aluminum capsules and disposable filters, and invest in a French press.

Doing so, you avoid unnecessary waste and you’ll save a lot of money in the long run by making this swap.

Using a tea strainer or a French press is a great way to reduce waste in the kitchen!

7 – Silicone oven mat

If you regularly use an oven, one of the easiest zero waste swaps for beginners is to buy a silicone oven mat.

That way, you avoid using aluminum foil and parchment paper, which aren’t recyclable.

Silicone oven mats are easily washable, can withstand very high heat, and are non-stick. Perfect for baking your favorite cookies!

The great thing is that you can also put them in the dishwasher once you’ve finished using them.

I can’t think of any disadvantages to using silicone oven mats, and these can last for years if you take good care of them.

Read more: 18 minimalist kitchen essentials for simple, efficient cooking

8 – Stasher bags

Ziploc bags can be very handy on an everyday basis.

You may need them for bringing your sandwich to work, or to organize things in your kitchen and your house.

However, they deteriorate quite easily and it creates a lot of plastic waste. Try to make the switch and buy one or several Stasher bags.

These are reusable options that are way more sturdy. They are made from food-grade silicone, which is non-toxic for our bodies and health.

Stasher bags are also lightweight and easy to transport. So it is a great option to bring food with you when you’re out of your home. 

Read more: The best eco-friendly alternatives to Ziploc bags

9 – Glass food storage containers & glass jars 

The main problem with Tupperware containers is that they can be dangerous to store food in and especially to reheat food in them.

So, it is a great thing to stop using them for your food if you want to have a healthier and non-toxic home.

But, they are great for organizing things in your house, so don’t throw them away. Try to reuse them in some way.

However, for storing food, I recommend using glass containers instead.

They are safe for your health and you can reheat anything in them without any concerns for your health. There are stainless steel options as well if you prefer a lighter option.

But if you’re on a budget, glass jars are a great alternative for storing your food. You can reuse jars that your food already comes in.

This option is free and it has already been produced, which is perfect from a zero-waste perspective! 

10 – Rags

I love this swap because it is 100% free and zero waste!

Ditch single-use paper towels by turning old clothes or sheets into rags that you can use every day in your house. They are super useful for cleaning or dusting.

You simply need to take an old piece of fabric and cut it into the size you want, and there you have it!

Once it is dirty, rinse it and throw it in your washing machine with your laundry. And you can reuse them all over again.

Doing this will give a new life to a fabric that you would otherwise not use.

So it’s a great way to help the environment by not adding any disposable napkins to the landfill and by recycling other textile waste.

Rags and cloth napkins are easy zero waste swaps for beginners.

11 – Cloth napkins 

As I said before, using single-use napkins is bad for the environment and it is great to find alternatives.

For cleaning purposes, I already mentioned that the best option is to use old rags.

However, you may not want to use rags when you’re eating. In this case, cloth napkins are an amazing zero waste swap you can make as a beginner.

You only need to buy them once, and they are reusable indefinitely. Put them in your washing machine with your regular clothes and you’re good to go.

It’s an easy way to stay away from paper napkins, and you are contributing to saving trees in the process! 

12 – Reusable straw

It is famous that when they end up in nature, straws are a big threat to wildlife.

So, one of the easiest zero waste swaps for beginners you might consider making is to use reusable straws instead.

Of course, if you never drink with straws, don’t even buy the reusable option. I personally prefer drinking directly from the glass.

But if you do use straws, I recommend that you buy a glass or stainless steel straw.

They are reusable indefinitely, and they often come with a small brush to clean them easily.

Having a reusable straw instead of buying hundreds of disposable straws will save a lot of plastic from going to landfills. And it’s also safer for you not to have any plastic in your drink.

Don’t forget to bring your reusable straw to restaurants as well and tell the waiter not to give you any straws. 

13 – Wooden toothbrush

Next time you use up your plastic toothbrush, try switching to a wooden (or bamboo) toothbrush instead.

We’re supposed to replace toothbrushes every few months, so it can quickly create a lot of plastic waste that could have been avoided. 

Bamboo toothbrushes are way more eco-friendly than their plastic counterparts. And the great thing about them is that they’re naturally antimicrobial!

Bamboos are also the fastest growing plant on Earth and their production doesn’t require any use of pesticides or fertilizers.

However, at the end of their life, you still need to dispose of them properly.

Bristles on most toothbrushes aren’t compostable, so make sure to remove them so that you can compost the handle.

The bristles still need to be thrown away but it’s a small part compared to a whole plastic toothbrush. 

Read more: 11 zero waste floss brands & eco-friendly floss alternatives for sustainable dental care

14 – Organic cotton makeup remover pads

Disposable makeup wipes are convenient when you have a busy life and you are tired at the end of your day.

But they also create a huge amount of waste, especially if you use them daily. And it takes years for them to break down in landfills and the environment.

Most of them are made from synthetic fibers that aren’t biodegradable or recyclable.

A great alternative is to buy reusable makeup remover pads, preferably made from organic cotton. They are machine washable and they can last for years.

You simply need to use them with oils or your regular makeup remover to remove your makeup and then throw them in the wash. Easy, right? 

15 – Soap bars

This is one of my favorite zero-waste swaps for beginners that you can easily make today!

Use up your shower gel and when comes the time to replace it, buy a soap bar instead.

Choose one with few ingredients, it’ll be better for your body, for your health as well as for the environment.

The great thing about soap bars is that it helps you reduce your plastic consumption.

Some soap bars may come in plastic so try to choose a package-free option.

They’re also great for traveling because they’re small and lightweight, and you’re sure that they won’t explode in your suitcase.

On top of that, they’re quite inexpensive compared to bottled shower gel and the number of uses you get from them.

Read more: 9 eco-friendly loofah alternatives for a sustainable scrub

Final thoughts on zero-waste swaps for beginners

There you go! Those were 15 easy zero waste swaps for beginners that you can make today!

There are hundreds of other swaps that we could make to be more sustainable in our daily lives. But I think that these are some of the easiest to make.

Of course, if you already own one of these, don’t go and buy another one. The most eco-friendly product is the one you already have.

Because when you are reusing existing items, you save resources in the process by not buying something new. 

But if you’re using the disposable version of an item, consider switching to a reusable option and giving it a try.

You’ll greatly reduce the amount of waste you’re creating and you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

Making the switch to reusable alternatives is one of the best things you can do to be more sustainable.

What are any other easy zero waste swaps for beginners that you love and use in your daily life?

I’d love it if you shared them with us in the comments below!

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    • Eva

      Thank you, I’m happy you found them helpful ! 🙂
      Yes it can be discouraging at times seeing people not doing any effort, but hopefully more and more people are progressively becoming aware.

  • Jhunelle J

    I’ve already started the switch, and didn’t expect it’d make me feel as positive as it does! Lowering carbon footprint and waste really does have benefits beyond than what many of us realize.

  • Christina

    This is a great list! I’m going to check out the bamboo dish brush and silicon mats for sure. I go through so much aluminum foil, it seems like such a waste!

    • Eva

      That’s amazing! 🙂
      Yes, we can easily use a lot of aluminum foil on a daily basis, but it creates so much waste!
      Making the switch to a silicon mat will help reduce your waste and save money in the process! 😉

  • Vicki

    So impressed with myself, just need a French press and I will have ticked the whole list. Now I need to graduate to the next level! My interest has been lagging lately with bigger problems facing us but you have motivated me with your article. Thank You

    • Eva

      Oh thank you so much, I’m so happy you found this post motivating!
      Yes, it can quickly get hard to focus on being more eco-friendly when having bigger problems. But that’s already so impressive, well done, you’re doing a great job!! 😀

  • Juliet

    Well I guess I saved a lot of straws by not drinking alcohol this year!
    Unfortunately I noticed that they often put them mechanically in your drinking and you don’t always expect it to even have a straw until it’s too late…

    • Eva

      I can totally relate to this!
      I sometimes forget to mention that I don’t want any straw, and then I feel guilty when they give me one. And I also hate when they give me a straw even after I told them that I didn’t want any. Same thing for plastic bags. That’s frustrating.
      These are real sustainable living struggles!

  • Thaissu

    Loved your post, I have been trying to reduce use of plastic over the past year, I already do most of your suggestions but I will definitely have to try the bamboo toothbrush!

  • Fran

    Great list. I have been using a natural deodorant from Lush that looks like a soap bar and I put in a little tub for storage. Ive used the same one for a whole year now and still lots left and still does a good job. I don’t sweat a lot normally but I’ve used this even during sweaty workouts. The smell isn’t amazing it’s rather a very mild masculine smell, but i don’t mind.

    • Eva

      Thank you! 🙂
      Oh that’s amazing! The great thing with deodorant bars is that, as you said, they last so much longer than traditional deodorants in plastic packaging. It saves you so much money and helps with reducing your waste!

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