In a world of endless consumerism and convenience, it can be more than a little daunting to imagine a life creating little to no waste. The zero-waste movement has come more to the surface of people’s awareness in the last couple of years, with front runners like Zero-Waste Chef leading the way through compassion and education.
You want to get started, but you don’t want to shell out the money for swanky new bamboo utensils in a hand-sewn cloth bag made from recycled materials, or that pricey stainless steel water bottle, when you know you are a bit of a ditz and might forget it somewhere.
Have no fear! This post is for you!
I will be the first to admit that I actually have one of those stainless steel water bottles at work. But I certainly didn’t start out that way! As a student, any bottle would do, so I see no reason why that would not be the same for you.
As with all things that make the world a better place. It is emphatically not about trying to do zero-waste or anything else in any sort of “perfect” way. Whatever that may be. Doing just one of these things instead of buying single-use items again and again will be an improvement. So don’t despair or feel like you’ve failed if you can’t do everything. We are all taking baby steps towards a slightly better us in the future.
Join me for a journey of excellent substitutes to all that gorgeous but oh-so-expensive zero-waste swag.
First things first, although we already covered this one. Any bottle will do. If you’re feeling fancy, perhaps buy something in a pretty glass bottle with a resealable lid, enjoy the contents and BAM – water bottle just for you!
Things to be aware of: Bottles with narrow necks, like most plastic bottles, do not get properly clean in a dishwasher, and it will be better to wash them by hand.
Cutlery and napkin
Simply bring cutlery from home, wrapped in a dishtowel if you do not have napkins. Use the dishtowel as a napkin and wrap it all up for minimal dirt-spreading. Homemade cloth napkins are a very simple project for a first-time crafter, so if you are interested in making your own stuff, you might consider giving that a go with some old clothes or cheap stuff from your local second-hand store. Want more tips for buying second-hand? Angela’s got you covered.
Really cute lunch box
Old Tupperware works just as well. I have also used old jam jars for liquids like soups or stews without a problem. Unless you’ve just moved out or started afresh someplace new, most of us have the tendency of accumulating jars, boxes and other miscellany storage containers. Great news! They are all capable of storing things!
Beautiful mason jars for zero-waste shopping
Wash out old jam jars, spice jars, pickle jars or any old jar you find or have used about your daily life self. Here are some tips on removing labels and smell off old jars that might come in handy.
Cloth bags for shopping
Yes, those “planet first” and “there is no planet B” statement totes are really cute! But did your old bag or backpack suddenly lose their ability to carry goods?
If you have no large bag or backpack to help carry your groceries, the second-hand shop is your friend. You may not find the cutest statement bags there, but what they have will still be functional. Promise.
For the last several years, I have used my husband’s old backpack from junior high school as my main commuter bag. It is old and worn and not all that good looking anymore, but it brings everything I need to and from work, plus I keep one or two foldable bags in a side pocket if I stop by a store on my way home. It’s not fancy, but it works.
Plastic bags at the grocery store
We all need these, right? Right?
Well, actually… I don’t really use them anymore. I do keep a small handful of crocheted product nets in my aforementioned backpack, and just accept the small price increase from the weight of the bag. But I prioritize soft, squishy things like tomatoes and mushrooms.
If I am buying apples or oranges or other sturdy fruit and veg, I often just add them lose to my basket. Crazy, I know. It took a little while to get used to, but now I don’t even think about the plastic bags anymore! Then I just wash the produce when I get home. Something I would have done anyway.
They are so cute and they smell oh-so-well. But you can get just as far with your trusty old Tupperware, and even a plate over a bowl or a casserole will help preserve the contents. If you are a person who does not own a good set/reusable of reusable boxes that might be a thing to consider. Stackable is great, but again. If you are just starting out, the second-hand shop will have at least something.
An addendum about straws
While there are seemingly endless variety when it comes to reusable straws. Anything from glass and stainless steel to medical silicone and hollowed out bamboo, I don’t really have a good budget-friendly option. If you want a reusable straw, you might just have to buy it, but maybe it’s easier to just go without?
After all, a lot of the ocean plastic is actually from marine activities, such as old fishing nets, and not straws. Another important thing to remember is that a lot of people with disabilities need straws to make their lives easier, and they may not have the mobility or surplus energy required to clean, store and bring a reusable straw. If this is you, don’t let reusable straws be the hill you die on. Simply use your straw as you normally would, and try to reduce your waste somewhere else. Remember, our journey is not the same for everyone.
A reusable it is worth spending money on
While most fancy zero-waste gear has a very matter-of-fact frugal counterpart, there is one thing in particular that I advertise loud and clear to any person in possession of a vagina. And that is reusable menstrual products. We spend literal thousands on menstrual products, pain killers, cravings, hot water bottles, etc. over a lifetime. So if you have the capacity to do a little bit of cleaning, you can save a whole lot of cash going reusable.
I, for one, love my menstrual cup. I have had mine for years. It is easy to clean (just rinse out during the cycle and boil in a small pan of water to kill off any germs in between), it is comfortable, and I never need to worry about running out. It’s been a life-changer.
But I know some people don’t like them. Good thing they’re not the only reusable product out there. There are also reusable cloth pads that you can just throw in the wash, period panties, and more and more products being released on the market all the time.
I also do think my stainless steel water bottle was worth it after the initial investment. It is lighter than glass. Easier to clean than plastic, and does not shatter if I drop it to the floor. But that is something everyone has to figure out on their own.
I realize that I could spend many more words and certainly many more paragraphs writing about this topic. But for now, hopefully, this gives you an idea to ecofrugal swaps you can do today, without breaking the bank!
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