In the UK, Zero Waste Week was observed in the first full week of September. Other countries often join in on the conversation too, with lots of related content being published online. Much of the advice for newbies to the zero waste lifestyle goes something like: “Buy this and that to produce less waste”. But in fact, you may not actually need half of the items you’re advised to buy! In this article, we’ll give examples of such swaps, and save you from the unnecessary spending.
Zero waste alternatives can be quite costly. If trying to save money while following a zero waste lifestyle, it can be tempting to opt for cheap, low quality alternatives. As a result, you can find yourself with a leaky reusable mug, a silicone swab that gets stuck in your ear, or reusable sanitary pads that don’t attach. There’s a high chance you’ll hardly use these items, before looking for other more durable products to replace them – thus paying out twice and consuming double the amount of resources.
The lightweight reusable bamboo coffee mugs you see at the supermarket actually contain many ingredients other than just bamboo fibres. In fact, when you buy one of these, you are actually buying a bamboo-based plastic product. Theoretically, these items can be industrially compostable if it’s certified, but they often don’t have any biodegradability certificate, and the material’s content isn’t disclosed. Needless to say, composting facilities for these products aren’t widely available. Hence, you get another piece of easily breakable garbage instead of a real zero waste swap.
Besides, it may sound surprising in a world where more than 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year, but there are people who never drink it on the go. If you’re one of those who prefer drinking coffee, tea or whatever hot beverage at home, in the office or at a cafe, any reusable mug will be simply sitting around bored on your shelf.
Reusable makeup discs are definitely better than disposable ones. You just need to wash and dry them to use them again. But if you have an old T-shirt or other cotton cloth that you no longer use as intended, you can cut it into as many cotton pieces as you want! No need to buy round ones from new fabric. What’s more, just imagine how much waste is generated through cutting round-shaped discs, in order to make them look like the disposable ones.
In chasing a zero waste aesthetic, you can feel a massive urge to buy beautiful reusable plastic-free swaps. But a reusable cutlery set is definitely not the one you need first of all. Your regular metal fork, knife and spoon are not much heavier than bamboo ones, and they’ll take up the same amount of room in your bag.
With some kinds of disabilities or health issues, straws are the only option to drink or eat. They can also be helpful for teaching children how to drink without any spillages. But able-bodied adults can definitely get by without a straw! Instead of buying a reusable straw, refusing any straw at all is the greenest option.
Beeswax wrap is a piece of cotton soaked with beeswax (or sometimes soy wax). It is used to cover bowls containing food, or wrap cut vegetables before putting them in the fridge. If you are a fan of cling film, beeswax wrap may help you to use it less. But if you have reusable containers or pans with lids, you don’t need a new purchase to store your uneaten lasagna.
Being totally zero waste is impossible, we understand that. So we are sure you still have a few things to put into your rubbish bin. And the question of how to gather all your non-recyclable waste is one that’s often discussed in eco-friendly circles. But reusable liners are definitely not the answer. You need a bin anyway, so why add something else you’ll need to wash from time to time? Why not just put rubbish directly in the bin and wash the bin itself instead?
Without doubt, if you can find all the ingredients for your homemade toothpaste packaging-free at a nearby shop, that’s great. But more often than not, you’ll need to buy a few separate items – whose packaging may be made from unrecyclable plastic. And if you’re making the product for yourself only, you won’t need a lot of ingredients, which means you’ll buy small packs with a high content to packaging ratio. Besides, odds and ends of ingredients may be spoiled if they sit around unused. Instead of making your own, you can try to find a ready-made product and recycle its packaging.
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