Embracing a low waste lifestyle literally impacts every area of our lives and so sorting through all of the potential swaps we can do is well, pretty overwhelming — and so this guide is dedicated to easy zero waste swaps we can make to reduce a significant amount of waste!
What’s awesome is that in most cases, you’ll even save money overall by buying a reusable item once instead of “cheap” single-use products over and over and over again.
To create this list of easy zero waste swaps, I’ve partnered with EarthHero, an online zero waste shop with an array of options for categories with reusable products like kitchen and travel essentials as well as baby and pet gear. The zero waste store includes detailed information about features for every product — including what materials are used, where the product was made, its sustainability qualifications, what packaging the product is shipped in, and what the item’s end-of-life looks like (many brands on EarthHero have take-back programs for their products, which was cool to see).
The level of transparency EarthHero offers stands out among the crowd, making it one of my favorite zero waste shops. And they’ve offered a special coupon code just for Conscious Life & Style readers: save 10% with code CONSCIOUSLIFE!
This is a sponsored post. However, all product selections were my own choices and all opinions are completely my own. Also to note: this guide includes affiliate links and so if you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission that supports the continuation of this blog!
Alright, now let’s get to it! Here is my list of favorite easy zero waste swaps:
The first of the easy zero waste swaps is quitting single-use plastic water (or juice, energy drinks, etc.) bottles and making the switch to reusable stainless steel bottle. I love stainless steel because it’s super durable, insulating, and lightweight. Kleen Kanteen reports that this bottle can actually keep drinks cold for up to 50 hours. Certainly, a flimsy plastic bottle can’t do that!
Let’s talk about financial savings: From my research, I found that a 24-pack of .5L plastic water bottles costs $4. The general health recommendation is to drink 2 liters of water per day, which would be 4 bottles. Considering this, a 24-pack would last you 6 days — that means you’d have to buy about 60 of the 24-packs, which adds up to $240 per year or $1,200 over 5 years!
Check out the bottle $28.15 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
Tied with the reusable water bottle for the most essential (and popular) of the easy zero waste swaps is the reusable grocery bag! The idea of bringing your own bags to the store is simple in concept but a bit tougher to implement, as it requires always remembering them. But I like how these Bagito bags shrink down very nicely and could easily fit into even a small purse. Many stores now offer discounts when you bring your own reusable bag and slowly but surely cities are starting to add single-use bag taxes — although each tax/savings is small, it can add up quickly.
If you’re looking for a statement grocery bag, this “Shop Like You Give a Sh**” recycled cotton tote is fab.
Check out the bag | $7.49 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
Made with 100% recycled PET fabric from post-consumer recycled plastics, this set of reusable produce bags makes use of plastic waste while also helping you reduce plastic use. The handy kit includes two mesh bags, two solid bags, and a larger shopper bag that compacts pretty small. The size makes these bags really easy to throw into your purse or backpack — the shopper bag even has a keychain so you can have it hooked on your keys or belt loop to really make sure you don’t forget your bags.
Although this swap doesn’t save you money necessarily, it’s a simple swap to just add on when you bring your own reusable bags!
If you’re looking for produce bags made from organic materials, check out this mesh bag.
Check out the set | $29.95 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
This might just be the switch on this list of easy zero waste swaps that saves you the most money! If your family uses 1.5 paper towel rolls per week (which is considered moderate use), that’s 78 rolls per year. At $10 for a pack of 6 large rolls, that would be $130 per year. In this scenario, you would save $650 over the course of 5 years — or closer to $1,000 if your household uses a lot of paper towels (like using them to clean the house, dry their hands at the sink, etc.).
Even if you use just 1 paper towel roll per week, that would be $87 per year on average! (52 rolls / 6 per pack = 8.67 packs)
And of course, we can’t forget about all the beautiful trees that will be saved from this swap, too!
I picked out this set of soft and absorbent kitchen towels from EarthHero because they are made with 100% organic cotton and are dyed with non-toxic dyes, plus they’re affordable at just $7 for three towels. These organic “unpaper” towels are also a great find. (The reason organic cotton is preferable is that conventional cotton is an extremely water-intensive and pesticide-intensive crop to grow!)
Check out the set | $6.99 for 3 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
This is another swap that saves the trees — and saves you money. Business Insider reported that the average American uses about 2,200 2-ply napkins. If a pack of 250 napkins is $5, that would add up to $44 for one person — or $176 for a family of four — per year. Kind of crazy when you start to add up the price of these single-use items! These reusable organic cotton napkins, though, are bought once and then can be used for many years!
I’ve gotten questions about the water consumption of washing reusable cloth napkins so I’ll give you some of my tips for reducing water use:
- Use the napkins as many times as possible before washing. I will use up all the different corners and 2 different sides of my napkins before washing, refolding them each time to really get the most out of each use.
- You can throw your napkins in with other towels or cloth products in the laundry so you’re not doing an additional wash load just for the napkins.
- And to reduce the carbon footprint, wash using cold water as 90% of the energy to operate a clothes washer comes from heating the water.
Check out the set | $22 for 12 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
The right reusable container is the perfect to-go food storage to swap out single-use paper lunch bags and plastic baggies. Stainless steel is an awesome material for food containers because they’re safe (even when put in the dishwasher), they’re built to last, and they’re a lot lighter than glass. EarthHero has quite a few options for stainless steel containers, but this one caught my eye because the set features three different sizes for varying needs and they can all be conveniently stored together.
A pack of plastic containers costs around $5 – $15 depending on the size of the set. Stainless steel is designed to last FAR longer than plastic so this is one of the swaps where the savings come in the long term! What I love about these types of durable switches is that it reduces the time — the most valuable resource we have — spent buying single-use things, too.
Check out the containers | $35.99
Need to size up? Here are their giant-sized containers | $49.99 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
When you don’t need something as solid as a stainless steel container, but you still have to take something on the go, Stasher Snack Bags can fit the bill. You can also use these reusable silicone bags for anything else you use plastic baggies for like leftovers, storing food in the fridge or in your pantry, and even for freezing food.
Okay, let’s talk about savings! At my nearby store, a bag of snack-size plastic baggies costs $3.50 for a pack of 90. So, if you were to use 3 bags per day on average for taking snacks to-go or packing kids lunches, that would be $42 per year and $210 over the course of 5 years.
Check out the Stasher bags | $9.99 per bag (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
Estimates vary on the number of single-use paper coffee cups discarded each year, but all of the estimates are in the billions, which is staggering in of itself! Thankfully zero waste swap to address this waste issue is simple — we can just bring our own cups to the coffee shop.
There are also “barista approved” reusable coffee mugs on the market which look more like the shape of the paper cups coffee shops give out. While these do serve a purpose, there’s one major drawback: they are typically not insulating so your hot drink will get cold fairly quickly — which won’t happen with a good thermos.
In terms of financial savings, some coffee shops offer money off when you bring your own cup. Starbucks, for instance, offers 10 cents off when you bring in your own cup and in Germany (perhaps elsewhere too), you actually have to even pay 10 cents when you use a takeaway cup. The most savings, though, would come if you utilize the thermos for making coffee at home and taking it away in the mug.
Check out the mug | $29.95 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
The #SkipTheStrawcampaigns and the plastic straw ban movement have gained quite some momentum in the past couple of years! Although straws seem like such a small use of plastic, they add up quickly and they’re used pretty excessively. While there are individuals that do need to use flexible yet durable plastic straws for medical purposes, the amount of plastic straw use overall is CRAZY. The National Geographic reported that Americans use 500 million straws every single day.
It can be tough to always remember your straw and to say “no straw, please” at a restaurant (and sometimes the waiter or waitress may even forget and bring you a straw anyway) but the more we remember to do so, the more we are not only cutting out plastic but also raising awareness about plastic-use and normalizing a “reusable lifestyle”.
In some cases, you can probably simply go without a straw. In cases where you do need or prefer to have a straw, a durable reusable straw like this one from EarhHero can come in handy!
The savings here are mostly if you buy your own plastic straws at the store. If not, you may not necessarily save money with this swap. I wanted to still include this swap, though, because it’s a great “gateway” swap to make that can inspire more changes.
Check out the straw and pouch | $4.29 for just the straw; $8.49 for straw + pouch (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
Leave thin plastic wrap, plastic bags, and tinfoil behind with this simple sustainable swap. Reusable beeswax wrap can be used to cover up bowls, store food, wrap baked goods, and transport snacks — basically anything you can use tinfoil for. This all-natural wrap is made with GOTS-certified organic cotton and coated with beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. After using and re-using the wraps, they can be composted.
In terms of savings, you won’t need to purchase any tinfoil or plastic wrap with reusable wraps. A box of 200 square-foot tinfoil costs around $10 and a box of thin plastic wrap comes up at around $4 to $5 according to my research.
Check out the beeswax wrap | $17.99 for a three-pack (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
11) Menstrual Cup
This is a zero waste swap that might seem a bit intimidating at first — I know it was for me! But after a few times, I promise it gets easier. Using a menstrual cup instead of tampons saves a whole lot of waste and can save a significant amount of money and well, it’s pretty nice to not have to scramble for tampons around the house or have to do a tampon run in the middle of the night when that time of month hits.
The amount of money you’d save varies on your flow but let’s say 5 tampons per day for a 5-day period — 300 tampons per year on average. For the type of tampons I used to get, a pack of 36 tampons was around $7. At $.20/tampon I’d be spending $5 per month, $60 per year, and $300 over the course of 5 years.
Check out the Diva Cup | $39.99 (Use code CONSCIOUSLIFE for 10% off)
That closes out the last of easy zero waste swaps to get started with! I hope you found the list helpful as you begin your low waste journey.
I want to note here that if this list of reusable swaps feels overwhelming, you definitely don’t need to make all of these swaps overnight — I have found it easiest to take it one by one, step by step. Breaking old habits can be challenging and so if the thought of making all of these changes at once stresses you out… I feel ya! Take it at a pace that’s personally sustainable for you based on your lifestyle, schedule, and your budget. You’ll reach your low waste goals before you know it!
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