I get asked a lot for a list of items to buy to start a zero waste lifestyle. That question always seems to make me feel bad as zero waste isn’t about purging everything you currently own to go broke buying new, expensive, sustainable products. One of the big components to reducing waste is to actually reduce your consumption. It just doesn’t make sense to buy a bunch of items from the start but to start zero waste with items you already have.
A lot of you are joining me for the 30 Days to Zero Waste Challenge and I’m so excited! So many of you are ready to reduce your waste and change your mindset on how our actions affect the earth. I couldn’t be more elated. The community is getting stronger and our voices and actions are getting heard, making a difference, and causing true change to occur.
To reduce your worry on what items you’ll need to start this challenge, I’ve come up with a list of things that you probably already own, that can be used to start a zero waste lifestyle. There will be a few items you’ll need to purchase, at some point, but for the majority, you might not have to spend a dime.
10 Ways to Start Zero Waste With Items You Already Have
Most of us have these lying around. They are very easy to acquire considering every business uses them as a promotional item which is another issue entirely. If you don’t have some, there are some great tutorials online that will show you how to turn an unwanted t-shirt into a grocery bag. You can also ask friends and family if they have any to spare as I’m sure they have a bunch for the same reason as above.
Reusable Water Bottles
A jar works perfectly well. Jars are a true multipurpose item that can be used for just about anything. I’ll give more reasons below. You can use a mason jar or even an empty pasta sauce jar for water or any other beverage.
Paper Towel Alternatives
Ripped up, unwanted towels, shirts, sheets, curtains, anything. I know you can buy fancy “un-paper towels” but why? I use old socks that have holes or lost its mate as rags for cleaning up around my home. It’s not about being fancy, it’s about being resourceful. Read more about how to ditch paper towels HERE.
Reusable Coffee Cup
Again, a jar. They work great for about any beverage. If you are worried about the glass being hot to the touch, use a sock, a mitten, or a headband to wrap around the jar for easy handling. Hot or cold, jars work great.
Cloth Produce Bags
Ok, so we all don’t have cloth produce bags lying around, or do we? Any drawstring, cloth bag you own will work for this. I’ve had purses and shoes come with cloth, drawstring bags that I currently use for bulk items and small produce. If you want to get crafty, you can make some bags yourself or have a sewing day with mom or grandma to make a set out of old sheets, curtains, or any scrap fabric for that matter.
Spoons and forks right out of your kitchen utensil drawer will work perfectly for avoiding the disposables on the go. Just stick a fork in your backpack or purse and you’re all set. My grandparents have always done this because they hated how the plastic utensils broke so easily. I always think of them when I give this tip.
Those stainless steel containers are pretty but there are a few things you currently have that will do the same job. Mason jars, again, can be used for transporting food on the go as well as the storage containers you have in your cabinets.
If you don’t want to buy reusable straws just opt against using the plastic straws entirely. You don’t always need a replacement to reduce your waste.
Reusable Tissues and Hankies
Another great job for those DIY rags from above. I use my husband’s old t-shirts for tissues.
Plastic Wrap Alternatives
Here’s a fun trick. Just put a plate on top of the bowl. No plastic wrap needed. I also sometimes put a damp towel over a bowl to hold in moisture if I’m covering dough.
I don’t want zero waste living to seem like an elitist, privileged, or unattainable endeavor. It can be done by many of us despite our economic situation if we really put that “Use what you already have” mindset into action. Now, you will need to purchase some things at some point like a replacement bamboo toothbrush, a reusable safety razor, or some reusable menstrual products but at least cutting out all of the above items from your shopping list should allow you to have some room for the sustainable items we can’t avoid.
How do you use what you already have to reduce waste?