The biggest thing about the zero waste movement is that you can’t really jump in all at once. Becoming zero waste can be very wasteful if you don’t do it right. All the paper products you need to use up, the plastic that’s still technically fine to use, the full bottles of cleaning products. You can’t just throw it all away. That would be wasteful.

So once you get into the movement and decide to make some changes, you have to wait.

It’s a blessing and a curse really.

If you’re like me, you’re not super patient. Also, once you see something, it’s hard to unsee it. It’s hard to unsee the full trash bags we take out of our house every two days. It’s hard to unsee all the waste I’ve put into the world already and how much I’m going to have to add before I’m ready to make some changes.

The blessing is that you have time to plan and save. If done right, your swaps may be a little pricier than the wasteful alternatives, but they pay for themselves in the long run. So while you’re finishing off your last paper towel roll or using the last of your plastic razor, you have time to look for the perfect, zero waste replacements for when the time comes.

So this is my planning period. I’ve gone through the lists and I’ve gotten inspired. I’ve looked around my home and taken note of all the things I’m ready to swap (when the time comes).


I decided instead of going room by room, I’m just going to start with common, everyday items. The things that I turn to on a daily basis that often leave my house almost as quickly as they come in.

  • Toilet Paper - This is an easy one, mostly because the branding is hard to resist. Obviously, we all need toilet paper. And obviously, the idea of using second hand toilet paper is kind of gross. I like this brand because they simply offer toilet paper that is easier for the planet to digest.

  • Paper Towels - Honestly, this one is tough for no other reason than bacon and other meat. I know a lot of zero wasters go vegan at some point so this may be a non-issue for some. In my house though, I’m gonna need some meat rags as well. The best I can think of is to get some cloth napkins for meat (to avoid any shedding fabric from getting stuck to the meat when drying or catching excess grease), napkins for meals (which I’m thinking of DIYing from thrifted fabric), and rags for cleaning. Really, just having color coded rags for different uses seems to make the most sense to me.

  • Sponge - The idea of sponges has grossed me out ever since I read this. The amount that we should be replacing sponges is crazy. My mom actually shared a Swedish dish rag with me and now I never have to buy sponges again! The material dries super quick and you can wash it with your laundry to use it over and over again. That, paired with a bamboo dish scrubber and you should be good to go!

  • Water Filter - This swap is actually pretty simple. Just get a glass water jug and this stick of activated charcoal. You have to let the charcoal sit in the water for a few hours to totally filter it, but I figured just fill up the jar at night and it’ll be ready in the morning! To clean the filter, you just boil the charcoal once a month and stick it back in the jug.

  • Coffee Filters - For my coffee maker, I’ve thought about swapping it out for a French Press to avoid the filter all together. Then I realized my coffee maker works just fine and it’d just be more wasteful to buy a new brewing device. So instead, I got this reusable filter because it’s the best fit for my brewer. They also have some for Keurig and I love these cloth filters for more cone shaped brewers.

  • Tea Supplies - So first of all, they have these brewers that will steep your tea and then you drip it directly into your cup, no filters necessary. Otherwise, there are so many cute, single serve steepers out there. Then, of course, buying bulk, loose leaf tea is always the best way to go. (and if you have any suggestions on where to find loose leaf tea, let me know!)

  • Make Up Pads - you know the little cotton balls or cotton pads you use once and then throw away? Why not get cotton pads that you can throw in the wash and use again? Maybe one of the easier fixes on the list.

  • Razors - I’m a little nervous to switch to a safety razor. For some reason it seems really intense and easy to cut yourself. But I’ve heard they’re really not any different than a regular razor. Plus, in the long run they’ll save you money and reduce waste.

  • Cleaners - I’m about to start making a ton of cleaners. And by a ton, I mean one all purpose cleaner because the ingredients can all be used for cleaning pretty much anything. All it takes is apple cider vinegar, water, and an essential oil of your choice, or just some orange peels. Then, all your mirror, counter, and floor cleaning is taken care of!

  • Straws - Not a necessity, but a luxury I like to have. Stainless steel or bamboo straws are super simple, and fairly inexpensive changes to make.

  • Sandwich Bags and Plastic Wrap - The infamous bee’s wrap! It’s so versitile and you can really use it for anything involving storing food. Definitely a big one on my list.

  • Dentil Hygiene - From what I’ve been finding, switching your dental hygiene to a zero waste approach may actually make you teeth brighter and healthier. Charcoal and coconut oil are amazing cleaners for pretty much anything, but especially your teeth. There’s even this floss that comes in a zero waste container and is biodegradable. That, along side your DIY tooth paste, coconut oil rinse, and bamboo tooth brush and you will be good to go!

When it comes time to replace your items, the swaps are not hard to make and they really don’t add any inconvenience to what you’re already doing. Zero waste doesn’t have to mean you have to go way out of your way to reduce your waste. Even the little things can make a huge difference.

Photo by Laura Mitulla