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Best Zero Waste Swaps

A comprehensive guide to everything you need to go zero waste

Table Of Contents

Cleaning

All purpose cleaner

Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

All purpose disinfectant

Fill an old spray bottle with 3 cups of hot water, 3 teaspoons of borax, and 10 drops of eucalyptus, lemon, or lavender oil.

Clean a burnt frying pan

Fill pan with a layer of water, add 1 cup of vinegar, and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda (note: it will fizz). Empty the pan and clean.

Clean microwaves

First, combine 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 cup water in a microwavable container. Boil mixture for 3 mins and then let it stand in microwave for 10 mins. Wipe inside of microwave with a damp cloth.

Clean mirrors

Pour a little vinegar onto a rag and wipe mirror. Then, dry with a clean rag.

Clean toilet

First, sprinkle baking soda into the toilet bowl. Then rinse with vinegar and scrub till clean.

Cleaning rags

Instead of buying cleaning rags wrapped in plastic, recycle old towels, flannels, and sheets that are well passed their used-by date. Cut them up, use, and wash!

Descale your kettle

Fill the kettle halfway with a solution of equal parts cold water and white vinegar, a natural descaling agent. Repeat once and dry with a cloth.

Fabric softener

Simply add one cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle.

Shine drinking glasses

Soak in a solution of vinegar and water and dry with a cloth.

Remove rust from tins

Rub with a peeled potato dipped in baking soda or salt.

Remove rust from cutlery

Polish cutlery with a paste of baking soda and vinegar.

Remove general soap scum from shower screen

Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and spray the screen. Leave for 3-5 mins then wipe with a clean towel, scrubbing lightly.

Remove more persistent soap scum from shower screen

For stubborn screen stains squeeze some homemade toothpaste onto a sponge and scrub.

Soak and whiten nappies

First, dissolve 1/4 cup of baking soda in warm water. Next, let the nappies soak in the solution overnight. Lastly, wash nappies as normal.

Unblock a drain

Pour 1/3 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Immediately seal the drain with a plug and leave 1 hour. Lastly, pour boiling water down the drain.

Wash dishes in a dishwasher

Mix 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of salt. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the “soap/tablet” compartment of the dishwasher. Then, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the “rinse agent” compartment before starting the cycle.

Dryer sheets

Use wool dryer balls instead!

Paper towels/napkins

Simply use cloth napkins and load into your washing machine when dirty.

Plastic water filter

Try using an activated charcoal stick instead. To use effectively, place the stick in a glass carafe full of tap water and let it sit for several hours. The activated charcoal naturally bonds with toxins, removing contaminants like mercury, chlorine, copper, and even lead! Fortunately, it does not remove fluoride.

Sponge

Use a biodegradable sponge or try crocheting your own washcloth.

Wet/baby wipes

Make your own homemade cleaning wipes! – Instructions here.

Toilet brush

Use a sustainable, wooden toilet brush.

Cooking

Plastic-bottled milk

Make homemade almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, or soy milk!

 

Packaged crackers

Make your own sourdough crackers or carrot pulp crackers (gluten free). 

Yogurt

Make your own natural yogurt at home.

Cheese

Make your own labne, a cheese derived from greek yogurt!

Granola/snack bars

Make homemade muesli bars, a hardy and healthy snack!

Brownie treats

Make homemade bliss balls, a nutty treat.

Bottled drinks

Try making your own ginger beer!

Store foods while grocery shopping

Store food from the bulk sections of grocery stores using glass jars, bottles, and reusable containers.

Store leftovers/extra food while eating out

Store leftovers in a bowl with plate over the top instead of using plastic wrap and freeze in heat stable glass (ex. Pyrex) at home.

Store vegetables and herbs

Store vegetables and herbs by wrapping them in damp tea towels or sealing them in glass containers.

Store sandwiches

Simply wrap sandwiches in fabric or make your own sandwich wraps using an alternative material (such as beeswax!)

Store cheese

To store cheese, wrap in an old linen tea towel.

Plastic wrap, tinfoil

Instead of plastic wrap or tinfoil, use a clean shower cap to cover a bowl, silicone lids, or make your own beeswax wraps.

Cupcake liners

Instead of single-use cupcake liners, use silicone liners to hold your desserts.

K-cups

Try using reusable k-cups or buy a french press, no filter needed!

Coffee filter

Similarly, a direct solution is to use a french press or you can invest in reusable hemp coffee filters.

Plastic baggies for storing food

To store food for when you are on-the-go, use a silicone stasher bag or beeswax wraps.

Coffee cups

Try using a thermos for hot drinks or a mason jar for cold drinks when buying a cup of coffee instead of using the disposable, single-use cups most cafes provide.

Plastic produce bags

Use organic cotton produce bags or regular reusable grocery bags to carry your fruits and vegetables when shopping in the produce section or farmer’s market.

Plastic straw

Try using reusable silicone, aluminum, glass, or bamboo straws. Note: Be cautious when giving metal or glass straws to children.

Teabags

Use a tea strainer instead!

Parchment/baking paper

Instead of parchment paper, we suggest using reusable silicone baking mats!

Personal Care

Deodorant

Make your own deodorant from home – recipes here!

 

Facial scrub

Try making your own facial scrubs at home with baking soda, cornmeal, rose almond, oatmeal, azuki bean, milk and honey, banana, honey sugar, pumpkin, or greens.

Hair rinse

Make homemade hair rinse with tea, beer, coffee, apple cider vinegar, or vodka!

Shampoo

Trying making homemade shampoo that uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Brands like Lush are also popular zero waste-friendly options.

Liquid soap

We suggest buying soap tablets from Blueland.com, which dissolve in water to create liquid soap!

Shaving cream and aftershave

Instead of buying plastic bottles from stores, make your own shaving cream and aftershave. 

Q-tips

Use a reusable stainless steel or wood pick.

Mouthwash

Make homemade mouthwash with aloe, xylitol, baking soda!

Lip balm
Loofah/shower scrubber

Try using an organic loofah, the actual plant!

Disposable razor

Try using a (reusable) safety razor.

Tissues

Use cloth hankerchiefs and consistently wash when dirty.

Toilet paper

This is technically a zero waste exception, but if you want to take it a step further, try using toilet paper with recycled content such as from au.whogivesacrap.org or installing a bidet.

Floss

Instead of using regular floss, which is mostly made of plastic and coated in the same material they use to coat teflon pads, try completely plastic-free silk floss.

Eczema cream

Make your own skin cream at home.

Sunscreen

Make your own natural sunscreen cream instead of buying sunblock at the store.

Toothbrush

Simple! Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush.

Toothpaste

Make your own toothpaste at home or try using toothpowder instead.

Dry shampoo

Use corn starch instead!

Hairbrush

Use a sustainable, wooden hairbrush.

Face mask

Make your own applicable face mask! In a small jar, mix 1 tablespoon of matcha powder or bentonite clay and 2-4 tablespoons of water. Apply to clean skin and leave for approximately 15 minutes. Finally, rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Conditioner

Make your own! Simply mix 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar with 1 cup of water. Experiment with the amount of ACV (up to 4 tablespoons) as the dryer your hair is, the less you should need.

Pet Care

General pet food

Take your own containers to the butcher and fishmonger for bones, fish and other meaty treats. To store bones or meat in bulk, first separate and freeze them on a tray. Then put them into a container in the freezer until needed.

 

Dog food
Cat food

Check out this homemade chicken-and-potato zero waste cat food recipe!

Bird food

Buy seeds and grains in bulk when you make a grocery shopping trip. The nifty thing is, you won’t have to stray far from where your groceries are!

Guinea pig, rabbit, and hamster food

Talk to your greengrocer or stalls at the farmers market and ask/negotiate for outer lettuce leaves, blemished and imperfect vegetables, etc.