Our Best Zero Waste Swaps
A comprehensive guide to everything you need to go zero waste
Apple Cider Vinegar
Make your own apple cider vinegar with fruit scraps.
Try making your own ginger beer or bring your own cup to a soda fountain!
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.
Go to a deli counter and see if they will put it in your own container!
Instead of single-use cupcake liners, use silicone liners to hold your desserts or go without and grease the pans a bit more.
Make homemade bliss balls, a nutty treat.
Make homemade muesli bars, a hardy and healthy snack!
Use glass jars, bottles, and reusable containers to buy food from the bulk sections of grocery stores. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.
Try using reusable k-cups or buy a french press, no filter needed!
Use a french press or reusable hemp coffee filters.
Instead of parchment paper, we suggest using reusable silicone baking mats!
Plastic baggies for storing food
To store food for when you are on-the-go, use a silicone stasher bag or beeswax wraps.
Try using reusable silicone, aluminum, glass, or bamboo straws. Note: Be cautious when giving metal or glass straws to children.
Plastic wrap, tinfoil
To store cheese, wrap in a linen tea towel.
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.
Simply wrap sandwiches in fabric or make your own sandwich wraps using an alternative material (such as beeswax!)
Store vegetables and herbs
Store vegetables and herbs by wrapping them in damp tea towels, sealing them in glass containers, or store them upright in a jar filled with an inch of water (this is especially good for carrots, celery, etc.)
Use a tea strainer instead!
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.
Make your own natural yogurt or kefir (easier to make) at home.
Make your own broth with vegetable scraps
All purpose cleaner
Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.
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.
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!
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.
Pour a little vinegar onto a rag and wipe mirror. Then, dry with a clean rag.
First, sprinkle baking soda into the toilet bowl. Then add with vinegar and scrub.
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.
Use wool dryer balls or tennis balls instead!
Simply add one cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle.
Instead of using a store-bought laundry whitening product (like OxiClean White Revive), put a pair of jeans or another blue garment in with your whites.
Metal scrubber (steel wool)
This is a rare “just buy it” situation!
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!
Use cloth napkins and tea cloths and load into your washing machine when dirty.
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 down.
Remove rust from cutlery
Polish cutlery with a paste of baking soda and vinegar.
Remove rust from tins
Rub with a peeled potato dipped in baking soda or salt.
Shine drinking glasses
Soak in a solution of vinegar and water and dry with a cloth.
Soak and whiten cloth diapers
First, dissolve 1/4 cup of baking soda in warm water. Next, let the cloth diapers soak in the solution overnight. Lastly, wash the cloth diapers as normal.
Use a biodegradable sponge or try crocheting your own washcloth.
Use a sustainable, wooden toilet brush.
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 by hand
Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda to the hot dish water.
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.
Make your own homemade cleaning wipes! – Instructions here.
As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear and effective zero waste alternative for contact solution, but try to buy more sustainable saline solutions like Clear Conscience.
Make your own! Simply mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water. Experiment with the amount of ACV. The dryer your hair is, the less you need.
The easy solution is to wear glasses! However, if you are committed to contacts, instead of purchasing daily ones, use contacts with the longest possible time before disposal is needed such as one or two week lenses.
Try using a (reusable) safety razor.
Make your own deodorant from home – recipe here!
Make your own skin cream at home.
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.
Use a reusable stainless steel or wood pick.
Use corn starch and/or cocoa powder depending on your hair color.
Instead of using regular floss, which is mostly made of plastic and coated in the same material used to coat teflon pans, try completely plastic-free silk floss. Or use a water pik.
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. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Make homemade hair rinse with tea, beer, coffee, apple cider vinegar, or vodka!
Use a sustainable, wooden hairbrush.
Try using an organic loofah, the actual plant!
Try making this easy citrus beeswax lip balm!
Make your own natural sunscreen cream instead of buying sunblock at the store.
We suggest buying soap tablets from Blueland.com, which dissolve in water to create liquid soap! You can also find liquid dish detergent in bulk at you local co-op or zero waste shop.
Make homemade mouthwash with aloe, xylitol, baking soda!
Diva Cup or Glad Rags. It takes some trial and error but finding the right cup can help prevent thousands of disposable products from going into the landfills & can save you hundreds since the cups are medical-grade silicone and can last but up to 5-10 years! If using a cup seems too daunting and intimate (I prefer to think of it as empowering), then using pads/tampons that are made with organic cotton that take less energy and water to produce along with avoiding chlorine bleaching, pesticides, fragrances or dyes which can otherwise cause allergy and irritation!
Shaving cream and aftershave
Use cloth hankerchiefs and consistently wash when dirty. If you have really bad allergies or need to use tissues for a different reason, we suggest us.whogivesacrap.org.
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 us.whogivesacrap.org or installing a bidet.
Make your own toothpaste at home or try using toothpowder instead.
Simple! Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush.
Buy rechargable batteries!
Hit the thrift store. It saves money and is better for the environment!
By second-hand furniture.
Try using a reusable fountain pen or invest in biodegradable options.
Instead of single-use tape, try substituting for string, ribbon, or a reusable clamp/clip.
Make your own baby food from home! – Recipes here.
Simple! Substitute single-use diapers for cloth ones!
Use hand-me-downs/second-hand toys from friends or opt for baby toys made from ethical materials like sustainably-sourced wood, upcycled plastic, or natural rubber.
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!
Check out this homemade chicken-and-potato zero waste cat food recipe or find a pet store that sells cat food in bulk.
Make your own sustainable raw dog food or find a pet store that sells dog food in bulk.
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.
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.