Our Best Zero Waste Swaps

A comprehensive guide to everything you need to go zero waste

๐Ÿ’žย Submit your own swap!

Cooking โ€” Cleaning โ€” Personal Careย  โ€” Social & Travel โ€”Home โ€” Kids โ€” Pets

Cooking

Bottled drinks/sodas

Try making your own ginger beer or bring your own cup to a soda fountain!

Brownie treats

Make homemade bliss balls, a nutty treat.

Cheese

Go to a deli counter and see if they will put it in your own container!

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.

Coffee filter

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

Cupcake liners

Instead of single-use cupcake liners, use silicone liners to hold your desserts or go without and grease the pans a bit more.

Granola/snack bars

Make homemade muesli bars, a hardy and healthy snack!

K-cups

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

Milk

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

 

Packaged crackers

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

Parchment/baking paper

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 bagย or beeswax wraps.

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.

Plastic wrap, tinfoil

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

Store cheese

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

Store foods while grocery shopping

Store food from the bulk sections of grocery stores using glass jars, bottles, and reusable containers. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.

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 sandwiches

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.)

Teabags

Use a tea strainer instead!

Yogurt

Make your own natural yogurt at home.

Cleaning

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.

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!

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.

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.

Dryer sheets

Use wool dryer balls or tennis balls instead!

Fabric softener

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

Laundry whitener

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! Fortunately, it does not remove fluoride.

Paper towels/napkins

Simply use cloth napkins 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 with a clean towel, scrubbing lightly.

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.

Sponge

Use a biodegradable sponge or try crocheting your own washcloth.

Toilet brush

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.

Wet wipes

Make your own homemade cleaning wipes! – Instructions here.

Personal

Care

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.

Contact lenses

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-lasting lenses.

Contact solution

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.

Deodorant

Make your own deodorant from home – recipes here!

 

Disposable razor

Try using a (reusable) safety razor.

Dry shampoo

Use corn starch or cocoa powder depending on your hair color.

Eczema cream

Make your own skin cream at home.

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.

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.

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.

Hairbrush

Use a sustainable, wooden hairbrush.

Hair rinse

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

Lip balm
Liquid soap

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.

Loofah/shower scrubber

Try using an organic loofah, the actual plant!

Mouthwash

Make homemade mouthwash with aloe, xylitol, baking soda!

Q-tips

Use a reusable stainless steel or wood pick.

Shaving cream and aftershave

Instead of buying plastic bottles from stores, make your own shaving cream and aftershave. Or try just using soap!

Shampoo

Try simple DIY shampoo options like baking soda or clay. You can find shampoo bars at zero waste shops and places like Lush. If you have short hair, no poo is a great option!

Sunscreen

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

Tissues

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.

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 us.whogivesacrap.orgย or installing a bidet.

Toothbrush

Simple! Use a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush.

Toothpaste

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

Social &

Travel

Beer

Get a growler!

Decorations

Instead of buying plastic decorations, opt for natural things like flowers and plants!

Gifts

If you feel strongly about not purchasing presents you know will inevitably be disposed of, try gifting friends and family online alternatives like gift certificates.

Travel kit

When you hit the road, make sure to pack the following items: water bottle, cutlery, cloth napkin, handkerchief, tupperware, travel coffee mug, and snacks!

Wrapping paper

Try tying physical gifts up in cloth, using a reusable container, or no wrapping at all!

Home

Batteries

Buy rechargable batteries!

Clothing

Hit the thrift store. It saves money and is better for the environment!

Furniture

By second-hand furniture.

Pens/pencils

Try using a reusable fountain pen or invest in biodegradable options.

Tape

Instead of single-use tape, try substituting for string, ribbon, or a reusable clamp/clip.

Kids

Baby food

Make your own baby food from home! – Recipes here.

Diapers

Simple! Substitute single-use diapers for cloth ones!

Toys

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.

Pets

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!

Cat food

Check out this homemade chicken-and-potato zero waste cat food recipe or find a pet store that sells cat food in bulk.

Dog food

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.