Living Minimal

First Steps to Zero Waste: What Products You Actually Need

When I started researching how to reduce my impact and waste, I was overwhelmed. It seemed like I needed to purchase all new products to make sure I had the most organic, environmentally things to help me through the transition. This seemed super counter-intuitive to me though – I’m supposed to buy new things to help me consume less?

This is always a catch-22 of businesses promoting sustainable products – they want you to be more environmentally friendly, but they also want to make sure they’re making a profit. After all, they are businesses. So watch out for this,! You really don’t need much to help you avoid waste. Many of my essentials I found at home!

Here are the products that helped me get started, and actually make a big impact by helping me lower my waste day to day:

  1. A vessel for your water/coffee/tea/leftovers – I was at brunch with a friend in the summer and the portion size was huge. I asked if I could pack up the rest to bring home, and the lady in the cafe was so interested in the jar I brought with me to pack it away! Saves them money by not needing to provide plastic takeaway boxes, and it keeps your food way better as well – no take-out spills or gross smells in your bag.
  2. Any cotton/general reusable bag with handles – I have a cotton bag I purchased in Chile last year that I roll and pop in my handbag every time I go out. It’s small and compact, so I don’t notice it until I need to use it.
  3. A small cotton napkin – I usually have my cotton bag to use instead of this, but I try to remember a napkin when I can – great for grabbing a sandwich to go and popping it in your napkin instead of a plastic box, or for cleaning up small spills, or for dirty hands! Just be sure to pop it in the laundry once you’ve used it.
  4. Reusable veggie bags for grocery shopping – This is one product I did purchase, and I bring them with me only for grocery shopping. The great thing is they also double as nut mylk bags for making almond/oat mylk at home, and snack bags! Tip: If you don’t have these, either just put fruits & veggies directly in your cart (you’ll rinse them at home anyway), or use the paper mushroom bags at the grocery store for other veggies as well – paper>plastic.
  5. Potentially necessary: A stainless steel straw. These are excellent if you’re a big smoothie drinker, have sensitive gums (like me!), or just like using straws. Regardless, always ask for no plastic straw!

Other easy swaps at home:

  1. Bamboo toothbrush – the easiest switch I ever made. And compostable (depending on the composition of the bristles)!
  2. Once you run out of your bottled products (make sure you use all of these up and reuse or recycle!), buying or making products that are in bar form – face cleanser, soap, shampoo, body lotion, all of it! See what I currently use in this post.

And that’s it! These are the products that I actually use on a daily basis to help lower my environmental impact. Do you have any sustainable products you purchased but never actually use? Or any products you think I should really add to my list?

Let me know in the comments!

-jen

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