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10 Quick Plastic-Free Swaps Everyone Can Do!

10 zero waste swaps laying on a table.
10 zero waste swaps laying on a table.

The term Zero Waste can be very intimidating. It literally says ZERO waste. But in reality, it is all about making smart, sustainable choices in order to use LESS on a daily basis. And it doesn’t happen overnight, the goal is to make the change step-by-step.

While several sustainable habits take longer to adopt, I selected for you these changes that are super easy, cheap, and accessible! Here are 10 Quick Zero Waste Swaps to get you started.

1. Disposable Plastic Bags vs Reusable Fabric Bags

Totes bag laying on a table with two other reusable fabric bags for zero waste groceries.

While it can be challenging to avoid buying food already packaged in plastic, it is much easier to bring your own reusable bag at the grocery store. For instance, use a backpack, a large handbag, or a tote bag, all reusable options are good! The one I use daily fits easily in my coat pocket and I got it for free.

Wanna try package-free groceries in your supermarket? Have a look “Can I shop Sustainably in a Supermarket“

2. Plastic Wrap vs Beeswax

Bowl with food leftovers wrapped in a beeswax for low-waste lifestyle.

Have some leftover food? Instead of wrapping it in plastic or in aluminum foil, use a beeswax wrap to either cover the dish or wrap directly around the food. A Tupperware will also make the job! In fact, it’s helpful to have various sizes to cover/wrap up different things. And if you have crafty hands, you can even make your own custom-sized ones to go with your dishes.

3. Paper Towels vs Fabric towels

Fabric towel displayed like a kitchen roll.

Everything that you use your kitchen roll for, you can use a cloth towel for. After use, you’ll just have to drop it in the washing machine with other clothes. The one hint, however, is to keep the towels separate, especially if you have pets. For example, I don’t use the same towel for drying the dishes that I use to clean up kitty messes.

4. Plastic Cotton Swabs vs Bamboo Cotton Swabs

Pack of bamboo q-tips.

This is probably one of the easiest swaps to make. You simply have to make sure you don’t buy the swabs with colored plastic in the center. Bamboo and paper options are readily available and can be composted after use. For my part, I prefer to use bamboo to clean my ears because they are very stiff. You can also opt for reusable/washable swabs.

5. Plastic Sponges vs Wooden Brushes/Scrubs

Wooden brush for plastic-free hand-dishwashing with natural bristles.

Dishwashing is my least favorite chore, so having the appropriate tools to scrub off any stuck food is important for me. The options you have to replace your sponges with are numerous. On my sink, I have a bamboo fiber scrubber, a wooden brush, as well as a compostable (and machine washable) cloth.

6. Plastic Straws vs Bamboo Straws

Bamboo straw in a blue cocktail glass.

Plastic straws can easily be replaced with bamboo, metal, or paper straws. However, the challenging part is to actually use it. Bring them with you when you go to a bar or to a restaurant and ask the waiter “Drinks without straws, please” before you place your order. Also, don’t forget to buy a straw cleaning brush.

7. Single-use Bottles/Cups vs Reusable Mug

Reusable water bottle or tea mug to reduce waste.

Travel mugs are an amazing invention: they keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold so you can use it for any type of drink. Plus, you could use that nifty new straw with it as well. Personally, I have a few metal water bottles and travel mug to drink my tea or my coffee, so find what works for you!

8. Plastic Toothbrushes vs Bamboo Toothbrushes

Bamboo toothbrush in a bathroom cup.

Did you know that literally all previous plastic toothbrushes that I’ve ever used are still out there somewhere? I never thought about it. And that’s the truth for every plastic item I’ve ever used! Getting a bamboo toothbrush may cost a few cents more than your regular toothbrush, but they are a very easy way to reduce your plastic waste.

9.Liquid Soaps vs Soap Bars

Natural soap instead of liquid soap for less packaging.

We use liquid soap in plastic bottles to clean everything: dishes, clothes, hands, hair, floors, pets, you name it! But there is a plastic-free version for each of them! To start off simple, instead of replacing your dish soap with another plastic bottle, take it to get a refill at your local bulk store or buy a bar of soap. As you get more comfortable with your zero waste replacements, you can experiment with various soap options for cleaning other things.

10. Tissues vs Handkerchief

A pair of fabric handkerchief folded to blow your nose.

This was another eye-opening moment for me when I saw all of the tissues I used. When I see a tissue, I now think “That was once a tree!”. Cotton handkerchiefs can be used to replace these t’ “issues”. Here’s a little folding technique to get the most of it. After use, simply wash and reuse.

Last words

In conclusion, it’s funny how many of these old habits we are doing because we want something more “sanitary” or easy to deal with. But now, I realize how wasteful that is and how little effort it is to have reusables. Plus, it is cheaper in the long run!

If you want to embrace more sustainable habits in your lifestyle, here’s “How to start a Zero Waste lifestyle”

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