This post is all about the best zero waste swaps that save money!
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There’s this myth floating around that living a zero-waste lifestyle is always more expensive. That makes sense because when you check the price tags on a lot of sustainable items, they are higher. However, there are so many ways that zero waste actually saves money in the long run! In this post, I’ll break down 15 of my favorite zero-waste swaps that save you money so you can get started today!
What is Zero Waste?
If you’re not familiar, zero waste is a type of sustainable living. Have you seen those photos of influencers who pack their entire year’s worth of trash in one glass jar? Yep, that’s zero waste.
That image is a little limiting though because most people living a zero-waste lifestyle still produce trash…they just produce less of it and are more intentional with the products they buy.
Zero waste is really about being thoughtful with the resources we consume as individuals and making the most of what we already own. This looks like shopping secondhand, fixing products that get damaged, repurposing older items into new things, and being intentional about new purchases. Really, it’s what people have done for thousands of years!
17 Zero Waste Swaps That Save You Money
1. Shop Secondhand First
One of the very best ways to save money and reduce your carbon footprint is to look for the items you need at your local thrift store first.
You might not find every single item you want secondhand and you may need to buy some items brand new, but shopping secondhand first will help you cut your expenses, make less waste, and help the planet, too.
2. Bring Your Own Reusable Bags
Depending on where you live, you might have to pay for plastic shopping bags when you visit the grocery store. Here in Washington State, we pay 8 cents per bag! A family can easily use about $1 worth of plastic bags on one trip.
It makes more sense to buy or make a few reusable shopping bags and then bring them with you! Plus, you’ll avoid contributing to plastic pollution.
3. Stop Buying Paper Towels
This is one of my favorite tips for beginners! Although it seems impossible at the beginning, it’s really not. Remember…your great-great-great grandmother lived her life without paper towels and you can, too!
Paper towels contribute to deforestation. Instead of grabbing a paper towel, look for cloth towels or unpaper towels. The next time you want to wipe off the counters or mop up a spill, grab a cloth instead. Easy!
4. Use Cloth Napkins
Just like the paper towels, you don’t really need paper napkins. Instead, buy or make your own that you can pack in your lunchbox. You can even cut up some old t-shirts or sheets!
5. Ditch The Parchment Paper
You might already be noticing a theme here…In zero-waste living, we try to avoid purchasing disposable products. This allows us to avoid single-use plastics and is a great way to save some money!
If you love to cook from scratch, silicone baking liners cost about $10 each and are typically rated for baking up the 425 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you can use them for roasting vegetables, baking cookies, and pretty much any other task you can imagine. Since they last for years and years, they’ll pay for themselves in just a few years.
6. Stop Buying Plastic Wrap
Using plastic wrap is just a habit. It’s an easy habit to break, too! Instead of using plastic wrap, simply store your leftovers in a reusable container.
Beeswax wraps are another popular way to wrap sandwiches, cheeses, and snacks without waste.
Personally, I love fabric bowl covers that I can stretch over bowls of rising doughs or cover salads in transit to a BBQ or picnic. There are so many great alternatives to plastic wrap out there!
7. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
You probably already know that it’s more sustainable to use a reusable water bottle than to keep buying plastic bottles, so let’s think about this from a financial standpoint. Most stores sell a bottle of water for $1-$3. You can get a secondhand metal water bottle for about the same price or invest in a new one you want to use for years.
Even if you pay $30 for your water bottle, you’ll save that much money in as few as 10 uses! Plus, they last an incredibly long time and are so easy to maintain.
8. Repurpose Glass Jars and Plastic Containers
Let’s face it…It’s not sustainable to toss out all your old food containers to buy brand-new “zero waste” ones. In fact, that defeats the purpose. One of the best frugal zero waste hacks is to repurpose disposable items. It’s only single-use if you use it once!
Save pasta sauce and salsa jars. Collect yogurt tubs. These are such an easy swap and you’ll be avoiding so much waste!
9. Make Your Own Coffee
Especially with the rise in specialty coffee shops, getting a good cup of coffee on the go is so expensive! Plus, you usually end up with a disposable coffee cup to deal with, too.
If you do need to get coffee on the go, be sure to grab your reusable coffee cup!
10. Make Your Own Cleaners
Nope, you do not need a different product for every cleaning purpose under the sun. With one good cleaning concentrate or even just plain soapy water, you can clean pretty much everything in your home.
Our favorite cleaning concentrate is Sal Suds, which we dilute in a glass spray bottle. One 16 oz bottle costs us about 12 cents to refill! This is one of my favorite sustainable swaps! Learn everything you need to know about cleaning with this concentrate in my Sal Suds review.
11. Eat Your Leftovers
Did you know that 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste? (source) A vital tenet of zero waste living is reducing your food waste. This looks like keeping a meal plan or finding ways to use up the oldest food in your fridge first.
Especially with the rising cost of groceries, maximizing the food you already paid for can be a huge money saver! In fact, I’ve shared over 80 zero and low-waste frugal food hacks to help you do just that.
12. Switch To Bar Soap
Many of us stopped using bar soap years ago, but soap has been around for thousands of years! Not only is bar soap inexpensive, it’s also usually packaged in paper (no plastic waste!) and is lighter to ship since it doesn’t contain water. This reduces the amount of fuel required to ship it across the country, which shrinks its environmental impact.
You can use bar soap to wash your hands, body, dishes, do the laundry, and more! Honestly, you can grab a single bar of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and use it to wash pretty much every inch of your home…including your body. Bar soap is an extremely simple swap with a big impact!
13. Buy Recycled Content Toilet Paper
Just like paper towels, toilet paper production contributes to deforestation! We really don’t need the fancy fluffy toilet paper. The most environmentally-friendly toilet paper is made from recycled paper. (Source) You can also look for tree-free toilet paper made from bamboo or sugarcane, but those aren’t as eco-friendly as recycled paper.
Plus, recycled content toilet paper is way cheaper! You can typically get a 12 pack for around $5-6 at many American grocery stores including Trader Joe’s and Target.
14. Try a Safety Razor
A safety razor is an old-fashioned way of shaving. They are made of stainless steel and the only disposable part is the razor blades themselves.
Although a good safety razor may cost between $50-75, think about how much a pack of disposable razors costs! A 4-pack of disposable Venus razors costs around $6 at Target. If you go through a pack of those a year, you’d spend about $72.
Although you need to pay a high price at the beginning, you’ll only need to replace the blades in the future and a 50-pack of those runs around $12.
15. Purchase Reusable Menstrual Products
Did you know that most menstrual pads contain plastic and take 500-800 years to break down? (Source) Since most women menstruate every month for decades, this waste can be substantial over time.
Some popular zero-waste swaps that will save you money include switching to cloth pads and/or a menstrual cup. There are even special underwear you can purchase, too! Like many other swaps, you may need to save up to buy these at first. However, you can wash and reuse them for years.
Some FSA and HSA programs will even allow you to buy reusable menstrual products, so that may be another good option for you, too!
16. Switch to Cloth Diapers
If you have young children in diapers, think about ditching the disposable diapers and trying cloth instead! Although cloth diapers do require a tidy investment upfront (typically $3-20 each), they will absolutely save you money in the long run.
Consider checking your local Facebook Marketplace or parenting groups to see if anyone is reselling their secondhand cloth diapers. This might help you save even more money!
17. Stop Using Fabric Softeners and Dryer Sheets
These products contain harmful & carcinogenic compounds that can harm your laundry machines and contribute to indoor air pollution. They just aren’t necessary at all. Instead, replace your dryer sheets with wool dryer balls that help your dryer get the job done faster!
Our Favorite Zero Waste Swaps That Save You Money
Clearly, there are so many great zero waste products and sustainable swaps that help you reduce your waste! At the beginning of your zero waste journey, it feels like you have to replace everything in your home to live an eco-friendly life.
At the end of the day, you really can’t shop your way into an eco-friendly or zero-waste lifestyle. The best zero waste swap is when you use what you already have. Start looking at what you already own with new eyes. How can you use it in another way? Does it have any more life in it?
Especially if you’re on a tight budget, start getting creative. Whenever you can reuse something that would have gone to the landfill, you’re doing your part!
Which of these zero-waste swaps that save you money did you like the most?
Do you have any other sustainable alternatives to add? Share them in the comments below!
This post was all about Zero Waste Swaps That Save Money!
About the Author
Rachael is the writer behind the blog Milk Glass Home. She loves to share tips & recipes to help people live simple, sustainable lives. She’s especially passionate about cooking from scratch, non-toxic cleaning, and making sustainable living feel easy.
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