I’m so excited to share my first “minimal waste” post with you. I want to address a few things before we get started, though: I am in no way a perfect “zero waster” of even “minimal waster”. I just recently started this journey and thought it would be fun to take you along with me. There are so many awesome zero waste blogs out there that have way more extensive and detailed advice for you than I will ever have. However, I found that these blogs can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. That’s why I thought, my first baby steps might be interesting for you. Also, these five swaps might not be the first swaps that come to mind. Everyone starts these lists with reusable shopping bags but I wanted to share with you the swaps that came easiest to me maybe even before I really thought in terms of minimal or zero waste. Enjoy!
Swap 1: Bar soap
- Why is this swap a good idea? First of all, you can avoid the big plastic containers – bar soap can be purchased wrapped in paper or even better, completely unpackaged. Check Lush, Whole Foods, or your local health food store. Secondly, liquid soaps contain a large percentage water but you’re going to add water when you wash your hands anyway. So why do we need water in our soap? Additionally, you have the chance to shop local and be picky when it comes to the ingredients.
- How did I make the swap? My dad actually initiated this zero waste swap long before I moved out. He was annoyed by the moisturizing effect of liquid soaps and prefers the really clean feeling of bar soaps. So he did his research and started buying bar soaps from a local soap maker. They had so many different ones for different purposes. My mum would always store them in our closets to make our clothes smell nice and fresh.
Swap 2: Stainless Steel Water Bottle
- Why is this a good idea? First of all single use plastic bottles are one of the craziest trash producing practices. Reusing any water bottle and refusing a new, single-use plastic bottle is incredibly helpful. Stainless steel bottles have the added advantages that they keep your water cold for a long period of time and once (if ever) they wear out, they can be recycled much easier. In addition, they don’t leach chemicals into your drink like plastic bottles might.
- How did I make the swap? Honestly, this swap took me way too long. I love to drink sparkling water most of the time. That’s just how I was raised in Germany. Most reusable water bottles don’t do well with sparkling water, so I would usually use a plastic bottle and refill it until it wore out. After my move to the US, I experimented with reusable plastic bottles for way too long. I hated them: the water was always warm and tasted like plastic. So finally, I made the decision to purchase a stainless steel one, hoping it wouldn’t wear out as quickly. In the end, I didn’t even have to buy one. I found my swell bottle during a beach clean up. That’s what I call zero waste. It the medium sized one, which is a little too small for trips and adventure but is definitely sufficient for my daily office life.
Swap 3: Reusable Coffee Mug
- Why? Styrofoam cups are awful and impossible to recycle and even the paper cups are lined with plastic and are therefore not easily recyclable. Also, your stainless steel coffee mug will keep your coffee/ tea warm for way longer.
- How? I bought my reusable coffee mug when I started taking coffee to class in my last year of high school. Back then, I would still go to coffee shops and get their cups when I was out in the city. Now I told myself, that unless I have my own mug with me, I won’t buy coffee and therefore completely avoid that kind of waste. Sure, forming that habit took some time but I have never had any barista refuse my mug and over time I got used to just always carrying my mug around with me.
Swap 4: Cotton Handkerchiefs
- Why? Sure, tissues are paper and sometimes even made from recycled paper but they can’t get recycled further. I believe they might be compostable. However, there is a good chance that your family produces too much paper tissue waste for your compost (if you have one, that is). AND: tissues come in pretty awful plastic wrapping. We can avoid this using cloth hankies and washing them with our regular laundry. That won’t really waste extra water or detergent.
- How? I think this swap usually doesn’t appear on the list of first or easiest swaps – it seems quite hippie. But for me it was one of the most convenient things: in Germany, tissues are so much thicker and so much softer than here in the US. With the tissues here I would always make a mess and tear them. So I swapped for thick and soft cloth handkerchiefs. This swap was also super cheap for me because I didn’t go for new and actual hankies. Instead, I bought a ginormous white men’s shirt at the thrift store and cut it into pieces in the size I liked. It made almost 20 hankies. That’s plenty for me. And my dad just gave me one of his white cotton shirts that has a stain on it that won’t come off for my next batch. Win win 🙂
Swap 5: Minimal Waste Makeup Remover
- Why? Cotton production is incredibly water intensive and the used cotton rounds end up in the landfill. Makeup remover solutions come in chunky plastic bottles.
- How? My mom inspired me to make this swap. She used to get carnival makeup off my face when I was a kid using a wash cloth and Nivea cream. I was also frustrated because I reacted allergic to so many makeup remover solutions. Right now I’m using wash cloths that I already owned and coconut oil that I decanted in a little (already owned) travel container. I melt a bit of coconut oil in my hands and then gently massage it onto the part of my face that needs makeup removal (mostly my eyes). It sometimes stings a little in my eyes but doesn’t actually irritate them. However, I am considering finding another oil like jojoba oil as coconut oil is not the very best for skin prone to breakouts. After massaging I use the wash cloth and warm water to rinse everything off. I like that the textured wash cloths work a little like a peeling but I am considering getting reusable cotton rounds for my eyes
I hope you enjoyed this list! What were your first zero-waste swaps?
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