Five Affordable Zero Waste Swaps

Reduce the amount of plastic going to the landfill by utilizing these zero waste alternatives.

Tierra McCraney

Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste (Kathryn Kellogg)

Reduce, reuse, recycle, a phrase introduced under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act has helped to significantly decrease the amount of waste in the United States. Although recycling may seem like the answer to all our problems regarding pollution, landfill overcrowding, and destruction of natural habitats, only nine percent of plastic is actually recycled.

According to Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, “there is simply too much to process, which is why recycling should be the last resort.”

Today, a newer term called zero waste has become an important part of the environmental movement. The goal of those who aspire to live a zero-waste lifestyle is to send nothing to the landfill. This can be done by replacing those items with more sustainable options. Below are five affordable zero-waste swaps that you can implement in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Reusable Water Bottles:
Reusable water bottles, one of the most easily accessible swaps, will not only help the environment but also save you money. According to Postconsumers, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used each year to make plastic water bottles, and even more oil is burned transporting them. Along with a mass use of materials, the water in plastic water bottles can be harmful. While the tap water must be kept under rigorous inspection and contains chlorine that prevents the spread of bacterial infections, bottled water, tested once before filled and sealed. Since bottled water does not contain disinfecting additives, such as chlorine, there is no way of the water remaining sterile.
Reusable water bottles are available in many different forms, such as plastic, glass, metal, stainless steel, or aluminum. Finding the right material depends on what you are looking for. Plastic water bottles are lightweight but can transfer a taste or odor to your beverage. Although glass bottles are fragile, they are safer to drink from than plastic and do not hold on to taste. Metal and stainless steel reusable water bottles are best at keeping beverages cold or hot for an extended period of time, but can be subject to dents and scratches.

Reusable Straws:

Plastic straws, however, are the number one offender when it comes to ocean pollution. As reported by the National Ocean Service, when a plastic straw ends up in the ocean, it breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Some straws do not break down which leads to injuring marine life.
Similar to reusable water bottles, many forms of straws are available. Stainless steel straws are one of the most popular reusable straws on the market. They are super durable and will not absorb the flavor or smell of your drink. However, since stainless steel straws pick up the temperature of your drink (and become super hot or super cold), this material is not the best for those with sensitive teeth. Silicone straws are known as the safest material for reusable straws. Not only because they are flexible and safe for children, but they are also healthy for our bodies. Unlike plastic and metal straws, silicone does not leach chemicals when exposed to heat variation. They are also BPS and BPA free. With bamboo straws, you will not have to worry about added dyes or chemicals. But since bamboo straws are made from a single stem of bamboo, each straw will differ in size. This will make it tough to know if it will fit your reusable cup.

Bamboo Toothbrush:
According to AVAAZ, a U.S. non-profit organization promoting global activism, 50 million pounds of toothbrushes end up in landfills each year. Modern toothbrushes are made from a variety of plastics, including high-density polyethylene and nylon– neither of which are biodegradable. Because of this, plastic toothbrushes take anywhere from 450 to 1,000 years to degrade. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants and is fully biodegradable. With proper care, these toothbrushes can last up to three months. To dispose, simply remove the bristles and compost the handle in your backyard.

Organic Bamboo Toothbrush

Shampoo Bar and Conditioner Bar:
Not only does using a Shampoo and Conditioner bar cut down on waste, but using these products will also save you money. Since shampoo and conditioner bars contain less water than liquid shampoo and conditioner, they are much more concentrated. This means they will last far longer. To use, all you have to do is wet your hair, rub the bar all over your hands, massage the product through your hair and scalp, and rinse.

Safety Razor:
According to a study done on Kellogg’s blog Going Zero Waste, women spend up to $5,000 a year on shaving products in a lifetime. This cost can be cut down significantly by switching to a safety razor. Safety razors are made from stainless steel and can last a lifetime when cared for properly. The initial razor costs around $30, with a pack of ten blades costing $3.50. If the blades are changed on a regular basis, the total cost for fifty years of use is $332.