15 Zero Waste Actions for Beginners

Want to reduce your waste but don’t know where to start?

Here is a list of zero-waste swaps to get you going (and save you money!)

  1. Bring your own bag(s) to the store and refuse plastic bags.

  2. Ask for ‘No straw please’ when you go out to eat/drink—and if you’re a straw person, bring your own! Alternatives include reusable metal/bamboo/silicone/glass straws.

  3. Get your coffee ‘for here in a mug’ or bring your own reusable mug to take your coffee to go.

  4. Carry a refillable water bottle instead of buying individual plastic water bottles (there are TONS of perfectly good refillable water bottles at second hand stores).

  5. Speaking of second hand, the next time you need something, shop second hand first—with a little patience you can find most things at Goodwill or on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and gently-used clothing apps like Poshmark, Vinted, and thredUP.

  6. Be prepared with a “zero waste kit” — in fact, put swaps #1-4 in there — and add silverware.

  7. Ditch paper towels and use a cloth (old T-shirt?) instead. If you can’t do away with paper towels completely, try keeping them under your cabinet for ‘emergencies’ and using the towels for more manageable messes.

  8. Switch from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo one. Disclaimer: I personally don’t love the feeling of wood in my mouth — if that’s you, I get it. I’m still using my electric toothbrush with disposable heads but my boyfriend switched to bamboo and loves it. To each his/her own.

  9. If you are a person with a period, try a menstrual cup (highly recommended, not as scary/icky as you think!) or period panties like Thinx.

  10. Use cloth napkins at the table.

  11. Buy in bulk using your own jars/bags/tupperware.

  12. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

  13. Bring your own lunch to work/school to avoid disposables (napkins, plasticware, plastic cup/lid/straw, sauce packet, bag).

  14. Save your vegetable scraps to make vegetable broth—compost your other scraps.

  15. Put your name on a ‘do not send’ list to avoid unwanted junk mail.

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