5 Zero-Waste Swaps That Save Money

By Ashley Ess in Thinking Sustainably

Zero-waste. It's a term that's music to any Earth lover's ears. It's also a lifestyle that's not only sustainable but totally attainable.

By adopting zero-waste swaps that save money, you can help both the environment and your bank account. All it takes is a little bit of creative effort to discover alternatives for some of the most Earth-averse consumer products, such as single-use items.

5 Zero-Waste Swaps That Save Money

According to a report on the world's ocean pollution problem, the Pew Charitable Trusts research finds that the Earth's environment is littered with 40% of the world's plastic waste, with a projected 29 million metric tons of plastic leakage into the ocean by 2040. With statistics like that, it's clear that, as consumers, we need to work a little harder to assure we aren't adding to the problem.

Keep in mind that it's virtually impossible for a household to go completely waste-free. It's important to avoid overwhelm. Don't let eco-fatigue take over by pressuring yourself with an unrealistic goal. Swapping out everyday products with zero-waste items to reduce what you add to the landfill can actually be a fun and educational process. The money you save along the way might even surprise you. The following zero-waste alternatives will help get you started on your earth-friendly, waste-free swaps.

1. Paper Products

It's one of the greatest household mysteries: why do we only bring out the cloth napkins for special meals while every other meal gets the paper treatment? And why do we go for the paper towels for spills and cleaning jobs instead of a rag? Not only do paper napkins and paper towels create waste and impact the environment through the manufacturing process, but they cost big bucks over the course of a year. Switching to cloth napkins and rags (purchase them or make your own from your stash of fabric or old sheets) will save you those big bucks and lessen your environmental impact.

cloth bag with apples in it on grass

2. Plastic Bags

Despite the knowledge that plastic bags are harmful to the environment, we still can't seem to shake our dependence on them. No matter how convenient they may be, there are alternatives that won't negatively impact the Earth. Instead of purchasing plastic sandwich bags, consider using cloth or beeswax reusable storage baggies. For grocery bags, opt for sturdy cloth or burlap bags instead of the plastic store-provided ones that often come with a surcharge. You can make or purchase any of these sustainable alternatives to plastic bags, and in the long run it will save you money.

3. Soap, Shampoo, and Lotion

They may not be your first consideration, but hand soap, shampoos and lotions can negatively impact the environment through their packaging. Instead of purchasing liquid hand soap in a plastic container, switch to bar soap. It may last longer, stretching your money that much further. For shampoos and lotions, consider their solid counterparts. Many companies are jumping on the shampoo- and lotion-bar bandwagon, with plastic-free, biodegradable packaging. Products sold in reusable containers made from tin or glass are regarded as zero-waste since they can be used again and again for several different purposes, including placing your own DIY beauty and self-care products in them afterward.

4. Gift Wrap

We've all been there. After a birthday party, we stare at the large trash bag stuffed with crumpled up wrapping paper, headed for the dump. But it doesn't have to be that way. There's really something to be said about wrapping gifts with fabric or utilizing forgotten, unused containers around the house. A beautiful, patterned cut of fabric with ribbon or twine can dress a gift in a way that no paper can compare. An antique tin box can house special gifts in a unique way. With both of these options, you avoid creating waste. But what's really special about this is that you're paying it forward by introducing the recipient to the practice of zero-waste wrapping along with their gift.

various types of natural-fiber clothing on rack

5. Clothes

One of the most economical and pro-Earth ways to celebrate our desire for fashion is through a clothing swap. Instead of purchasing new clothes that can be expensive and contribute to a manufacturing process that has a heavy toll on the environment, consider throwing a clothing swap party with friends. If each of you brings clothes to trade, you'll end up with zero waste, in both clothing and money. Another option is to check out the various social media groups cropping up for trading clothing with others.

For more eco- and budget-friendly swap ideas, follow the Thinking Sustainably board from @tomsofmaine board on Pinterest!

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Why It's Good

A zero-waste lifestyle doesn't have to take an all-or-nothing approach. Begin by assessing everyday, single-use items and swap them out with eco-friendly alternatives. The result can have a positive impact on both the environment and your wallet.