Going waste free without going broke
Here are a few ideas for simple swaps that will help you reach your zero waste goals!
Paper towels vs. cloth
Buying a pack of inexpensive cotton cloths one time, washing them once per week is not so much more time consuming than using paper towels. The latter involves driving to the store, paying for a giant package of individually plastic wrapped rolls of paper towels, lugging them home, storing them, tossing them in a plastic garbage bag which you also pay for, paying for garbage pickup and so on.
You don’t have to buy fancy unpaper towels unless you want to. Cheap cotton washcloths work just fine.
Disposable razors vs. stainless steel safety razor
Take a moment to think about disposable razors. Over 2 billion disposable razors are tossed in the US alone. Single-use items that have replaced perfectly good multiple use products are a great place to start reducing waste.
Back when I swapped out my disposable razors for a safety razor a friend asked me about it. I sent her the link to purchase one to which she replied “too expensive!”
One reusable razor plus enough blades for a new blade every week for a year costs $62 on Amazon. Compare that with the price of disposables ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive. You are looking at anywhere from $100 – $250 per year in disposables.
With a reusable, the second year will only cost about $22 if you change the blade every week. Over the course of 5 years you could save around $725.
Setting aside the monetary cost, think of all the space saved in landfills if you do not toss all those disposables!
When I told my mom I had made the switch she text me, “Be careful!” It seemed like a scary thing to do, shaving with a single blade razor, even though it is a safety razor. Guess what; I have not cut myself yet! With the new shaver, I no longer get razor burn and ingrown hairs as with a disposable. The shave feels smooth and close; I have yet to see the downside.
Plastic straw vs. Glass or Stainless Steel Straws
Another simple swap for waste reduction is skipping the plastic straw and just drinking straight from the cup. If you’re a die-hard straw fan, try stainless steel or glass straws. In America, we use 500 million plastic straws daily.
According to the National Park Service, our straw problem would fill over 125 school buses with straws daily. In other words, 46,400 school buses full of straws per year. Do you recycle your straws? Neither did I. Recycling centers typically don’t have straw recycling because they get stuck in machinery.
So we’re talking about 500 million pieces of plastic going in the trash on a daily basis. Personally, I find this mind-blowing. The plastic never entirely breaks down, and when it does, the smaller pieces end up contaminating waterways and other wildlife.
Waste Reduction Putting Your Dollars to Work
In many instances, reducing waste is more cost-effective. For example in the above instance where I explained how using disposable is not the best choice when it comes to your budget.
The mindset of waste reduction isn’t just swapping out plastic for better options; it is also about not consuming so much. The goal isn’t just to recycle, but to actually use less. We live in a consumer driven society, so minimalist thinking goes against the grain. It takes a bit of effort not to make mindless purchases on Amazon just because you can.
The best way to practice waste reduction is not to create it in the first place. Not creating waste saves money. Reducing waste is not about making your own homemade laundry soap or canning food all summer long. It’s about simplifying.
Think about it like this; in a world where most of us are comparing up, waste reduction encourages you to compare down. Instead of seeing those who have more than us, try noticing those who have less and are still happy.