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40 free zero waste changes you can make today without buying a single thing

Some zero waste swaps are much much easier to make than others. It seems that a lot of the more public side of zero waste living is telling people what to buy, but it shouldn’t be such a consumerism driven thing at all!

With that in mind - here’s a list of forty things you can do RIGHT NOW, no money spent, to start producing less waste today.

  1. Refuse receipts when out shopping
  2. Choose loose fruit and veg instead of the kind sold wrapped in plastic
  3. Use the air dryer or nothing (shock!) rather than paper towels in public toilets
  4. Refuse to use paper napkins at restaurants
  5. Say no plastic straws in all drinks
  6. Say no to freebies and promo materials
  7. Hang your laundry to dry and skip the energy expenditure of a dryer
  8. Make coffee at home
  9. Make your meals at home and take leftovers for lunch at work or school
  10. Get a library card
  11. Host a clothes swap
  12. Meal plan to avoid food waste
  13. Turn the lights off when you leave a room
  14. Put on an extra layer before turning up the heat in your home
  15. Stop using paper towels/kitchen roll (use a tea towel instead)
  16. DIY your own cleaning liquids with white vinegar and water rather than buying versions
  17. Switch to a smart card for your rail travel and avoid paper tickets altogether
  18. Switch to a green energy provider (make sure they’re actually green, and not just greenwashing)
  19. Use paperless systems and apps where possible - project management, email, accountancy, etc
  20. Bring your own (*insert whatever here*). Bags are simple as so many of us have them knocking around. Forks, probably useful. Reusable straw, if you’ve already got one. Coffee cup, water bottle….bring your own!
  21. Turn your stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs
  22. Freeze in-season fruits that are going off for smoothies at a later date
  23. Stop buying fast fashion
  24. Make handkerchiefs out of an old shirt or bed sheet and stop using tissues
  25. Buy your pet’s food in tins rather than sachets or plastic bags
  26. Set up all your bills to be paperless
  27. Put yourself on a do-not-contact list to stop receiving junk mail
  28. Wear glasses rather than contacts
  29. Stop making impulse purchases
  30. Ask for no or minimal plastic on online orders (Amazon in particular)
  31. Only run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full
  32. Walk or cycle rather than drive
  33. Take public transportation if you can’t walk or cycle
  34. Watch Youtube videos and learn how to repair your own clothes and other goods
  35. Use both sides of the paper before recycling
  36. Upcycle what you can
  37. Eat less meat (or stop eating meat altogether)
  38. Stop consuming dairy
  39. Forage for what grows locally (if you’re 1000% sure it’s safe first!).
  40. DIY your own wrapping for gifts using old scarves, old newspaper, and leftover packaging

So what did I miss? Can you think of other free zero waste swaps or tips that I forgot? Share in the comments!


  • Sam

    This is a great list – thank you so much. I have a few more that I do! Make greetings cards rather than buying them as most come in plastic wrap, and reduce the list of people you give cards to to the absolute minimum. Stop drinking pop and squash (anything in plastic bottles) and drink tap water instead; it’s better for you anyway. Shop for DVDs and games at second-hand shops such as charity shops or the CEX. Use the environment as a reason to help you cut down on unhealthy habits that also produce non-recyclable waste, such as eating crisps/chocolate/sweets.

  • Ashley Sheets

    Hi Emily,

    I’ve read that the best way to get rid of plastic straws is to cut them vertically/long-wise before disposing of them in the bin. As the plastic that most straws are made of isn’t recyclable anyway, this is the most responsible way to do it! – Ashley

  • Emily McCunn

    I’m definitely going to try as many of these as possible. A question that has been bugging me: I have a pack of plastic straws that I’ve had for years. I know we should not longer buy/use these but is there a safe way to dispose of them? Similarly ear buds I guess? Thanks

  • Liz

    Love this! Thank you. A really great list.

  • Ashley Sheets

    Fantastic idea Joanne!

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