I don’t like the phrase “zero waste” because it’s really off putting and implies that there is an end goal of "zero" that can be reached by the individual. We can never reach zero. We can never actually create nothing, because everything we use comes from somewhere.
However, we can all lower our impact on the earth and do things that reduce the amount of waste that we each produce each day. Some are extreme - for example, people who forego toilet paper come to mind! - but there are lots of much simpler things to do.
Here are 5 easy swaps you can make today to get started down the path of a low waste lifestyle.
1. Carry your own water bottle
If you make only one swap, this is it. Plastic water bottles are incredibly wasteful. They didn’t even exist a few decades ago and yet now we all throw away our hard earned money purchasing a natural resource run through filters, packaged in petroleum and sold back to us at astronomical cost.
Bring your own water bottle, fill up at a tap (and don’t be afraid to ask for a top up at restaurants and pubs as well, as most places are very good about that sort of thing) and save yourself some money in the process.
2. Bring your own coffee cup
This is another simple change that will keep single use coffee cups out of landfills, plus they’re much cuter anyway!
Many shops now offer discounts to customers who bring their own cup (Pret offers the biggest discount of 50p off with your own reusable cup, while Starbucks, Costa and Paul do 25p off, and Greggs takes 20p off the price).
3. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
Plastic toothbrushes take about 400 years or so to decompose. Considering that we are all supposed to be changing our toothbrush out every 3 months, that’s 4 toothbrushes per year, per person, just….sitting in a landfill somewhere.
Swap yours for something biodegradable, like bamboo, and when you’re done enjoy the satisfaction of popping it into the compost and knowing that it’s actually returning to the earth. Even if you aren’t a person who composts, a bamboo toothbrush in a landfill actually has a chance of biodegrading, while a plastic one will not.
4. Swap out bottled body wash for a bar soap
I’m personally a huge fan of bar soaps because they are so fun - they’ve got myriad different smells, different textures, come in minimal packaging, and are made all over the world (therefore making them a great cheap souvenir from travelling anywhere that also doesn’t take up much space in your luggage).
You use them until they literally disappear guys! It’s great! Not to mention most body washes are primarily composed of water and surfactants, like sodium laureate sulfate, sodium laurel sulfate, and cocamidopropyl betaine. These sulfates can strip the skin of the natural oils, leaving it feeling dry and tight. They also often include irritating artificial fragrance - something you’re just not going to find in a natural bar soap. Did I mention they’re very cheap? They are.
5. Bring your own shopping bag
This one is simple because most of us have a free canvas shopper that we’ve gotten from some event lying around the house somewhere. I keep a string bag and a canvas bag hanging from the same hook where we keep our house keys, meaning I never forget to grab it when I leave the house.