When starting on your zero waste journey, it can be hard to know which items are worthwhile and which items aren’t.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret…you probably have a lot of the items already, and if not, can easily pick them up second hand. Budget-friendly and low waste friendly – something I like to call a win-win!
While there are some awesome products and zero waste stores out there, I would recommend using what you have at home first. Even items that are waste friendly still product waste during the manufacturing process. AND, not only that, but new items require resources that wouldn’t otherwise be needed when buying second hand.
The zero waste hierarchy of needs is a great visual on how to approach a zero waste lifestyle.
That being said, it is just guidelines. There are plenty of other factors that come in to play when looking at different zero waste items.
Here are two of those factors:
- Access: This is probably one of the bigger factors. Simply put, not everyone has access to local stores that are often talked about in zero waste living. Sometimes your only option is to buy new online. And that’s OK.
- Budget: Maybe you have access to a bulk store, but they are super expensive, or simply don’t fit within your budget. That’s OK too.
I am a big believer in doing what you can in the season of life that you’re in.
So, keep the hierarchy in mind, but don’t feel guilty if you have to stray from it.
As I mentioned above, many of these items can be purchased second hand, made using what you already have at home, or maybe you already have the item!
Some of my favorite second hand resources are:
- Asking friends or family: you would be amazed at what your family and friends have lying around that they are more than willing to part with. Put out a call on Facebook, or an email for any particular item, and see what they come back with.
- Free sites: Buy Nothing and Freecycle are both websites where people post items they no longer need – for free! I have found of number of great items using these two sites. You can also post any items you no longer need.
- Community Pages: Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor are all great local community resources where you can look for items.
- Your local thrift store
Phew. Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s dive into my favorite zero waste products. I have provided links to the items in case you need them.
Favorite Zero Waste Items
I have received a few questions asking if our family has any items we use that can help with reducing waste. I had planned on creating a large list of resources once we were a little more established into the challenge, but there are a few items our family has been using for a while (even before we started the challenge) that I thought I would share here.
- Bamboo paper towels – I bought these because I felt like we were spending so much money on paper towels and going through the rolls so quickly. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but at an $8 price point, I decided it would be worth a shot. We have been really impressed! They are thick, absorb quite a bit, and even after washing multiple times they have held up really great! We have a container for the clean ones and another bin that we put the ‘used’ ones in to wash. I will admit that we still buy and use paper towels for cleaning items such as E’s (our 2-year old) potty training chair. I haven’t been able to move past the reusable aspect of cleaning up human waste, hoping to talk about this with our zero-waste advisor soon.
- Stainless Steel Straws – Straws are big in our house right now with E. Unfortunately, he tends to bite through/chew to death any ones besides these stainless steel straws. I have been really impressed and think they are a worthy purchase.
- Mason Jars: 8 ounce / 32 ounce – My mom and I make 100% non-GMO soy candles. We use the 8-ounce jars for one of our candle sizes. Because of this, we have a LOT of candle jars leftover after the candle is done burning. Soy wax can be easily cleaned out of the jar using hot water and soap, so we have discovered lots of uses for them (see a couple of examples below).The 32-ounce size jar is great for storing and freezing stocks, soups, casseroles and more! They get lots of use in our house.
- Water bottle – In my decluttering series, I mentioned that decluttering and minimalism looks different for everyone. In my family’s case, one may look at our water bottle collection and completely gawk. We are BIG fans of water bottles in our house and use them all the time. My favorite is this water bottle by Kleen Kanteen. We have a couple in this size (27 ounces), and one in this larger size (40 ounces). They last forever and are practically indestructible! We are also big fans of Nalgenes, especially for hiking/camping.
- Reusable Coffee Mug – Speaking of Kleen Kanteen, our love for that brand doesn’t stop at water bottles. This reusable coffee mug is one of my favorites and DOESN’T LEAK! PS: I am not affiliated with Kleen Kanteen, I just really love their products.
Photo credit: picjumbo.com
- Mesh produce bags – We started using these bags a long time ago. They are great for buying produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market instead of using the small plastic bags.
- Dryer Balls – Not only are these ADORABLE (they’re hedgehogs!), they work great. We haven’t even missed dryer sheets.
- Cloth Napkins – We have actually been using cloth napkins for a few years now, and we love them! I love finding cute ones from local artists. Here is the link to an Etsy shop of someone I know locally who makes absolutely adorable stuff! (Note: Not an affiliate link, I just honestly love her stuff!)
This list will be a living document; meaning I will be constantly adding to it as we continue to adopt new zero-waste living habits and try new items.
There is one thing I wanted to make note of before ending this post. Sometimes these types of posts can cause the reader to feel like they are being judged, or they start feeling bad because they want to live a lifestyle described but can’t for whatever reason. I have been one of those readers before. Know that this is absolutely not one of those posts. We are all in different parts of our journey. Sometimes things out of our control dictate how much we can do; things like budget, availability of resources, time, etc. My family did not start using all the products above at once. We slowly integrated and replaced over time. We still have plenty of habits that could be improved upon in our eyes. And we will continue to slowly replace items and habits over time as we are able. If you are interested in this journey, I would recommend taking it slowly as well! Do what you can when you can. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not where you think you should be. You will get there!
What reusable or waste-free products do you love? Are there any specific brands you would recommend? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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