When broken down into simple steps, zero-waste alternatives at home are easier that we may initially imagine. Take the inspiring example of Bea Johnson and her family who produce not even a jar of waste per year. A stance against needless waste is not only essential for sustainability purposes, it also enables us to save money while inviting us to lead a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. You may be wondering how a zero-waste home is even possible, and you are not alone (FYI I am far from setting up a zero-waste home). The good news is that there are many small steps we can take at home to reduce our accumulation of needless waste. Here are some simple, non-time-consuming ideas that can contribute and inspire you to have a more zero-waste home lifestyle.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Compostable Brushes and Sponges
How many washing up sponges and scourers have we thrown away over the years? I dread to think! Not only are they used to wash up, but they are also commonly used for cleaning the bathroom. In most cases, the typical supermarket sponges are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. This means that their carbon footprint is huge and that they will unsustainably accumulate in landfills for years. Thankfully, innovative options exist. Firstly, there are compostable, wooden brushes that are durable, effective and compostable for when they are no longer useable. Another compostable option is the 100% plant-based loofa sponge. This is perfect for washing up, and it’s soft enough to clean surfaces and windows. Always check that it’s compostable before you invest in the product.
Homemade Cleaning Product
According to zero-waste activist Lauren Singer, we can actually make an incredibly efficient, versatile cleaning product with just three simple ingredients – yes, you heard right! Not only are many chemical cleaning products toxic to humans, they also have a detrimental effect on the environment due to their volatile organic compounds. Organic and natural products are on the market, but why not make your own? Literally all you need is water, distilled white vinegar and optional scented essential oil. Check out Lauren’s homemade non-toxic cleaner here that’s perfect for surfaces, windows, sinks, and tiles. The vinegar kills the bacteria and can even remove any tough stains, though it’s not recommended on marble or granite.
Bar Dish Soap
Shampoo and soap bars are well-known eco-friendly options, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the bar dish soap. Say goodbye to fairy liquid, as its solid counterpart is an eco-friendly, zero-waste alternative. Shop for a natural, chemical-free bar with zero packaging. Here’s a 100% natural, compostable version courtesy of Package Free Shop.
Some food waste is inevitable. Think banana skins, egg shells, fruit peels, and tea bags. Did you know that most of our food waste ends up rotting in landfill sites, consequently releasing a damaging greenhouse gas called methane? If you live in an area that has a local food waste collection service, take advantage of that. Invest in a small food bin and some fully compostable bin liners to facilitate the process. You could consider composting at home, here you can find out the ins and outs of how to compost.
Aloe Vera Conditioning
Aloe Vera is a plant that’s worth investing in. It has anti-inflammatory, cooling properties which makes it an ideal moisturiser, after-sun and can even boost the time a wound like a cut or burn takes to heal. Additionally, its enzymes help repair dead skin cells on the scalp keeping dandruff at bay, while it is also able to condition and revitalise hair much like it can the skin. In fact, there are numerous benefits to natural, chemical-free beauty and personal hygiene products including our own health and, of course, the planet’s eco-system. Check out this short YouTube video for a step-by-step guide on how to make a homemade leave-in conditioner with just aloe vera and oil.
Toothpaste tends to come in a plastic tube that, for the most part, just gets chucked away. They also contain chemicals that we naturally digest as we brush our teeth. Thankfully, we can make an organic, vegan toothpaste with just coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint oil. These natural ingredients are way better for the environment and, though it won’t taste amazing, it’s easy and effective. You can also opt for just baking soda mixed with water, its natural antibacterial and whitening properties make it an excellent natural substitute. However, it doesn’t contain fluoride which is known for its ability to prevent cavities so it’s not a feasible alternative for everyone.
Who doesn’t love candles for creating a peaceful ambience? The therapeutic flicker produces a sense of calm like no other. However, we could be more eco-friendly when investing in candles. For instance, buying natural candles made of plant-based wax or beeswax are a healthier option for the environment. Ensure that they’re free of petroleum, parabens and harmful synthetic fragrances which pollute the air. It’s also a great idea to buy package-free candles so free-standing candles or, failing that, candles that come in a recyclable or compostable container.
Organic, Compostable Masks
OK, so you may not wear a mask at home, but given the current climate every home has at least one. The amount of waste the mask industry is producing is unthinkable. Masks have come to be an essential item for our safety. Luckily, there are innovative, efficient options on the market. Take this organic, double-layered cotton mask, in fact, the mask and its filters are 100% compostable at its end of life.
This is, quite simply, an ingenious invention! Pencils are needed at school, university, in the office, and when do they not come in handy at home?! Once you’ve finished writing with these pencils, plant them and watch them grow into a plant or herb depending on the product.
Waste Not Want Not
What does this even mean? It means that when we use resources carefully, we are never in need. Don’t throw away good food, instead use it up, freeze it or compost it. Don’t throw out perfectly good products in order to replace them, use them up first. These ideas are not to further encourage the purchasing of products, but rather to help make responsible decisions when you next run out of any of the above or are in search of a replacement. Invest in natural products and resources with no or little packaging. Running out of shampoo? Read up on the best eco-friendly options. Falling short on paper? Snap up some local recycled paper. Long story short, be resourceful and mindful of what goes into the trash. Every single thing that goes in the trash could be seen as inspiration for the next zero-waste idea.
The aim of this article is not to achieve a zero-waste home, but rather to help you work towards an eco-friendlier way of life one step at a time. Learn from others, find inspiration around you and be mindful of household waste. Every little conscious change counts for something. Let me know your favourite zero waste home suggestions in the comments below.