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50 Things I Don’t Buy Anymore

50 Things I Don’t Buy Anymore

Minimalism

Last Updated on October 4, 2022

Minimalism and zero waste share several core tenants, one of them being BUY LESS. So, I wanted to round up 50 things that I don’t buy anymore.

After all the first word in the most popular eco-friendly phrase is ‘REDUCE’ in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I have saved so much money by simply not buying stuff I don’t need.

50 Things I Don't Buy Anymore

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Since switching to a zero waste lifestyle, I’ve been able to reduce so much of what I buy. Instead of mindlessly consuming, I take time to make sure that I’m bringing items that I truly need or absolutely love and bring joy into my life.

I’ve been working on turning my most popular blog posts into videos. If you prefer videos, you should check out my YouTube channel
 
I’ve created two videos one 10 Things I Don’t Buy Anymore and a 10 Things I Don’t Buy Anymore Pt. 2.  

Also, I’ve created an Instagram reel series all about things I don’t buy anymore. Give me a follow on Instagram and be sure to check those out. 

1. single use plastic water bottles:

According to The Guardian, one million plastic water bottles are sold every minute globally. Worse yet only 5-6% of plastic is recycled, which went down from 9% just a few years ago. 

In the environment, plastic bottles take 450 years to break down into tiny microplastic (that still pollutes and leaches toxins). In a landfill, plastic can take up to 1,000 years to break down. 

I’ve been plastic water bottle free for over four years and counting! I’m honestly embarrassed by how much money I used to spend on plastic water bottles in college. 

Now, you’ll typically find me carrying an insulated Dopper Bottle or a Klean Kanteen

Most places in the United States have drinkable tap water. I know not everywhere does but most do. 

If you can’t stand the taste of your tap water, think about investing in a water filter. Berkey is a top of the line filter that actually purifies the water, but it’s quite an investment. 

If you’re looking for something a little less heavy duty that works similar to a Brita, but is plastic free check out Kishu sticks. You can learn more in my blog post  how to filter water without plastic

2. k-cups:

Did you know the amount of K-cups that have been trashed in landfills could wrap around the planet 10 times?  Single serve k-cups are these white plastic pods with aluminum foil lids that create a single cup of coffee with the press of a button. 

The problem is, after that single serving of coffee, k-cups become trash.  

I’ve never owned a Kuerig, but my boyfriend in college did so I would buy myself hot chocolate pods to use when I was over at his apartment. 

Instead, I use a French Press which brews a delicious cup of coffee with minimal waste. Simply add some ground coffee and boiling water, allow it to sit for a few minutes, then press the plunger down to access your cup of fresh, sustainable coffee that is plastic free. (I also use my French press to make tea!) 

If you’ve got a Keurig, why not switch to reusable pods, you’ll save a BUNCH of money and your coffee will taste better because it’s fresh! 

If you don’t have a Kuerig machine and looking for the most eco-friendly way to brew a cup, I did a post on How to Save Electricity in the Kitchen and found that when you compare the energy usage on every type of coffee machine – the French Press reins supreme. 

It also happens to be one of my top 5 FAVORITE zero waste swaps of all time. Reduce waste and energy by using a French Press

RELATED: Sustainable and Zero Waste Coffee Guide 

3 + 4. pads & tampons:

In the U.S. alone, around 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are thrown out every year. A year’s worth of disposable period products leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to 5.3 kilograms (nearly 12 pounds) of CO2. 

Apart from the period waste, period products are also very expensive. On average, one pack of pads can go for approximately $14. Assuming you go through one and half packs per period, that’s approximately $28 a month, $336 a year you’re spending on period products.  

I’m so glad I’ve switched over to reusable period products. Whether you wear a cup, cloth pads, or my personal favorite Thinx, you will definitely be saving lots of dollars and waste. 

As a bonus, I never having to worry about running out to the store to pick up tampons or pads at 11 pm on a Tuesday night. 

Here are the options: 

  • Period underwear: Great if you’re easily irritated by pads or tampons and prefer to feel like you’re wearing nothing. 
  • Cups: Good option for those already used to tampons. Can be left alone for 6-12 hours max, but this will vary depending on the cup size/style and person. 
  • Cloth pads: The best option for people who are most comfortable with pads. Gladrags is a great company to try out. 

If you’re interested in trying Thinx, you can get $10 off with this link, and check out my blog post Thinx Review: I Tried Every Type of Thinx Period Panties where I break down each different style they offer. 

5. paper towels:

Did you know it takes 12 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to make one ton of paper towels? In the U.S., we currently use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, and most just end up in a landfill. 

Paper towels also cannot be recycled, because they’re soiled paper. You can compost them, but switching to reusable towels will be more economical.  

The average family uses two rolls of paper towels per week, which can cost nearly $200 per year. That money could be going towards your savings account, or emergency expenses.  

I recommend switching to reusable cloth towels that have a wide weave, as they don’t push water around but instead absorb it. Bar rags do a great job of this and you can store them in a tiny basket so it’s convenient for you. 

I don’t recommend microfiber cloths because they shed micro-plastics in our waterways when they’re washed to learn more check out my post The Problem With Microplastics

And, if you’re still experiencing issues, you might have soap build up in your textiles. If you’ve been using homemade laundry detergent, you’ve got to read this post 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Homemade Laundry ‘Detergent’. 

Also, make sure you avoid using fabric softener on your towels, as this can also strip it of its absorbency over time. 

RELATED: 6 Tips for Breaking Up With Paper Towels 

6. plastic baggies:

Plastic baggies like zip lock bags can technically be reused but they’re a pain to clean. Especially if you get them greasy. They’re also prone to ripping with wear and tear.  

The truth is many zip-lock plastic baggies don’t get reused. Especially if you’re packing them for kid’s lunches – kids will likely toss them out without a second thought. 

I used single-use plastic baggies for EVERYTHING! Thankfully, there are a lot of substitutions for this single-use plastic conundrum. Here’s just a few: 

7. plastic sponges:

Plastic sponges, while technically reusable, eventually must be tossed in the trash. After a few uses, they get very grimy, and cannot be recycled.  

Instead of plastic sponges, I like to use wooden dish brushes. The one I have has a handle that lasts forever, and the head is both replaceable and compostable. 

I love using this over a sponge because it (for the most part) keeps my hands much drier than a sponge ever could. It also allows for easier cleanup for glass jars – I can maneuver around better without needing to squeeze my hand inside. 

I also love the wooden bottle brushes that are designed to easily fit into narrow passageways. These especially make cleaning out my water bottles much easier.  

It’s far more pleasant to wash the dishes when you don’t have to reach for an icky sponge. You can read more about my dish washing routine in my blog post The Ultimate Guide to Washing Your Dishes – the Zero Waste Way!

Not only are these compostable counterparts better for the environment, they’ll save you a BUNCH of money. My compostable dish scrubs last for years… YEARS – I TELL YOU. Plus, you’ve got a lot of options!

8. pre-cut veggies:

In the past, I was guilty of buying trays of pre-sliced fruits and veggies. I quit buying small trays of peppers and mushrooms saran wrapped on Styrofoam a few years ago because they cost a premium!

For a quick cost comparison from my local Safeway in San Francisco, CA, I can get 8 oz of mixed bell peppers, mostly green, pre-sliced in a plastic tray for $3.99, and for an 8 oz whole bell pepper I can buy a green one for $1.25 and a red one for $1.50.

That’s a huge savings and can really add up over time!

Instead, I chop and prep my veggies as soon as I get home from the market. Veggies last so much longer this way and it saves me so much money. Knowing how to store vegetables can also help prolong their life. 

Here are my favorite hacks guaranteed to keep your produce fresh for two weeks: 

  • Chop your leafy greens and store them in an airtight container. Don’t wash these until you’re ready to eat. Add a scrap of cloth on top and store in the fridge. 
  • Potatoes and onions are mortal enemies. They both like dry, dark, and cool cabinets, just as long as they don’t have to look at each other  
  • Chop the tops off your carrots and keep the carrots submerged in water – they’ll stay crispy for up to a month. Save the little tops for veggie stock. Store the green leafy carrot tops, and other herbs, like a bouquet of flowers in the fridge. 
  • To prevent slimy cucumbers place them in a sealed bag with a cloth napkin. 
  • Bananas last longer when they’re single so separate them from the bunch. 
  • Keep mushrooms in a paper bag and place them in the fridge. I just reuse the same bag repeatedly. 
  • Tomatoes and avocado should be on the counter until they’re super ripe, then move them in the fridge. 
  • Peppers love to be loose in the fridge. 
  • Store berries in airtight container do not wash them until ready to eat. 
  • Keep citrus on the counter, but if it starts shriveling and drying up, place them in a water bath in the fridge. 
  • Broccoli, broccolini + leafy greens prefer to be stored like bouquets in the fridge. 

I have a whole blog post about Meal Prep 101 you should check out for more tips. 

9. fast fashion:

Did you know of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons end up in landfills? This is largely because our clothing items are no longer built to last; fast fashion brands keep pushing us to buy more; these same brands (like Shein) keep pumping out clothes at unprecedented rates. 

The problem is, where does all this fast fashion go when it’s no longer on trend, desirable, or wearable? A lot of people think donating their clothes is the solution – but not necessarily, as they could just end up in a landfill. Here’s the best ways to find textile recycling near you.  

The best thing to do is buy less, buy higher quality and sustainable brands, repair what you already have, and rent out clothes for special occasions

I had a really intense love affair with fast fashion, but we broke up a few years ago. Many of the cheaply made pieces of clothing I bought, were only worn a handful of times. 

If you’re unfamiliar with fast fashion check out my blog post What’s the Problem with Fast Fashion? 

One of the best things I did was define my style, and only bring in pieces that were going to be with me a long time! 

But, There are so many ways you can have a more positive impact on the planet through your clothing choices. 

  1. Buy Less – get all my tips for implementing a 30 day waiting period to curb impulse purchases
  2. Shop secondhand – Get my 6 tips for MASTERING the thrift shop and 10 Secondhand Shops Online
  3. Buy well made clothing – get my tips for finding quality clothing that LASTS
  4. Repair and rewear what you have. Here are 4 Things You Should Know How to Repair
  5. Buy from sustainable designers – 50 Ethical Fashion Shops You Should Know About 

10. cotton balls:

Instead of cotton balls, I use a washcloth or reusable cotton rounds to remove my makeup. If you’re crafty and have some scrap fabric lying around, I actually have an entire post about How to Make Homemade Cotton Rounds

If you use cotton rounds to apply toner, you can skip the rounds entirely by just spritzing the toner right onto your face. Or, spray it on your hands and apply it in a gentle upward motion.  

So much toner gets absorbed by cotton pads, so this method will ensure you make your toner last and aren’t wasting it. 

RELATED POSTS
How to Make Rose Water Toner 
My zero waste skin care routine – morning edition
Zero waste makeup brands

11. aluminum foil:

Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, but have you noticed how few aluminum products are ever made from recycled aluminum? So where is all the recycled aluminum going?  

Also, to get aluminum, the manufacturing process isn’t exactly low impact. Aluminum isn’t easy to extract: It’s hidden in bauxite ore. Up to five tons of bauxite might need to be mined in order to get one ton of aluminum. 

To separate the aluminum from the bauxite, it goes through a chemical process that leaves behind a toxic red sludge. Plus, making aluminum also releases potent greenhouse gases called perfluorocarbons. 

The best solution is to avoid aluminum buying aluminum products as much as possible, unless it’s made from recycled content.  

I used to buy a lot of aluminum foil, and I used it for everything from lining pans to tenting pies and wrapping up that lone pizza slice. 

Thankfully there are several reusable products to fill all of these voids. 

For that lone pizza or pie slice a tupperware container or beeswax wraps will do the trick! To shield your pie crust, try these, and if you want something non-stick for baking, check out Silpats – they also work great for freezing. 

For baking or roasting food with pans, I just use the pan itself or cover it with another pan to tent. 

I’m always amazed how there’s a reusable alternative for almost every single disposable item out there. For more tips, be sure to check out my blog post The Ultimate List of Zero Waste Swaps

12. plastic wrap:

Plastic wrap isn’t accepted for curbside recycling in most states. You can only recycle it at a drop off location, which are often limited and not the most accessible options. 

The other problem with plastic wrap is you use so much of it, and only once. It’s a wasteful product that can easily be substituted for better alternatives. 

I don’t use plastic wrap anymore. Instead, I like to use beeswax wraps which are compostable at the end of their life.  

I use beeswax wrap to cover bowls, seal cut produce, and secure things in place. To use beeswax wrap, I just mold it over the item I need it to cover using the warmth of my hands. 

I’ll also use a towel for proving (aka covering dough). And sometimes I’ll just put a plate over a bowl if a spare beeswax wrap isn’t around. 

13. plastic tupperwear: 

I don’t buy any new Tupperware to store my food in. Instead, I upcycle empty glass jars I get when I buy items like sauce, pickles, salsa, jams, etc. These items tend to come in glass jars, so when I finish them, I reuse them in so many ways. 

I like to freeze food in glass jars (both liquids and solids), bring them with me to the bulk bins, and store fresh food in the fridge. You can read my guide to freezing food in mason jars for more information. 

I also love using snapware and metal tiffins to store my food instead of plastic Tupperware.  

If you have stuck on labels, here’s how to remove them from your jars. This will make jars more aesthetically pleasing to reuse (though it’s entirely optional).  

Also, if you still do have Tupperware, don’t toss it out just because you want to go plastic-free. That would be counterproductive to the zero waste movement. 

Instead, use it for as long as you can. If it’s warped, has stains or a funky smell, or missing lids, you can replace it with something more sustainable.  

I suggest upcycling your old Tupperware into a container for cables, wires, office supplies, jewelry box, or a compost bucket.  

14. brown bags for lunch: 

I used to pack my lunch in a brown paper bag, but now I just reach for a reusable lunch box. I really love Eco Lunch Box because they’re a B Corporation, woman owned and sell so many kinds of plastic-free lunch tiffins. 

Their three in one tiffin is great for layering in different foods without worrying about any of them touching. So in one compartment you can have curry rice, in another fresh veggies, and in another a sandwich.  

There’s no BPA or BPS and it’s made from 100% high-quality, food-grade stainless steel container. 

Another option is to use a Stasher Bag to contain your lunch and snacks. Stasher bags come in varying shapes and sizes, plus they’re freezer and microwave safe, making it easy to heat up your food. 

You can also get a plastic-free lunch bag to hold your containers in. I love the ones Tiny Yellow Bungalow sells – they’re made from 100% recycled cotton eco lunch bag with Velcro closure. And they have cute handmade screen print designs on the front. 

15. disposable plates and cups for parties: 

For parties, I don’t buy paper plates or cups, and I promise you the clean up afterwards is SO MUCH FASTER.  

Disposable cups and plates are not just a waste of money, they also consume a bunch of resources and energy to make. And most paper plates have a coating of plastic (to make them waterproof and leakproof), that makes it impossible to compost. 

Here’s what I do instead and what I recommend: 

  • For party over 12 people, try and stick to finger foods – way fewer dishes! 
  • If you don’t have enough dishes or cups ask people to bring their own. 
  • Always ask guests to bring Tupperware to take home leftovers. 
  • Start the night with an empty dishwasher and washing machine so you can load it up and run them and then go to bed. 
  • Accept the help your friends want to give you with clean-up. Clean-up with a group and good tunes is SO FUN. 
  • ALWAYS make an announcement with where the recycling, compost, and trash bins are. And, clearly label them! 

16. disposable pens: 

Okay this is one of my favorite swaps. I no longer buy disposable pens but have a handy, refillable fountain pen. I draw the ink from an ink well

You couldn’t pay me to use a ball point pen again. ⁠Goodbye hand cramps and ink all over my pinky – you know what I’m talking about lefties! ⁠ 

If you’re worried about relying on one pen because you’re afraid you’ll lose it, don’t.  When you know an item’s valuable, and in short supply, you’re going to treat it a lot better.  

So the chances of you losing your refillable pen diminishes a lot. Plus there are lots of carrying cases you can purchase to keep it safe on the go. 

17. highlighters: 

I don’t buy plastic highlighters anymore. Instead, I use highlighter pencils. These are great because they don’t bleed through the paper and are completely plastic-free. 

You can find highlighter pencils in multiple different colors. They’re made from wood and can be sharpened and reused.  

No more having to open caps and smell gross fumes either, which is a plus. And, they never dry out! 

18 + 19. paper or aluminum cupcake liners: 

Instead of buying single-use cupcake liners, I love using my reusable silicone liners instead. These are great for the freezer, lunch boxes and homemade peanut butter cups. 

Even though paper liners are compostable and aluminum is infinitely recyclable, they still take a lot of resources to make. And if they’re not recycled or composted, that’s just extra waste. 

If you’re going to a party, just ask your friends to give the liners back to you at the end of the night. Just have them place the reusable liners in the same snapware you brought the cupcakes or muffins in. 

20. paper tissues: 

I no longer buy paper tissues but instead use handkerchiefs. It’s rare I need to use these, but they’re good to have on hand. 

There’s a bit of a learning curve around using a handkerchief, for obvious reasons. But if you have enough on supply, this shouldn’t be an option. 

You can hit up a thrift store for some, or make your own using fabric scraps. I store these in an old tissue box. 

Tiny Yellow Bungalow also sells these adorable hankybooks that make it easier to keep things a little more sanitary. 

RELATED: Zero Waste Cold and Flu Remedies 

21. disposable lint rollers: 

Got lint? I sure do – living with my adorable husky Nala means she sheds. A lot. And that means frequently de-linting my clothes and furniture. 

Instead of disposable lint rollers, I rely on my trusty reusable lint roller. Mine is a double-sided brush that removes cat, dog and pet hair from furniture, clothes and carpet alike.  

To use, I just brush in the direction of the bristles to pick up lint. There are several other reusable lint roller options available too.  

I also like this one that’s made from sustainably harvested wood and rubber. You can easily clean it with your hand, or wash it off under water. 

23. disposable aerosol oil sprays: 

Have you ever bought a can of cooking oil spray? It’s easier to apply to a pan this way, but once it runs out, you can’t exactly reuse the container again.  

While you can technically recycle aerosol spray cans, it’s always best to rely less on recycling to create a more circular economy. We can do this by choosing to reduce the amount of products and packaging that come into our lives. 

One way you can do this is by buying an stainless steel bottle pourer, aka a spout, for your oil. You can just refill the same jar at a bulk food store with your favorite oil, then add the spout to pour it out.  

Instead of buying canned oil sprays, I just refill my Misto with the oil of my choice and use that. I get my oil in bulk or in big containers, then transfer it to my Misto.  

You can better regulate how much oil you apply to pans and food when you use a refillable spray bottle. It prevents wasting oil (which saves you money), and reduces the amount of containers you’ll be going through. 

24. fabric softener: 

I have an entire post on why I don’t buy fabric softener anymore. Beyond the plastic packaging, it creates a waxy coating that can ruin your clothes.  

Fabric softeners are typically a petroleum-based product which doesn’t biodegrade easily. 

Petroleum is a fossil fuel and its combustion contributes to polluting emissions, especially of carbon dioxide, one of the most dangerous of the greenhouse gases.   

In addition, the artificial fragrances in fabric softeners contain hundreds of untested chemicals, like synthetic musks and phthalates which are hormone disruptors. Fragrance in general is one of the world’s top five allergens too.    

Fabric softener isn’t needed in your wash: It doesn’t wash clothes, remove stains, or get rid of lingering odors. 

That’s why I just stick with sustainable detergent. But you’ll want to stick with an actual detergent, not a homemade one, as this can also ruin your clothes over time. 

RELATED: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Homemade Laundry Detergent 

25. dryer sheets: 

Did you know single-use dryer sheets are basically fabric softener, but for your dry cycle?  

Dryer sheets are disposable and single-use. You cannot compost or recycle them so they must go in the trash.  

They’re typically made from nonwolven polyester, aka plastic fabric, that’s coated with a liquid fabric softener. When heated, the liquid fabric softener gets released onto the clothes. 

But this whole process releases potentially harmful chemicals into the environment, such as ‘Quats’, into the air both in your home and outside. (Quats are short for quaternary ammonium compounds, and they’re often the most common softening chemicals used in fabric softener). Not to mention they’ve been classified as pesticides

I talk more about this in my post Fabric Softener: Why You Shouldn’t Use It, so definitely check it out to learn more. 

In place of dryer sheets, I’ll toss some wool dryer balls in the dryer to help soften clothes naturally. These are also great for catching lint, and they’re compostable at the end of their life. 

26, 27, 28. scent boosters, plugin air fresheners and febreze: 

Similar to fabric softener, scent boosters, Febreze and plugin air fresheners all contribute to indoor air pollution. They also trigger my allergies because of their strong synthetic scents.  

Fragrance (aka parfum) is just an umbrella term for potentially hundreds of non-disclosed ingredients. Any product that has “fragrance” listed on the ingredient list isn’t being transparent about what’s inside. 

If I want my laundry to get a scent boost, I like to add a few essential oil drops to some wool dryer balls. This doesn’t overwhelm my nose or lead to any allergies.   

You can also make your own homemade Febreze, which is great for alleviating stinky smells and freshening up linens. 

For plugin air fresheners, swap them out with natural eco-friendly candles, incense or natural diffusers. These smell up the room in a pleasant way without the toxins. 

29. disposable razors: 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2 billion razors and refill blades get tossed out in the U.S. each year. While you can use plastic razors for more than one use, once they’re done, you have to toss them in the trash. 

Instead of using these, I love using a safety razor with refillable blades. This one swap saves me a lot of money and keeps my legs super smooth. 

Reusable razors have a little bit of a learning curve because they deliver such a close shave. But there’s no need to be afraid: Just use a light hand and you won’t cut yourself.  

You can recycle the blades at your local metal recycling facility or mail them to Albatross Designs which has its own razor recycling program. They accept used safety razor blades from their customers and even from competitor brands.   

For some more tips, check out my guide on how to maintain a healthy safety razor

Not a fan of safety razors? You can also try an electric razor, trimmers, epilators, lasers and sugar waxing. And, of course, the simplest option is to not shave at all! 

RELATED: Sustainable Razors for Zero Waste Shaving 

30. shaving cream: 

I no longer buy shaving cream marketed to us by big name brands. Instead, I just use the same soap I use to wash my body. 

In the shower I’ll just lather up my legs and start shaving with my safety razor. Sometimes, if I need to shave and don’t have the time to shower, I’ll fil la cup with water, dip in my razor, and use the body soap the lubricate the area. Then wash it all off when I’m done. 

If you love DIYs, you can also make your own shaving cream. Here’s a simple DIY you can follow: 

To make your own just combine 1/3 cup of coconut oil, 1/3 cup shea butter, ¼ cup olive oil, and essential oils together. You’ll want to melt it on a stove, and then put it in the fridge to harden. 

Once it’s hardened, put it in a bowl you can whip it in. Then store in an upcycled jar and apply anywhere you’d like to shave. It will moisturize your skin nicely too. 

31. makeup wipes: 

I don’t buy disposable makeup wipes. If I need them, I make my own or I just wash my face twice. Once to remove makeup, second to clean my skin. 

You can make your own makeup wipes using an upcycled small container, homemade cotton rounds, facial cleanser, argan oil, and water. 

Add a little bit of water to the container, two pumps of your favorite facial cleanser, a few drops of nourishing oil (I love Josie Maran’s argan oil). Then place your reusable cotton rounds inside, give it a good shake, and let them absorb. 

Then, just wipe off your makeup as you would with a disposable makeup wipe. This is a great way to remove stubborn makeup and you can wash and reuse the reusable cotton rounds repeatedly.  

32. sheet masks: 

I don’t buy single-use sheet masks, but instead I use a mask in a glass beauty pot I can upcycle. 

I love the Evercalm Mask from Ren which reduces redness in 10 minutes. The beauty pot it comes in is made from post consumer recycled glass.  

After I’ve emptied the beauty pot out, here are a few ways I like to upcycle it: 

  • Lip scrub  
  • DIY lip balm 
  • Earring holder  
  • Sewing pin holder  
  • Mini DIY candle  
  • Seed starter  
  • Seed storage  
  • Paper clip holder  
  • Staples holder  
  • Ring holder  
  • Condiment transport (ketchup, mustard, dip, etc)  
  • Mini succulent planters  
  • Spare change storage 

RELATED: 20 Organic, Zero Waste Skincare Brands 

33. dry shampoo: 

I make my own dry shampoo and it works better than any of the store-bought stuff. I store mine in a salt and pepper shaker that looks just like my dog. 

The only ingredients are arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) if you have lighter hair and a bit of cocoa powder if you have darker hair. ⁠ 

You just sprinkle it on, let it sit for a few minutes and then massage it gently. For the full recipe, check out my post DIY Dry Shampoo for Light and Dark Hair

34. nail polish: 

I haven’t bought nail polish in almost a decade! I was never really good at painting my nails anyways so I’d buy a whole bottle of nail polish, use it once and then it would lament in the back of my cupboard. 
 
Old nail polish is household hazardous waste and shouldn’t be thrown in a landfill. So then it was be a whole ‘nother ordeal to dispose of it. And, it’s a lot easier to just not buy it. 
 
About once or twice a year typically for a special occasion (like most recently my mom’s wedding), I’ll get a manicure / pedicure at a nail salon. Then I typically go back to the salon and have my nail polish removed and then have my nails buffed. 

On a more frequent basis, I typically just use argan oil to push back my cuticles. However, if you find joy in doing your nails, here are 10 Eco Friendly Nail Polish Brands For The Best Non Toxic Manicure

35: paper nail files 

Continuing on nail care, I also don’t buy paper nail files anymore. Instead, I use a reusable glass nail file.  

FYI, nail files are typically made from sandpaper, cardboard and glue. While they certainly can last a while, they’ll eventually need to be tossed out because they can’t be properly sanitized.  

You can also choose an eco friendly nail file made from stone or metal. These can be easily sanitized and reused for years to come, making them zero waste.   

36: plastic wrapped toilet paper: 

Confession: We don’t really use much toilet paper anymore because of our bidet. Bidets attach to your toilet bowl and don’t require any additional plumbing (they can be setup in an apartment). 

Bidets use a stream of water to clean you off after using this bathroom. This is especially helpful when you have to move your bowels or have your period.  

Using a bidets helps reduce toilet paper usage, which is good because Americans use 8 million tons of toilet paper a year. Natural forest habitats that have been around for 100’s of years are being destroyed to keep up with demand. 

I do keep toilet paper in the house, but I make sure to use a sustainable brand called Who Gives A Crap. They sell 100% recycled toilet paper, as well as tree-free 100% bamboo toilet paper.  

Plus, Who Gives A Crap comes to your door in a cardboard box with no plastic film – they’re individually wrapped in tissue paper you can reuse for gifts or compost. 

For more options, make sure to check out my Eco Friendly Toilet Paper list. Also, here are The 5 Best Bidet Attachments worth looking into. 

37. toothpicks:  

Instead of using toothpicks to get annoying food stuck in between my teeth, I just use a portable water pik.  

A water pik is an electronic reusable floss pick with water. It uses a powerful jet stream, much like you receive at the dentist. The one I have has a setting that alternates between air and water. 

You can also use plastic-free floss, like Dental Lace, which comes in a glass jar with a metal top. The floss itself is made out of silk and is completely compostable. Plastic-free refills are available too. 

EcoRoots sells a vegan option for this that’s made from compostable corn-based PLA, candelilla plant wax and essential oils. It also comes in a glass bottle that you can order refills for. 

To learn more, check out my post about Sustainable Flossing options. 

38. plastic toothbrushes: 

Did you know over 5 billion plastic toothbrushes are produced every year worldwide? The worst part is most of these end up in a landfill, since they cannot be recycled.  

Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is one of the best swaps I’ve ever made. I especially love Brush With Bamboo because they have USDA certified 100% biobased bristles, FSC certified bamboo handles, and compostable packaging. 

The best part is when I’m done using my toothbrush, I just remove the bristles (or snap off the head) and compost the handle. That’s a lot less waste! s 

I also try to upcycle my old toothbrushes and use them around the house for cleaning (they’re great for grout or small and tight spaces). You can also write on the handle and use it to label the veggies growing in your garden. 

39. whitening strips: 

I don’t buy whitening strips anymore because I use a homemade whitening toothpowder. For the full recipe, you’ll have to order my book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

I don’t recommend using a whitening toothpowder every day. Two to three times a week is good enough, but stop if you notice any sensitivity. 

If you’re looking for an everyday toothpowder, I recommend trying out my DIY Zero Waste Toothpaste.  

Bite also has a whitening gel you can try that’s 100% plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free and baking soda-free. It’s a peroxide-based formula made with clean ingredients. 

However, please note that your teeth technically shouldn’t be 100% bright white. Your teeth’s whiteness is not a measure of how healthy they are.  

Making sure to brush your teeth twice daily, floss daily, and get periodic dental checkups are the best forms of oral hygiene out there. 

40. plastic loofahs: 

There are two kinds of loofahs: Synthetic and natural. The kind you find at most stores is typically made from plastic and other colorful synthetic materials.  

These aren’t really loofahs at all, more like bath poufs. Real loofahs come from a plant called the Luffa (botanically Luffa aegyptiaca). These are grown on a vine and are a member of the squash, pumpkin and gourd family.  

Mature luffas look like elongated cucumbers hanging from a vine. After about 6 months, the luffa’s interior dries out and the exterior becomes brown. This is when the skin is peeled off to reveal a loofah sponge underneath. 

Instead of plastic bath poufs, I like to use a natural loofah to exfoliate my skin in the shower. When wet, they become very absorbent and sponge-like, so you can add your favorite body wash to it. 

At the end of its life, loofahs can be composted because they’re literally plant material.  

Another alternative to plastic bath poufs is a bamboo scrub brush for the body. This typically comes with an elongated handle that makes washing up and exfoliating super easy.  

41. body scrub: 

It’s so easy to make your own body scrub using whatever you have on hand. I like to store mine in an upcycled jar, or make just enough to use right there and then. 

Lately I’ve been loving a coffee scrub where I just reuse my coffee grinds and mix it with some avocado oil and brown sugar. It’s so easy to whip up and a great way to prevent food waste. 

Most body scrubs you’ll find in stores are packaged in plastic and have a slew of questionable ingredients (like dyes and artificial fragrances). When you make your own, you have complete control of what gets put in it, and how it’s packaged.  

You should also check out my DIY sugar scrub recipe – it’ll leave your skin feeling smooth and nourished. It’s also a great gift idea too. 

42. car insurance: 

I no longer buy car insurance because I sold my car and I use my electric bike most of the time. I’m a huge advocate for making more walkable, bikeable cities.  

Biking is a great way to lower your carbon footprint and get some additional exercise. And when I moved to Maine, I saved so much money by selling my car and canceling my car insurance. 

If you have access to safe bike lanes, I highly suggest making biking your main form of transportation.  

And if you need a little more power behind the pedal, consider getting an e-bike, or converting your current bike to an e-bike. Here are The Best 5 E-Bike Conversion Kits on the Market

Walking and using more public transportation, or carpooling with friends, is a great idea as well.  

43. magazine subscriptions: 

I don’t buy magazine subscriptions anymore, instead choosing to get all my news digitally. Many magazines have online publications now, and most are free to access. 

The same goes for newspapers: I have digital subscriptions to trusted news sources, like the New York Times, where I can read an infinite amount of articles per month, all without wasting paper. 

If I want to read a physical magazine, I’ll head over to my library and see what selections they have available. Or, I’ll ask someone I know whose subscribed if I can borrow theirs when they’re done reading it. 

Doctor’s offices also tend to have a surplus of magazines to read from. Sometimes they’ll even let you take one or two home.   

44. paper napkins: 

Did you know paper napkins cannot be recycled? Similar to paper towels, paper napkins must be tossed out after they’re soiled.  

While you can compost paper napkins, not everyone has access to compost. Plus, the resources wasted to make the paper napkins are better left alone – aka, trees.  

If every household in the United States replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins (250 count) with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees

Better yet, skip buying paper napkins altogether and purchase reusable napkins. Linen napkins are the best choice because they have a low water and carbon footprint in comparison to reusable cotton napkins. 

If you get a whole bunch, you can reuse them throughout the week and wash them once a week in cold water. Line drying them will save even more energy. 

45. sparkling water: 

Instead of buying cans of sparkling water, I make my own using a sparkling water machine. These are super easy to find secondhand. They also don’t use any electricity and the Co2 cartridges are refilled. 

SodaStream has several sparkling water makers worth checking out where you can make your own sparkling water with the push of a button.  

When you start running low on gas, you can just exchange your empty Co2 cartridge for a refill. You just order an exchange, pack your empties in the box the refills come in, apply the return shipping label they give you, and send it back. Simple! 

Generally, a cylinder will last you anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. So you won’t have to request a refill too often. 

46 + 47. disposable swiffer pads and dusters: 

I do have a Swiffer, but I no longer buy disposable Swiffer pads for it. They just add up to more money.  

Instead, I have reusable Swiffer pads I can wash. But you can also use a fuzzy sock which works really well (bonus: It’s also washable). 

I also don’t use conventional dusters anymore, instead I have a plastic-free feather duster I purchased secondhand made from ostrich feathers and a wooden handle. 

Sometimes I’ll also dust using a DIY all-purpose cleaning spray (more on that below) and a rag. Then I just wash and reuse the rag again. 

I also have a wooden hand broom and metal dustpan for sweeping up small accidents. Mine were both secondhand, so make sure to check out an antique shop. 

48. conventional cleaning products: 

I no longer use conventional cleaning products, as I prefer to make my own. Many of the ingredients you need are probably already lying around your home. 

I’m quite sensitive to most artificial fragrances, so making my own cleaning supplies has helped reduce my allergies as well.  

Also, you can reuse empty spray bottles and glass jars to house a lot of DIY cleaning products. I like to store mine in a cute little cleaning caddy where I keep some reusable cleaning equipment, like wooden brushes, rags and feather dusters. 

Here are some of my all-time favorite cleaning recipes: 

49. vinegar:  

It’s so easy to make your own vinegar, though it does take patience. I like to make apple cider vinegar from scratch whenever fall hits because apples are in season at the farmers market.  

To make apple cider vinegar less wasteful, I like to make it when I’m also baking a pie or homemade applesauce. That way I have an excuse for peeling the apples and coring them!  

All you’ll need to make it is apple peels and cores, filtered water, and sugar. You can get the full recipe in my blog post How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar from Scraps.  

50. vanilla extract: 

It’s very simple to make your own vanilla extract. I love using it for baking, but it also makes a great gift during the holiday season. I like adding it to little gift baskets, but it can be a stand-alone gift too! 

Making your own vanilla extract will save you so much money and is a much higher quality product. At the store you’re typically paying $5 per ounce, and this came out to $1.65 per ounce! 

Check out my blog post on How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract for a step-by-step guide.  

Whew! Okay, so those are the 50 things I don’t buy anymore – quite a list, right? Do you have something you no longer buy since switching to a zero waste lifestyle?

 
 

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  1. FYI re: the cloth towels. The problem is usually that since they’re cotton, they still contain the natural oils from the plant in the fibers. They just need to be washed several times (sometimes just a few, sometimes as much as 10–12 depending on the fabric and your washing conditions) before they become fully absorbent. (Anyone familiar with cloth diapering will recognize this as “prepping”.) When I was prepping my diapers, and then later on my new organic cotton kitchen towels, I just threw them in with any load of laundry I was doing until they started absorbing enough to be useable. Then the normal use & wash cycle got them the rest of the way there. HTH. 🙂

    1. I keep,a little bucket with water, soap, borax in kitchen. Throw in dirty towels, ready to put into washing machine, when full. They get xtra soaping this way, get cleaner

  2. Hi!
    I love your blog and read all your posts! I just wanted to let you know (I think I read it in another post), menstrual cups do not cause IUD expulsion, apparently it is a pervasive myth. I was told by a gynecologist, and it has been studied and was found that the cup had no effect on causing IUDs to expel. Perhaps you could edit the previous post? Just to prevent anyone from not choosing the cup from worries about it.
    Here is that study: https://www.mdedge.com/familymedicine/article/36931/womens-health/menstrual-products-dont-increase-iud-expulsion

    This post was great! I don’t buy bottled water either! Keep up the good work! I look forward to more posts! 🙂

  3. I no longer purchase disposable razors after switching to a stainless steel one. Highly recommended.
    Cotton pads are out the window too. And today I purchased a reusable q-tipfor ear cleaning.

    1. I love my quip toothbrush, can recycle the head, use rechargeable batteries. Will send you a ne brush head every 3 months. Cheap too compared to others.

  4. Let’s see… started following you in Jan 2019…

    You’ve stated many of them already…

    Disposable coffee cups- I now take a reusable cup with me everywhere and if it doesn’t have coffee then it has water..

    I think besides changing my habits it’s been about changing the habits of others. I am now a ScoutMaster and have been applying my lessons learned here to how we pack out and do journeys…. on our first campout, they went through 6 rolls of paper towels, this last campout was just one with increased thought in recycling and reduced packaging, and I am hoping to introduce them to simply using rags versus paper towels at the next one (still trying to get some adults past this too.)

  5. Actually now that I think more about this—- here’s a blog topic for you… perhaps you can create a blog about reducing waste when camping out…

    So… I need to be able to take Scouts (ages 11-17 male/female) out into the woods, pack food for two nights and two days.

    Keeping in mind the weight they would have to carry at least a quarter mile and the space it would take up in the coolers and vehicles. (Meals are planned in advance and the scout has to shop for it.)

    Our biggest waste products (so far), is food waste, paper towels, and packaging. This last campout we were able to reduce our trash for twelve people to one construction grade 55 gallon trash bag, and a box of commingled recyclables. Some paper boxes we used for fire starters for campfires.

    Thoughts??

    1. great you are inspiring the next generation! How about taking bulk dry cannellini beans in paper bag, use pan for soaking, burn bag and add smoked paprika and loose baked potatoes for spicy meal. Reward/funny forfeit for empty plates/helping themselves to too much food. Make own muesli/granola. Use some foraged food.

  6. Toothpaste – I use baking soda. Works great. Some people don’t like the taste but I love it. It’s cheap, too.
    Tampons – I use natural sea sponges, which can be washed out and reused for months. Sea Pearls are good but expensive. I’ve had pretty good luck with the ones that are sold as cosmetic sponges. They last six months or so. Cup doesn’t work for me tho.’
    Kleenex – I use a flannel hankie, nothing fancy, just an old shirt cut into squares. Endlessly washable, and they just get softer and softer.

  7. Buy bulk coffee in the paper bags at the supermarket? Pull them apart to flatten, they have a plastic interlining, bad, but now can use the flatten bag, for storage lids with a rubber band, string, whatever.
    I buy loose tea at Asian markets. Come in nice metal tin, can reuse, or recycle since it’s all metal, yes? Live the site, so glad found it, posted to my friends everywhere.

  8. Been using StainlessSteel scrubby pads for dishes, pots, forever, last about year, before they shed, into the recycled. Quick clean, saves water. Only buy 100% cotton rags, if not, will have plastics or nylon mix, that stick to hot stuff.

  9. I was so excited to try thin thinx after reading this but $20 for shipping is ridiculous.
    Maybe another time!
    Loved this post, definitely inspired me to make some changes.

  10. I no longer take my purchases home in plastic bags. It took some time to train myself to carry cloth bags. It is definitely worth it.
    I don’t buy foods packaged for individual servings.

    Deb

  11. Now covid19 has hit the world make do and mend, in other words old fashioned recycling will not be voluntary….learn some skills too. I was raised but a WW11 army nurse, it was second nature in my house. Learning to sew clothes and knit too was a must, using leftovers in tasty meals too. The waste collection was called the ash can, that’s all it held, bottles were returnable, no plastic to speak of and everything was fuel. Still here to tell the tale. Stay safe

  12. I’m so glad I came across this post! I follow some of these but there are great ideas I haven’t thought of. I use crochet scrubbers instead of sponges as well – they work awesome and clean in the laundry. 🙂 Looking forward to reading more!

  13. Liquid drain cleaners like Drain-o. When a drain is slow, I just boil a big pot of water and pour it down: boiling water clears the icky, gooey junk and it’s non-toxic, no-waste and free. A big pasta pot is best but a kettle or electric kettle works (plug the electric kettle in right next to the sink) and while you may need a repeat or two, you don’t have to run to the store, buy anything or contribute more plastic waste. Pure & simple 🙂

  14. Instead of aluminium foil to stop the cgeese burning on oven savoury bakes , I use my solid metal biscuit baking tray as a cover. Its made from aluminium but i dont think that matters!

  15. gardening: plastic plant pots; asked older generation for old terracotta pots, use bamboo, repurpose waste packaging eg egg box, or reuse old ones.
    Bamboo cane covers to protect eyes; tin can inverted
    Plastic bags of mulch: making own from raked leaves, sweeping road outside house, shredded pruning, cardboard.
    Plastic garden tools; metal and wood
    Plastic labels; bits of slate from beach or buy reusable slate labels and use white pencil or pen for labelling, pebbles
    Plastic biros; pencils instead
    Notepads and paper for shopping needed; old roof slate and chalk picked up on hillside
    Flowers for friends/home; pick flowers from garden, include greenery, branches from shrubs and trees, seed heads, berries, herbs e.g. rosemary
    Gift wrap and ribbon; use scraps of material, clothing or household objects e.g, old cushion cover, scarf, sheet, basket, pretty sock,bags, pillowcase and tie up artistically with string, raffia, greenery and recycled ribbons. Ask people to pass on to the next person they gift and pay it forward.
    Christmas stocking gift wrap; Who gives a crap loo roll wrap😂Mother-in-law didn’t even notice!
    Staples; double fold paper corners tightly eg on documents
    Liquid soap and shower gel in plastic dispensers; large bulk buy organic liquid Castile soap and add lovely organic essential oils e.g. orange, bergamot and geranium from glass bottles to decant. Much cheaper and smells incredible.
    Room freshener; make own from water, essential oil and witch hazel
    Packets of breakfast cereal; make own muesli and bircher
    chutney and jam; make own
    Plastic ties and string for parcels, bags and gardening jobs; now use wooden pegs (for many jobs) or natural compostable twine.
    Sellotape; paper tape
    Organic slug pellets; baked crushed eggshells
    Packets of Dentastix for dog; raw carrot sticks (better for teeth according to our vet)
    Wider family Christmas presents; share annual special meal together (in non-COVID times)
    Plastic bottles of tonic water, PepsiMax and sparkling water; soda syphon plus flavourings