When going zero waste it's of utmost importance to remember the first couple of steps. First we refuse what we don't need, we reduce what we do need, and then we reuse what we have. Buying something new is pretty low on the totem pole.
As the green movement flourishes, marketers are going to try and capitalize on it. They are going to try and sell you "green" products that you absolutely "need!"
While you might need this item and it might make your life easier, it's definitely worth spending some time and thinking about it.
I have nothing against buying items that will truly improve your quality of life! These items are different for everyone. One of my purchases was a potato masher. Could I use a fork? Yeah, but it made me miserable.
I bought a potato masher and magically mashed potatoes were a treat again. Every time I see my potato masher, I am filled with joy! This is how all purchases should make you feel.
You should feel overjoyed at the sight of that object because it improved the quality of your life.
When going zero waste, you're probably going to be switching some disposable items out for reusable items. You also might be looking to swap out consumable items for non-plastic alternatives like cleaning products, makeup, skin care, toothbrushes, you name it.
When it comes to consumables, you're almost always going to buy those new. Sometimes, a friend might have bought a shade of lipstick she doesn't like and offer it to you. But, nine times out of ten, you're going to be buying those things new.
1. ask a friend:
The smartest thing to do is ask your friends! Most people have too much stuff. They tend to have duplicate items they never use.
While your friends might not have an extra bidet attachment lying around their house, they might have extra mason jars, cooking utensils, pots and pans, or an extra water bottle. You really never know until you ask.
2. estate sales:
I've gotten several of my zero waste items from estate sales. Things are not made like they used to be. The older generation tends to have very high-quality zero waste friendly items, simply because they lived life before plastic.
They're also sold relatively inexpensively. Things I would look for at an estate sale.
handkerchiefs: I bought a whole bunch of handkerchiefs at an estate sale for a quarter a piece. Just make sure to wash them with really hot water.
linens: While I wouldn't classify this as a zero waste necessity, it is a great place to find very well made products that will be easier to repair. Hand made quilts, crocheted blankets, place mats, table runners, I've bought them all at estate sales. They're a great price and very sturdy.
cast iron pots and pans: I've picked up a pan that just needed a little seasoning. It's always worth looking!
tea strainers: I inherited my tea strainers from my great grandmother, but I can only assume that they would be fairly common at estate sales.
tea towels: Look for larger weaves that absorb water instead of push it around. I also inherited some tea towels from my great grandmother which do a pretty good job of absorbing water. I also have a set from Sur La Table that do well too.
coated pots and pans like Le Creuset: I have two orange Le Creuset pots that are vintage and I love them! I got them for a total steal, and I use them almost every day.
tools: I've picked up several very sturdy tools from estate sales from hammers to wrenches. I've also picked up several wooden and metal crates! Not related to zero waste at all, but super attractive additions to my home without the hefty price tag from pottery barn. Plus, they weren't manufactured in China either.
furniture: Not entirely related to zero waste supplies, but it is a great place to find really well made furniture that can easily be repaired.
canning jars: Vintage jars here you come! Estate sales are a great place to stock up on plenty of Ball jars. All of your zero waste pantry dreams can come true. They tend to sell for pretty cheap, and I also see lots of one gallon pickle jars. They're perfect for storing things like flour or other items you use often.
safety razor: You might be able to find an old school safety razor. Not much has changed in the world of safety razors. You can still find blades for them, and they're easy to take apart and clean. Rinse with really hot soapy water. You might even find a vintage blade bank too.
3. thrift store and antique stores:
You will be able to find many of the same types of items at antique stores and thrift stores, although I have noticed the prices to be slightly in higher in most cases.
I found a lot of my mason jars at thrift stores as well as several Klean Kanteens. Could not beat the price of a $1 water bottle!
It's always worth a look because you never know what you're going to find.
4. second hand online:
I had a lot of trouble finding any sort of metal tiffins second hand. While metal lunch boxes certainly aren't necessary, they are a lot lighter than carrying around their glass counter parts. It's also difficult to shove a sandwich in a mason jar.
I've done it, but it just doesn't feel as practical.
Checking eBay is a great way to find some second hand items. While it's always preferable to buy second hand in person, it's another great option for hard to find items.
5. first hand online or in person:
Look for companies and people you trust. I'm really impressed with the offerings of Refill Revolution in Boulder. Life Without Plastic is always a good place to shop and Tiny Yellow Bungalow offers a pretty good selection too.
If you have a health food store near you or a co-op they might have some zero waste supplies too! I've even found safety razors and menstrual cups at Target.
So, always take a look around town, you never know what you might find! I think I'd rather support a small business that offers sustainable products than a corporate giant like target. But, on the other hand, it's great to let places like that know there's a demand for sustainable products.
I see value in both sides. What do you think?