Skip to Content

The Ultimate List of Zero Waste Swaps

The Ultimate List of Zero Waste Swaps

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on September 25, 2020

I’ve worked on compiling a huge list of zero waste swaps in alphabetical order! I’m sure I’ve left a few out so make sure to let me know in the comments so I can update the list! 

As always before purchasing any of these items, check out the second hand market, unless of course it’s a toothbrush. 

Zero Waste Products

There’s also several businesses you might have around town that sell items like these. Take a look as you’re more likely to have control over the packaging. If shipping these items in is your only option, than get my tips for zero waste shipping.

A lot of the items linked will be affiliate links. If you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a slight commission for referring you.

aluminum foil:

Aluminum foil is a super easy swap! I have one of these silicone baking mats it works a charm when I need a little more than just greasing the pan. They can also be put in the freezer if you’re into doing chocolate work.

binning organics:

Organics can’t decompose in a landfill because they aren’t properly aerated. 20% of all methane emissions are from landfills. One of the best things you can do for the environment is compost your food scraps. I have a bin where you throw every thing into and walkaway.

For more information on composting check out my guide for backyard composting and apartment composting.

cupcake liners:

Paper cupcake liners are compostable, but reuse comes before rot! I have these silicone liners and I really like them. I use them for cupcakes and muffins (obviously), but I also like to use them to seperate things in a mason jar. Like a salad on bottom and toppings on top!

body wash:

Swap out body wash for bar of soap. Often they come wrapped in paper or package free! I have a couple of bars from Reverie Farms that I’m really enjoying.

Related Post: 15 Simple Zero Waste Bathroom Swaps

brown bag:

Instead of brown bagging it look into swapping out for a metal tiffin. Not only is it great for lunch, but you can also use it to carryout leftovers from a restaurant.

Related Post: How to Pack a Zero Waste Lunch + Lunch Ideas!

cleaning products:

Swap out cleaners that have questionable toxic ingredients for some easy homemade options. Here’s a round up of my favorites!

  • All-purpose spray: who doesn’t love a spray that does it all? Not super into the vinegar smell? Check out this orange peel vinegar cleaner (great for giving your orange peels a second life!).
  • Tub scrub: tub scrub is so effective at breaking down soap scum on your bathtub and cleaning grout. You’ll never need anything else!

To get all of my latest cleaning recipes like dish soap for hand washing, soap for your washing machine, floor cleaner, and more check out my book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste which is available for pre-order!

coffee cups:

500 billion disposable cups are produced every year. Most of them can’t be recycled because they’re lined with plastic. If you’re sitting in the coffee shop ask for a mug to stay.

If you’re getting your drink to-go cup bring your own cup! I use a mason jar if I’m getting something cold to drink. But, for hot drinks use a keep cup or an insulated water bottle!

Check out this blog post, if you’re looking for all of the different ways to brew a zero waste cup of coffee.

cotton earbuds:

Plastic ear buds have been washed up on the beach and found in the ocean. There was a photo that recently went viral of a sea horse carrying around a cotton bud. Even Johnson and Johnson is looking to phase out the plastic sticks from their ear buds for compostable paper sticks.

Look for compostable buds or try a reusable stainless steel pick just be careful because you could injure yourself.

diapers:

18 billion disposable diapers are thrown into the landfill each year! Instead of using disposables try cloth diapering.

You also might want to check out diaper service! If you’re getting ready to have a baby or if you have a friend who’s having a baby, check out my blog post Tips for having a Zreo Waste Baby Shower.

dryer sheets:

Dryer sheets aren’t super vital for laundy. I don’t have any dryer balls, but I’ve heard that they help by separating your laundry to get more air in drying it faster.

floss:

Did you know most floss is plastic and coated with PFC the same stuff they use to coat teflon pans? Gross. Instead I use silk floss!

This completely plastic-free floss takes the cake. The refills come in cellulose which is compostable. No more plastic packaging. Just the way I like it! Plus the floss container is actually pretty. 

Here’s a little run down of my oral care routine:

I brush twice a day with this toothpowder. I worked on that recipe with a dentist to make sure that I wasn’t going to harm my teeth. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is to ruin my enamel. 

Then I water pik every other day. I LOVE my water pik. I have a cordless one which makes it a breeze to use in the shower. Check out my five zero waste shower essentials.

This mouthwash is super soothing and is amazing at freshening your breath. You should just read the study about how AMAZING aloe vera is for your gums. 

Related Posts: Zero Waste Flossing

food packaging:

Ditch food packaging buy from bulk bins. Of course, that might be a little bit easier said than done so I’ve rounded up all of my guides like my ultimate guide to zero waste grocery shopping.

Now not everyone has access to bulk bins so check my out my guide for buying food with less packaging even if you don’t have a bulk store near by. 

And, if you don’t have a zero waste store near by – never fear!

There’s still so MUCH that you can do! Zero Waste isn’t all food packaging and bulk bins. There’s tons of other things involved. Check out my guide 15 Zero Waste Swaps Even if You Don’t Have Bulk Bins.

k-cup:

K-cups are super hard to recycle. Instead switch to a reusable k-cup or try making your coffee with a french press. It’s super simple and you don’t need a filter.

lip balm:

Lip balm is one of the easiest DIYs! It only takes about five minutes to make and it works so well. You can also use it as a body lotion which I definitely do!

This was one of the first DIYs I made, and it’s still one of my favorites. Check out my recipe for Zero Waste Lip Balm and my video below.

loofah:

Did you know that the plastic loofah is actually a dupe for the plant… LOOFAH! Yep. Loofahs are actually plants that are totally compostable.

So, there’s a few options that you can switch out like a natural bath brush. and an organic loofah.

makeup:

There are a lot of companies that are coming out with zero waste makeup. Some do refillable make up like Elate and Kjaer Weis. Also, RMS offers recyclable packaging glass and steel.

Check out this blog post if you’re looking for 10 Zero Waste Makeup Brands and this one if you’re interested in Zero Waste Skin Care Products.

menstrual products:

A lot of the mainstream tampon and pad brands use a combination of bleached rayon, conventional cotton, and contain plastic. The average pad contains the equivalent of four plastic bags. 

My GO-TO period products are Thinx!

They look just like regular undies, but they absorb blood up to two tampons worth depending on the style. I have a couple of their thongs for lighter days, and a couple of the heavy duty pairs. 

They’re super comfortable, cute, and I never have to worry about leaking! Plus, I love how the company prioritizes giving back. That’s always something I look for when I make purchases. 

Thinx was nice enough to offer the readers of Going Zero Waste $10 off if you use this link!

Other options include menstrual cups, cloth pads, compostable organic tampons.

For more information check out my blog post How to Have a Zero Waste Period.

paper napkins:

Instead of paper napkins swap out for cloth napkins! The hardest part of this switch was remembering to wash the dirty ones because I didn’t want to store them in the laundry hamper.

Once they got dirty I started throwing them in the base of the washing machine. Whenever I did the next load of laundry the napkins would automatically be included.

Be sure to check out my blog post on cloth napkins for tips on making the switch!

paper plates and plastic cutlery:

Instead of paper plates and plastic cutlery use real plates and real flatware.

A lot of people assume that using disposable products will save water, but what they forget to take into account is the water used in productions and manufacturing.

It takes 8 gallons of water to make one paper plate! The modern dishwashers that are energy efficient use 3-5 gallons of water per load of dishes. So you could potentially wash A LOT of plates with all of that water you saved.

There’s so much water that goes into these products that we don’t even think about.

So, switch to reusables! Check out this post Tips for Using Real Stuff for more information.

paper towels:

Did you know that paaper towels were actually a mistake product? It took a long time for companies to convince the public to buy them because the thought of paying for trash was ridiculous up until a few years ago.

The biggest complaint I hear about paper towels is that they push water around instead of absorbing it. I’ve had the best luck with these cotton towels that have a larger weave.

Get my six tips for ditching paper towels so you can break up with paper towels forever!

pens:

I thought a fountain pen would be awful for a leftie, but really it’s the best writing utensils I’ve ever used!

I can’t believe it took me so long to try one. This is one of my favorite zero waste swaps!

Here’s a list of my 10 Favorite Zero Waste Swaps. Most of the swaps were completely unexpected for me.

plastic baggies:

Switching out plastic baggies is super easy because there are so many options like the bags pictured below, silicone stasher bag, or even a beeswax wraps.

Check out this blog post if you’re looking for Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps.

plastic bags:

Bag podz are my favorite reusable bag! I use these all the time, I love the handy little pod they come in.

It’s like an endless supply of bags that fit in that tiny pod. I never fear of running out in the check out line the grocery store.

plastic produce bags:

Buy why stop at just plastic grocery bags, swap out those plastic produce bags too. These organic cotton ones are my favorite!

I use them at the farmers market all the time. Get my Four Farmers Market Essentials for picking up that local, zero waste produce.

plastic water bottles:

Carrying a reusable water bottle is one of the easiest habits to get in.

I alway tell people to add it to their mantra before they leave the house: phone, wallet, water, keys.

Some overall good brands to consider are: Klean Kanteen, Swell (stainless steel), Life Factory (glass), and Bobble (plastic). They each make different kinds of reusable water bottles from different materials, but they’ll all get the job done.

Check out this blog post to help you choose the right reusable water bottle for you!

plastic wrap:

If you like plastic wrap, beeswax wraps will be the perfect swap for you. They easily cover bowls or wrap up sandwhiches all with the heat of your hands.

Check out this post, if you’re looking for plastic-free and zero waste tips to store leftovers.

razor:

Switching to a safety razor is a little different than using a disposable razor, but once you switch you’ll get a superior shave. Plus, you’ll save so much money!

Check out my guide to zero waste shaving for tips!

shampoo:

Instead of using liquid shampoo in a plastic bottle, try switching to a low waste alternative. There are a bunch of options and I’ve listed them below.

Here’s a few no-waste and low-waste options:

Check out my full guide on Zero Waste Hair Care.

sponges:

Instead of using sponges, I use compostable dish scrubbies! Here’s some of my favorite swaps below:

Be sure to check out this blog post if you want to MASTER Zero Waste Dish Washing.

straws:

This is one of the easiest swaps! You might not even need a reusable straw, just ask for, “No straw,” with your drink order! 

However, if you think you’d benefit from drinking from a straw. I myself really enjoy drinking from a glass one, I’ve created a fun guide to help you figure out Which Reusable Straw is Right for You.

teflon pans:

Non-stick pans are often coated with teflon. Teflon’s not super great for your health, the fumes released when they come in contact with high heat can kill birds. Just skip it all together go for stainless steel or cast iron.

Check out my full list of all my favorite Zero Waste Kitchen Supplies.

tissues:

Switching from paper tissues to cloth hankies is one of my favorite zero waste swaps.

The best part is that you don’t have to worry about your nose chaffing!

toilet paper:

Did you know it takes 37 gallons of water to make one roll of toilet paper!? Beyond the water, think of all the trees it takes. 

Americans use 8 million tons of toilet paper a year. If every US house used just one roll of 100% post consumer recycled TP a year, it would save 423,900 trees. 

Surprisingly, there are a lot of options when it comes to toilet paper, but you’re going to want to look for toilet paper with recycled content or tree free.

And, of course, you should look into getting a bidet attachment like a Brondell or a Tushy bidet.

toothbrush:

This is a very super simple zero waste swap! Instead of using a plastic toothbrush why not swap for a bamboo toothbrush.

Every plastic toothbrush ever created still exists since their invention in the 1930’s. Isn’t that mind-boggling? I filmed a short film about the life of a toothbrush, and it’s super cute! 

water filter:

Last but not least swap out your plastic filter for a charcoal stick. I love my charcoal stick, I wrote a whole post A Zero Waste Water Filter / How to Filter Water Without Plastic.


I know I left some of zero waste swaps out so let me know what you’d add to the list! 

42 Comments
Join The Conversation

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is probably the best zero waste masterpost I’ve ever seen! I’m especially looking forward to switching to dishscrubbies and a frying pan without teflon! Also, those beeswax wraps sound pretty fantastic, I’d never heard about them before!

    1. I’m from Europe, so not a local shop but it might be a good inspiration. We bought this one made from wood and plant fibres, placed in an earthenware flower pot. Stylish and zero waste!

  2. Love this list. Also made a large wish list on Amazon. I am very interested in more no waste makeup. It is a huge industry that just keeps growing and I am happy to hear that there are a few companies that are working towards some sustainable makeup. Most of the DIY makeup’s I have seen don’t work out too well or just seem more trouble than they are worth. I always try to reuse my containers when possible or recycle but most of it ends up in the trash. I will keep an eye out for your makeup post!

    1. Courtney, I sell LimeLife by Alcone and we have paired with TerraCycle to make ways to reduce waste! All of our containers can be shipped to TerraCycle for recycling and we have a refill option for many different products that have less waste as well.

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    Another dishscrubber can be found in wool. Just ask grandma for leftover lengths and knit a rectangle the size of normal dishcloths.
    I’m currently focusing on my bathroom and personal products. Thank you for your advice and inspiration. I’ll have to look for Australian made though.

  4. Great list Kathryn….very useful but one essential sustainable cup I use is a collapsible silicone coffee cup. They’re called ‘eCupán’ and fit in your pocket easily. Unlike keep cups they are very light, collapse to half size making them easily portable. Also a bit cheaper than alternative cups.Check it out at http://www.zerowasteireland.com/eCupan

    1. I was the plastic dryer balls. They’ll last forever so you can just keep using the same ones. Wool (and any other animal derived products) are cruelly made. You should watch some videos on wool. It’s horrible. Unless you have your own pet sheep and shear them with gentleness and love but most wool dryer balls and products are going to originate in commercial wool facilities.

  5. I have stopped buying tooth paste. I make my own using baking soda and other natural abrasives that do not contain fluoride.

  6. Instead of plastic baggies for sandwiches and small quantities of food, I cut pockets out of old pants — especially ones that button or zip closed. So easy to throw in the wash!

  7. I don’t know if you have a choice, but I find the Sonic advertisement not cohesive with this post.
    Otherwise, this post is wonderful.

  8. Alternative to reduce toilet paper: bidet spray hose

    Another razor alternative: Electric shaver (blades last for many many years) or old fashioned cut throat razor.

  9. For storing food in the fridge–I do something quite simple–grab an appropriately-sized dish from the cupboard and invert it and place it over the top. Done! Also helps keep the food colder. Another option–antique items called refridgerator dishes. They are functional and adorable, some examples here: https://www.ebay.com/cln/zorasky/vintage-glass-refrigerator-dishes/112021397017

    https://www.ebay.com/cln/zorasky/vintage-glass-refrigerator-dishes/112021397017

  10. One of our ways of reducing waste has been to make our own bread and sandwich rolls. No more plastic bags, much tastier and healthier, and it’s actually pretty easy! Also, it’s "on demand" and the batch sizes are for two people- no more tossing moldy chunks that didn’t get eaten. A win all around!

  11. Great post! Lots of good value to find in the article!
    A little hack by myself. I’ve long been looking for alternatives for a lot of the things which I use in my daily life, which is where I stumble upon NanoTowel. Great alternative to papertowel. AMAZING suction ability – can hold a crazy amount of water.
    Feel free to check them out https://bit.ly/2MFanL3
    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

  12. I really like a lot of these tips. I do want to add something about cloth diapering: If you are a working parent and have to send your child to daycare, most of them will NOT allow cloth diapering for a number of reasons. The exception to this is if you go with a private, in-home provider. Most licensed day care providers, at least in my state, do not allow cloth diapering. There is an alternative: Compostable diapers. Yes, they are made, and yes, there is a service that will come weekly to pick them up and bring them to a special facility meant for composting diapers. If you provide your own diaper genie, day care may consider this option.

    1. There are only like two states that have laws regulating the use of cloth diapers in daycares, and perhaps to live there, but I am happily cloth diapering my daycare child and am a member of many groups with lots of families who are also doing so.

  13. Love this list! My mom just got me an alpaca hair dryer ball, and it’s great. See that you have a doggie; we have 2 big ones ourselves. Any tips of places/sites that we could purchase dry food from where it doesn’t come in a giant plastic bag?

  14. I’ve been struggling to find a body lotion that is affordable and doesn’t come in plastic, any tips? Also, I really love this post!

    1. Lush has awesome body lotions that come in pots, you can then clean the pots out and take the pots back to the store and they will recycle them 🙂

  15. Love this list, thank you so much! Little hack by myself… I made my own deodorant block in a reusable cupcake mould from coconut oil, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils! It’s amazing and lasts all day as well as smelling super fresh!

  16. Great post with great info. Have you heard of Grove Collaborative? They have a line of tree-free paper products (along with many other great Earth-friendly products). I love them!

  17. As someone from both the fountain pen and zero waste company, I’m so glad you included this as a swap! However, if I may make a suggestion, the link you provided is for a company that isn’t well respected within the community as it is well-known for selling horrendously marked up Chinese pens (with identical ones for around $5). You’d be better off using a Pilot Metropolitan or a Lamy Safari, which are from respected manufacturers.

  18. Your articles are amazing! I really hope that you will continue to make this positive type of content, and will continue to share the same creative ideas.

  19. I wish you could give some ideas on repurposing stuffs like cream boxes for those who just can’t avoid plastic.

  20. One really good swap for people who love tampons and don’t want to switch to a cup or underwear. DAME has the first reusable tampon applicator, best switch I ever did!