Look around. There are probably many items around your household that hold no purpose, are unnecessary, or are items that you no longer need. Impulsive consumerism is becoming an increasingly worrying problem, however, more and more people are realizing this and are making more conscious decisions in their purchasing habits. Buying large quantities of items that don’t last for long are usually prefered over items that last longer and are of a better quality. But that is not only causing havoc to our households, but also on the earth. Human kind currently produces two billion tonnes of waste per year between 7.6 billion people.

This is why it’s time for us to take action. This is the perfect time to start during plastic-free July, where we can all start to reduce our plastic consumption and make it a focus for this month. To start buying products that aren’t just destined for landfills and those that aren’t meant to be purchased in large quantities, again and again. However, not all of these swaps may be appropriate for your lifestyle and we know these products can be expensive, but this is why we want to include products on the cheaper side. But, we understand if some of these aren’t affordable right now, just do the best you can, with what you have.

Don’t forget to use what you have first and when all those products are used, you can start to introduce these new products into your regimes. In saying this, here are some zero waste swaps!


Swaps in kitchen

Reusable straws

Straws. They have certainly been a topic of conversation with some restaurants banning plastic straws and reusable straws becoming more readily available within stores. This is because of their short and harmful lifespan; it is estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches.2 However, I know I personally was only aware of metal straws when the effects of plastic straws to the environment were brought up in the media, however, there are also other types of straws such as glass straws, biodegradable bamboo straws and silicone straws which are very portable as they can bend. They are also a good product for people with disabilities, where it may be dangerous to use a harder straw such as one made from metal.

Reusable food wrap

This is a very convenient choice for many people who want to quickly cover their food and keep it fresh. However the plastic that this is made from is very harmful to the environment as this type of plastic cannot be recycled so it is left to clutter landfill. This is why alternatives like soy wax wrap and reusable containers are much better for keeping your food fresh and the environment clean. They are both just as convenient, the only difference is that there will be less waste!

Reusable cloths

Are there little messes around the kitchen from time to time? What do you use to clean up? People use paper towel after paper towel after every kitchen spillage or mishap, grabbing a new one each time. That is why we should make the switch to reusable tea towels or cloths. These can come in unique and interesting patterns or simple designs to fit any kitchen and can be reused over and over again, saving many paper towels that are just destined for landfill.


Personal hygiene swaps

Bamboo toothbrush

When it’s time to replace your toothbrush, think about purchasing a bamboo one next time. Not only are bamboo toothbrushes biodegradable and only take about six months3 to degrade in landfill in comparison to plastic toothbrushes which usually take more than 100 years to degrade in landfill. They also use significantly less resources while being made in comparison to their plastic counterparts.

Reusable pads/ menstrual cups

Now, this is for all of the people that have that time of the month. It usually comes along with mood swings, fatigue, chocolate cravings..the list goes on, but it no longer has to come along with waste. On average, women use approximately 20 pads every time they have their period, so that’s about 240 pads a year! However, this doesn’t have to be the case! There are products like period underwear, that feel almost as if you’re just wearing normal underwear but absorbs the menstrual blood at the same time, menstrual cups and reusable pads that are just like regular pads but they are able to be washed and reused again!

Shampoo bars and soap bars

So many shampoos and soaps come in unnecessary packaging, lined with thick plastic and with waste written all over them, but enough with the outdated ways of plastic packaging and in with package free! Solid shampoo bars and soaps are just as versatile in scent and purpose as packaged ones! Solid soap also tends to last much longer than liquid soap so you’ll most likely save some money too!


On the go swaps

Reusable keep cups and water bottles.

With so many beverages available on the go like coffee, iced tea and frappes there is so much wasted packaging. A shocking 16 million coffee cups4 are estimated to be disposed of each year. A common misconception is that coffee cups can be recycled, however, many coffee cups are lined with plastic so they aren’t able to be recycled. The good news is, there are so many reusable coffee cups/keep cups out there that you can ask the barista to put your coffee in. A reusable drink bottle is also an essential item so that you’re not stuck with buying many plastic water bottles while you’re on the go. There are so many reusable water bottles out there, such as insulated water bottles and lighter water bottles that are more convenient.

Reusable shopping bags/ produce bags

Many countries have already banned plastic bags in supermarkets, providing their own reusable bags that people can take all their groceries in. However, somehow the individual plastic bags that people put fruits and vegetables in seem to still exist. The good thing is though, these can easily be replaced with reusable produce bags. These are convenient and can be used repeatedly


In winter, or even sometimes in summer, it’s not abnormal to get a cold, but what is abnormal, is the amount of tissues in the landfill. Even though tissues are essentially just paper, they are not able to be recycled with snot on them. This is why the handkerchief comes to the rescue. It is reusable and not to mention, a lot more sturdy than tissues which makes them easier items to utilize when you are suffering from a cold.

We hope that with these swaps, you can come closer to enjoying a zero waste lifestyle!


Creator of the slow living and sustainability blog: She is Awake and NGO founder.


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