The Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK spends £11.5bn a year on solid waste management. That gobbles up more than three quarters of the country’s total environmental protection budget. And yet the amount of waste produced per household is increasing by a massive 30% every year!
Since being in quarantine and working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic (and still am!), I have realised a lot of things around my apartment which I didn’t pay attention to before due to living such a hectic busy lifestyle before Covid-19. One of the main things which triggered my attention is the amount of waste at home which wasn’t being properly managed, and I therefore set ways to find working towards living a zero-waste life at home.
What I have found over the last four months since focusing on living a zero-waste life is, that going zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive and it can save you a lot of money in the long run. There are many free or cheap ways to start living a low waste lifestyle which can help you slash your monthly budget and minimise your carbon footprint.
A good place to start is by reusing what you already have. Recently I have become more conscious about which products I choose to buy and how much waste I’m producing in my home.
Here’s a list of 12 zero waste swaps that can save you money!
Always Carry A Reusable Bag
This tip isn’t a huge money savings but going to put it out there anyway. Some places do have a bag tax and charge you per plastic bag you use at the grocery store and at non grocery stores. So, to avoid this I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a reusable bag in my car always and bring several with me when I go to the grocery store. You can save 5p-10p when you bring your own grocery bags. It’s not much, but I usually like to let them donate that small amount of change to a good, local cause.
I personally have invested in quality reusable bags. They have lasted me years and they are much stronger than using plastic bags. Because I walk to and from the grocery store, it’s important for me to use quality bags that won’t easily tear.
Stop Buying Disposable Items
It’s a fact of life that disposable items are often just easier and more convenient to use. These items are generally things like paper towels, napkins, paper plates, paper cups and so on. Convenience is great, but you’d. be surprised at how much more often this causes you to out to trash and in turn harms the environment. There are tons of zero waste alternatives that will save you money and keep your trash receptacle from overflowing.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Drinking bottled water is more popular than ever. But a growing trend towards single-use bottles comes at a cost to both the individual and environment. Environmentalists have been keen to highlight alternatives and ways to reduce the impact of plastic bottles.
Single-use water bottles costs Brits here in the UK money. Did you know that the average cost of tap water in the UK is 0.1 pence per litre, compared to 65p for 1 litre of bottled water? While some consumers may actively prefer to buy bottled water, others may do so because of the lack of available drinking water. Research has shown that Brits will most likely choose bottled over tap water when they are away from home.
The easiest change to start making today is always carrying your own water bottle with you . Buying a bottle of water can get expensive, especially if you buy multiple bottles every day. And let’s not even think about the tiny amounts of plastic you may be consuming from those water bottles. I can appreciate that not all water tastes the same but investing in a water filter for drinking water can be one of the easiest zero waste swaps that can save you money.
Can or Freeze food
Canning, freezing, pickling, and fermenting are all methods that have been around for generations. Before modern conveniences like refrigeration, this is how people kept food from spoiling and made sure nothing went to waste. These methods are still as equally effective today, so next time you notice for example fruit going off, freeze them for a smoothie later. Get creative and have fun preserving food. You’ll end up saving money by not having to go to the store as frequently. And you’ll throw less away.
Meal Plan to Avoid Waste
Another method for making sure all your food gets used is meal planning. Set aside one day per week when you have a few hours to go through recipes and plan what you’ll eat for the week. Make a list and stick to it at the store or farmer’s market. This way everything you buy goes to a recipe and nothing gets wasted. Similarly, to preserving food, you’ll save money by not having to go to the store as frequently.
Takeout is the bane of zero waste living, not to mention it’s expensive. The key to avoiding this heavily packaged, plastic-laden dinner indulgence is to always keep a fully stocked kitchen. Keep your fridge, freezer, and pantry full of staples like beans and grains. Keep some home cooked meals in the freezer for nights when you come home exhausted and want something satisfying and easy.
Personally, I have saved a lot of money by cutting down trips to the grocery stores just by meal planning. By checking what I already have in my kitchen cupboards to avoid buying duplicate things which then pile up or go to waste and sitting down for a few hours to plan meals for the rest of the week really makes a big difference to your wallet!
I have invested in a magnetic fridge white board where if anything runs out for example beans or milk, then I wrote this down immediately on the board so I don’t forget and it gives me an idea of how big a grocery shop I need to do.
Research DIY Cleaning Products
Water, vinegar and castile soap bought in the bulk section can all make great ingredients for all-purpose cleaning products. Store them in labelled aluminium spray bottles. You’ll save major money on store-bought cleaning products by having one that does everything. It’s also easy to make your own laundry detergent and dishwasher soap from natural and cheap ingredients. Having your own detergents, soaps, and cleaning products on hand ensures you’re not letting expensive, harmful chemicals into your home.
Use Rags Instead of Paper Towels
Keep a basket full of cut up old towels or t-shirts and use them whenever you would normally use paper towels. Wipe down counters and sop up spills, and when you’re done, toss them into the wash. Not having to buy paper towels can save the average household £200 per year.
On the other hand, I have now ditched paper napkins and invested in cloth napkins which yes cost a bit more, but they can last for years with proper care. Plus, cloth napkins look nicer than paper napkins, especially when you have guests over for dinner!
10.46 million tons of clothing go into landfills every year. This equals about 80 pounds of clothing tossed out every year per person. If you love fashion, there are sustainable ways to love what you wear. Thrift stores offer brand names at a fraction of the price.
Before you go shopping, assess your wardrobe and identify any missing staples, make a list, and hunt them down at your local thrift shop. While they may seem intimidating, putting in the time to find something you love is rewarding and affordable. When it’s time to get rid of clothing, be mindful of how you pass it along. Instead of contributing to landfill waste, consider donating your clothes or installing an app that lets you sell used clothing.
Re-purpose Items at Home
This is a quick and easy money saving tips as you likely already have everything you need at home already. I like re-purposing old items because it means I don’t have to go out and buy something new just to serve a particular purpose. For example, instead of throwing out your old pillowcases, you can start using them at the grocery store as produce bags! Or re-using pasta sauce glass jars which can be used for pretty much everything, this will save you money in buying Tupperware and are freezer safe too.
Grocery stores have tricked us into thinking that a lot of products are just available year-round when really, they aren’t. Certain fruits and vegetables are best during the summer and the same can be said for the fall and winter. Shopping seasonally ensures you are getting the freshest products available and are usually priced accordingly. When produce is in season, it is readily available and therefore priced cheaper (unless it’s something rare and special for the season). Imported products will be a bit more expensive when it is acquired out of season.
Shop the Bulk Section
The bulk section at your grocery store will become your best friend during your journey to live zero waste and save money. Most of the time, food items are cheaper per pound in bulk, and you can buy only what you need. For non-perishable staples beans and grains, stock up and you’ll always have something to eat at home. Do some research and you’ll be amazed to find all the opportunities to skip out on wasteful packaging.
Frequent the farmer’s market
Big-box grocery stores ship in produce grown from regions all over the world, resulting in a large carbon footprint. It’s always better to shop locally, so if your area offers a farmer’s market, take advantage of it. If you’re on a tight food budget, many farmers will discount their goods towards the end of the day to ensure it all gets sold.
Looking for more zero waste swaps that will save you money?
Check out these ideas?
- Swap plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush
- Swap bottled liquid soap for bar soap
- Swap bottled shampoo for a shampoo bar
- Swap plastic cling-wrap for bowl covers
- Swap aluminium foil or parchment paper for reusable silicone baking mats
- Swap paper cupcake liners for reusable silicone cupcake liners
- Swap brown bagging for a metal tiffin
- Swap dryer sheets for dryer balls
- Swap plastic utensils for bamboo utensils
- Swap plastic straws for metal reusable straws