Zero Waste Swaps that You Should Never Go Out and Buy

It’s very tempting when you’re starting zero waste to just go out and buy what you don’t have, and for some things, like safety razor or reusable menstrual cup, that makes sense since you don’t already own one of those. But for so many other swaps that you see on the internet, I can guarantee you that you already have something similar in your house or that there is a better way to get that item. 

Mason Jars

I’ll be honest and say that I personally think that the mason jar aesthetic is cute, but there are so many people who go out of their way to buy a package of unused mason jars in the canning aisle. Two sure fire ways that you can get cute jars are to look at secondhand stores and the other is to buy jarred foods. 

Jars are a dime a dozen in most thrift stores, and there are some on the shelves that you could never get otherwise. Sure, your jars won’t all match, but do they really need to? You can also get some unique shapes, patterns, and colors on the jars that you find when shopping secondhand. 

Buying jarred foods is a way to kill two birds with one stone. You get sustainably packaged groceries and a cute jar once you’ve used all of them up. This will probably help you out more if you are looking to get a matching set of jars, because as long as you buy the same brands, the jars should all match. So unless you are actually looking to can your own foods, leave that pack in the canning aisle.

Bamboo Cutlery Set

I’ve already made a zero waste rant about this swap (article here), so I won’t go into much detail. Basically, you don’t need this swap because you have silverware at home. A nice way to wrap these up is in a cute kitchen towel or fabric napkin and voila, you just got a travel cutlery set for nothing. 

Unpaper Towels

A good way to see if you should invest in some quality unpaper towels is to try and use hand towels and rags that you already have before going out and buying them. I suggest this mainly because I don’t think that there is anything worse than buying something with every intention to use it and then never doing so. Not only is it a let down because you spent your good, hard-earned money on it, but also because you didn’t live up to your fantasy self. I’m performing an experiment in my apartment this year during school to try and see if I can make it in a paperless kitchen with some of my mom’s old cleaning rags, and if I really get the habit down, then I will feel confident enough to purchase some quality unpaper towels. 

A Brand New Water Bottle

Don’t lie to me about this one. We all have more reusable water bottles than we know what to do with, so please, use those ones instead of going out of your way to buy another one because it’s so much cuter than your old ones at home. 

Tote Bags

This is another one that people go out and buy even though they have 10 or so other reusable tote bags at home. I’m guilty of it. The only way that I’m not against this one is if you find a bag that meets some need that your other ones at home do not. I know that there are some newer tote bags with insulation to keep things colder in your car and other ones that are meant to fit perfectly and stand up in a shopping cart.

Reusable Cotton Rounds

Another one of my zero waste rants (article here), so please read that if you want more information on why I’m so against them. Just use a washcloth to start out. I promise it’s not that hard. 

Stainless Steel Tiffins/Glass Tupperware

These are pretty cute, I won’t lie, but please don’t go out and invest in one or a set of tiffins until you’ve used and abused all of that plastic tupperware in your cabinets. I think you’d be surprised how long they last because if they can take 20-1000 years to decompose in the wild, imagine how long they can last you in your home.

Anything Marketed Eco-Friendly or Sustainable

Companies can get away with putting phrases like “eco-friendly,” “good for the planet,” and “sustainable”  because those words are not regulated by the FTC. Before buying any products marketed as such, it is a great idea to do your own research on the product, the brand, and the company that owns that brand to be completely sure that you are supporting the best businesses possible. 

There are huge companies like Unilever, who is one of the largest contributors to plastic waste in the world, with brands like Love, Beauty, and Planet, that claim to be ethical and sustainable, but when you take a look at the company’s practices as a whole, you can really see that that isn’t quite true. I’m also pretty sure that the only reason that Love, Beauty, and Planet recently came out with their new line of shampoo bars is due to Ethique beginning to be stocked in Target. 

The best way to find out if a brand is ethical and sustainable is to look for whatever certifications they have and also to see if they have their own definition of what their definition of sustainable is. If you cannot find these things and answers some other important questions that you have about the brand on their website, then just don’t buy the product. I firmly believe that if a business is doing everything right, then it will also make it a priority to be as transparent with its customers as possible.

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