New To Zero-Waste Living? 6 Staples To Get You Started

Emily Erickson
Jun 22, 2020 · 5 min read
Photo by Good Soul Shop

Are you just starting on your zero-waste journey?

From remembering your reusable coffee cup and saying no to plastic straws, to finding local markets and bulk food stores that sell bulk staples at a reasonable price, making the transition to a zero-waste lifestyle can be super overwhelming.

Like with a lot of things in life, going full-out too fast is a sure-fire way to burn out and put something in the “too hard basket.”

Don’t stress: It won’t happen overnight.

COVID-19 has reintroduced a few more single-use plastics back into our lives than many of us would care to admit. If Disposable Plastic Guilt is a thing, then I’m 100% suffering from it.

But with Plastic-free July around the corner, what better time to start (or hop back on) your zero-waste journey. Introducing a few products at a time can make a world of difference!

6 Zero-Waste Staples (That You Will Actually Use)

Photo Courtesy of Sheps

1. Soap Berries (aka nature’s laundry detergent.)

Wait….berries can clean my clothes?

Yes, they can.

Soapberries, sometimes called ‘soapnuts’, are a 100% natural, chemical-free, zero-waste alternative to laundry detergent.

These dried berries are the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, which grows in several different regions around the world, mainly the Himalayas. (Fun fact: They are related to the lychee. And how good are lychees??)

The shell is exceptionally high in ‘saponin’ which is known as nature’s soap.

I was skeptical at first. I was so conditioned into thinking that only high-power, chemical-laden detergents were strong enough to clean, well, anything. My eyes lit up like a vegan opening the perfect avocado the first time I saw suds forming in the washing machine. Magic.

They’re kind on the hip pocket as well as the environment. You’ll get about 180 washloads from 500g. Even better, soapberries are hypoallergenic, which is perfect for those with sensitive skin or allergies. Simply throw them in the compost when they’ve done their rounds!

I buy mine from That Red House — either online or when I spot them in the supermarket. A portion of the company’s profits contributes to funding life-saving surgery for women in Nepal through Open Heart International.

2. Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap

A product that can eliminate the need for 18 others. Legit.

Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap is an all-in-one cleaning dream. The nourishing, concentrated formula can be used as a shampoo, body wash, household cleaner, washing up liquid, pet cleanser and even as a fruit and vegetable wash.

Swapping to a Dr. Bronner’s multitasker cuts down on chemicals and declutters the cupboards.

Here are three soap-to-water ratios you can use around the house….

  • 1:10 dishwashing liquid
  • 1:5 hand wash
  • 1:10 all-purpose spray

The company has also set a goal of sending just one dumpster to landfill each month!

You’ll find Dr Bronner’s products in most health stores, or you can shop their entire range online here.

3. Bamboo Toothbrush

We all need a toothbrush, right? This swap is a no-brainer in my books. Your plastic toothbrush could be a bigger problem than you realize.

Did you know that 1 billion toothbrushes end up in landfills every year in the US alone?

Most bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes are the same price as the latest Colgate version, but you brush confidently knowing it can be recycled (providing you dispose of it properly!).

Alternatively, look for a toothbrush with a reusable head.

4. Reusable Food Wraps + Zip Lock Bags

It’s time to break up with the plastic cling wrap.

There are SO many alternatives that it took me less than a week to say ‘bye-bye’ to plastic food wrapping and snack bags once and for all.

Here are some good go-to’s:

Replacing plastic cling wrap has been one of the best eco-friendly decisions I’ve made all year. My fridge is also a lot prettier….

5. Produce Bags

An extension of the reusable shopping bag, these will take your zero-waste food shopping game to the next level. I used to think cutting down on single-use plastic meant awkwardly juggling and chasing after loose fruit and vegetables (*facepalm).

Fabric produce bags are an easy alternative for single-use plastic fruit and vegetable bags — and let’s be honest, it’s impossible to gracefully rip one of those things off their roll with a handful of apples.

Most produce bags weight less than 10 grams, so they barely register on the scale. ECOBAGS and ONYA have a great range, or you can find them in most health food stores or supermarkets.

I keep mine inside my shopping bags so they are ready to go!

6. Menstrual Cup

Imagine producing NO extra waste while on your cycle?

Let’s check some stats real quick:

  • Tampons, pads and liners along with their packaging generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, and they all contain plastic — in fact, pads are around 90% plastic!
  • An individual goes through around 10,000–12,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime.
  • Pads take around 500–800 years to biodegrade.

Welp. Enter the menstrual cup. It still blows my mind that this ONE item can lead to a completely waste-free period.

There are a lot of reputable brands out there, but in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with RubyCup. When you buy a RubyCup, they donate a second one to a girl or woman without access to menstrual care products. Their Buy One, Give One initiative now reaches 11 countries, mostly across East Africa.

You got this!

Photo by Jon Tyson

Starting your zero-waste journey doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming. Of course, there are plenty of other swaps you can make in addition to these, but small changes are better than none!

If you need some extra motivation or accountability, sign up for the Plastic Free July challenge!

toasting good is a conscious lifestyle platform powered by Social Enterprise Alliance. Our mission is to inspire a movement of people passionate about social impact and eager to create change with their daily actions.

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toasting good

toasting good is a social impact shopping guide and…

toasting good

toasting good is a social impact shopping guide and conscious lifestyle publication inspiring a movement of people to create change with their daily actions. Powered by Social Enterprise Alliance.

Emily Erickson

Written by

Vegan freelance writer and content creator on her own journey to building a more sustainable, minimalist lifestyle.

toasting good

toasting good is a social impact shopping guide and conscious lifestyle publication inspiring a movement of people to create change with their daily actions. Powered by Social Enterprise Alliance.