Buying new stuff is something that those on a zero waste journey try to keep to a minimum. But all the new, shiny, sustainably sourced, naturally made products are really hard not to get excited about. If you’re trying to make your zero waste transition as simple as possible, avoiding new items and repurposing what you have is key.
It’s not like these items I’m going to list aren’t great. They’re just not essentials in my opinion, especially if you’re trying to minimize your stuff and spending.
I get it the pitch, don’t get me wrong. “Bamboo is sustainable to grow at fast rate so it is the best wood material to use”… Come on. There are some bamboo things that are definitely the best alternative to plastic, like toothbrushes. But if you already have a plastic cutting board, you have no need for a new one, just because it is made of bamboo. Use what you have until it becomes unusable, then replace it with the most sustainable option.
I was a part of a conversation last week about how odd it is to buy bamboo utensils. My biggest problem with bamboo is that it needs to be oiled, taken care of and will split if you don’t. I find it weird that this is a craze when EVERY HOME has an extra set of utensils laying around.
Even if you don’t, most thrift stores sell used silverware in pretty good shape. I would go for used stainless steel here instead of new bamboo because it will last you forever, whereas bamboo is a risky investment.
A stack of mason jars
I LOVE mason jars, but you don’t really need them unless you’re canning. A container is a container. Whether it is a mason jar or an old pasta sauce jar, it works the same. You can reuse any glass jar for dry pantry items.
In my mind, the mason jar is the Zero Waste mascot. People keep their years worth of trash in them, and they make decorative drinking glasses. I know they’re beautiful, I use them too, but there really is no need to design your pantry with mason jars for the sake of aesthetics. Functionality is another story.
I see a great opportunity to repurpose stuff you already have for travel needs. On a zero waste website, I purchased a $10 aluminum soap container and I can tell you right now, it was a waste of money. The metal box was not special. I also left it at a hotel but that is beside the point. I recommend looking around your house, first.
You might already purchase items in metal packaging that can hold a bar of soap. I once used an old loose leaf tea tin. It worked! But it was too big. When I picked up an Altoids container, my brain did that lightbulb thing! It is the same size and functions the same as the retail soap container.
Recently, I saw some silicone, reusable travel liquid soap containers for sale. At first I thought, brilliant alternative to those plastic ones, but then changed my mind. I had already found a solution in oil droppers, and I end up collecting A LOT!
They work just fine and if you’re worried about them breaking in your bag during travel, just wrap them in a washcloth. I haven’t had one break on me once.
A new, sustainable wardrobe
My first instinct when I learned about plastic in the fabric industry was to replace every polyester piece of clothing I have with new naturally made, sustainable items. DON’T DO THIS.
First off you’ll go broke because slow fashion costs more than fast fashion. Secondly, why give away great clothes you love and wear often just because of the material? That’s counter productive.
I wrote a blog last year on how to differentiate between plastic (non-biodegradable) and natural fibers (biodegradable). Being mindful of the fabrics your buying will make you think twice before spending you money. My best advice though, is to look at the clothes you have and get rid of everything you don’t wear, natural or not.
Glass coffee cups
There are some glass cups on the market that have a cork or silicone ring around it, with a plastic top. And while they look beautiful, are they really that practical? I️ know glass coffee cups are very popular and people swear by them, but it’s kind of risky and I️ have butterfingers! I️ drop everything, I kid you not.
I’ve seen a few people on Instagram share their broken Keep Cups and it just makes me sad. In my opinion, get something you can beat up and it still works. A stainless steel tumbler for instance, will not shatter and can be used with hot or cold beverages.
Again, these products are useful, I’m not saying they aren’t. But if your goal is to reduce your waste and do it practically, reusing, and repurposing what you already own should be priority. And if you really, truly want a Keep Cup or a set of bamboo utensils, gift them to yourself and cherish these items. You deserve it!