Zero Waste Swaps I'm Not Making

Zero Waste Swaps I'm Skipping

If you're just getting interested in zero waste living, it's easy to get wooed by the idealised version of the sustainable lifestyle you see online. The perfect kitchen with labelled mason jars, package-free produce, and not a single plastic pot in sight encourages us to throw away what we already have and start fresh by buying all the zero waste "essentials", making product swaps, and adopting new habits, without pausing to think whether these changes will actually help or hinder the cause.

A lot of the advice online is focused on buying new products rather than using what we already have. It might feel as though what we're doing isn't good enough because it doesn't look the same as what we've seen on the screen. The Instagrammable version of zero waste has you feeling you need to replace all your plastic goods for a picture perfect pantry, and make lifestyle changes that no one tells you will eat into both your time and your money.

When we talk about making zero waste swaps and habit changes, we need to take into account a few different factors; from price and affordability to convenience and sustainability. Driving (or using public transport) to a shop in order to buy a plastic-free product or having one or two items delivered from multiple different shops online isn't eco-friendly in the slightest. We have to be careful that our choices are actually reducing the waste we create, not just creating a different kind.

I try to share a realistic version of low waste living both on my blog and on Instagram, and an honest account of what works and what doesn't. I'm sharing with you the zero waste swaps I'm skipping and why because not everything you read on the internet is true.

Dental Care

I've tried all kinds of zero waste dental products from toothpaste to floss, and while some of them are fantastic others involve a compromise I'm not willing to make. I'm not risking my dental health for the sake of a couple of tubes of toothpaste a year. Despite what many zero wasters will claim, homemade toothpaste is risky and bamboo alternatives aren't always the most sustainable option. I use a clay toothpaste and compostable toothbrush for travel but I will continue to stick with fluoride dental products at home. Take any decisions about your health care very seriously and choose the most appropriate option for you, regardless of the waste.

Travel Cutlery

If I'm going on a road trip I'll pack cutlery from my kitchen drawer; if I'm traveling to another country I typically stay in an AirBnB where I can borrow cutlery. I've yet to come across a situation where travel cutlery would be a necessary purchase or even useful to have. It's a product that's often listed as an 'essential zero waste item' and yet very few of us actually need them (a bit like straws) when we have perfectly good cutlery in our kitchen drawer at home.

Homemade Products

Homemade products can be fantastic, I DIY a few cleaning products myself, but think about all the ingredients you have to buy in order to make them. It's often more eco-friendly to simply buy fewer products in reusable/recyclable packaging or bulk buy in one large container. I buy one 5L bottle of multi-purpose sanitizer that I use all over my house from the bathroom to the kitchen. It's safe, environmentally-friendly, and cruelty-free. Unless you want to avoid certain ingredients, there's really no reason to make your own.

Wax Wraps

A jar or container, tins and lunch boxes, or a bowl with a plate on top are all easy ways to keep food fresh without needing to wrap them up. Cloth bags, like the ones used for products, make great sandwich bags while almost everything else from leftovers to snacks can be stored in boxes and containers - something you already have in your cupboards. I'm baffled by how much wax wraps are promoted within the zero waste community; there isn't a situation I can think of where they are ever necessary.

Sun Protection

Just like with dental care, I'm not putting my health at risk for the sake of a couple of bottles of sunscreen. I've yet to find a plastic-free vegan-friendly SPF that offers adequate sun protection and don't get me started on the stupidity of DIY-ing such an important skincare product. If you're considering it, don't. LUSH has a packaging-free sunblock but only offers SPF 30 protection so that's a no from me. There are zero waste SPF 50 options available but I've yet to find one that's both vegan-friendly and cruelty-free too. Until I do, I'll continue to use packaged sun protection. Amazinc has a vegan-friendly SPF30 and Suntribe Sunscreen is launching a vegan-friendly sunscreen soon.

Banning Plastic

This might sound counterintuitive to a zero waste lifestyle yet one of the biggest issues I have with the current attitude towards plastic right now is that many people see it as a huge problem without understanding why it become so prolific in the first place. Firstly, not all plastic is single-use or has to be single-use. Throwing away perfectly good takeout containers only to buy new glass ones is wasteful. I'll continue to use and reuse any plastic goods I have until they wear out, and you should too (even if they don't look pretty on Instagram). Secondly, plastic helps prevent food waste, which has a far greater impact than plastic packaging so buying reduced to clear food is a great way to help with the bigger issue. Buying plastic isn't ideal but if it prevents food waste, that's far more important that worrying how much plastic is in your bin.

What zero waste swaps are you skipping?

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Zero Waste Swaps I'm Skipping