Unnecessary Zero Waste Purchases

March 10, 2020

Unnecessary Zero Waste Purchases

If you're starting to get serious about reducing your waste, maybe taking the zero waste challenge, and interested in how you live more sustainably, you're probably just as interested in hearing about what you should avoid buying as well as the things that will make your life easier.

I've been on my journey to a less wasteful lifestyle for a few years now and I've made mistakes. In the beginning, I purchased (or was gifted) a few "zero waste essentials" that have turned out to be not quite so essential after all. I got items I didn't really need (reusable straws) and items that aren't as sustainable as they seem (bamboo toothbrushes). I didn't know better and should have made do with what I already had, bought second-hand, or skipped the purchase altogether. I'm now more informed and make better choices about the items I bring into my home.

The best option is always to buy nothing and make use of whatever we already have. If we really do need something we should be looking to buy second-hand before making any new purchases. The following items are things the zero waste movement have highlighted as essential for reducing waste and my thoughts on why you should reconsider buying them.



Produce Bags

Produce bags are useful but only if you need them. If you don't live near a bulk bin store and do your shopping there regularly, produce bags are kind of pointless and a total waste of money for the average household. You can buy packaging-free fruit and veggies from most supermarkets, and you don't need to put this fresh produce into a bag in order to buy it. Loose produce can be put straight into your cart or trolley and checked out without the need for a bag. The only time I use produce bags is when I'm bulk buying pantry staples or using one to keep my bread fresh for longer.



Bamboo Toothbrushes

Unfortunately, there isn't a fully zero waste, sustainably-made alternative to an electric toothbrush. The bristles of a bamboo toothbrush still need to be plucked out and thrown in the bin before it can be composted and the brush itself won't give your teeth the best clean. When it comes to zero waste, I refuse to compromise my health and that includes dental hygiene. My dentist recommends an electric toothbrush and traditional toothpaste with fluoride (none of the homemade kind!) to keep teeth healthy. Switching to a bamboo toothbrush isn't an essential zero waste switch you need to make.



Travel Cutlery

There are very few instances where taking cutlery from your kitchen drawer isn't the solution. Need something to eat your lunch with at work? Take kitchen cutlery. Camping in the woods? Take kitchen cutlery. Eating at a street food event? Take kitchen cutlery. There are very few instances where this solution doesn't work. I have a set gifted to me and I've yet to even use it once; I prefer to take a set from my cutlery drawer. If you're travelling by air you might want to pack non-metal cutlery though. But even then, you're likely to find cutlery at your destination that you can borrow instead of buying a whole new set.



Reusable Straws

Straws are fantastic for helping with medical conditions or dental issues but the majority of us without those concerns probably don't need to rush out to buy a set of reusable straws. The zero waste movement's love of straws is baffling. The environmental impact of them is a undoubtedly a problem but it doesn't deserve the attention it receives, especially not when the majority of us can request "no straw please" and avoid the waste entirely. I've been gifted metal straws and while they're nice to have when drinking acidic drinks, they're not essential. If you don't need to drink using a straw don't buy them.



Glass Jars

The perfect zero waste kitchens we see on Instagram with matching mason jars organised neatly gives us that pang of inferiority when our pantry looks like a higgledy piggledy mess of mismatched containers. But that's exactly what zero waste is supposed to look like. My kitchen is full of repurposed jars and I have a pantry overflowing with empty ones waiting to be used. Buying brand new glass storage jars is, on the most part, completely unnecessary. You probably already have all the storage you need if you reuse the jars containing jams and pickles stored in your fridge and pantry.




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