Going zero waste CAN save you money and here is list of budget friendly Zero Waste Swaps that are a cheaper option in the long and short term.
Contrary to popular belief, zero waste does NOT have to be expensive and there are many free and cheap ways to do it that will save you money straight away.
When you begin your zero waste journey, there's no need to 'go out and buy all the things'.
>Use what you have first,
>Keep reusing and re-purposing items,
>Repair as much as possible, and of course
>REFUSE anything you don't truly need
This post does contain some affiliate links. This means the price is the same to you, and I may receive a small commission that helps to keep this site up and running. These are products I personally love and believe are worth sharing.
Here are 25 Zero Waste Swaps That Will Save You Money
1. Refuse Plastic Bags at the Supermarket
Paying 15 cents for plastic disposable bags adds up and just by bringing your own, you can save $50 - $80 a year.
Reuse bags you already have, for as long as you can and repair any tears.
Think about choosing naturally biodegradable cloth bags when you run out for a more eco-friendly choice. You can find the one pictured above here.
2. Replace Paper Towels With Rags
Use old t-shirts, leggings, tea-towels and cloths you already have to mop up spills.
If you don't have enough, head to the op-shop for some cheap options rather than buying new.
Quitting paper towel can save you over $100 a year. Here's how I created dusting cloths, hair ties and head bands from a pair of old leggings.
3. Use Natural Air Fresheners
Those plug in air fresheners and sprays are bad news for your home and your health, and the fragrances (unless completely natural) are created with petroleum products.
Skip the packaging and unnecessary plastic and opt for none.
Open the windows more, let the sunshine in and take 5 minutes to make your own natural reed diffuser or a DIY room spray.
Remember real Pot Pourri?
Well making your own is easy, with lavender, rose petals, eucalyptus leaves and seed pods, and it looks beautiful.
Here's how to make your own botanical drawer sachets
4. Repair Not Replace
Before forking out money on replacing items, ALWAYS try to repair. Even if you can't do the repairs yourself, there are other options.
Look for repair cafes, where you can get some free help.
Here are 4 basic clothing repairs anyone can do (all you need is a needle and thread), and some great ways to repair and refashion old shoes.
5. BYO Coffee Cup for a Discount
Take a keep cup, a regular mug or a jam jar (with heat protection for your hands).
You can find loads of places to get a discount on your coffee when you BYO.
Save up to $1 on each cup, and if you buy a coffee everyday that is a saving of $365. Get yourself a keep cup or for a super thrifty option, make your own coffee at home and bring it with you.
6. Visit Your Library
Quit those magazine subscriptions, kindle accounts and school book fairs.
Do visit your library and check out their online services for browsing collections, downloading FREE audio books, ebooks and even movies plus free internet access.
Leave your book purchases for those you truly love and want to read multiple times.
I've probably saved over $2000 the past year by doing this. Don't forget to request titles you really want to read, most libraries are happy to oblige.
7. Find a Little Library
Little Street Libraries are the perfect place for freely swapping books.
Head here to locate some in your neighbourhood
Street libraries are usually small and quirky, above is one of my favourites where I live.
8. Make your own Makeup Remover
I used to pay around $20 for a bottle of makeup remover and it did last me about 4-6 months because I only used it sparingly.
Now, I've ditched the plastic packaging and just make my own which is better for my skin and way cheaper.
You could be saving $40-$100 a year depending how much and how often you use it. Use coconut oil or a low waste option like this 2 ingredient DIY recipe .
9. Shop Secondhand
Second hand shopping is so much fun and there is a huge variety from clothing to furniture and household items. You will spot plenty of bargains AND skip the packaging.
Check out op-shops, ebay, gumtree, Facebook market place, garage sales and vintage shops and more.
It's a fabulous way to prevent items heading to landfill, save a buck and stop supporting over production.
10. No More Bottled Water
Unless you live in, or travel to a place that has unsafe drinking water, stick to the free tap water.
Bottled water is a total marketing scam and many brands are less healthier than regular tap water.
If you are buying 1 or 2 bottles a week at $4 each, you'll save between $200 - $400 a year!
Did you know that when visiting Bali and so many other places, you can boil the water and cool it for a safe and zero waste option?
Don't continuously reuse those disposable water bottles - they are not designed to be reused and will start to breakdown and contaminate your water.
Invest in a reusable water bottle if you haven't already.
11. Line Dry Your Clothes
Clothes dryers use plenty of electricity and make a noticeable difference to your energy bills AND will need repairing and replacing in the future.
Go zero waste and line dry as much as possible, it's completely free to do.
You could save a few hundred dollars a year and even sell your dryer like we did. (Of course you may still want to hang on to it for winter or emergencies).
12. Use Scrap Paper
Ever tempted by those cute to do lists, note paper and post-it notes?
They are usually packaged in plastic and aren't necessary at all. As a recovering stationary addict, I still admire them but I know I don't need them.
Keep your scrap paper, receipts and used envelopes for making notes and lists.
It's free and a no brainer!
13. Quit buying Bin Liners
Separating out food waste, recycling and landfill means no need for bin liners as your trash wont be smelly.
Choose compostable bin liners for when you do need them, and avoid degradable plastic bags (they break up into microplastics and aren't eco-friendly at all).
I really love this brand because of their compostable doggy bags and they have some great options for different sized bins.
14. Switch to Soap Bars
Liquid soap costs a fortune over a year and creates extra waste.
We were buying refills roughly each fortnight which was costing us more than $150 a year (not to mention the impact on an overflowing recycle bin).
Bar soap is the best option and you can find them at the supermarket, local markets and specialty shops.
Look for ones than come without plastic packaging.
I found the ones pictured above at a local zero waste store. If you still want liquid soap, start making your own for a fraction of the cost using castile soap.
Here's a simple DIY Foaming Soap that works great using liquid castile soap.
15. Buy Seasonal Produce
It's way cheaper to shop seasonal fruits and vegetables.
You will be more likely to find locally grown items without the additional food miles and price tag to match.
Ask your local green grocer what's in season, if you're unsure and in Australia, check out the Sustainable Table Guide to Seasonal Produce. (it's free).
Those in America should check out Backyard Boss's guide to What Fruits and Vegetables are in Season.
You can also swap or get free produce at Grow Free Carts too, so find one near you.
16. Start Green Cleaning
You don't need a cupboard full of chemicals and the cost of those seriously adds up.
Green cleaning recipes are cheap, easy and effective plus they are non-toxic, way better for the environment and don't require a constant source of throwaway plastic bottles.
Use up what you have, and keep the containers and spray bottles to store your homemade green cleaners in. Here are some fabulous tips for getting started on green cleaning your home and car.
Aussies spend over $1.7 billion a year on cleaning products and it can contribute a significant portion to the cost of grocery shopping.
How much is it costing you?
17. Quit Glad-wrap
Glad wrap is one of those items we literally buy to throw away.
Fifty years ago nobody used it and you don't need to either.
If you're not sure how to go about it, I promise it's easy to start doing it and it doesn't have to cost anything. You might want to consider swapping to Beeswax Wraps which are compostable at the end of their life.
I have no idea how much glad wrap 'normal' people use, but if you're buying it every 2 months, you can save yourself $30 a year easily.
Head here for everything you need to know about beeswax wraps and here are more reusable alternatives to glad wrap.
18. Eat More Beans
Legumes are super cheap.
They are packed with protein, fibre and are super foods for the gut. They can be a key focus of the meal or just a nice addition to soups, stews and pasta dishes to boost nutrition.
During winter, I cook up a lot of soup using a legume base and it is super cheap and easy to make.
From an environmental perspective, beans are far better for land and water systems than the production of meat.
Many beans are available in zero waste bulk stores like chick peas, lentils, soya beans, kidney beans and more. If you're sticking to a tight budget like me, skip the organic ones.
19. Choose Bees (Not Weed killer)
If you buy weed killer, then please cross it off your list right now.
Don't pay good money to spread poison.
Using chemical weed killers harms beneficial bugs and insects in the garden and perhaps your neighbours too.
For those difficult ones that grow through the pavers and won't budge - just pour boiling hot water on the roots to make light work of it.
There are mixtures you can make using vinegar, salt and other ingredients, but of course you still need to physically pull them out of the ground and do be careful not to get it on plants you want to keep.
20. Don't Store Stuff
If you are storing loads of stuff, it could be costing you money, especially if you require paid storage.
Storage boxes don't last forever and are often not doing a great job of protecting items over the long term.
It also means we need more room in our homes or sheds and can become a little obsessed with cool storage options and additional furniture like shelving that we don't really need.
Remember, someone else could be using these items, so don't let them sit there doing nothing but invading your space.
Sell it, donate it or re-purpose it into something useful.
Check out Less Stuff -an awesome book by Lindsay at Treading My Own Path, on how to declutter zero waste style (I'm currently working my way through this process, I'll let you know how it goes).
21. Switch OFF and Save
Everyone remembers the annoying nagging voice of parents telling them to turn off the light, fan, radio or something during their childhood and teenage years.
Yes, every single thing you have plugged in is using power and that can seriously add up in a modern household.
Even items not in use but switched on at the power point are using energy.
You can even do an energy audit of your home by hiring a free kit from the library, and find plenty of ways to improve it BUT a super quick fix is to start turning things off and start choosing energy efficient light globes and appliances.
22. Don't Be a Fashion Victim
Fast fashion has huge environmental consequences and creates so much waste every minute of the day.
It's hurting your planet and your wallet.
When you buy, make sure to choose well and think about having that item for 2, 5,10 years or more.
Will you still love it? will it last that long? do you really need it?
Opt for natural fibres when you can, although they aren't cheaper to buy, they will last longer and be more comfortable.
Head to a clothes swap party, opshop of exchange clothing with friends.
Avoid trends that are only popular for one season and instead look for classic styles that are more versatile.
23. Reusable Period Products
Yes ladies, each month you can do something awesome by choosing reusables.
There are a few options so just test out the ones you are most comfortable with and go from there.
A menstrual cup is the cheapest option and saves a serious amount of plastic heading to landfill.
Reusable pads aren't as cheap but still save money long term and means just one more item you never need to put into your shopping trolley again.
Here's everything you ever wanted to know about reusable pads so you can start deciding what option suits you.
24. Hand Wash NOT Dry Clean
You know all those clothing items that say dry clean only?
Well that's mostly rubbish.
Just about everything can be handwashed at home in a gentle laundry detergent or put on a gentle cycle of a front loading washing machine.
Skip the cost, the plastic bags and coat hangers (not to mention the chemicals involved).
25. Waste Less Food
We are all guilty of wasting bits of food here and there, BUT it could be costing you a small fortune every year.
> Try to only buy what you are going to definitely eat within 3-4 days
> Save leftovers for the next day
>Store food properly to make it last
If you are wasting too much food, here's a Guide to Fighting Food Waste
You can even do cool things with food waste like grow free indoor plants.
Below is an avocado seed I'm growing.
I love finding new ways to reduce waste, especially when they save money!
I've always been frugal at heart and sometimes, the best zero waste option is to eliminate a product all together or swap to one that will last forever.
Always make use of what you have already rather than purchasing new things.
Going zero waste can be fun, frugal and fabulous.
What are your cheapest (or free) Zero Waste Swaps?