35+ Things I no Longer Buy as a Zero Waster
Updated: May 11
I am a few years into my zero waste journey and by now I am buying considerably less stuff compared to before I started living sustainably. Today I like to share a few items I no longer buy and what alternatives I use instead.
Don't feel like reading? Watch it instead!
Stuff I don’t need.
A lot of people simply purchase stuff without giving it a second thought. I don’t want to be like that. Before I am about the make a purchase I ask a few questions like:
Do I really need it?
Do I need it right now?
Will I completely use it up?
Is there a secondhand alternative available?
All these questions help me prevent impulse buys and help me prevent buying stuff I don’t need.
Anything on sale
This goes hand in hand with the previous one. When I see a nice deal I ask myself the question, ‘Do I really need it?’ Often with a sale, this answer is no. The sale often just got my attention but I don’t really need the item in the first place.
Plastic water bottles
I live in a country where tap water is safe to drink so buying plastic water bottles just seems like a waste of resources to me. I just fill my stainless steel bottle when I am about to leave the house and I am good. If you however live somewhere where tap water is not safe to drink or is not very tasty, opt to go for a water filtering system. This way you also avoid purchasing bottled water. This not only saves our planet from lots of plastic waste, but it also saves you lots of money.
To me, using paper towels and napkins is just buying and using trash. You use it once and then you throw it away. Which is a waste of energy and resources. Unpaper towels/napkins are a great alternative. I have a bunch and they are great in and around the kitchen. By now I have used them for everything and usually, there are also a few in my bag when I leave the house, just in case. Outside I use them the dry the saddle of my bike, clean the slide for my girl or clean up messes while we eat ice cream. They are very versatile and available in so many cute prints so there must be one that is just for you.
Another example of waste you purchase. Also, the use of cling film is just annoying as it never goes your way. Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to cling film. A reusable bowl cover or beeswax wraps are a much more convenient and eco-friendly alternative. I love my bowl covers as these can be washed and reused while beeswax wraps are a bit more of a hassle. Beeswax wrap has a waxy layer that is removed during washing so they need to be treated again if you want to use them again after washing.
It has been a long while since I purchased a bottle of dishwashing soap. Mainly because we have a dishwasher that does most of the work for us. However, we have a few knives and pan we don’t put in the dishwasher to prolong their lifespan. These are washed by hand. I make my own solid dishwashing soap. Which sounds a lot scarier than it really is. In this blog post, I walk you through it step by step and there is even a video where I show you how I make them.
When my last plastic sponge gave out, I did not purchase new ones. Now I only use loofah sponges. These sponges are completely natural and are compostable when they are no longer usable. Contrary to what you might think is that these sponges are surprisingly sturdy and can handle a decent scrubbing in your pans very well. These are awesome in combination with the above-mentioned dishwashing soap btw.
Plastic sandwich/snack bags
I am Dutch meaning we eat lots of bread. Most of us eat a bread meal twice a day. Both for breakfast and lunch (I stick with once a day). My boyfriend prepared his sandwiches in the morning so he can take them with him for lunch. Instead of using plastic bags, we use reusable bags. My daughter brings her lunch to school as well. She chooses a bag with a cute print so she enjoys her lunch more. These bags can be washed and reused over and over again.
Pre-packed sandwiches or other single packed snacks
I used to be on the road a lot (nowadays not so much anymore). I know these prepackaged sandwiches and snacks are so convenient but they are covered in plastic and quite pricy. If I am about to go on a longer trip I either make a snack or some sandwiches before I go so I can take them with me.
Plastic wrapped fruits or veggies
We all would like to eat healthy however, fresh fruits and vegetables are sometimes packed in lots of unnecessary plastic. To avoid this plastic I purchase my fruits and veggies on a farmers market. This not only supports the local economy, but it also has a much lower carbon footprint as the product is often grown locally produced, reducing the transportation.
The beef industry is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses. Over the past 30 years, the entire beef industry has become much more efficient and the carbon production per cow has reduced however, the total consumption of beef has increased a lot over that same period.
I know going vegan or vegetarian is quite a big step so please start with a few meatless days a week to start lowering your carbon footprint.
Plastic shopping bags.
The average lifespan of a plastic bag is 12 minutes. After these few minutes, the plastic bag becomes trash where it will take centuries to break down. Plastic doesn’t really decompose but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. In the end, they become microplastics that will pollute our soils and oceans. This will affect animals' life and in the end even human life. Please don’t contribute to this. Whenever I leave the house I always put an extra cotton bag in my bag for those unexpected shopping trips.
Disposable cutlery is another example of purchasing waste as you use it once or if you are lucky you can use it a few times and then it breaks and can be thrown away. I really despise using paper or plastic cutlery as it is often of very poor quality causing it to break and the knife doesn’t even work properly resulting in me being annoyed and wanting to use real cutlery. Whenever I give a party I just use the cutlery I already have and do a few extra dishes when everything has been used. Most people don’t mind helping with the dishes.
Magazines & books.
I read a lot. At least one to two hours each day to help me escape life for a few hours. But, it has been a while since I bought a real physical book. I have a secondhand kindle that I just can’t live without anymore and if I ever want to read a ‘real’ book, I also am a member of our local library. Which does not only have books but also a great collection of magazines, DVDs and games.
I used to be a bit of a shopaholic… Jeans, t-shirts, shoes, backpacks, purses and other accessories, I used to have lots of everything. I still love shopping but I also no longer buy new clothes. Now I love thrift shopping. You never know what you might find. One of our local thrift shops also accepts fabric so every once in a while I find fabric to sew my own clothes with.
I have been using my menstrual cup for years now and would not want to switch back to disposables (read more about the menstrual cup here). During the night I use cloth pads (using the cup overnight does not sit well with me) so there is no need for other menstrual products.
To be honest, I still have half a box of organic tampons laying around in the bathroom. For those female friends who always seem to forget to bring theirs when they come to visit and aunt flow comes around.
I love skincare. It is just a few minutes each day that is just for me. I make my own skincare products as I have very sensitive skin I would like to know all the ingredients that I use on my skin. By DIYing, I have complete control over this. Next to that, I select ingredients that my skin love and put higher concentrations into the recipes I make. If you are curious if DIYing skincare is for you. I have a beginner-friendly face serum recipe right here.
Just like my skincare, I also DIY haircare products. Ranging from shampoo and conditioner bars to leave-in conditioner to hair balm. I make everything myself. Again, I avoid ingredients that I am allergic to (like beeswax) and I can make it exactly how my hair and scalp like it.
I switch to a reusable q-tips a while ago. This again saves me some waste. I have different ones for make-up and cleaning my ears as both are designed differently.
A safety razor has been my go-to method for a couple of years now. Even my man switched to a safety razor as it gives a much closer shave that gives smooth skin for longer.
When a baby is born they immediately start to produce lots of waste while they don’t have a choice in this. I want to avoid this by using cloths diapers instead of disposable diapers. You can read a lot more about cloth diapers right here.
Baby wipes often contain lots of chemicals that are not very nice to babies' delicate skin. I don’t purchase packs of disposable baby wipes but I use reusable ones. These are not only great for baby bums, but they are also great for hands, runny noses, and for cleaning spills.
My daughter obviously has a lot of toys. She is a small child after all but I have never purchased a new toy for her. Every once in a while I put all the toys she no longer plays with, in a box and we donate them to our local thrift store. While I am there, she also picks a few new (for her) toys to play with.
I know flowers look great in your home but did you know that flowers have an enormous carbon footprint? This is because flowers are often not produced locally. I know there are a few rose producers close where I live but I know there are even more rose producers in Kenia. Roses from Kenia have a much higher footprint when purchased at home compared to locally grown flowers.
We no longer have cable TV simply because we were not using it. The commercials on TV nowadays are just annoying making it an increasingly less pleasant experience. So, for us, it was just a waste of money. We have Netflix instead if we want to watch a show or movie and we also have a Nintendo Switch if we want to play video games.
Like I said we have a Nintendo Switch but we don’t purchase physical games. This console allows for easy purchase and download of games so there is no need for physical game cartridges.
CD & DVD’s
I no longer buy DVDs or CDs anymore just because I no longer have the means to play these. I think this is most of us nowadays.
I am more a pen and paper kind of girl so I prefer to write down stuff on paper instead of typing it into my computer. However, I don’t use paper notebooks anymore. I have a reusable notebook. This notebook allows for taking notes and if you no longer need these, you can simply erase them with a cloth. Yes, you could also do this with a paper and pencil notebook but this notebook is much sturdier and can handle many more erasings compared to what paper can handle.
As I have a reusable notebook that requires a special pen to write in, I do not need regular pens anymore.
Another office supply I no longer purchase is clear tape. I use paper tape instead and I use lots of it. I have a small business with zero-waste products that I want to pack sustainably and closing those boxes with paper tape is a must.
I have electronic devices like most of us but what I mean in this case is the newest iPhone or MacBook. You don’t need the newest edition of your phone when the old one is still working fine. Electronic waste is a big problem worldwide as recycling individual parts is very costly and time-consuming. This means that it is often done in third-world countries where they lack the means to do this safely. Also, the transportation of your device to these countries increases their carbon footprint even further so make your electronics last.
You don’t need a different phone case with every other outfit. Pick a sturdy neutral one, preferably an eco-friendly one, and stick with that one.
I love giving gifts but I prefer to give a gift that is not ‘stuff’. I either try to give a gift that can be eaten (either homemade or I take the gift receiver to a restaurant) or I want to give an experience as a gift. Giving an experience as a gift is much more memorable compared to a physical gift and often you can experience it with someone to make it even more memorable. You can find more inspiration for experience gifts here.
I the receiver prefers a physical gift I always ask if a secondhand gift is an option.
I never purchase gift wrap anymore. I either try to reuse what I received, use paper that I got (I love reusing the roll covers of the good roll) or I use my furoshiki gift wraps.
I hope this list with 35 things I no longer buy will help you with your zero waste journey and help you think of alternatives before purchasing something new.