I recently read an article claiming that zero waste living doesn’t have to be expensive.
That immediately said to an interviewed college student who said that they couldn’t afford a $20 zero waste made from adopted unicorn tears deodorant that the student just needs to change their attitude because they are buying better and more expensive stuff. Because the superior feeling of spending more money on low waste deodorant outweighs the reality of then not having enough money for school books or tuition, I guess?
The author also said that no one who wants to go low waste (which is a more accurate description than the search engine friendly term zero waste) does it to save money. It really burns my cookies that when confronted with the reality of price, a zero waste expert ignores it and tells you to buy it anyway. That's how zero and low waste living gets the (wrong) perception that its only for the privileged!
My family is practically debt free because we don’t waste things. As I started switching from disposables to reusables the amount of trash we make plummeted and extra dollars accumulated in the bank. For example it cost zero dollars to stop using plastic zipper baggies and plastic wrap for sandwiches and leftovers and start using the containers with lids (many repurposed) I already had. I had no idea how much money we wasted on that stuff until we didn’t need to buy it anymore - and you could see a serious dent in how much landfill trash it kept out of our bin.
Another one was replacing paper towels and disposable cleaning cloths with with old bath towels I cut down and sewed a straight stitch around the sides so they wouldn’t fray. (I didn't like how my first attempt of just cutting down bath towels eventually frayed too much after washing) Again another zero dollar project I do here and there when towels go thin that definitely saves me a good chunk of cash while that author would probably insist you buy overpriced unpaper towels that snap together on a roll like paper towels from a charitable narwhal collective and zero waste store. It's cool if you want to and can but low waste living doesn't require it.
Also I don’t have time to snap together unpaper towels onto a roll. Most days, I’m lucky if I pull the clean cloths from the dryer and put them in the basket under each sink in the house on the same day. The label on the towel box is an inside joke between my husband and I.
I like options not absolutes. I try to balance low waste, price, and effectiveness. That's not to say I'm a miser. I have a handcrafted soap habit that allows me to support local businesses and reduce waste but that's my choice. Not because someone guiled me into it. But before that, I bought (and sometimes still do) buy conventional bar soap in a box and liquid soap/body wash in large refill containers to save on price and waste. Zero waste living is really all about doing what works for you, not peer pressure into something that doesn't.
Ten One Time Only Zero Waste Craft Projects
I make a lot of our reusable zero waste living tools mostly because I like to unwind with a project in the evening. I also really hate wasting leftover craft supplies (Truthfully I might want to use them up to make room for something else but that doesn’t sound as lofty to our author above.)
I’ve also bought the same version when I haven’t had the time or materials to make it or I want to see if the purchased item works better. For example, I have some dollar store kitchen wash cloths I bought to see if the scrubber back could replace scrubby sponges. They couldn’t and were pretty terrible dish cloths compared to the set my Mother in Law crochoeted for me. I stuck them in with the cloth "paper" towels I made and where they work better for me. That’s why I’m giving you both a DIY and Buy option. This isn’t a post about zero waste living perfection. It’s a list of doing what you can when you can low waste living ideas.
If you don’t have a reusable shopping bag to take to the store to cut down on disposable shopping bag clutter How to Make a Tote Bag from a T shirt from Crafty Mom is a very easy no sew way (or you can sew the bottom seam) to make a shopping totebag from a t shirt you may already have. You can also repurpose a backpack, tote, or shopping bag you already have. Rather buy than DIY? Check out these heavy duty Earthwise Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags here. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.)
Or this reusable form fitting beeswax wrap from The DIY Mommy - How to Make Beeswax Wraps to Help Reduce Single Use Plastic . If you’d rather buy than DIY, this set of 5 beeswax food wraps has several sizes included.
I absolutely love this DIY Zero Waste Kitchen Sponge from Happiest Camper to replace disposable scrubby sponges. Pure Genius! If you’d rather buy than DIY, I use these exact washable and reusable Paperless Kitchen Scrub Sponges and like them a lot!
Photo courtesy of Happiest Camper
Bottle brushes are insanely useful tools but regularly have to be replaced frequently due to bacteria build up just like disposable kitchen sponges. Lazy Budget Chef teaches you How to Make a Reusable Bottle Brush for Dishes, Pots, Pans, and Bottles with washable heads. Rather buy than DIY? consider this washable silicone bottle brush cleaner.
Photo courtesy of Lazy Budget Chef
If you garden and want to put your food and yard waste to good reuse, you can turn them into gardeners gold fertilizer using my How to Make a Compost Bin Out of a Plastic Storage Tub tutorial. After getting good results with a DIY compost bin we upgraded to a tumbling compost bin similar to this one.
Compost is Gardener's Gold!
Looking for more affordable zero and low waste living ideas that save money? Check out the following options – and more! – below