If you’re new to low waste or plastic free, you’ll probably find you’ll get bombarded with “zero waste essentials” purchasing ideas. If you’re not new to reducing plastic you’ll know that most things sold as “essential” might not be to you... You've probably purchased things you thought you needed, to find you never used them again. You may have also found that some things sold- can be made when you've got the right resources and an evening spare. We’re all different and we all need different things to help us reduce our plastic use. Things I use, you might not- and similarly those with children, or large families might need way more than we do. Some of us don't have any resources to make their own, so making is a privilege in itself.
When setting up our store I was incredibly mindful of what we needed to stock. I haven’t bought many zero waste items over 4 years- and those I have bought I’ve done over time. Otherwise I’ve found alternatives that I could either make, thrift or make do. So I didn’t want to stock heaps of items that were “eco” but not really useful. Those items you buy and sit in the drawer. Not perfect business sense, but ethical, I hope.
So here is some of the things that we've made, thrifted or already had- that have helped us reduce our waste on a budget.
Homemade Bread Bag:
Luckily for us, we have a huge amount of old sheets, pillowcases and a sewing machine.
I spent an evening upcycling an old pillowcase into a bread bag. It’s huge, poorly made but does the job. Hopefully it will last for my lifetime and I can fix it if it rips etc... However, again I’m very lucky to have a sewing machine and know how to use it. We do stock bread bags, because I know my own privilege and that others don’t match that. Make sure if you do buy a bread bag that It’s organic, can be used for other things and that you will genuinely use it.
Homemade “paper towels”.
I didn’t even consider this a thing until entering zero waste. Mum always used tea towels for spillages. I was so close to being drawn into some Bamboo reusable towels.. until I saw the price... Honestly, old tea towels do the trick perfectly. No need for anything fancy. I did chop up and overlock (criss cross sewing at the edge of fabric to prevent fraying) an old towel- to make a roll of reusable wipes. But honestly- although kind of handy, a tea towel would suffice.
Reusable make up rounds.
I hardly ever use makeup anymore. So it didn’t make much sense to buy (expensive) reusable rounds. Again I just chopped up some towel and overlooked. I made mine square purely to save the fabric, rather than round. I do use them, and recommend this swap- but a flannel could possibly do- although handy that they’re smaller. Some people apparently find towel a bit rough, but I don’t mind.
So simple. We haven’t bought reusable wooden cutlery. I can understand the need of flying a lot- but we don’t and the fork is a perfectly fine option for us right now. Literally just out of our kitchen drawer. It's also nicer to use.
Homemade beeswax Wraps.
There are some incredible beeswax wrap sellers out there. But beeswax Wraps are expensive. I made our own- from beeswax bought at our local farm shop for £1.50 and some old cotton fabric. They’re super handy, I can make whatever size we need and also I have the equipment to refresh when needed. You might find you don’t even need them. A plate over leftovers, a Tupperware for your lunch. Pictured, I wrap a cut off section our Primal Suds soap in beeswax wrap (made to size) to take to the gym. We stock beeswax in the store for this reason.
You do not need to purchase fancy jars to have a zero waste cupboard... It’s perfectly fine if you have no choice but to purchase new- but there are alternatives. When setting up, you will probably find some of your food shop comes in jars anyway. save them! They’re precious. We save all of our jars we get pickles in. Jars can be used in the cupboard- or for takeaway lunches. You will also find charity shops usually have a pretty good selection of jars- and it’s usually better to buy second hand if you can.
We bought this tin in Australia last year, to use on our camping trips. We can cook in it, get takeaways in it (when held flat!), put picnics in it. It's not leakproof, it can be a bit heavy but its super handy. We won't buy a metal lunchbox whilst we have this and the old tupperware we have.
So there it is. There are so many more examples- but I challenge you to find alternatives you already have, can thrift or make from what you already have- before you buy something new! Sometimes we do genuinely need to buy something to replace or aid us in avoiding waste. When we decide we do to make a purchase, we've normally waited at least a few weeks, we shop around a lot. I also research extensively, find other people, check Pinterest etc.