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Want to make the switch to the reusable, eco-friendly option when it comes to buying wasteful disposable products? Only to find that it’s crazy expensive and you struggle to justify spending that much?
You’re not alone. A lot of people have trouble converting to the zero waste lifestyle due to the “start up” costs. Buying everything you need to go disposable-free can be expensive and out of a lot of people’s budgets.
Just so you know, when I say zero waste, I don’t really mean ZERO waste. For some (including me), that’s the aim, but it’s a bit overwhelming for people just beginning this lifestyle. When you read “zero waste”, if that’s too daunting, just interpret it as “low waste” or “less waste.”
I’ve never had a lot of money and thus need to consider every purchase carefully. I’m committed to being kind to the environment, however, and in my quest to become zero waste I’ve come up with a number of ways to reduce your “green” bill.
Read on if you want to save money reducing your waste!
Buy second hand or at garage sales
This one might be obvious but it’s a good one. Naturally, there are some things you wouldn’t want to buy second hand, but if you think about it there’s a lot that you can, and you can save a heap of money doing it.
Things you might find include, but are by no means limited to:
- Glass (or reusable plastic) storage containers
- Keep cups
- Reusable shopping bags
- Clothes (not that you can’t find these cheaply new, but buying second hand clothes saves the planet!)
- Cutlery for making your own travel cutlery kit
- And many more!
If there’s an item you only need infrequently, consider asking around for one to borrow. This saves you the purchase cost AND having to store it when you don’t need it.
Just be sure to take care of it and return it in the same, or better, condition as when you received it. And remember to say thank you!
Make/grow your own
Some things you can actually grow instead of buy, and I’m not talking food (although that’s very satisfying too). Two great examples are:
- Aloe vera: this plant is amazing because it has so many uses, and is incredibly easy to grow. It also regenerates pretty quickly so unless you have a large household, you don’t really need to worry about waiting for it to grow again before being able to use it. It’s good for moisturiser, treating burns (including sunburn), relieving insect bites, and reducing dental plaque (I haven’t tried this last one).
- Luffa (or loofah) sponges: this is what I want to try next! If you haven’t used a luffa sponge, you’ve been missing out. Great for exfoliating the skin, scrubbing dishes, cleaning anywhere that needs scrubbing but also a delicate touch (it scrubs but doesn’t scratch! Yay!), and you can even eat them. They last a long time, too, if you make sure to clean them and let them dry after use.
Request as presents
If you have family members or friends who buy you presents for occasions like your birthday, request that they buy you some of the zero waste items you need.
This is a tactic I’ve used a fair bit. Since starting my journey towards minimalism, I’ve asked my family to not buy me physical things any more, but rather contribute to travel funds or investments that I’m interested in.
However, I’ve found that it’s hard for them to not hand over anything tangible, so I’ve started requesting things that I need but don’t really want to fork out the money for, even if, conventionally, they don’t make great “presents.”
Also, you might suggest to those who insist on buying stocking stuffers for you to get things like bamboo toothbrushes, seeds, food, second hand books, and movie vouchers. For a more comprehensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of minimal and zero waste gifts, check out this post.
Wait for sales
Stores which sell eco-friendly products are, for the most part, like any other store. They will have end of year sales and stock clearance sales. There are plenty of bargains to be had if you can wait for the right time. Two of my favourites are Biome, and Flora and Fauna.
Biome has a wide range of goods, including homewares, fashion, beauty, books, cleaning, and even DIY kits for food, like cheese and cider. Flora and Fauna have a lot of beauty and body products, but also fashion, homewares, and food. They also offer vouchers for sending in your empty, cleaned beauty/body product containers for recycling. Both Biome and F&F have membership programs.
Some, like Beauty and the Bees, have seconds sales, too – individual products that can’t be sold at full price, either due to damaged packaging, or being slightly misshapen (when it comes to soap, who cares?!). They also sell off-cuts for cheap.
Sometimes you’re able to buy items for more than 50% off, so it can be well worth having a look at these options when you find them.
Buy in bulk
There are some products that you can’t buy just once, no matter how much you want to. I’m talking about things like toothbrushes and earth-friendly toilet paper – unless you want to venture into the world of family cloth, but that’s quite a transition. I’m not there yet.
Anyway, these consumables are better bought in bulk because it often makes them cheaper per item.
I have found bamboo toothbrushes to cost about the same or cheaper than a regular plastic one, but if you buy them in bulk then they’re cheaper again, and you have a backup when you need one.
The same goes for toilet paper. I love Who Gives a Crap, because it’s recycled, the cost is on par with other paper, they donate generously to those in need, and you can buy it cheaper in bulk.
Just don’t buy it
You mightn’t have expected this one, and it will likely take a bit of pondering before you come around to it. It always does for me. You may think you need something in particular, say, a reusable straw. Chances are, you actually don’t unless you’re a person with a specific disability.
So instead of stressing about buying one for $15, think about how often you are likely to use it, and picture life without it. If your mental picture is completely unaffected by the lack of a straw, then you really don’t need to buy it. Just get into the practice of saying, “no straw, please.”
If in doubt, you can always experiment. Spend a period of time without whatever the thing is, and without the disposable version of it too, and see if it makes your life any more difficult. Only buy if it will add value to your life.
Don’t buy all at once
If you’re new to the zero waste movement and are keen to get into absolutely everything straight away, that’s great! But don’t send yourself broke trying to buy all the eco-friendly products you can find.
It doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t need every single thing on the market and by buying up before you know what’s really needed, you’ll have definitely wasted your money.
Prioritise the various elements of your transition by slowing down and doing a self-assessment of your current waste. I’m working on a course right now that will help you do exactly that. I’m really excited about it and I really think it will help you to make a difference! Sign up for my newsletter to be first in line once it’s released.
If you have a list of things that you need but can’t buy it all at once, just pick what you need most and save for it. Once you can buy it, do so, then start saving for the next item. In no time at all you’ll have everything you need.
Change what you do
Another way to save money is to change your habits slightly.
Take this example: You’ve always put your leftovers on a plate and covered it with plastic wrap. Now, you want to remove this particular plastic waste by buying an alternative.
You could always go out and buy a replacement for the plastic wrap, such as the Agreena 3-in-1 wraps – which, for the record, I actually love because they replace aluminium foil and baking paper as well… OR, you could just switch to using containers which you already have at home.
Do bear in mind, pursuing a zero waste lifestyle is just that – a lifestyle. It isn’t just owning a few reusable products. You need to be willing to learn and embrace new, different, and even old and forgotten ideas to make this work. This might mean changing a habit or a mindset, which can take time but I can assure you will be worth it.
I hope this post has helped you discover some new ways to buy what you need. Let me know in the comments what it is you want to find cheaper!
Image credit: Chrissie Kremer on Unsplash