Want to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2020 but already failing miserably at your goal? Don’t give up! Just switch gears and aim for “less” versus “none.” After all, something may not be better than nothing in this case, but it’s still better than the other alternative! Read on for 95 super practical ways to consume less and get closer to that zero waste goal.

Want to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2020 but already failing miserably at your goal? Don't give up! Just switch gears and aim for "less" versus "none." After all, something may not be better than nothing in this case, but it's still better than the other alternative! Read on for 95 super practical ways to consume less and get closer to that zero waste goal.

We’re all trying to get closer to that elusive “zero waste” lifestyle, right? Let’s be honest, though, it’s hard! We live in a world where “convenient” and “effortless” are selling points for everything from makeup to dinner recipes. There’s a reason why ads don’t say things like, “This product will make your life more difficult, but it’s totally worth it.”  So, I came up with a list of  PRACTICAL ways to cut down on waste and consume less overall.

Practical Tips to Get Closer to a Zero Waste Lifestyle

I really do think we need to get over our selfish idea that our convenience matters more than a healthy planet. That said, I like when things are easy as much as the next girl. So, most of these tips won’t really even inconvenience you much (or at all).

FYI, this post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you buy through them. I’m only recommending things that will actually help you cut down on your waste in the long run.

  1. Ditch your print magazine (and newspaper) subscriptions and go digital instead.
  2. Follow this basic rule when acquiring new items: Borrow first, secondhand second, buy last.
  3. If possible, ditch straws. I know that sometimes it’s not feasible. There are legit medical reasons for needing a straw and metal replacements aren’t always a safe option.
  4. If you still use paper towels, switch to reusable bamboo towels. One roll lasts up to 6 months.
  5. Better yet, ditch paper towels entirely and cut up old sheets to use in their place.
  6. Wash full loads of laundry in cold water and skip the fabric softener. Try using a wool dryer ball instead.
  7. Buy non-perishables in bulk to cut down on packaging waste. Think laundry soap, toilet paper, etc. Things you know you’ll actually use up.
  8. As far as perishable items go, buy just what you need. Otherwise, you’ll end up throwing more out. (In other words,don’t buy that ginormous package of berries unless you know you’ll eat all of them).
  9. Bring your own reusable produce bag to the grocery store instead of using their plastic bags.
  10. Stop ditching perfectly good clothes just because they’re not in trend anymore. Buy a few classic pieces and update them with accessories instead.
  11. Opt for multipurpose kitchen appliances. A pressure cooker that doubles as a slow cooker, for example.
  12. Ditch K-Cups and other single-use pods. Switch to reusable pods that you fill with regular coffee.  My Keurig melted months ago and as much as I miss it, I’ve been using my backup Mr. Coffee and it’s just fine.
  13. Make your own coffee and take it to work in a reusable to-go cup instead of buying it from a coffee shop. It doesn’t have to be boring! Check out these 20 easy coffee recipes.
  14. Speaking of coffee, don’t chuck those used grinds. Reuse them! Check out: 27 Brilliant Uses for Coffee Besides Just Drinking It
  15. Still on the subject of coffee, check out this tutorial to make a reusable filter. It’ll help you cut down on or completely eliminate paper filters.
  16. Use loose leaf tea and put it in an infuser. These are super cute!
  17. Get a library card. Don’t just use it for print books. Use it to borrow ebooks on Overdrive, too. That way, you’re saving gas, time, and money.
  18. Stop washing your hair every day. Not only will you save water & money, your hair will thank you! PS, you don’t even need to use dry shampoo in between UNLESS your hair is oily.
  19. Keep extra reusable grocery bags in your trunk until you get into the habit of bringing them with you. I always forget mine, so don’t feel bad.
  20. Stop buying the latest iPhone brand new. Instead, sell your old one to and buy an upgraded one from a site like Gazelle. I bought two phones from them and they work flawlessly.
  21. Switch to LED lights when your bulbs burn out. They last longer and are more energy efficient, so you’ll save money and toss fewer bulbs into the trash.
  22. When you remodel a room, go with a neutral paint color and just swap out the accessories. My in-laws lost their home last year in a fire. The new one is all grey or white, and they just swap out seasonal decor to brighten it up. It looks amazing.
  23. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush. While you still need to swap it out regularly, it’s more eco-friendly, both in materials and biodegradability.
  24. Before you toss that toothbrush, give it new life as a household cleaning tool
  25. Don’t put garbage bags in every trashcan in your house. Just empty trash into one big bag. We do this for my son’s trash, the bathroom bins, and office bins. It’s not as gross as you’d think, I promise.
  26. Either use the recommended amount or a little less detergent when washing your clothes. Too many people think more is better. You’ll ruin your clothes, your washer, and your budget. I use a little less and my clothes come out just fine!
  27. Order your groceries online and do curbside pickup. This will drastically cut down on impulse buys. I do it twice a month and it’s also really helped me stretch my grocery budget!
  28. Quit making paper lists. Use something like Rocketbook Mini instead. It’s erasable.
  29. Stop buying bottled water. Filter your own at home with something like the Royal Berkey Water Filter SystemIf you use bottled water as much as I do (we have sulfur water here), it’ll pay for itself by the end of the first year.
  30. Buy a ginormous bag of Epsom salts & a few essential oils to make your own bath salts. It’s significantly cheaper and produces virtually no waste (except the bag and the bottle when your supplies run out).
  31. Or, even easier, just toss a handful of plain Epsom salts in the tub and add a couple of drops of essential oils. That way, you won’t even need an extra container. It works just as well. I do it all the time.
  32. Put some loose leaf herbal tea into a reusable tea bag and toss it in your bath.
  33. Never throw food away. If it’s still good, donate it or repurpose it (like, make bread pudding out of stale bread, chicken salad out of last night’s chicken breast, etc). If it’s past its prime,  compost it or toss it outside for wildlife.
  34. Same goes for your pet’s food. Let the wildlife have it! Our local squirrels & blue jays eat VERY well!
  35. Buy in-season fruits and veggies, preferably from local sources.
  36. Use natural ways to get rid of pests in your garden or around your home. Mother Earth News has a good list of what works and what doesn’t.
  37. Stop buying takeout at lunch. Pack your own in eco-friendly plastic-free lunchware instead. Even if you just do this a couple of times a week, it helps!
  38. Invest in a good reusable water bottle and actually use it!
  39. If you drink soda, choose cans over larger plastic bottles. I know, it sounds weird, especially since you end up producing MORE waste overall. However, aluminum is actually a lot better than plastic in many ways. Still not exactly eco-friendly, but it’s the lesser of two “evils.”
  40. Buying a present for a birthday? Give experiences, not stuff. Not sure what experience gift to give? Go with cash instead.
  41. Buy pasta sauce in glass jars. When they’re empty, run them through the dishwasher then reuse them for glasses or storage containers. 
  42. Make or buy reusable cotton rounds for your face instead of buying that sleeve of disposable rounds.
  43. An old fuzzy sock works just as well as a new Swiffer mop head.
  44. Old socks also make excellent dust rags. Stick them on the end of your broom handle to reach spots high up or in tight corners.
  45. Love microwave popcorn? Get yourself a silicone popper and buy bulk kernels.
  46. Use a stainless steel bar of soap instead of the traditional stuff to remove odors from your hands. My aunt got everyone one for Christmas and it works great!
  47. Make your own reusable disinfectant cleaning wipes .
  48. Don’t buy single serving bags of chips and crackers.  Not only are they crazy overpriced (you get significantly less for a whole lot more) but they’re wasteful. Buy a big bag and put them in reusable snack bags.
  49. Stop buying plastic wrap. Use beeswax food wraps instead.
  50. Check out some wrapping paper alternatives. Even if you only swap out half of your traditional wrapping paper for something more eco-friendly, it’s a start!
  51. Stop buying craft paper for kids. Just reuse what you have on hand. The back side of junk letters, old wrapping paper, etc. You can even use junk mail that’s printed on both sides. Just paint over the words with white paint.
  52. Speaking of junk mail, check out these tips for keeping it out of your snail mailbox. .
  53. Can’t commit to a 30-day “buy nothing” challenge? Me either! Instead, designate one or two days a week as “buy nothing” days. Don’t be lazy and pick days where you don’t usually leave the house anyway. 🙂
  54. Make and stick to a meal plan so you’re not wasting so much food or ordering so much takeout. Make one of the days “leftover day.”
  55. Fix broken electronics. If you can’t, take out any dangerous parts (and properly dispose of them), then let your older kids take them apart to see how they work. Check out Why You Should Take Apart Electronics With Kids.
  56. Grow your own herbs, veggies, and fruits. Share your bounty with your neighbors.
  57. Don’t buy planters. Check out these 30 Things You Can Upcycle into a Planter.
  58. Make your own cleaning supplies. Lemon, baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils (together or separate) can clean nearly anything in your home.
  59. Buy more veggies that you can eat from root to stalk
  60. Bring your own “doggy bag” to restaurants.
  61. Switch to rechargeable batteries, especially for things like gaming system remotes. We went through a crazy amount of batteries before I made my son start actually using the charger I bought him!
  62. Want to buy something you don’t actually need? Pay for your other stuff and take it out to your car. If you desperately still want it, then go back in to get it. If it’s not worth the hassle, it’s not worth buying.
  63. Give cash instead of gift cards. Cash is resuable. It goes from one hand to another for years. Gift cards get used then thrown out. The exception, of course, is a re-loadable gift card.
  64. Remodeling your house? Ditch the carpet (recycle or donate it). That way, you can also ditch the carpet cleaners, half dozen vacuums, and everything else that goes into their upkeep. Plus, your allergies will thank you.
  65. Stop ironing every piece of clothing you wear. Just hang them up in the bathroom when you take a shower. Save energy, save time. Plus, if you don’t have an iron, you don’t have to buy one!
  66. Don’t buy shaving cream. Just use your conditioner, soap, body wash, or shampoo. Any of them will do the trick.
  67. Ditch bottled shampoo and use a shampoo bar instead.
  68. Find a trustworthy car mechanic who won’t try to replace stuff that isn’t broken. It sounds like common sense, but it’s a lesson that I didn’t learn until I found myself bawling hysterically when a chain mechanic told me I needed $600 worth of stuff replaced. I got a recommendation for a local mechanic from a friend. Turns out, I needed about $125 worth of stuff repaired instead. Those repairs held up for 5 years.
  69. Stop asking for receipts for every little thing. Sure, get them for gifts and the big stuff. Otherwise, ask for the emailed version or just skip them. I mean, it’s not like you can return digested food, right?
  70. Don’t throw out that ugly old throw pillow. Just buy (or better yet, make) a new cover for it. 
  71. If you care for feral cats like we do, turn your child’s old playhouse into a shelter for them. Don’t have ferals? Donate it to someone who does.
  72. There is really no legit reason to buy napkins. Ever. If you’re having a fancy dinner party, use cloth napkins. A barbecue? You’re better off just using paper towels. Napkins don’t absorb squat and they fall apart if you look at them the wrong way.
  73. Speaking of napkins, unless you’re a crazy messy eater, you don’t need a handful of them when you go out to eat. Ask for one. Better yet, ask for none.
  74. Unless you regularly go to fancy balls, weddings, and what not rent a tux. Don’t buy it. Ditto for super fancy formal dresses.
  75. Stop buying lottery tickets. Not only are they a waste of money, but also a waste of paper. If you can’t resist, buy just one. I feel that if I’m meant to win, it’ll be with that one ticket.
  76. Babies don’t need shoes, so stop wasting money on them. Just get super cute socks. Once they start walking, THEN you can start buying them. Repurpose the aforementioned socks into cute little finger puppets.
  77. Stop trading in perfectly good cars. Who decided that we need a new one every other year?  I had the same car for 14 years. It was on it’s last leg, so I just got a 2015 Nissan two years ago. I’ll have that one until it falls apart, which hopefully won’t be for a very, very long time.
  78. When it is time to ditch your old clunker, buy a gently used car. As Cheapism explains, you’ll know more about a car’s reliability and safety if it’s a model from a year or two ago than a brand new model. A more reliable car means fewer repairs, which means significantly less waste.
  79. Never ever ever buy pre-portioned produce! Not only will you spend 3 times more money on them, but the packaging is usually plastic. What a waste!
  80. Start a toy swap with other parents. Kids outgrow or get bored with toys faster than you can assemble the next one!
  81. Don’t buy “novelty” appliances. Sure, that Star Wars toaster is darling, but 9 times out of ten it’ll break a lot faster than a plain old reliable model.
  82. Only buy Blu-rays and DVDs for movies you know you’ll watch again and again. Otherwise, either rent them or buy the digital version. 
  83. Stop buying a dozen tiny party favors for your kids birthday. They’ll end up in the trash anyway. Instead, get one really awesome favor (or skip them entirely).
  84. Buy the kind of razor that lets you just replace the head instead of the whole thing. Better yet, get an electric razor that doesn’t need to be replaced.
  85. Cut down on the amount of face cleansers you buy. Instead, use something like this ultrasonic facial cleaner. I have a different one, but let me tell you, my face gets fantastically clean with just plain water.
  86. Cleanse your face with olive, almond oil, or argan oil. It actually draws out other oils in your skin AND locks in moisture. Just use a cotton round (remember what we talked about above, though) and swipe it across your skin.
  87. Make your own dog toys using old jeans, fleece blankets, and what not. Honestly, I’ll never stop buying Freya toys, but I do have a “make half, buy half” policy.
  88. Start a “make half, buy half” policy for other things that you just feel like you can’t stop buying. For example, seasonal decorations.
  89. Don’t buy any more flower vases. Use what you have or repurpose other containers. Those glass pasta jars work great!
  90. Accessories with a purpose. Buy fair trade jewelry that supports artisans around the world and stick to a few great pieces. When you tired of something, give it to your kids and let them make something new.
  91. Don’t buy new furniture unless your old stuff is falling apart. Just cover it with a slipcover or reupholster it entirely.
  92. Traveling? Skip the souvenirs that end up buried in the back of a closet. Just take more photos. If you do want a keepsake, get something useful. I collect magnets from places I visit. Cheesy, yeah, but they make me happy and don’t end up in the trash.
  93. Speaking of travel, plan vacations closer to home. You’ll save money, gas and time. Plus, you’ll produce less waste because you won’t be chucking dozens of to-go cups, road trip snack bags, and so on.
  94. Don’t buy plastic cutlery. Like napkins, there’s rarely a time when they’re a better alternative than plain old silverware
  95. Make a zero-waste “on the go” kit. Keep it in your car. Heck, make two. One to use and one for those times when you forget to put your main one back in your car after cleaning everything.

Recommended Products for a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

I recommended a bunch of different products above, but if you want a quick list of my top 10, here you go:

While a few of these require giving up slightly more convenience than others, as you can see none of them are terribly difficult. I also made sure that I only shared things I could actually afford to do myself (or better yet, would actually save me money). I feel like a lot of zero-waste and other eco-friendly lists assume that we’re either made of money, super crafty, or both.

I hope I succeeding in giving you at least a few practical and actionable ideas to get you started!

Last update on 2020-10-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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