Uncommon Swaps for Going Zero Waste

When you think of going zero waste and making those zero waste swaps, I’m sure the same things just seem to come to mind: metal straws, reusable water bottles, canvas grocery bags, bamboo toothbrushes, and maybe even a safety razor. After you buy all of those things, it might seem harder and harder to find good reusable swaps for your every day routine, and even more so for the parts of your life that are not so habitual. Overtime, I’ve done some deep digging into the zero waste community and the content that it has produced in order to find some of those swaps that you might not have even thought of. Some of these I own and some of these I have yet to buy, but if you’re trying to reduce your waste, then I would give these products below a good search.

Reusable Coffee Filters

Reusable coffee filters for a regular coffee machine come in two forms that I have found, which is a cloth filter and a plastic and mesh filter. While the cloth filter might seem like the no brainer option for looking to cut your waste, it doesn’t last forever. Most brands that I looked at for cloth coffee filters rated their filters to only last around 12-18 months of continual, everyday use. However, the plastic and mesh combination that I mentioned, usually last as long as they are taken care of.

There is also the option of forgoing the regular coffee machine and buying french press or pour over coffee makers. Those add the option of a metal mesh coffee filter that will basically last you forever.

Rechargeable Batteries

I can’t believe that it took me as long as it did for me to remember that rechargeable batteries were a thing. My older sister used to have a battery charger that she got with one of her older digital cameras, and we used it for a good while when I was younger. I just recently bought my own battery charger and rechargeable batteries (4AA and 4AA). I’m excited to use them this year for my electronics that need them, and might actually buy some more AA batteries, since they tend to be used more than AAA. I got both my charger and batteries from Energizer, and I chose them mostly because their rechargeable batteries are also made with 4% recycled batteries.

Fountain Pens

I’ve seen a ton of people in the zero waste community that have switched to owning only one pen, and I would love to be one of them in the near future. Fountain pens are great because they are refillable, so you cut down your plastic consumption from one whole pen to the small ink cartridges. There are also options that allow you to refill the pens from inkwells, so you can just buy ink in a glass bottle and have it to refill your pen. Fountain pens that I’ve seen can range anywhere from twenty dollars to over two-hundred dollars easily, depending on the style and quality of the pen. I’m currently looking at getting one from a brand called Kaweco, possibly for Christmas.

Compostable Bandages

Band-Aid’s are great for whenever you get a little scratch or cut, but most brands of bandages that you can buy at the store aren’t sustainably made or biodegradable. But there are now brands that have their own compostable and/or biodegradable bandages for you to use. Patch is one of the big players in this market and the first one that I ever heard of. Their bandages even come in a cute paperboard tube with pandas on it, so that’s a cute plus.

Shopping Amazon Renewed

This isn’t a product, but a service that I don’t think many people talk about. Since technology is a huge source of waste in our society and is so resource intensive, it would be great to give some of those electronics a second life, don’t you think? In comes Amazon Renewed for all you technology needs. Not only are you getting quality, secondhand tech, but you are also able to save money. Amazon Renewed also comes with a 1 year purchase guarantee, so if something happens to your new tablet, laptop, or phone after buying, you can return it and get your money back. This not only saves you money, but it also saves these products from going to landfill, so I would recommend giving Amazon Renewed a shot. Personally, I am looking there to get myself a nice iPad and Apple Pencil so that I can start doing digital art.

Biodegradable Trash Bags

No matter what you do, you are going to create some kind of waste, and there is no way around it. One area of my life that I try to take as much waste back as I put into it is my trash can. There are numerous brands coming out now with biodegradable trash bags, Eco-Smartbags being the one that comes to mind. I think that the main reason that people don’t know about brands like Eco-Smartbags is simply because they are not carried in mainstream stores.

Recycled Toilet Paper

Recycled toilet paper is just toilet paper made from recycled paper. This has become a bit more available with brands like Great Value and Seventh Generation coming out with their own 100% recycled toilet paper. If you can’t find any in-store then there are always a plethora of options online. I’m telling you that it works just like normal toilet paper and is better for the environment.


If you want to maybe even forego toilet paper altogether, then a bidet is just what you need. Basically, a bidet uses water to do what you would normally do with toilet paper. You don’t have to buy a completely new kind of toilet to do this, as bidets can come as attachments that you install onto your current commode. I personally want to do this when I have my own place and the ability to install one. I think that bidets have the same weird stigma around them as period cups, Even if I was the only one to use it, it would cut the amount going to landfills and sitting in septics tremendously.

Cloth Napkins

I feel like everyone in the zero waste community talks a lot about their unpaper towels and never about cloth napkins, even though they are basically the same thing. I don’t think that people initially have to go out of their way to buy cloth napkins, as you could easily make some yourself out of old t-shirts, but I do understand the investment in a nice, quality set of cloth napkins. I myself would recommend getting your napkins in a darker color since they will hide the stains from spaghetti night better that way.


Handkerchiefs might be thought of as a trendy fashion accessory, but it wasn’t very long ago that people used handkerchiefs almost exclusively for wiping their faces and noses throughout the day. Both of my grandpas used handkerchiefs until the day they died, and they both lived to be over 80. Handkerchiefs being used for their original purpose has made people believe that they are more unsanitary than they actually are. If used correctly with the right practices and habits, like storing away immediately and hand washing after use, handkerchiefs can be very sanitary. Ideally, you should own more than one handkerchief in order to have an ongoing rotation of clean and sanitary handkerchiefs.

Reusable Cotton Swab

I feel as though everyone talks about buying reusable cotton rounds, and never about the other most commonly used bathroom item, cotton swabs. The swab that I have from LastObject is perfect for me to use everyday and also comes in a nice carrying case, making it harder to lose. There is a basic version for cleaning your ears, and also a beauty version for any touchups you might have to make when doing your makeup. I’ve seen a lot of knockoff versions of this product, so I would implore you to buy from LastObject if you can, since they were the originators of this product.

Switching to a Renewable Energy Provider

This is another swap that really doesn’t take much to do. First, you should see if your current energy provider has a green alternative that uses renewable energy like wind or solar. If there are no green alternatives for your energy provider, then you need to look at RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates). Here is what the Climate Reality Project had to say about RECs

“In many markets, customers can select a certified third-party provider to work with their utility and buy RECs equivalent to their energy use, in effect buying clean energy from a provider that may be thousands of miles away. The beauty of RECs is that they create a national market for clean energy, enabling a renter in Maine, for example, to essentially buy wind power from New York or solar power from North Carolina.”

You can read more about switching to renewable energy from the Climate Reality Project here.

Buy Handmade Items from Etsy and Other Online Marketplaces

This swap is another habit change that you can make to vote with your dollar and also get a lot of handmade, one-of-a-kind, and quality items. Etsy is a huge frontrunner in the category of small business marketplaces and features over 2.5 million sellers from around the world. The reason that I advocate for you to buy handmade items from small businesses online is for several reasons. One, smaller sellers are more readily able to ethically source their ingredients and materials that big companies cannot. Two, when you buy from small businesses, you are helping a person as opposed to a corporation that uses your money to contribute more waste to the environment. Three, handmade items from smaller businesses usually equates to a better investment of your money for a higher quality item. Four, smaller businesses usually care more about their customers and the environment compared to larger corporations, and are also more transparent with how they do business. And five, there are just so many amazing small businesses out there doing all they can for the environment if you know where to look for them.

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