zero waste tips
Updated September 30, 2021

21 Zero Waste Tips That Can Save You Big Bucks

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As more attention is drawn to the harmful effects of climate change, many people are looking for zero waste tips to help cut down on the amount of trash they generate.

While they are becoming more aware of how their actions affect the environment, they also realize that reducing waste can help them to save money every month.

If you’ve been trying to reduce your harmful practices, this post contains all the advice you need to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Why Is Zero Waste A Solution?

  • For a long time, simply separating your refuse for recycling was seen as doing your part.
  • However, there is a growing school of thought which encourages using resources in such a way that nothing goes to landfills, oceans or incinerators.
  • This is called the zero waste philosophy and it is focused on waste prevention rather than waste management.
  • Instead of figuring out what to do with the plastic, paper or organic waste you generate, you avoid generating it at all.
  • Not everyone commits to a completely zero waste lifestyle, but it can be beneficial to make at least a few changes. Not only is it eco-friendly, but it can save you some money.

1. Reduce Your Food Waste

Food is most likely one of your biggest monthly expenses. Research shows the average American household spends $7,203 on food annually.

However, about a quarter of that food is thrown away. Reducing your food waste can, therefore, result in significant savings. One thing you need to do is to buy only the food you know you will eat.

With a little creativity and research, you can use every part of the fruits and vegetables you purchase. It is also helpful to understand expiration dates.

Many people throw away perfectly good food because the sell by or best by dates are gone.

Shopping consciously and prepping meals can go a long way in reducing the amount of food you have to throw away. This can save you an average of 25 percent of your grocery bill.

Pro Tip: If you want to save even more money, use Long Game Savings and get rewarded for reaching your financial goals.

2. Cut Paper from Your Kitchen

Paper towels come in handy in the kitchen, but they generate lots of waste. Most Americans used at least five packs or rolls of paper towels per month in 2018. Many used more than eight packs. With these disposable products costing $1 to $2 per roll, people are spending at least $60 to $120 annually on paper towels. This is not a large sum of money but people with large families or those who use paper towels frequently could be paying even more.

Also, the pulp and paper industry consumes lots of water and emits a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Therefore, reducing demand for paper products benefits the environment. As far as zero waste tips go, reducing your use of paper towels is pretty easy to do.

Good to Know

You can find lots of cloth towels and napkins at your local dollar store.  They can be used to wipe up spills in the same way you use paper towels and you can quickly wash them when they get dirty.

Pro Tip: With Shopkick you can get paid to just walk into stores!

3. Stop Buying Bottled Water

You may be buying bottled water out of convenience since it’s easy to grab a bottle when you’re out and about. However, you’re contributing to the waste problem and wasting money. The tap water in most places in the United States is safe to drink so unless you live somewhere like Flint, Michigan, you don’t need to buy bottled water.

If you are still concerned or you just don’t like the taste of water straight from the tap, invest in a water pitcher filter, filtered water bottle, or home filtration system.

You can also purchase a water softener system if there are lots of minerals in the water in your area. This comes with an upfront cost but it will save you money in the long-run.

Pro Tip: If for some reason you must have bottled water, don’t buy the small individual bottles. Instead, get a water cooler setup. These large bottles last longer, generate less waste, and are less expensive over time.

4. Buy Food with Less Packaging

There may be zero waste stores in your town which allow you to buy unpackaged foods. While you may have to buy in bulk, you’ll likely pay less per unit because of the lack of packaging.

If you think about it, many items are sold with unnecessary plastic wrap, trays or bags. Moreover, packaging is responsible for about nine percent of the cost of a product. When you eliminate packaging, you can save some money on your food bill.

Pro Tip: If there are no bulk store options near you, you can shop at Asian or Mexican stores which tend to have lots of unpackaged produce available. You may be able to save up to five to ten percent of your typical grocery costs.

5. Reduce Your Garbage Bill

Each person throws away about 1,000 pounds of garbage per year. If your garbage collection company charges you by weight or per can, you have an added incentive to reduce your waste.

Most people pay between $12 and $20 per month on garbage collection but you can cut this by about 50 percent or even more. You just need to be more mindful about what you purchase so you have less to throw away.

Main Advantage: This is one of the key zero waste tips you really need to keep in mind. Much of the refuse you think goes to landfill actually ends up in the ocean.  Even if you pay a flat fee for garbage collection, eliminating some of your trash is still an excellent idea.

6. Take Your Own Bags to the Store

American families use almost 1,500 plastic bags each year. Many of them end up in the ocean where they cause harm to living organisms. Even biodegradable bags can pose a threat. Some grocery stores have sought to reduce the use of plastic bags by charging a small fee for them. Others give you a small reward when you bring a reusable bag.

Good to Know

Walking with your own bags keeps money in your pocket and contributes to the sustainability of the planet. You can purchase reusable bags or make your own from old T-shirts or scraps of cloth.

7. Take Your Own Coffee Cup to the Café

Do you need to have coffee to get your day started? If you’re like many Americans, you do. While you may make some of that coffee at home, chances are you pop into Starbucks or an independent café a few times per week.

This is understandable since its convenient to buy coffee, especially if you like specialty drinks or a lot of variety. However, your caffeine habit generates a lot of waste and hits you in the pocket. If you take a reusable cup to Starbucks, you get a $0.10 discount. This means you save $26 per year if you go for a cup of coffee five days a week. If you drink more, you can save more.

Pro Tip: For even deeper savings, make your coffee at home, put it in a travel mug and take it with you when you head out to run errands or go to work.

8. Clean Your Home with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Another way to work towards zero waste living is to stop buying commercial cleaning products. Many families spend hundreds of dollars each year on cleaning supplies. In addition to the cost, these supplies create lots of plastic and paper waste which is difficult to breakdown. Then there’s the concern that many of the ingredients in these products are toxic or cancer-causing.

If you want to tackle all these issues in one go, stop buying cleaning supplies and use baking soda and vinegar. Mixed together or used individually with water, you can clean pretty much any surface in your home. Baking soda and vinegar are both safer and more cost-effective.

Pro Tip: Did you know that you can get money back on your daily purchases? With a cashback app like Shopkick, you can easily save while saving the planet.

9. Create Your Own Laundry Detergent

The average American family washes almost 400 loads of laundry annually and spends an average of $89.43 on laundry detergent. Depending on the size of your family and how many outfits and linens you go through, you may spend substantially more or less.

However, any amount of money you can save is a good thing. If you make your own laundry detergent, you can save quite a bit of money each year.

You’ll also know exactly what is going into the product and you can adjust ingredients based on your preferences. A simple recipe will call for washing soda, baking soda, lye or Castile bar soap, borax, and the essential oils of your choice.

Bonus Tip: As a replacement for fabric softener, use distilled white vinegar and further reduce your shopping bill.

10. Buy Second-Hand Clothing

Shop at thrift stores, consignment shops, and vintage outlets and you can reduce your spending on clothing by around 50 percent. Unless you’re buying rare, vintage designer threads, pre-owned or gently used clothing will cost a lot less than new clothing.

If you’re not used to thrifting, you may think second-hand clothing shows signs of wear or is in poor condition. However, you can often find items which are new or almost new.

This is especially the case with baby clothing. Many people buy garment they never wear, and these items tend to end up in consignment shops or at flea markets. When people really want to get rid of clutter in their home, they can drop the price significantly.

Pro Tip: If you want to lower your shopping bill even more, try buying less clothing overall and getting creative with the pieces you already own.

11. Buy in Bulk

If you’re still wondering if zero waste can save money, look no further than buying items you use frequently in bulk. Some stores allow you to bring your own bags or jars when you purchase staples. For things like produce, the price drops significantly when you buy unpackaged items.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have bulk bins near you, consider buying large bags of staples to cut back on packaging and spending.

12. Eat What You Have Before Buying More

Instead of going to the grocery store every week, commit to using up the produce from the week before. Get creative and plan your meals so you use everything before it spoils.

Try to create simple meals which use fresh ingredients to cut down on food waste and live more sustainability. If you can grow a small herb garden or some food crops, this can help to reduce your spending and give you more control over what goes into your meals.

Pro Tip: When you do go shopping, use the Drop app to earn cashback. This is a good way to save even more money.

13. Store Food Properly

This is another one of those zero waste tips which relate to food. One of the reasons families often have to throw away food items is that they didn’t store them properly. Not all fruits and vegetables need to go into the fridge. Apples, for example, can be left on the counter for up to a week and tomatoes should always be stored at room temperature.

Uncut watermelon should be stored away from other produce in a dark, dry area. For those items that do need to be chilled, where you put them matters. Berries should be stored in dry, covered containers but citrus fruits should go in the crisper drawer.

Good to Know

When you put leftover meals in the fridge or freezer, label them with the date you stored them so you can keep track of how long you’ve been keeping them. Be sure to use them before it’s too late.

14.  Buy Produce That’s Ready to Eat

This is another way to save money while eating healthy foods. Many stores reduce the price of fruits when they are very ripe.

You can get peaches, bananas, and other items for as much as 50 percent off if you’re going to eat them the same day or the next day. They may not be the most attractive but they’re still fit to eat. Very ripe fruits are great for making pies, cobblers or muffins so getting them when they’re discounted is an added bonus.

Good to Know

When you visit your local store, be sure to look out for the ready-to-eat produce. Carry your own bags and enjoy the extra savings with cashback apps like Ibotta.

15. Find Alternatives to Aluminum Foil

Many people wrap any and everything in foil. They use it when baking, storing food or offering meals to others.

However, discontinuing its use can save you a few dollars every month. It may even be safer since there are concerns about the effects of aluminum leaching into food.

Instead of using foil for baking, purchase reusable silicone baking mats. Wax cloth food wraps are a natural and sustainable alternative to foil if you want something to wrap your food in.

Pro Tip: Taking care of your and your family’s health can save you thousands of dollars in long run but it an also earn you money. You can use an app like HealthyWage to earn money while losing weight.

16. Use Handkerchiefs Instead of Tissues

This is an old school suggestion but it’s worth considering. Think about all the tissues you throw away after wiping your face and hands or blowing your nose.

Go back to handkerchiefs and reduce the amount of waste you generate. Tissues are inexpensive so the savings might not seem like much but everything adds up.

Purchase some handkerchiefs and just throw them in the wash when they’re dirty.

17. Swap Tampons and Pads with a Menstrual Cup

Feminine care products are a recurring expense many women can do without. Disposable pads may seem convenient but they create a lot of waste and they aren’t good for the environment.

If you want to live a zero-waste lifestyle, use cloth pads or menstrual cups instead. These are safer since they aren’t bleached and many women find them more comfortable.

Pro Tip: Did you know that cups and cloth pads can be washed and reused as needed?

18. Purchase Reusable Razors

If you want to eliminate plastic waste, another personal care item which should be swapped is your razor. Disposable plastic razors are cheap but if you want to save money in the long term, stainless steel safety razors are best. These reusable razors can be recycled as can their stainless steel blades.

Pro Tip: You’ll need to call around to local recycling facilities to find out which ones take metals.

19. Get a Compostable Toothbrush

When you were searching for zero waste tips, you probably didn’t think about getting a different toothbrush. However, plastic toothbrushes get into the ocean and contribute to the massive waste problem we have.

Pro Tip: If you want to do your part for the environment and fully embrace zero waste living, get rid of the plastic and purchase a bamboo toothbrush.  These are biodegradable and BPA-free.

20. Simplify Your Beauty Routine

Skin care products and makeup usually come in plastic containers. In many cases, you probably don’t even use all the products before you throw them away.

Many of us get into the habit of buying a cheap face cream or lipstick and then tossing it because we don’t like it. Try reducing the number of products you buy and use. Where possible, use natural products like coconut oil to remove makeup or seal in moisture.

There are a number of multi-use products on the market which can be used from head to toe and you should consider these.

If you struggle with impulse buying, here’s how to save more money.

21. Trade Books Instead of Buying New Ones

If you love to read, you may be constantly buying new books. At the same time, there are people who throw away books when they no longer need them.

Getting together with other book lovers and swapping tomes can keep several books out of the trash. It can also help you to spend much less on reading material.

Wrapping Up

It may take some time to adjust to zero waste living but if you want to cut back on your spending and do your part for the environment, it’s worth the effort.

Start by acting on a few of these zero waste tips and before long, preventing waste generation will be second nature.

Have you started implementing zero waste practices? If so, how has it been working out?


Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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