What are the best Zero Waste products?

Here is a compilation of products and behaviors for anyone looking to adapt to a more zero waste life. I am not sponsored by any of these brands; I’ve found and purchased each of them myself. The zero waste products and behaviors below are ones I have ACTUALLY tried personally and all reviews are 100% honest thoughts and results. I will list the bests as well as the ‘just ok’ ones, with my review beside them.

If there is an Amazon link it is an affiliate, which costs nothing extra for you but helps fund my blog. For more info on my Amazon affiliate and how I feel about that… click here.

Zero Waste Products; Self-care

Deodorant:

Love at first smell, I only tried one and was obsessed. It’s technically a deodorant cream, it comes in a glass jar with a wooden applicator stick (or you can use your finger), I have tried like 6 of the scents and love all except for the Lemon Grapefruit- it’s too citrusy. I originally found them online and they offer free samples here. My favorite scents are: Charcoal (fresh/minty), Rosemary Patchouli (spicy), lavender (floral), and my absolute favorite-Jasmine Green Tea (feminine, not too sweet).

I found MOM’s Organic market carries them near me; they don’t have all the scents, only 4. Before, I only used Dove 48hour coverage for as long as I can remember and that’s also an anti-perspirant. Changing over is so different especially for someone who sweats a lot, LSF only deodorizes; it lasts a long time though and smells great- it’s also AMAZING for your skin because the ingredients are organic! I’ll be reusing the 2.4oz glass jars for herbs and spices; I already finished a jar. Glass is one of the 3 materials that never loses its quality during recycling and endlessly loops through the cycle making it zero-waste. Recycling is still the last answer because of the resources, reuse if you can, recycle if you can’t= zero waste either way.

Switching from antiperspirant

“If you’re switching from a conventional deodorant with an anti-perspirant to a natural deodorant, you’re going to want to do a detox.”

Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to go Zero Waste

I only just read this book; and deodorant is one of the first changes I made. I unfortunately went through weeks of some of my personal worst smelling days. Our bodies will naturally detox, which stinks. I know I sweat, and I accept this- but I don’t need to smell. I love Little Seed Farm deodorant cream. According to Kathryn, you can use lemon juice, create a sea-salt mix, or an Apple cider vinegar chamomile deodorant. She also recommends creating a mask during the detox stages that includes bentonite clay. This is something I have on hand for when I make face-masks, a great ingredient for DIY zero waste products- click here to get the one I use, or find it at your local Whole Foods store.

Shampoo and Conditioner:

I am currently in the market for shampoo and conditioner bars as I recently finished my last of Trader Joe’s Tea Tree tingle liquids. So far, I have only tried Lush brand because I thought they would for sure lead the market. Right now, I am using the Avocado co-wash, I am not a fan of it, it’s soft and doesn’t last long but it smells great. I cut a piece off to bring in the shower, to not expose the whole bar to the water, but still… I have a lot of hair and this one isn’t cleaning well enough. UPDATE: it is a co-wash and I had to get used to that, by the end of the bar I adapted and do like this bar- but I am still looking at alternatives.

During that same visit to Lush, I purchased a separate conditioner bar. That bar was a harder soap- I cannot find it on their website but it is a cream colored oval bar that says ‘Hair Conditioner’ on the surface (see cover photo). If I find a shampoo of the same consistency it would be perfect! Leave recommendations in the comments if you have any favorites please.

UPDATE: I have found two more shampoo bars to try. The first one I found in a haste. I was out of shampoo and while at the grocery store- Wegmans, I noticed an inexpensive shampoo bar. The second bar I founds was at MOM’s. I have only been going to stores when absolutely necessary- so I have not had a chance to try it just yet. I spent a little more time checking the label and not only does it not contain Palm Oil, but I could pronounce every name. Next zero waste product to try: J.R. Liggett’s Healthy Clean Hair Bar. This bar is extremely inexpensive in comparison to others on the market and comes in lots of scents. I chose Tea tree & Hemp oil Shampoo bar.

Beware of Greenwashing

It’s true, I was tricked by the first product. I quickly read the packaging and smelled the few choices available before grabbing the best option on the shelf. This all happening during the beginning of COVID social distancing, when grocery stores were bare and also hard to be in. At first, I loved it- I thought my search was over. Then I looked a little closer at the packaging and did some research. I found out I purchased Unilever’s new greenwashing bar and I WILL NEVER BUY THIS PRODUCT AGAIN! it is toxic to the environment; click here to read an individual post about this “environmentally- friendly” zero waste product.

Soap:

I’ll pretty much buy any organically made, without palm oil, bar soap that smells good. I just finished an olive oil one from Lush- it was great but pricey, and I have the Milky Bar to try; BUT I am still ‘reducing’ other bars- like Dove. I also stocked up on Grandpa’s soap at MOM’s. I picked this one because it smelled good and is safe for my face, which will eliminate another product/packaging (I currently use The Body Shop facewash and also love Cetaphil but they’re wasteful).

UPDATE: I loved the milky bar- it was so hydrating. I ended up not liking the Grandpa’s soap, it actually caused my face to breakout and dried out my skin. I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s before but I didn’t LOVE it… this was before 2018 when I wasn’t as adamant about the environment. I might try it again as I am still looking for a good shampoo bar and face wash option. However, I have found my go-to body soap bar- it’s the best!

FINALLY: I am now using Kirk’s 100% Premium Coconut Oil, Gentle Castile Soap and ABSOLUTELY love it- I can’t recommend it enough. It’s inexpensive and hydrating, this soap is hypoallergenic and non- irritating/ safe for skin! Kirk’s is likely the very first biodegradable soap, it started in 1839. It’s made with a bunch of natural, organic oils- I opted for coconut oil. Click here to order from Amazon.com, or check your local grocer; I found mine at MOM’s. It’s official, my zero waste body soap journey has come to an end. Kirk’s is my everyday soap- I just compost the paper packaging. I still recommend and love Lush products, with no packaging and all organic material, I fully support this BCorp and will consider it my specialty splurge- a special treat.

Menstrual cup:

I have owned the Diva Cup since 2007, I never used it until 2019. Like a tampon, it’s not comfortable at first but I swear once you get through one period using it, you’ll NEVER go back; Absolutely love it! If you are under 30 and/or haven’t had children click here; if you are over 30 and/or have had kids click here. Not everyone likes the DivaCup; there are MANY MORE reusable options now available- here is a test to find the best ‘cup’ for you. Beyond the test there are even disc-like looking ones and pad alternatives… the options are endless.

Zero Waste Products; Bathroom:

The first and easiest change to a zero-waste lifestyle is a Bamboo Toothbrush. I had been using a Sonicare and was obsessed, talked about it all the time, and I thought this would be the hardest change but it wasn’t and until Sonicare has compostable refill heads I will stick to my brushes. I like these ones because they’re medium bristles and they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee!

As of now, I am still using regular, not environmentally friendly toothpaste, but I cut my tube and scrape out EVERYTHING. I will try tabs once they have fluoride options. Also, don’t forget to turn off the water while brushing!

Bidet:

I wrote a whole post about this here; that is how much I needed to have one of these in my bathroom! Anyway, if you are already set on getting one- here is the link to the one I use daily; I cannot recommend this one enough! I read tons of reviews on multiple options and am so happy with this one, I had no issues with install or any leaks. UPDATE: this has been a godsend during quarantine- my toilet paper lasts much longer and I’ve never felt cleaner.

Zero Waste behavior, shower

Zero waste, in my opinion, is more than just how much trash I accumulate. There are many ways to define the term. In the end, all of the definitions contribute to a more sustainable way of life. Zero Waste is the ideal goal but the progress of having ‘Less Waste’ every day is more manageable. To offset my actual trash I conserve waste in other areas.

I save water by limiting shampoos to every 4 days. This makes my average shower time 8 minutes (including the time to warm up). I still shower daily to wash my body, of course. It takes only 5 minutes to wash my body. I take 15 minutes to wash my hair, my body, and shave. Here is a 12 day average: (3×15+9×5)/12= 8.3333. I used to take a 20 minute shower every day. With a low-flow shower head (2.1/min) this cuts my water usage to 17.2 gallons.

“Conventional showerheads flow at 5 gallons per minute or more, whereas low-flow showerheads typically flow at 2.5 gallons per minute (or less!)”

watercalculator.org

Zero Waste Products; Kitchen:

Ok… there are tons of unnecessary products, and greenwashing companies, targeting kitchens in the environmental arena. I limit buying tons of things because essentially zero waste means having less overall. Health and hygiene come before all else- leading to more necessary consumables, such as the above zero waste products. The remaining zero waste PRODUCTS are only necessary if they are essential to your lifestyle; Zero Waste is more about behavior.

Let’s start with food

Buying food is essential to living. Luckily, the best thing for the environment is also the best thing for our health. Buy locally sourced, fresh produce. Farmers markets and co-ops are great places to start. Buy pastries and baked goods from your bakeries, meat from butcher shops, etc… Be aware of where your food comes from because many resources are wasted even before we, as consumers, take it home.

The Cooking Scrappy book is a great read… I know I read a cookbook but it gives you a better sense of how much we really do waste and how to get more food for less money. I highly recommend reading it- you can purchase it here. Cooking scrappy is a great behavior to start. Food waste is a huge problem in America (and beyond) so this is a HUGE part of Zero waste in the kitchen! Composting is the last step, but the goal is to not have food waste. This includes eating leftovers when you order or make too much. Bring your own to go containers to restaurants when they open back up.

Bulk buying

After cleaning out my aunt and uncle’s pantry I had to toss too MANY spices… so I think it is essential to buy only what you need and if you have the luxury of a bulk grocery store you can fill your own containers with spices. MOMs, by me, offers that. I currently use small glass containers to fill herbs and spices and small mason jars for tea’s. They also carry beans, lentils, granola, and rice’s… the list goes on (it even includes beauty products). Food packaging is very wasteful so bulk buying with your own containers is the best Zero Waste behavior to adopt.

UPDATE: During the COVID circumstances bulk bins have been obsolete. Fresh local produce is ideal but if you need nonperishables canned goods are great. Aluminum, like glass, can be recycled endlessly- just rinse first! For pasta, buy it in boxes with the least amount of plastic.

Zero Waste Food Storage

Beeswax wraps: This was my first ‘fun’ zero-waste buy, click here for the ones I have from Etsy. To be honest, I don’t use plastic wrap often so it’s no surprise that I don’t use these often either. I have used them though and they work and are super cute. If you use plastic wrap often for food storage, get them. You can also make your own. Rinse in luke warm water to clean- never hot, it will melt the wax. Store them rolled to last longer, folding these will create cracks. They are completely organic and can be composted, too!

More often than not, I reuse food containers more than the wraps. I love using mason jars or old sauce jars. I use some plastic too, for cold foods. Only 9% of plastic can actually be recycled, so if you buy it try and reuse it- it lasts FOREVER, literally. It requires a lot of resources to produce and never biodegrades. Plastic photodegrades, meaning it only gets smaller and smaller but never goes away; hence micro plastics polluting our water. We eventually end up consuming micro plastics in our food and drinks because there is too much plastic on the planet!

If you have plastic containers- it was already made so keep using it and REUSE it, but STOP buying it. Talenti containers are great with their screw top; I have a few I store my no-bake energy balls in them. Don’t use plastic with hot foods- this can release toxic chemicals into your food. Also, please don’t buy bottled water.

Bottled water vs. Water bottles

“Plastic is made from oil, and plastic water bottles alone account for 17 million barrels of oil annually- the equivalent of powering 1 million cars for an entire year… It takes 3 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water.”

Kathryn Kellogg

I drink water straight from the tap. Did you know 40% of all bottled water is actually taken from the tap? Our tap water, in the states, is more regulated than bottled water. If your tap water isn’t your favorite there are filtration systems you can try. The best zero waste product to filter water is: Kishu activated charcoal sticks. The sticks can last 4-6 months and pull toxins out of the water. Keep glass water jugs in the fridge- filtered with these sticks. Just boil the sticks to clean them between uses.

Reusable Water bottle:

I have a Yeti with a straw lid you can get here. (Dont spend more than $10, I found mine at Whole Foods). However, I have owned my CamelBak bottle longer and now I have 2, I use them EVERYDAY. I don’t like water but I drink a lot of it when it’s in these. You can take the whole bottle apart to clean the mouthpiece and top… etc, if needed. I bought this bottle before I was conscious of my footprint. If I ever need to buy one in the future I will search for a comparable non-plastic option. I didn’t like Swell, and other open mouth, stainless steel bottles but they are MUCH better for our environment. Whichever reusable bottle you choose is better than buying bottled water.

Travel/filtration Water bottle:

Of course the CamelBak’s are great for adventures and such.. but for water filtration the GRAYL is a godsend. I used mine through all of South East Asia and drank right from the tap! Standing at 5 foot 2 inches, I easily was able to use it. I have the orange one, I found it at REI but linked the white one above, from Amazon.

Paper towels

I haven’t purchased reusable paper towels but I have debated it, my friend uses them and loves them. I currently use rags or cotton tea towels and sometimes paper towels because I can compost them. Speaking of Compost, I have 2 posts about composting; because it is just too easy not to do. If you’re interested in learning more click here. For a quick read click this link. I have reduced my trash IMMENSELY since I started composting and it feels great!

Cleaning products:

I haven’t tried these yet because I am still in the ‘REDUCING’ phase… I’ll likely just get a castile soap or Blueland– just get the tabs and reuse bottles you have. Diluted vinegar is a great zero-waste method; warm water and white vinegar combined can be used on everything as a multi-purpose clearner! White vinegar is a non-toxic disinfectant- an acetic acid. It kills germs, bacteria and viruses on surfaces. I am not sure it can kill coronaviruses.

More Zero Waste Products

I am still early in my journey, and as mentioned above, I’m still reducing all the things I have ‘stock piled’. That being said I will continue adding links to this index of products as well as throughout posts when it applies. I hope to be able to categorize more rooms on here as well.

Miscellaneous Zero Waste Products:

I use incense instead of candles, my favorites come from a shop in Austin, TX. called Take Heart. I also have a ton from my trip to Ubud’s street market. If I DO buy candles I make sure I will be able to reuse the jar, I prefer mason jar, soy candles with wooden wicks. I currently buy from a local candle maker near me, you can shop her etsy here. Or find where she will be on her Instagram @boldbuffalocandleco. I love her candles and the mason jars even have measurement markers on them.

Journal/notebook/planner:
I used to like having tons of journals and was a little hooked on MoleSkin because of my mom.. now I use a reusable notebook, and it feels just like writing on normal paper. You have to purchase their pens but you can get them at major retailers or amazon. Buy the journal here. I like the Executive size with lines but they have dot journals and planners, too. And… now they just added legal pads! I have the ‘Core’ series, recommended by my brother-in-law. These pens are the most similar to my favorite regular pens and can also be used on normal paper. You can buy ink to refill to create less waste when they’re out. I find the pens in Walmart, Walgreens and Targets, too.

Comment your own favorite products for me and other readers below.

Kaitlin

A traveler who has allowed the World to show her that extreme posing beliefs are necessary to find the sweet spot that is revolutionary. Because life is too complex; it’s a balance of black and white; we need to blend the two so we can live in the grey space of an Open Mind. Currently finding a balance in exploring the World and being sustainable everyday.

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