Zero-Waste Swaps for Under $50

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A lot of eco-friendly living is concerned with refusing things that aren’t needed or reusing things that you already have. These are important practices, but, as someone that loves to shop, I enjoy buying things that can help me lead a greener life. When I look at making purchases, I try to swap out what I might normally buy for something that is eco-friendlier or will help me get closer to the zero-waste goal. Here are some of the easiest and least expensive zero-waste swaps to make.

The first purchase I made to reduce my waste was a few re-useable tote bags. These can often be bought for only a dollar or even less if picked up at a garage sale or thrift store and can end up being used multiple times a week. The most difficult part of owning these is remembering to use them when you go into a store. It helps to have them stored somewhere in your car and easy to get to. There are some bags that can fold up small enough to fit snugly inside a purse and these are especially useful for small errands.

We also use a large amount of thin plastic bags or packaging for our produce as well. You can make your own produce bags easily out of a t-shirt if you prefer to go the D.I.Y. route. You could also use 100% cotton pillowcases or buy eco-friendly mesh alternatives for around five dollars. You can easily store these in one of your tote bags so that they are ready to go when you need them.

There are also some swaps that you can make easily that can impact your daily life and amount of waste. There are multiple re-usable cups and water bottles available today at different price points. Many coffee shops, including Starbucks, offer a slight discount for bringing your own cup. KeepCup is a popular brand for sustainably made reusable cups that can be bought for under $15 and can be personalized to your liking.

Occasionally overlooked are the accessories and cleaning supplies to go with these cups. Though tea-bags appear to be mostly paper, many are coated with thin plastic and are therefore not recyclable. There are plenty of loose leaf tea infusers available with some coming in fun shapes. My personal favorite has been the “Tea-rex” model by DCI. Generally, you need one teaspoon of tea leaves for each 8 oz. cup. If you are making iced tea the same rule applies, but for every 8 oz. cup you will pour only 4 oz, of water since it will be poured over ice later.

If you plan to use a straw with these cups, consider buying a pack of reusable straws. America goes through 500 million plastic straws a day and there are multiple options for reusable straws. You can purchase stainless steel, glass, or bamboo. You will probably want to grab a straw cleaning brush and potentially a carrying case. To clean your re-usable cups can you use a bamboo cleaning brush which can be composted after use.

Another inexpensive bamboo switch to make is your toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes can be bought for around ten dollars each. You are supposed to switch out your toothbrush approximately every three to four months. Plastic toothbrushes are not typically recyclable except through programs such as TerraCycle, but a bamboo toothbrush can be composted instead of thrown away. Along with other bathroom items, remember that you can recycle your mouthwash containers with the lid attached in Dalton and Whitfield County.

In total, if you bought each thing mentioned in this article you would spend under $50 and you would dramatically decrease the amount of waste you produce. Some items are focused on saving the planet, such as the reusable bags, but some items can also save you money, such as the re-useable cups and straws. Whichever reason you buy the products for, rest assured that you can have peace of mind during your shopping because you are making choices that will help you live a life better for you and the planet.

Amy Hartline is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Have a recycling question?  Contact her at 706-278-5001, or e-mail