Top 10 zero-waste swaps to make in your everyday life

Happy Sunday, everyone! This post shares my top 10 zero-waste swaps for everyday items. These items are either low or zero waste swaps, and now that I have used them for a long time I can provide a better review for each. I chose to omit a few products from the original post, but you can check out those here if interested.

For today’s post, I thought I would revisit one of my most popular posts of all time, one that I wrote over a year ago. I thought it would be fitting since I recently rebranded. 

As a student, two crucial factors when making any purchase are affordability and accessibility. Trying to afford rent, food, school and leisure activities means I don’t have infinite amounts of money to throw away on other things when there are cheap alternatives available. I also cannot afford to spend too much time looking for items to buy, simply because I’m already swamped with classes, studying, co-op applications, extracurriculars, meal prep, sleeping, social activities and more. I can therefore vouch that these items are affordable and accessible for students, on top of being sustainable. It’s so easy to make sustainable changes in your daily life; let’s look at 10 ways to make change right now!

1.  Plant-Based Floss

Flossing is something you (should) be doing daily, and you likely don’t think about how much you go through. I was once guilty of having a drawer full of those blue floss packs from the dentist. I haven’t touched plastic floss for over a year now.  

Plastic floss ends up in landfills, taking decades to break down despite how small it is. There are horror stories of people flushing floss down the toilet, sending it into our oceans and the stomachs of marine life. 

Flosspot Zero Waste Floss was on the pricier side when I purchased it way back when, back when you could only buy it online. I now see it in our local zero waste bulk stores, which is great for first-time buyers or when you need a refill. However, my original roll of floss lasted from April 2018 to October 2019, with me using it every single day. This is MIND-BLOWING, and proves how a one-time investment can go a long way. I’m now using my second roll, which came with the original tube. I’ll be set for another year. 

The floss comes in a cute little mason jar with a metal lid that you can easily pop open to refill. It also comes with a metal travel case with a mirror. The floss I bought is made of silk so it is not vegan. Now they have a certified vegan version made of candelilla wax in a stainless steel jar. The company is based in Cambridge, which means you can support local entrepreneurs. 

Having used this floss for so long now, I love how durable and portable it is. As clumsy as I am, the jar has never broken when dropped. When finished with the floss, you can put it into your home composter if you have one. I can’t guarantee you can put it into municipal composting (curbside collection) as I recently learned there are very specific requirements for what can/cannot be composted in municipal facilities. I’d recommend calling your local waste centre to confirm what to do with your plant-based floss.  

2. Bamboo Toothbrushes

Brushing your teeth is another every day task and you throw out your used toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. This polypropylene and nylon (ie. plastics) end up in landfills, oceans and marine life, just like floss (and all other plastics nowadays). If each person making up the population of Canada (37.5 million people) goes through 3 plastic toothbrushes per year, that’s 112.5 million toothbrushes from Canadians alone being thrown out. 

Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable, minus the bristles. My suggestion is to keep the brush after the 3/4 month life cycle and use it for household cleaning. If you are not up for that, cut out the bristles before you compost the handle. They also come in a compostable paper box instead of plastic, which I love.

These brushes come in a 4-pack and in various sizes/bristle strengths. They have a slight angle at the head, so they are great for getting into the tricky corners of your mouth. The bristles on the ones I use seem to wear down quickly, so I will buy a stronger bristle next time.

I am still looking for a completely compostable alternative for toothbrushes. I haven’t bought any since purchasing these toothbrushes though, just because the package comes with over a year’s supply. I’ll have to begin that search soon though, so I will share anything I find! 

3.  Reusable Produce Bags

You know when you go to the grocery store, pick up your weekly produce and have to use the flimsy plastic bags? Just like other plastics, they do not break down in landfills. Animals get caught in them, ingest them and suffocate, and chemicals from the bags that end up in our waters leach out and poison the area. Solution? Reusable produce bags!

These ones are colour-coded, so you can use the same bag for the same type of produce every week if you like. They are super light so when the cashier is weighing your produce you won’t be paying extra for the weight of the bag, but are very strong despite their light-weightedness. The holes in the mesh are very small, too, so you could even use them for things like loose-leaf tea. Also, if you spill something in them, no reason to worry: they are machine-washable!

Having used them for over a year now, I can confirm that they are durable, strong during use and easy to clean. Back when I bought them they were not commonly available in stores; now you can purchase cloth bags in bulk food stores, Walmart, grocery stores, health food stores…pretty much anywhere! It’s amazing. 

4.  Silicon baking mats

If you’re like me and love to bake, you will probably go through a lot of parchment paper. Reusable baking mats fit seamlessly onto your baking trays, they don’t burn or melt, and they are really easy to wash and store. This pack comes with three large mats and one small one, but there are so many sizes available. 

Think of all the money you will be saving on parchment paper, not to mention all of the time you spend trying to scrub stains from your baking trays when something leaks through the corners of the parchment paper (this happened to me ALL the time). Cleaning these mats takes less than a minute and I haven’t used a piece of disposable parchment paper since purchasing them. I have also found them useful when rolling out dough for cookies or pie crust, keeping your counter clean as you roll out the dough in between two mats. Definitely a worthwhile purchase!

5.  Wool dryer balls

I don’t know about you, but I hate static. Living in Canada and with our winters, we get A LOT of static. Dryer sheets are our best friends. But those dryer sheets have SO many chemicals that not only harm the environment but our own bodies; young children and those with sensitive skin are even more susceptible to reactions from these chemicals.

Wool dryer balls are a fun and eco-friendly way to replace your dryer sheets. Made of (you guessed it) wool, you simply pop a few into your dryer with a load of laundry. They are believed to reduce drying time by 20-45 percent, eliminate static build-up and can make your laundry smell amazing if you add a few drops of essential oils onto their surface before you put them in the dryer. 

I do hear them in the dryer as they tumble around. This hasn’t caused an issue though and isn’t annoying (just a light thumping). They are still in great condition despite having used them for over a year. They will probably last me another year, minimum. For reference, I do laundry every two to three weeks, and I only use the dryer for large loads. If you do laundry more frequently, I’m confident that they will last at least a year. 

This is another product that has become readily available in stores since my purchase online in 2018. You can easily get Canadian-made wool dryer balls (this brand is really well known), but these are the ones I bought. Make sure you read reviews on the ones you want before you purchase because some are not good quality!

6.  Beeswax food wraps

I love beeswax wraps. I cook and use fresh produce a lot, which requires covering prepared or cut items. Since buying food wraps I no longer use plastic wrap. I find that beeswax wraps work better than plastic wrap because they are so durable, malleable and best of all nice looking. 

All you do is wrap them around whatever it is that needs to be covered. They bend seamlessly, although I find they work best with some warmth from your hands to make the wax flexible. To wash, simply rinse them under cold water.

I’ve had to throw out a few of my original wraps now just because they are not meant to last indefinitely. However, the store-bought ones are usually compostable because they are made of beeswax and unprocessed cotton – both biodegradable materials. Make sure to check before you compost them, though! I’ve also made my own wraps now, which is super easy and last much longer. You can use old pieces of cotton fabric, and when the wraps are no longer sticky, you can reapply the wax to bring them back to life! 

7.  Cotton makeup pads

I will never go back to cotton pads for makeup removal. Cotton rounds are so simple yet so amazing. They are far more durable, gentler on your skin, and more affordable in the long run.

The ones I purchased way back when were made by a local artist on Etsy, but you can find local artists selling these items all over the place nowadays. I now realize that I could have made my own, but it’s not a big deal for the time being. I have also used these pads for nail polish removal, and they work like a charm. All you do is apply your cleanser to the pads, wipe and remove. Easy. Cleaning them is simple, as well: you can hand wash them or throw them in your washer. 

8. Shampoo and conditioner bars

I was skeptical when I first bought a shampoo bar, but I am so glad I took the chance. Bar shampoo and conditioners are two of my favourite sustainability products now, hands-down. Not only are they zero-waste, but they are also portable. 

LUSH shampoo and conditioner bars are also stars in my books. Without any packaging, this truly is zero-waste solution. They have different types for different hair. I use the Seanik shampoo bar and Big conditioner for my curly, dry hair. All you do is wet your hair and rub the bar through your hair like you are brushing it. The shampoo lathers really well and does a great job at moisturizing my hair. I have very sensitive skin and haven’t had any problems with their hair care products like I have with other products that touch my scalp. My hair is always super curly after I wash it with LUSH’s products, and I haven’t had to deal with frizz or tangles since I started using them over a year ago. They’re great for travelling, too; since they are solid, you don’t have to abide by the whole 100mL max rule. LUSH even sells tins that you can store them in. Each bar lasts about 3-4 months.

9. Reusable hot/cold drink cups

Any reusable mug or cup is a great investment economically and environmentally. Canadians buy about 2.4 billion litres of bottled water every year; only about 70 percent of these bottles are recycled in the country; this shrinks to only 14 percent in Ontario (read this article to learn more). Did you know that a lot of paper coffee cups can’t even be recycled because they’re considered contaminated or made of non-recyclable ingredients like wax? You may think that reusable cups are a nuisance, but really it is no harder to carry around a reusable bottle (that is safe to refill, unlike plastic bottles) and in the end you will save so much money because you’ll no longer have to buy these disposable bottles. I always carry around my Swell water bottle, and most public places have refilling stations. If you’re like me and go out for coffee a lot, I bring my own cup to stores and get a discount for doing so. 

Whatever your budget and style, you can find a bottle or thermos that suits your needs. I personally enjoy having a reusable water bottle that reflects my personality with fun prints or stickers. I also drink a lot of water when working in the field, so I made sure to buy a light, large (36 oz) bottle for busy field days. 

10.  Portable metal cutlery

As a busy student or individual working long hours, perhaps you eat out a lot. This means that you use a lot of plastic cutlery. I have stopped all of my use of plastic cutlery by making one cheap investment: reusable travelling cutlery. 

I got mine from Walmart, and they are actually for kids, but that makes them a perfect portable solution. They’re metal, just like real cutlery, and I keep them in a little cloth bag to keep them clean while I’m out and about. I forget I have them with me because they take up so little space. For only two dollars, I am ready to eat responsibly while on-the-go.

I’ve seen many people get into the bamboo cutlery trend over the year, where stores sell bamboo cutlery sets wrapped in fancy cloth blankets. While these are fine and provide the same results, I’ve yet to find an affordable set, or one as portable as what I am using. A year later my kiddie cutlery is still standing strong and travel with me everywhere.

Final Thoughts

I am glad that I revisited this review because my perspectives changed slightly for some of these products. I want to keep things real and honest with you, so I hope you find this post helpful in your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. I hope this review has helped clear the air about some of the simple ways you can support sustainability in your daily life, starting with reduce your waste through these easy zero-waste swaps.

Do you have any favourite zero-waste swaps that are not listed on this post? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned? Let me know in the comments! 


Get started with these sustainable swaps


  • Reusable grocery bags didn’t make the list?

    My roommate introduced me to these seaweed cloths that you use for a week or two then they can be composted. Better than paper towel. I haven’t done the LCA to determine if its better than washing washcloths consistently but they’re definitely cool.

    • Hi Bennett!

      I wanted to go with less conventional products in those post – hence no reusable shopping bags/water bottles (although very essential)!

      I haven’t heard of seaweed cloths before, they sound really interesting – I wonder how sustainable the ingredient sourcing is, given that the seaweed is likely sourced from Asian countries. I will definitely do more research on them!

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