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What "zero waste", plastic replacements do you use and recommend


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Dd is getting started on reducing plastic and embracing zero waste/sustainability.  I would like to send her a few things from Amazon to show support. I have bamboo cloth "paper towels," wool dryer balls and silicone lids in my cart, and she just bought a shampoo bar. 

So, maybe beeswax wraps? Something else? Any brands you like? 

ETA I should add that I realize supporting Amazon is perhaps not the best way to obtain these items, and that one would ideally look for other ways to start, such as using what you have, repurposing something, etc. But, I am stuck here, want to send a care package, and I just thought it would be nice for her to start with some pretty things. I am a mom. lol

Edited by Chris in VA
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One of our customers makes stainless straw sleeves (her name is Cheri Strawsleeves, I think she's on Etsy).    I use reusable menstrual pads, most of the time, although DD14 who is not home every 2 hours uses disposable ones of course.  I found that an enormous unexpected benefit of them was I never got rashes, which I had constantly with disposable pads.

 

okay I found Cheri, she's here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StrawSleeves

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Well, I'd start with reusable shopping bags myself, though check reviews carefully - a lot of the newer ones are made cheaply, and it's no good to have a shopping bag that doesn't last, is it?

I'd also consider reusable menstrual options, though that's a personal decision!

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I was going mention shampoo bars, but I see she’s already using one. I’ve recently switched and love how it makes my hair feel.

One mistake a lot of people make is replacing perfectly usable items for their “ green” counterpart, thus wasting more resources (trading your new plastic toothbrush from the dentist for bamboo, a plastic comb for wood, buying pretty wooden containers for the bath instead of reusing something or keeping what you have) . I’m not insinuating that’s what you are doing, just something for her to be aware of. It can be easy to get caught up.

Good for her for being so aware, and good for you for supporting! 🙂

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8 minutes ago, MEmama said:

I was going mention shampoo bars, but I see she’s already using one. I’ve recently switched and love how it makes my hair feel.

One mistake a lot of people make is replacing perfectly usable items for their “ green” counterpart, thus wasting more resources (trading your new plastic toothbrush from the dentist for bamboo, a plastic comb for wood, buying pretty wooden containers for the bath instead of reusing something or keeping what you have) . I’m not insinuating that’s what you are doing, just something for her to be aware of. It can be easy to get caught up.

Good for her for being so aware, and good for you for supporting! 🙂

Yes I totally agree! She is very good about not going crazy and ending up throwing even more into the landfill lol

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I bought some mesh produce bags, and I keep them in my bag of reusable grocery bags that I take to the market. They have drawstrings, and are washable. 

We have used cloth napkins for years. I buy 'bar cloths' in 4 packs from Target, and they last a long time. I have enough to make a small load of laundry themselves (there are seven of us), but I've also washed them with my towels.

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3 hours ago, Chris in VA said:

 and silicone lids

silicone is plastic, too. It is produced using fossil fuels. Once it ends its lifespan, it cannot be recycled in most places.

Edited by regentrude
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A lot of the zero waste stuff seems to be directed at things that really are a minisucle portion of household waste. The packaging that groceries come in is one of my biggest problems for reducing. There is a local company that sells it's milk at Kroger in returnable glass bottles, but it's one of the few things in the store that is not wrapped in excessive amounts of plastic! And Aldi produce in trays and plastic is just plain dumb. 

I really want to do one of those things were a bunch of people go shopping in the same store and remove all the extra packaging from their purchases before they leave. Flash mob type thing where people can see how much packaging they are normally leaving the store with. That might be fun to do with your Dd. I mean, if you are the rabble-rousing type. 😊

ETA: I'm having some trouble coming up with ideas that honor your desire to get your dd some nice things, but what about a gift card to a nice natural grocery store in her area? One that sells bulk beans, seeds, nuts, grains, flours to take home in paper bags? A store like that would have some of the nice things you are talking about too. (ie. straws, containers, household products, tea balls). 

 

Edited by SamanthaCarter
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Maybe a book with recipes for making personal grooming and household products? Better yet, the Kindle version, if it exists, of such a book. 😉

Radius dental floss (I love this stuff) has recently switched to paper rather than plastic packaging. I see there is another called Dental Lace that sells refills without plastic packaging.

Does she have a place where she can grow some of her own food? Maybe send some seeds?

 

Edited by bibiche
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A restaurant kit: small Pyrex with a lid to take leftovers; cloth napkin; utensils (you can just use some from Goodwill, wrap in the napkin, and secure with a rubber band, or you can get/make a cloth with built-in pockets and self-closure if you like); glass or stainless steel straw unless she's happy to do without; 16-oz. wide-mouth canning jar with an EcoJarz drinking lid; and a bag to carry it all in.

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1 hour ago, SamanthaCarter said:

as green are really just expensive versions of things most people already own. stuff seems to be directed at things that really are a minisucle portion of household waste. The packaging that groceries come in is one of my biggest problems for reducing. There is a local company that sells it's milk at Kroger in returnable glass bottles, but it's one of the few things in the store that is not wrapped in excessive amounts of plastic! And Aldi produce in trays and plastic is just plain dumb. 

I really want to do one of those things were a bunch of people go shopping in the same store and remove all the extra packaging from their purchases before they leave. Flash mob type thing where people can see how much packaging they are normally leaving the store with. That might be fun to do with your Dd. I mean, if you are the rabble-rousing type. 😊

ETA: I'm having some trouble coming up with ideas that honor your desire to get your dd some nice things, but what about a gift card to a nice natural grocery store in her area? One that sells bulk beans, seeds, nuts, grains, flours to take home in paper bags? A store like that would have some of the nice things you are talking about too. (ie. straws, containers, household products, tea balls). 

 

I agree. So many items being sold as “green” are just expensive versions of things most people already own. 

I’ve been looking for ways to reduce having to buy new, and buying very intentionally in order to avoid having to purchase throwaway items. I love my silicone baking mats because I’m not wasting parchment paper. Might not be perfect, but I can only reuse parchment paper some of the time and it’s not recyclable ever. The mats mean I don’t ever buy rolls of paper. Same idea with cloth napkins when phasing our paper. 

Mostly I think it’s best to just simply use less. Don’t use straws (unless medically necessary, obvs), take your own coffee cup, look around and figure out how to make do. 

Doesn't make for a fun gift basket, though, I know. 

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43 minutes ago, whitehawk said:

A restaurant kit: small Pyrex with a lid to take leftovers; cloth napkin; utensils (you can just use some from Goodwill, wrap in the napkin, and secure with a rubber band, or you can get/make a cloth with built-in pockets and self-closure if you like); glass or stainless steel straw unless she's happy to do without; 16-oz. wide-mouth canning jar with an EcoJarz drinking lid; and a bag to carry it all in.

We travel with stainless sporks, reusable containers and cloth napkins. And glass water bottles and our own coffee cups. 

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1 hour ago, bibiche said:

Radius dental floss (I love this stuff) has recently switched to paper rather than plastic packaging. I see there is another called Dental Lace that sells refills without plastic packaging.

I was just getting to the end of my dental floss and had been looking at getting a refillable container (there are glass and/or metal ones on Amazon).

I need to look to see if I can open the plastic container I already have to insert a refill (or if I should get a refillable container at this point)....

If your dd is using reusable containers, sending her some chalk markers would be handy. I use them all the time for labeling jars of stuff. Also handy if she takes her own containers for bulk buying and she can write the item and code on the jar. The chalk washes off when you wash the jar.

Lots of people on etsy make eco friendly products so that's another place to check. Years ago I bought some fabric sandwich wraps and food pouches from someone on there.

Eta: If I get a refillable floss container, I will probably get a stainless steel one vs. a glass one. Many years ago, I bought some nice glass containers for travel shampoo, etc. Well, soapy hands and glass aren't the best combo. One slid out of my hand in the shower and then I was standing in the middle of shattered glass. In the shower. Just mentioning that for other klutzes out there as a reminder to think through your decisions, lol.

Also, I know many people don't use Dixie cups anymore and probably just use a regular cup if you want one in the bathroom, but years ago I stumbled across a set of metal shot glasses made for camping (???). Anyway, they're a steel version of a Dixie cup and I love them. My dc love theirs so much that they put them in their makeup/shaving kits when traveling too. Dd likes a bigger cup so she actually uses the storage container as her cup: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07PZ9187B/ref=psdcmw_13218391_t1_B00LPPI5HY

Edited by Stacia
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I’m just going to say buying more stuff is the biggest environmental problem.

The vast majority of plastic stuff doesn’t need to be replaced. It can be completely done without.

Now I am curious about shampoo bars though... 

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I think you support zero waste by NOT buying things, or at least not brand new things.  I’ve been able to transition most things in my house, to the point that I now have to rob a grocery store recycling bin to get enough bags to stuff a project. 🤣 I still haven’t found an acceptable substitute for my freezer. It’s small and the freezer bags keep the food safe and compact. I don’t know that the answer is there. 

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47 minutes ago, Murphy101 said:

I’m just going to say buying more stuff is the biggest environmental problem.

The vast majority of plastic stuff doesn’t need to be replaced. It can be completely done without.

Now I am curious about shampoo bars though... 

I’ve only used one by Love Beauty from Target. It’s a shampoo and conditioner bar in a cute heart shape that makes me happy every morning. 🙂. It sulfate, etc free, not tested on animals and is totally waste free (comes in a recyclable paper box, zero plastic). I think it was $4.99 and is lasting for.ever. Plus it makes my hair super soft.  

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Before you buy the silicone lids,  post the link to the ones you are looking at.  I just bought some over Christmas and they suck.  They don’t stay on, barely fit and honestly are crap.  I do like the beeswax wraps for things. Trader Joe’s version is what I have. 

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39 minutes ago, KungFuPanda said:

I think you support zero waste by NOT buying things, or at least not brand new things.  I’ve been able to transition most things in my house, to the point that I now have to rob a grocery store recycling bin to get enough bags to stuff a project. 🤣 I still haven’t found an acceptable substitute for my freezer. It’s small and the freezer bags keep the food safe and compact. I don’t know that the answer is there. 

 

I, too, have taken bags out of the recycling bin (in my case, for scooping cat litter. Our garbage company wants that bagged up). Never around my children, who were horrified that I did that at all. I actually found on a different board that someone was offended by this. She said she would be upset thinking that she put something aside to be recycled, and now it was still going to end up in a landfill.  If not the grocery bags that were going to be recycled, then it would have been something else, so at least the bags got another use out of them? I don't know.  

Anyway, to the OP, I recently decided to stop buying napkins and start using re-usable cloths. I found that microfiber cloths were the least expensive option. I found something like a 50 pack for $15. There are a variety of colors so I use some of the colors as napkins at the table, and other colors to wipe down counters with using vinegar and water (I was using too many Clorox wipes to do that). Just something to consider, but I suppose bamboo rags are more environmentally friendly. 

 

 

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We have washable 'ziplock' bags.  They are heavier than disposable ones and can go in the dishwasher.  We are very pleased with them so far. I suspect the brands will be different with you, but this is what we have:

https://www.lakeland.co.uk/73374/Russbe-Reusable-Freezer-Bags-–-Pack-of-8

I also use shampoo bars as well as bar soap.  I've moving the 'leave in' conditioner, as it means less packaging (because only the needed product is packaged, rather than the excess that goes down the drain).

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We all use metal coffee cups. And I made grocery bags 40+ years ago, out of old feed sacks. I wish I could use cloth napkins, but dh will NOT get his hands clean, and I don't want to deal with the grease on napkins. Made my own dryer balls, from fleece from our own sheep. We almost never use paper towels, but use rags. However, my rag drawer is so full right now that when I ripped up an old sheet yesterday, I gave the rags to a friend for his mechanic's shop. I've had a big box of ski number bibs from the area up north for years. We used them in the races for our little ski area, but they no longer use them. I finally cut off all the strings--they're perfect rags!

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Do you sew? A wonderful gift would be some homemade, washable produce bags - whether mesh or muslin, in several sizes, with a drawstring. Like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Drawstring-Vegetables-Reusable-Household-Organizing/dp/B01IT37BPG/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=muslin+produce+bags&qid=1579029534&sr=8-8

Can't really endorse Amazon for green spending, that's just really...complex. But here you have a DIY suggestion and a shopping link, so if you like this idea, you could choose your option. 🙂

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2 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

We have washable 'ziplock' bags.  They are heavier than disposable ones and can go in the dishwasher.  We are very pleased with them so far. I suspect the brands will be different with you, but this is what we have:

https://www.lakeland.co.uk/73374/Russbe-Reusable-Freezer-Bags-–-Pack-of-8

Target has those! We have the sandwich sized ones as well as the gallon. The sandwich ones can be made to stand up/open, which is nice. They last a LONG time, and they are much easier to wash than regular plastic bags. 

We use a lot of pyrex storage for leftovers. They stack nicely in the cupboard if you stack them with the lids on. 

I suggest a bag dryer/rack for anyone who rewashes any kind of bags by hand. We used to put them over our utensils that are in a crock by the stove, but that became very inconvenient. 

Cloth napkins are readily available in my area at yard sales, especially estate sales. So are old towels and sheets if you don't currently have a rag stash. 

We cut up old t-shirts to use for messes that require a throw-away option for cleaning (not much falls into that category). 

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Mason jars for food storage (and nonfood storage).  Reusable sandwich bags in place of plastic sandwich bags.  Reusable dusters, mops, etc. 

What does she think about "refillables"?  Buy a container that can be used for a long period of time (even if it is plastic) then buy refill packs.  Still plastic, but much less waste. 

What does she use for makeup?  Some companies offer recycle opportunities for their containers.

Cloth shopping bags

The Spice House offers spices shipped in envelopes that can refill the glass bottles you already have.

Cloth feminine products or a diva type cup

What does she use for trash bags?  Large paper bags? 

Does she line dry her clothes?  Wooden clothes pins

Look at Lehman's Hardware for some ideas too. 

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9 minutes ago, HollyDay said:

Mason jars for food storage (and nonfood storage).  Reusable sandwich bags in place of plastic sandwich bags.  Reusable dusters, mops, etc. 

What does she think about "refillables"?  Buy a container that can be used for a long period of time (even if it is plastic) then buy refill packs.  Still plastic, but much less waste. 

What does she use for makeup?  Some companies offer recycle opportunities for their containers.

Cloth shopping bags

The Spice House offers spices shipped in envelopes that can refill the glass bottles you already have.

Cloth feminine products or a diva type cup

What does she use for trash bags?  Large paper bags? 

Does she line dry her clothes?  Wooden clothes pins

Look at Lehman's Hardware for some ideas too. 

The mailman just dropped off an order from The Spice House a couple hours ago. I love their new packaging!

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We use bandanas as napkins, especially when we travel. Even the cheap Walmart ones get really soft when you wash them. They are good for SO many things.  I often put dry snacks in the middle and tie the ends, and they’re easy to shake out after.  Bamboo or stainless cutlery to take w you so you’re not using plastic utensils that are often wrapped in more plastic.  we bring our own drink cup and stainless straw (we drink water and places don’t seem to mind us filling our own container).  I also have two small containers that I keep in the car so when we eat out I can bring leftovers home. Those styrofoam take out containers are huge!  (Bonus- when my meal arrives I can go ahead and portion out my take home food so I don’t overeat)
A drying rack or a pull out clothesline to hang laundry is a big help. 
Reusable bags are only good if they get used. I have some that attach to my purse so I always have one w me, and one is very large and can be worn over my shoulder like a cross body if needed, and that is SO useful when shopping.  Some of my plain canvas bags never get used- too small, or handle is too short, or whatever. 

Thanks for starting the thread- I’m getting some new ideas reading the responses. 

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Wondered if I should start a new thread on this, but it does fit the title of your post.

What does everyone use for trash bags? That's an area (along with food packaging as mentioned above) where I'm stumped in my efforts to eliminate plastic. Paper grocery bags made a mess if we threw out anything damp, and I've heard that they're so energy and resource intensive to produce that simply replacing plastic with paper bags is not better for the environment in many ways.

Amy

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The sad answer here, Acadie, is that the best thing to do is to reduce the amount of trash you output to begin with. Then you don't need to worry so much about what sort of container you use.

Compostables should be composted, either at home or (if there is one in your area) with a compost drop-off point. Paper should be recycled unless it is soiled, in which case it goes in the compost. Plastic, metal, and glass should be reused if possible and recycled if not. Pet waste and condoms and snotty tissues can go in a pet septic tank, which is basically a buried garbage can - it decomposes there, but you wouldn't want to use that on your flowers, much less your herbs! Careful shopping helps reduce the amount of garbage brought into your home.

I know that sounds trite and unhelpful, but there it is.

With that said, I buy garbage bags made from recycled plastic.

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Echoing many answers here, but

Stasher bags (sandwiches, snacks)

Stainless steel straws at home

Set of S/S utensils (3 main ones + chop sticks & straw) to use in public

Cloth bags

Mesh bags for produce

Dropps DW and laundry pods

HumanKind deodorant and mouthwash

Stainless (or glass) water bottles

Yeti knock off travel mugs

Microfiber makeup remover cloths

I've seen a woman (online not IRL) take glass containers to the grocery store to get meat from the butcher. The butcher zeroes out the scale and puts the price tag right on the glass container. Love this idea, but I've never done it. One day. 

Glass containers for leftovers

Canning jars for storage (and drinking glasses)

Edited by Angie in VA
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34 minutes ago, Acadie said:

Wondered if I should start a new thread on this, but it does fit the title of your post.

What does everyone use for trash bags? That's an area (along with food packaging as mentioned above) where I'm stumped in my efforts to eliminate plastic. Paper grocery bags made a mess if we threw out anything damp, and I've heard that they're so energy and resource intensive to produce that simply replacing plastic with paper bags is not better for the environment in many ways.

Amy

 

Usually I use the 5kg bag my potatoes come in.

 

Another waste reducer is hankies instead of tissues. Strangely expensive, hankies are, though.

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52 minutes ago, Acadie said:

Wondered if I should start a new thread on this, but it does fit the title of your post.

What does everyone use for trash bags? That's an area (along with food packaging as mentioned above) where I'm stumped in my efforts to eliminate plastic. Paper grocery bags made a mess if we threw out anything damp, and I've heard that they're so energy and resource intensive to produce that simply replacing plastic with paper bags is not better for the environment in many ways.

Amy

Our town mandates that we use town bags (plastic). We only pay for the bags we use; for us that’s 1 every week or two. 

We don’t line our trash baskets, the town bag lines the kitchen trash and we just dump the others in on trash day. 

Eta: we compost all our food waste and others compostables (pay for a service). We always recycle way more than we throw away, but it drives me crazy that there we generate so many recyclables to begin with. 

Edited by MEmama
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Our "paper towels" are old wash cloths or cut up old t-shirts/pj's (growing children who are sloppy eaters and rough on cloths have ensured an abundant supply)

Cloth napkins sewn from cute cotton prints have been in use for >10 years.

Canvas reusable shopping bags.  The plastic kind break down too quickly/aren't durable.  Canvas can be mended.

Steel straws - my kids love straws.  These have been great.

Glass food storage containers and mason jars.

Drill a hole in a mason jar lid sized to fit your steel straw = spill-resistant kid cup/to-go smoothie cup.

I have a few bees wax wraps.  These are new to me.  So far I like them for storing cheese.

Steel dishes for little kids, instead of plastic.  We used the camping kind (which double as our car-camping set), and (blush) small steel bowl from IKEA from the pet section.

 

I'm intrigued by shampoo bars.

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This isn't quite on topic, but I wanted to share what I did just last night. I have a press powder compact that broke apart but still had plenty of make up left. After removing the portion of the compact that actually holds the pressed powder, I was trying to think of what to put it in. I looked on line at refillable compacts, but they seemed so expensive. Then I remembered my Alotids Peppermints was almost empty...and thought maybe the compact would fit in the tin. It did! Yeah! Though this is a small step, I have to admit I've never thought this way until talking to my 21 year old son and reading things here. I'm trying to learn and implement more. I learn a lot here. 🙂

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1 minute ago, Thatboyofmine said:

If you put leftovers in mason jars, can you freeze them?  Do you need to put anything between the lid and jar or is the seal enough? 

As long as you leave some room at the top for expansion, it's fine. I freeze soups and stock in canning jars all the time.

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20 hours ago, Ethel Mertz said:

We love soap from the Slab Soap Company. Tip: regular bar soap can be used as shampoo. Soap is soap. Shampoo bars cost more. 

I've heard you should rinse it out with vinegar and water as it is harder to rinse bar soap/shampoo. True?

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54 minutes ago, Chris in VA said:

I've heard you should rinse it out with vinegar and water as it is harder to rinse bar soap/shampoo. True?

The bar shampoo / conditioner I’m using doesn’t cause buildup on my hair. 

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