9 Zero Waste Swaps (Every Family Can Make)

zero waste swaps

You are probably here because you are just starting your zero waste (or low waste) journey, want to continue the next steps on your journey, or want to figure out what zero waste swaps to make next.  

If so, you are in luck! 

The easiest swaps to make for our family – that also had the biggest impact on our waste reduction – happened in the kitchen first. 

Our kitchen trash can is the largest in our house and likely the case for most households.  So starting in the kitchen makes sense since it seems to be the room in your house that produces the most waste – especially food waste. 

While food waste is a huge consideration for a zero waste lifestyle, it’s a topic that deserves to be focused on all on its own and is usually a bigger undertaking than the zero waste swaps discussed here.  

While composting is the goal for our family from the 12 Zero Waste Goals for this year, for now, we will focus on the easy zero waste swaps you can start making today!


Please keep in mind the 5 Rs that are a part of the zero waste lifestyle – to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot

You may see zero waste swaps that you want to start using right away, and that’s great!

However, please use up what you already have (refuse, reduce, reuse) on hand at home before purchasing any new zero waste swaps. 

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zero waste swaps for plastic sandwich bags

1. Plastic Sandwich Bags

Did you know that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight)? 

Any single-use plastic or disposable product in your home should be on top of your list for zero waste swaps.  Plastic sandwich bags are an easy first swap to make!

Not only will it reduce your waste since plastic sandwich bags can’t be recycled, but switching will also save you time and money!

Consider swapping out the plastic sandwich bags for silicone bags or reusable metal or glass snack containers. Anything that can be washed and reused is ideal. 

zero waste swaps for plastic storage containers

2. Plastic Storage Containers

Similar to the plastic sandwich bags, you can swap out plastic storage containers in favor of metal or glass storage containers.  

Especially when it comes to the disposable plastic containers that are meant to be used once and disposed of or recycled, you will benefit from purchasing reusable glass or stainless steel containers instead.

Plus glass and stainless steel are healthier options for you and your family and will reduce your exposure to the toxic chemicals found in plastic

Related Articles: Avoid Plastic in Your Kitchen (Because It’s Harming Your Health) and Is BPA-Free Plastic Safe?

For snacks:

For leftovers and food storage:

zero waste swaps for plastic wrap

3. Plastic Wrap

Plastic wrap is one of the most wasteful single-use plastic products in your kitchen since it also cannot be recycled and is usually used for such a short amount of time before being thrown away. 

There are two main zero waste swaps that can be used instead.  The first is the silicone lids which are washable, reusable, and will last a long time. Silicone lids are great for covering bowls and other odd-shaped containers that you might otherwise use plastic wrap for.  The lids can also be used to cover food in the microwave, keep your cup of coffee or tea warm, and keep half of a watermelon covered and fresh!

watermelon with silicone lid

Another easy and all-natural way to ditch the plastic wrap is to swap for Bee’s Wrap, which is a sustainable food wrap that works like plastic wrap but can be washed, reused, and even composted. 

zero waste swaps for plastic straws

4. Plastic Straws

Plastic straws are one of the many single-use plastic items that are littering our oceans. According to For A Strawless Ocean,

Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. It’s estimated that we use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. 

The good news is that swapping out your straws are easy and like a lot of zero waste swaps, you will also save money doing so. 

There are a lot of reusable and sustainable straw alternatives available, but any straw that can be washed and reused is ideal. 

zero waste swaps for paper towels

5. Paper Towels

Do you know that 51,000+ trees are cut down daily for North America’s paper towel habit?

Sacrificing that many trees daily seems unnecessary and can easily be avoided. While we mainly strive to eliminate plastic from our kitchen, we also don’t want to use disposable products of any kind when possible. 

Plus, most paper towels come in packages that are wrapped in plastic packaging that cannot be recycled. 

Replace conventional paper towels with reusable cloth rags, scraps or old clothing (for the messiest jobs), make your own DIY towels, or purchase 100% recycled paper towels that are not using any virgin trees to produce. 

zero waste swaps for paper napkins

6. Paper Napkins

Similar to paper towels, paper napkins can be wasteful and unnecessary. For the same reasons listed above, you should avoid purchasing disposable paper napkins when at all possible.  

Many alternatives are available, but any that can be washed and reused are ideal. 

zero waste swaps for sponges

7. Sponges

Washing our dishes usually involves lots of single-use, disposable plastic including sponges and scrub brushes.  

On top of plastic sponges being bad for the environment, they are also bad for your health.  In order to avoid the bacterial growth, you are told to replace your sponge often – which creates a ton of waste!

Fortunately, there are many biodegradable, compostable, and reusable alternatives available. 

zero waste swaps for cleaning products

8. Cleaning Products

Most cleaning products come in plastic bottles and are filled with harmful chemicals and toxins. It is healthier for the planet and your home to use plastic-free cleaning supplies and DIY or non-toxic cleaning solutions.  

This may take you a while to transition since you likely have a cabinet full of cleaning products and supplies. However, every zero waste swap you make will be a step in the right direction.  Remember that progress of all kinds should be celebrated, even slow gradual progress. 

That’s where the helpful printable 9 Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps guide comes in handy.  Download the FREE checklist and keep track of your progress as you go.  Plus it contains all the resources mentioned here for your convenience.  

Making your own DIY natural all-purpose Lemon Vinegar Cleaner.  The lemon in this recipe helps to make it smell nice and less like vinegar. 

  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 cups Vinegar

Cut lemons into small wedges. Put the lemon slices in a glass spray bottle. Add two cups of water and two cups of vinegar and secure the lid. Allow to sit for 2-3 weeks until the vinegar smell has reduced. Use around the kitchen and bath as an all-purpose cleaner.

Additionally, you can also visit the Environmental Working Group’s website to download the Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which contains more homemade natural cleaning recipes and tips.  

EWG is a great non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. It is a great resource for greener, non-toxic products but do be aware that many of the cleaning products listed do come in single-use plastic bottles. 

Related Articles: Natural Cleaning Tips: How to Clean Your Home Without Chemicals

zero waste swaps for coffee k-cups

9. Coffee K-cups

Keurig coffee machines are loved by many people for their ease and convenience. It can be a difficult kitchen accessory to part with but the disposable nature of k-cups is contributing to the plastic waste ending up in our oceans. 

This image by The Story of Stuff Project sums it up perfectly.

The Story of Stuff Project comic about k-cups
Photo Credit: The Story of Stuff Project

Yet if you are a coffee lover and are not willing to give up your Keuring machine, there are a few zero waste and reusable options available.


To some,  these 9 zero waste swaps may seem small compared to some families that are living 100% zero waste. To others that are just beginning, this may seem like a lot to change in your lifestyle.  

Either way, you are moving in the right direction on your journey to reducing waste. Remember that slow progress is still progress, and that you can move at your own pace.  

To help you remember these resources and keep track of your progress, download the 9 Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps Every Family Can Make. This FREE guide contains a helpful checklist and all the resources mentioned here for your convenience.

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Zero Waste Swaps

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