This page is a living list of resources to help others begin their zero-waste journey. I will add to it based on my own experiences, so this is in no way a comprehensive document, but may make it that little bit easier. It’s still worth doing your own research to find the best products and path for you.
A list of small habit changes to make a lasting impact.
From packaging-free shops to paste-free toothpaste. If the first lists are the must-haves, this is where you must-have to get them from!
A list of articles and books you should read if you’re looking to learn more about the environment and climate crisis.
Zero Waste Checklist
Little changes, big difference.
This is not a strict set of rules. Only try changes where you’re comfortable making them, but remember that you can’t lose anything from trying.
- Have at least one vegetarian meal a week.
I will never stop enjoying bacon, so full veggie is currently unlikely for me. But vegetarian food has come a long way since its first concept, and many of the more interesting vegetarian meals I’ve had are so full of flavour that I’ve not even missed meat. In fact, I’ve found more foods I like. Give it a try! You can always add meat to your dish if it’s not working for you.
- Check produce seasonality.
If a particular fruit or veg is available when you think it shouldn’t be, there’s a good chance it’s imported, adding all that additional carbon to your plate. Check out this handy seasonality calendar to help you figure out what’s grown when.
- Look for local zero waste shops.
Zero waste shops have been a massive success across the UK. Some may only stock dry store goods, but this can significantly reduce your plastic waste and can even cost less than supermarkets. Find your local zero waste store here.
- Look for items in recyclable packaging.
With the exception of fruit and veg, many products come in a choice of packaging. If there is ever a cardboard or glass option over plastic, it’s better, but if it’s too expensive or not the right one for you, don’t feel obliged.
- Cleaning products.
You don’t need as many cleaning products as you may think. One general purpose cleaner can usually take care of the kitchen and the bathroom. You can try a less chemical route by mixing bicarbonate of soda with white vinegar, or by holding onto your spray bottles and switching to refills.
- Storage containers.
Save jars and takeaway tupperware if you’re hoping to start shopping at zero waste shops or wanting to start making your own sauces, stock and the like. Instead of sandwich bags, you can try using beeswax wraps, but if you’re adamant that sandwich bags are the best way to keep your lunch fresh, try reusing them as much as possible.
- Washing up.
Zero waste shops stock refillable washing up liquid, so hold onto your last empty bottle of Fairy. If to your preference, try a dishcloth instead of a sponge, as these can be machine washed and last much longer. There are also bamboo alternatives to dish brushes to avoid even more plastic.
- Shampoo and conditioner.
Shampoo and conditioner bars aren’t for everyone, but you won’t know unless you try them! Like liquid shampoo and conditioner, each one is different, so it’s recommended to try a couple to see if any of them work for you. If you’re dead set on liquid shampoo and conditioner, try looking for sustainably made products recyclable bottles, and even refill options.
- Body scrubs.
A washable cloth or a natural sponge or scrubber is a better option than a plastic shower pouf, not only for the environment, but also for your skin.
Try to avoid polyester or nylon towels, as these can shed microfibres when washed, which can be harmful to wildlife.
Metal safety razors are a much more sustainable choice than plastic ones. They may seem more daunting to use, but you get used to them. There are also packaging-free shaving soaps available.
The standard dental swap for sustainability is the bamboo toothbrush, and there are now many options available. You could try switching to dental tabs to avoid plastic tubes, although they may not be to everyone’s taste. There are also shops that sell refillable silk floss in glass containers.
- Toilet roll.
Several toilet roll companies are springing up with more eco-friendly alternatives to this necessity. Who Gives a Crap offer bum wipes made from 100% recycled office paper, and Bumboo plants a tree for every 100% bamboo toilet roll order they receive. Both are also 100% plastic free.
Many women swear by menstrual cups, but not everyone will get on with them. There have been many recent developments into biodegradable towels and tampons, but these are sometimes uncomfortable or significantly more expensive. Ultimately, use whatever you’re comfiest with.
Do you really need to buy something new every season? (Hint: the answer is no!) Try to curb your inner fashion demon. Chances are you already have some beautiful clothes in your wardrobe. Take them out for a spin! If not, take them out to a charity shop so someone else can admire them. If you really are hellbent on buying new clothes though, look for sustainable brands using eco-friendly materials like cotton or tencel. Clothing retailers like ASOS have started adding ‘sustainability’ filters to their brands.
- Makeup and styling.
Brands such as Zao offer refillable makeup in bamboo casings. Although on the slightly more expensive side (to me, at least!), they may be worth it for their sleek appearance and environmental positives.
There is a surprising amount of household waste that can be composted, from hair and toenails to egg cartons and scrunched paper. There are also a surprising number of uses for scrap food before you go dumping it straight in the garden.
Got an old T-shirt you were going to throw away? How about making some cotton makeup remover pads, or some spare dishcloths instead? Something should always be reused before it’s recycled where possible.
Recycling is a strangely difficult topic. There are so many misconceptions around what can and can’t be recycled, and it’s often seen as the ultimate solution to waste management. It isn’t. Several serious Zero-Wasters explain that recycling should always be the last resort.
What can be recycled in your waste pile also depends on your local bin collection and all those tiny symbols on the bottom of packaging.
Did you know that even browsing the internet uses carbon? Limiting your social media scrolling will not only be better for your mental health, but also for your carbon footprint. You can also unsubscribe from mailing lists to reduce this and keep your inbox nice and tidy.
- Email retailers.
Do you love a particular product or brand, but hate the amount of plastic they use? Try emailing them to express your love of their product and express the ethical dilemma they put you in. Do you research first: do they have a sustainability statement? What have they done to make steps towards healthier practices? Research packaging alternatives or similar brands that do it better to provide examples. Of course, one email may not change the processes in a worldwide corporate entity, but if enough people raise concerns, it might get them thinking.
Shops and Recipes
The where and how for change.
I love Rapanui. Not only can you make your own custom designs, but their own products are gorgeous too, including products from BBC Earth and Ecosia. This site is beautifully honest about how their products are made, their full journey from cotton to delivery, and are one of the cheapest eco-friendly clothing retailers I’ve come across online (approx. £12 for a plain T-shirt).
Offering an absolutely gorgeous range of designs, Tentree only make their clothes from sustainable materials including Tencel, organic cotton, and hemp. They plant not one, but ten trees per order (hence the name), and you can even track the trees planted from your purchase! They offer 10% off your first order, however are a little on the expensive side (around £35 for a plain T-shirt).
£3.95 delivery • 10% off first order with newsletter subscription
Kitchen and Toiletries Shops
- Friendly Turtle.
Based in London, Friendly Turtle sell a range of products which primarily aim to reduce their environmental impact. They sell everything you need for your kitchen and bathroom at a reasonable price.
£3.25 standard delivery • 10% off first order with newsletter subscription
Acala is also based in London, and sell all types of eco-friendly personal hygiene products. They offer a 10% discount on first orders, but are fairly priced anyway.
£2.99 standard delivery • 10% off first order with newsletter subscription
Boobalou are an all-rounder eco-friendly shop, selling products for the kitchen, the bathroom and beyond. This Essex-based shop offers a points system for customers and plant a tree for every order placed.
£2.95 standard delivery • 10% off first order with newsletter subscription
- Shop Zero.
I wanted to give my local zero waste shop a shout-out for being awesome. Shop Zero in Nottingham sells everything from refillable washing up liquid to spices and bamboo socks. Shop Zero’s creator Sarah regularly updates the local Facebook community and expands the range based on what they want. There are also regular eco events to help bring change to Nottingham. I hope other cities have shops just as dedicated to making a difference.
- World of Books.
Stocking used books ready for a snug new life on your bookcase, World of Books is a great way to save money on new stories and to find a new home for your old ones.
- Disinfectant spray.
Combine distilled white vinegar with water to a ratio of 1:1, which can be used to disinfect all kinds of surfaces. To reduce the vinegar smell, try infusing the mixture with natural scents such as citrus or herbs.
- Oven cleaner.
Combine one part water to two parts bicarbonate of soda and a tablespoon of washing up liquid. Paint the paste around the inside of your oven and leave for a minimum of thirty minutes. Rinse with warm water.
- Old bread.
Save stale or end pieces of bread and turn them into croutons for salads and soup. All you need is some olive oil, salt and pepper, and any flavouring such as garlic granules.
- Vegetable scraps.
Freeze the trimmings from vegetables until you have enough to make a stock.
- Check out the Zero Waste Chef site for more ideas on how to use leftovers and scraps.
Zero Waste Lifestyle Books
- Six Weeks to Zero Waste by Kate Arnell. This was a great resource for starting my own zero waste journey. Kate leaves nothing out in her six week plan, and it opened my eyes to several areas of waste in my life that I hadn’t even considered before. Plus it has a great resource list, which partly inspired this one!
- How bad are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee. This book provides an easy way to see the carbon footprint of everyday things. A brilliant and insightful resource you can refer to regularly.
- WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) – the go-to place for sustainable resources and waste management statistics.
- Web Waste by A List Apart – an insightful article explaining the wastefulness of the internet.
- Plunge in carbon emissions from lockdowns will not slow climate change – National Geographic
- How does Climate Change Cause Extinction? – A study by Abigail E. Cahill, et al.
- Effects of Climate Change – The MET Office
- Carbon Footprint Calculator – WWF