Switch from tissues and paper napkins to cloth napkins.
This is a long process to transition from paper to cloth. The goal of zero waste is to minimize the amount of waste you are producing. Do not just go out and buy brand new cloth napkins and throw out all of your paper products.
Sell them or give them away to your friends while simultaneously educate them about zero waste and why you are giving them your remaining paper products. Also, instead of buying brand new cloth napkins, try making them from old sheets and clothes. REUSING items is a huge point in going zero waste.
Switch paper towels to woven cotton cloths.
Paper towels are great for cleaning up spills and messes, but it causes too much waste. Here is where you can buy cotton cloths. I highly recommend the cotton cloths that are really absorbent. However, it may also be a good idea to keep a couple of rolls of paper towels just in case and I recommend recycled natural, unbleached paper towels. The same goes for toilet paper as well.
Avoid microfiber towels because every time they go through the washing machine, they release thousands of micro-plastic particles into the environment. I suggest checking Amazon for cotton cloths.
Switch out plastic food containers for glass and stainless.
Plastic food containers are a huge waste and they are pretty cruddy food containers. I had a small Ziploc container that held my breakfast stuffed bell pepper that I made four months ago and I can still smell it. I have washed it three times and soaked it twice. If I leave the lid on for a week or so and open it up again, the smell of bell pepper comes seeping out. It is quite disgusting.
This odor retaining quality is not present in glass and stainless steel containers. Where plastic has a limited amount of times it can be recycled, glass and metal can be recycled an infinite number of times. I have a two-tiered stainless steel lunch container that I bought from Island Naturals for $24.99 and I am sure you can find them cheaper from somewhere else, just be mindful of packaging. The container I bought had zero packaging and had a compostable tag.
Quit plastic water bottles and use reusable water bottles.
Water is THE most important thing we need in our lives, but plastic is NOT. You will not believe how much plastic you could cut out of your life just by REFUSING plastic water bottles. Never leave the house without a reusable water bottle. Take a hydroflask or 50/50 with you at all times. I take a 16oz. mason jar with me everywhere I go. It doesn’t keep my water cold for very long, but I am saving up for a new or used hydroflask.
Stop using plastic shopping bags and use reusable totes and bags.
This is a no-brainer here in Hawaii. As of 2016, the law has banned stores from using plastic shopping bags. Not to say that everywhere has gotten rid of it, I know of some places that still have plastic, but almost every store now carries reusable bags. I am definitely considering buying large utility totes from Thirty-One when I can save up the money. They will be perfect for bulk shopping without having to lug around a million small reusable bags.
Number one tip for reusable bags, do not forget to leave the house or car without one. If you do, walk yourself back inside to get one. Better to have a bag than to forget it in the car and you have to load them in the rain or something.
Avoid plastic produce bags and use reusable cloth bags.
For larger produce, like bananas and lettuce, you can leave out of a bag. Use a cloth bag for small, numerous items like tomatoes and granola. You can either make them yourself or buy them. I recommend LifeWithoutPlastic for their organic cotton mesh produce bags. If you decide to buy bulk items with your reusable bags, remember to write down the product number for the cashier.
Replace sponges with brushes and rags.
Sponges are bacteria generators. Buying dish brushes with compostable heads or are compostable themselves are much cleaner than sponges. You can also use rags to dry your dishes. LifeWithoutPlastic is a great place to buy dish-washing brushes with removable heads that can be composted.
Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush.
Fun Fact: Every single toothbrush ever made is still out there. It takes a long time for a plastic toothbrush to degrade in a landfill. Bamboo toothbrushes are made from all-natural materials and they can be composted after you are done with them. They last just as long as plastic ones (four months).
Replace aluminum foil and cling wrap with moldable waxed fabric.
To avoid plastic waste headed to the landfill, moldable wax fabric can be reused as many times as needed. Again, LifeWithoutPlastic is the place to go.
Compost. Compost. Compost.
This is really self-explanatory. You can have a backyard compost or a vermicompost with worms in your kitchen. Green waste and compostable toothbrushes and other products can be composted. I am currently looking into a vermicompost here in Hilo and I will post about it at a later time.