Where to Begin a Zero-Waste Journey: 6 Easy Swaps

Posted by Elise Antonio on

If you're just beginning your zero-waste journey, starting out can seem overwhelming. There are so many things made of plastic! The best thing to do is focus on small, easy and inexpensive swaps. Keep reminding yourself that this is a journey  - it takes time and patience. Below are some really easy swaps you can make to start you off in a great sustainable direction. 
1. Swap out the plastic water bottles for a reusable one

This is one of the easiest swaps to make, and it has a huge impact! It doesn't have to be an expensive, new water bottle either. I picked up the one below at Goodwill for $6. 

2. Swap out plastic straws for a metal straw

Millions of plastic straws end up in the ocean every day. They harm and kill animals who mistake them for food and choke on them. Something that you use for an average of 3 minutes and then throw away lasts forever in the landfill and the ocean. Make the swap to a reusable metal straw that you can easily carry with you and that will last you a long time. You can always politely ask for no straws in your drinks as well! 

3. Reusable bags instead of paper or plastic ones

We are lucky here in Seattle that we have a plastic bag ban. But the most sustainable option is bringing your own! Keeping them in your car, bag, purse, pocket, etc. keeps you prepared. 

4. Swap disposable coffee cups for a reusable mug

Did you know that most city recycling facilities aren't capable of recycling paper coffee cups? This is because it's very difficult to separate the plastic lining from the paper. Most coffee cups (and the plastic lids) end up in the landfill. Start bringing a reusable coffee cup or mug to your favorite coffee shop and help reduce the number of cups in the landfill. Some places even give you a discount for using your own cup! Keep Cup makes a great reusable cup, but there are great ones at your local thrift store too! 

5. Bar soap instead of liquid soap

This is a super easy change that I love because of all the fun bar soap options! Swap out your plastic disposable hand soap dispenser for bar soap and experience the wondrous world of great-smelling bar soaps. Make sure to pick up a bar soap dish that helps your bar dry out between soapings!
One of my favorite soaps is Good Soap Co. 
6. Bringing a handkerchief instead of using paper napkins

It's true that  paper napkins are compostable, but a lot of them don't end up in the compost - they end up in a landfill unable to break down naturally and instead turn into methane gas. A lot of napkins come on restaurant tables already, but the ones that come in takeout you can refuse, and use your own washable napkin instead. You can even use a handkerchief for drying your hands in the bathroom rather then using a paper towel. There are endless uses for a handkerchief, and easy to carry with you every day! 

Challenge yourself and commit to one or two swaps this week!


  • Hi Katie,
    Thank you for your support and for visiting the website! I understand the need for darker-colored napkins – I will look into darker fabrics to make bandanas that can be used as napkins. I really appreciate you keeping my shop in mind for gifts – there are great options to choose from for people wanting longer-life items. Planning pop-ups around Seattle is something I would love to do this summer – if you’d like to follow us on Instagram and Facebook our handle is @thepreserveshop I will definitely be updating those on summer pop-up locations. It would be great to connect in person!

    Thank you so much!!


    Elise on

  • I saw your post on nextdoor and am also excited about your business- congrats on opening a wonderful shop! I’ve been in the market for some dark-colored cloth napkins as I have young kids. We use a lot of rags but they get stained easily so simple napkins that don’t show stains and I could keep setting out on the table would be so great! We are in the neighborhood and I’ll keep your shop pinned for gifts and home goods:) Have you considered hosting a pop-up at a local store or someone’s home?

    Katie Truelove on

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