5 Simple Swaps for Zero Waste Beginners

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Adopting a zero waste lifestyle is a journey, so you should not feel intimidated or pressured to make a 180-degree change with your current lifestyle habits immediately. Instead, take tiny steps and start with things that are simple for you. Being aware of the environmental crisis of today and having the willingness to adopt more sustainable day-to-day habits, are the first steps in the right direction and already two steps ahead of the majority. For beginner zero wasters, here are 5 simple swaps you can adopt to kickstart an eco-conscious life.


1. Plastic bag -> Reusable shopping bag

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute (-_-). Refusing a plastic bag for your one-item purchase at 7-11 might not seem like much, but over multiple purchases, it will actually make a difference. Now, going shopping or on your grocery runs requires a little bit more planning – in that, you actually need to remember to bring a reusable bag along with you. Or you could get a really lightweight one that doesn't take up too much real estate in your day bag for those spontaneous shopping days.

2. Ditch the (disposable) straw

Face it, we don't really need straws, much less disposable ones. "But I need to stir in my drink as the ice melts!" – Use the back of a spoon/fork/knife, and if you're a true daredevil, you could use your index finger. Did you ever see the video with the turtle with the straw up its nose? If you haven't, watch it here and here. If you have, I hope you've already kicked the 'sucky' habit. 

3. Plastic water bottle -> Reusable water bottle  

Everyone, it's time to make the switch from disposable plastic water bottles to reusable ones. Can't emphasis enough how much plastic waste comes from the bottled water industry (read more here and here). 

Type in "Reusable water bottle" in your web search engine and pick out the type of water bottle that best suit your needs. I value weight/size and volume above all because a) it's just not practical to carry a bottle that's too heavy or bulky in my bag, and 2) if the bottle's capacity is too small, I'll have to keep looking for places to fill up my bottle. That to me would be quite an inconvenience.


After spending hours comparing what’s available, I settled with the Hydrapak Stash (750ml) bottle. Been using it for almost 6 months now, and it goes everywhere with me, and I love it! 

4. Disposable take away cups -> Reusable coffee cup

For the coffee-addict who needs 3-4 cups of coffee a day, a reusable coffee cup / insulated mug would probably be the most worthwhile investment. Think about it, 3 x 365 days, that's 1,095 non-recyclable coffee cups that go into the oceans or landfills or incinerators in a year. Yikes.

Perks of switching to reusable cups: 1) reduce waste, 2) a number of coffee places give discounts on coffee if you bring your own cup, but they might not shout out about it, so you gotta ask, 3) develop a coffee "identity": there are so many cup options for different types of coffee drinkers; tall, insulated mugs for iced coffee drinkers, 8oz (230ml) coffee cups for the diehard cappuccino fans, and even collapsible ones for those without a fixed drink. 


5. Dine-in

Slow down, take it easy, dine-in, enjoy the views, the atmosphere, and the company... If you're pressed for time or your job dictates you eat at your desk (I'm sorry to hear), you could consider bringing your own food container, or pack food from home. This helps with food portioning as well, so you reduce the likelihood of overeating or wasting unfinished food. Or at the very least, use the cutlery in your office pantry and refuse the disposable ones that come with the meal. Every little bit counts! ;)


For the skeptics who doubt that a single person’s effort has the ability to make an impact, you’re right! It requires a community effort to influence the way businesses and individuals contribute to reducing plastic production and consumption, and you know what they say, "Roll over the ocean, roll over the sea. Go and do your part and build community. It’s us. It's us. It's us who builds community.