The zero waste lifestyle might seem intimidating when you first start out. Chances are, once you start being more aware of your consumption and disposal habits, you will start to realize the sheer amount of waste you produce. Needless to say, it’s an impossible task to jump right in and immediately eliminate all sources of waste in your lifestyle. That, of course, is not an excuse to not do it at all.
You know what parents always say -- good values start from home! This is why we’re bringing the zero waste lifestyle back home this week, with a focus on all the things you will need to start practicing zero waste right in your own home. If you missed it, be sure to check out some of our previous posts to learn more about how you can go zero waste in your kitchen and with your closets!
For today, we’ll be helping you eliminate those numerous cleaning solutions you have in your cupboards. Floor cleaners, dishwashing liquids, laundry detergent -- there are zero waste substitutes for all of them! Even those sponges that you have been using all your life are easily replaceable. With what? Well, read on to find out!
It’s time to switch those grimy sponges and plastic brushes to more sustainable options! When your current ones need to be replaced, try these biodegradable, eco-friendly alternatives:
I’m sure most of us know loofahs as the plastic net that we use in the shower. However, did you know that the plastic net is actually derived from a plant? The Luffa plant is part of the cucumber family and when fully ripened, becomes extremely fibrous. Their hard, fibrous texture makes them the ideal scrubbing sponge!
They are great for getting the grime out of your dishes, or off your floors and countertops. If you’ve enough land at home, you can even try growing them yourselves! And in case you didn’t realise already, them being plants also means that they’re compostable.
There have been some reports on luffas being a great place for bacterias to breed though (they are, after all, all-natural and biodegrade), so do me mindful when using them. Make sure to wash them thoroughly and dry them in between uses.
Nature provides in amazing ways, if only we know where to look.
Source: Better Living Through Design
There are a ton of other materials that can and have been made into brushes, and they don’t have to be made of plastic, which never goes away. Look for wooden cleaning brushes to scrub your floors with; some of them even come with natural, compostable bristles like coconut fibre. These wooden brushes comes in all forms too so you’ll definitely find one that suits your needs, whether it’s meant for your dishes, floor, or countertops.
Alternatively, metal wools/scrubbies are great if you need something a little more sturdy. Do be aware, though, that metal can scratch some of your surfaces so be careful when using these. Otherwise, they are great at getting rid of stubborn stains and rust.
These require little explanation, I’m sure. If you’ve clothes that have been worn ragged over time and are no longer in wearable condition, cut them up and use them to clean your home instead! This not only prevents textile wastage, but also saves you some money since you already have all the cloth you need.
We wouldn’t recommend scrubbing your entire floor with a toothbrush, but these are great for tiny crevices that are hard to reach with normal brushes.
Ah, the good old feather duster. We’ve a love-hate relationship with these things (anyone else whose parents used these as an alternative for a cane?), but no one can deny that they’re great for cleaning the house with!
Instead of wiping down your shelves with wet wipes, use the feather duster for general maintenance and dusting of your shelves and countertops!
Source: Simple Cotton by Puffylamb (Simplecottonbypl)
You might not familiar with Jute, but it’s actually the fibre that is most commonly used to make burlap. These jute scrubbers hand-knitted by @simplecottonbypl (on Instagram) are just as sturdy as any burlap sack and will help you scrub all the grime off your dishes.
You can wash and re-use this perfectly fine, and when they get a little too grimy for your liking, rest assured that they are fully biodegradable! Unlike many conventional sponges that are covered in chemicals (come on, you eat out of these dishes that you clean!) or made of plastic, these are perfectly natural and won’t leave any of those invisible nasties on your dishes.
Source: The Spruce
There are tons of cleaning products on the shelves these days, and most, if not all of them come in plastic packaging. If we look at the ingredients list of those products, we’ll also find that they are all loaded full of chemicals which name we can’t even get right.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need these hardcore chemicals to get our house clean, but do we really? Well, we’re here to introduce you to some all-natural alternatives that can be prepared by you right at home!
Before we dive into it, having some supplies on hand would be helpful. Try getting reusable glass bottles beforehand in order to store these solutions. Otherwise, you can reuse plastic containers that you have left from your existing cleaning products.
All-purpose Cleaning Solution
The recipe for this varies when we looked it up on the internet, but the most common one we found involved:
½ Cup White Vinegar
2 Tbsp Baking Soda
A few drops of essential oils for scent
This gentle, all-purpose cleaner is great for all kinds of hard surfaces. The all-natural ingredients also mean you won’t have to worry when you kids are picking things up off the floor and putting it into their mouths.
For this, you’ll need:
½ Cup White/Cider Vinegar
2 Cups Water
¼ Cup Rubbing Alcohol (70% concentration)
1-2 Drops Orange Essential Oil
Mix up the solution and pour it into a spray bottle for easy usage. This will rid your windows of any stains and leave it looking pristine.
Source: The Prairie Homestead
Dishwashing liquid can be a fussy point for most people, since it absolutely has to have amazing grease-cutting properties. Thankfully, we managed to find out that promises just that. This recipe really couldn’t get any easier. Just mix the ingredients together, and you’re done! No excuse for you not to try it now, is there?
The ingredient does call for liquid Castille soap as an ingredient, which is exactly what makes its grease-cutting properties so amazing. For those who are unfamiliar, Castille soap is basically soap made out of vegetable oils. It can be purchased in bulk at The Green Collective SG (remember to bring your own containers!) or found online.
Alternatively, we managed to find a recipe with all-natural ingredients that can do just that! All you’ll need is some lemons, kosher salt, water, and white vinegar! For the full measurements and instructions, refer to the link above!
Source: Duck Saves Earth
We know this chunk doesn’t look anything like liquid detergent, but trust us, it is! All you have to do is to dilute it detergent with water, and you’re good to go. Moreover, this is great for going away with. It’s extremely portable when undiluted and can easily be brought along to make for some wonderful zero waste travelling.
This detergent is unscented, but we love that you can easily customise it to your favourite scent just by adding a few drops of your preferred essential oils. The ingredients used ensure that this is extremely gentle on your skin too, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. You can get this from https://www.ducksavesearth.com/shop.
Source: Green Virgin Products
Once again, nature provides for us in amazing ways. Soap nuts are a fruit that is grown on the Sapindus tree. When dried, they produce suds when they come into contact with water. They are all-natural, compostable, and antimicrobial. They are also much gentler than the conventional chemicals used in cleaning products, so you can use them even if you have sensitive skin or even to wash baby’s clothing.
All you have to do is purchase some soap nuts (you can get them from The Zero Ways!), and boil them in water. You’ll be able to yield a concentrated soap-like liquid which can then be used to scrub your floors and wash your dishes. If you wish to do your laundry using soap nuts, simply get a soap bag, place the nuts in it, and throw the whole thing into your washing machine along with your dirty clothes.
Soap nuts can be reused for a few times and once they have lost their properties, -- you’ll know when they no longer foam up when wet, or when they turn soft and grey -- compost them and use a fresh batch!
If you’re looking for any other tools or recipes that we didn’t mention here, don’t worry. A quick Google search is bound to turn up tons of results. Just find the one that works best for you!
Going zero waste is definitely a journey. Finding and making the suitable substitutes occur over time, and integrating them into your lifestyle requires a conscious effort to change. It might seem tedious at first, but trust us that it’ll get easier as you continue on! There are tons of ways to go green while keeping up with your normal life. Take it one step at a time, and make the switch!