Is Zero Waste More Expensive?

Ah, yes, the 3 year age old question. Is zero waste more expensive? I went over this briefly in this post where I busted zero waste myths.

But, I decided it was time for a more in depth look at this very pressing question with a few of my calculations down at the bottom.

Is zero waste more expensive from #ecofriendly #zerowaste #ecofriendlyliving #zeowastelifestyle #savemoney #frugalliving #thrifty #frugal

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links for more information please see my disclosure policy.

the short of it:

Well, like most things it life… it depends. It really depends on how you were consuming products before you decided to reduce your waste.

Have you been living a frugal lifestyle? Do you currently eat minimally processed foods that focus on plant-based ingredients? Do you have control over your shopping habits?

If you answered, yes to any or all of those questions then you might not see a substantial amount of savings, but I think that you’ll find you’ll maintain your spending.

You definitely shouldn’t expect to see a huge uptick in your spending, that’s for sure!

it’s depression era living.

Zero waste living isn’t anything new or fancy. In fact, it’s pretty old school. Like hundreds of generations of normal living up until the 50s. It’s depression era living founded on one simple principle WASTE. NOTHING.

We just create a lot of waste these days because we buy a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff that we don’t really need, use, or even want!

I would say zero waste living and minimalism have a lot in common because it’s about examining what you truly need. It just in the zero waste community, we found taking out the trash to be completely unnecessary. I jest, I jest.

But, really if you’re buying MORE things, you’re probably doing zero waste wrong. My first tip in my Beginner’s Guide to Going Zero Waste is simply Buy Less.

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it’s about buying less:

It’s about using what you already have and using it to it’s full potential. Check out my post What to do with old plastic when going zero waste.

I’m not saying you won’t buy things, I still buy things that I want and need but I’m so much more conscious about what I’m buying and why I’m buying it.

Every purchase goes through a strict vetting process. You can read more in my post 6 Tips for Buying Less.

what about buying reusables?

Yeah, some resuables are going to be an upfront investment like a bidet attachment, a nice safety razor, reusable bags that you really love, maybe a nice sturdy insulated water bottle, a slew of mason jars, and maybe a tiffin or two.

I think you’ll find once you have those basics, and I mean really stick with the basics, you don’t need much more.

Also, you can probably find a few of these things at the thrift store. I found all of my mason jars which I also use as drinking glasses at the thrift store. I found two klean kanteens at the thrift store too!

And, all of these items will save you SO MUCH in the long run. So, yes, your spending might peak a little bit at the beginning of your zero waste journey, but I wouldn’t expect it to maintain that way.

Is zero waste more expensive from #ecofriendly #zerowaste #ecofriendlyliving #zeowastelifestyle #savemoney #frugalliving #thrifty #frugal

what about eco-friendly products?

Eco-friendly, sustainable products are probably going to cost more. I mean a shirt made from plastic, sewn by slave labor is of course going to cost less than a shirt made from sustainable textiles that are traceable where everyone was paid a living wage.

It makes sense that well-made, ethical things are going to cost more because manufacturers aren’t cutting corners.

And, I understand that not everyone can afford to make a sustainable purchase every time, but it’s important to frame our mindsets. The question shouldn’t be “Why is doing good so expensive?” it should be “Why is being bad so cheap?”

So, yes, somethings are going to cost a little more, but even buying more expensive, eco-friendly items like Zero Waste Makeup, I’m still saving in the long run because overall I’m buying much less than I used to.

And, it’s not like I’m going through makeup at a slower pace, it’s just that I’m not running out to buy different colors, try new things, and just buy to buy. I stick to buying only what I know, love, and use.

Is zero waste more expensive from #ecofriendly #zerowaste #ecofriendlyliving #zeowastelifestyle #savemoney #frugalliving #thrifty #frugal

some real life calculations:

So, this is anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered along the way and is by no means an accurate reflection of everywhere in the country but here in Northern California, this is what I’ve found.

  • Farmers Market Organic Artichokes $1 per piece - Same farm, same thing at Raley’s $2 per piece

  • Farmers Market Organic Romaine $2 per head - Organic Romaine at Raleys $3.27

  • Rainbow Grocery Biokleen 5lb Laundry Detergent in box $15.75 (THAT’S INSANE!) - Rainbow Grocery Biokleen Laundry Detergent from bulk bins $1.85 a lb or $9.25 for 5lbs

  • Organic Pinto Beans in a plastic bag $2.38 - Organic Pinto Beans $1.99

  • Organic Yellow Popcorn in plastic $3.49 - Organic Yellow Popcorn $1.99

  • 20ct of paper towels $19.89 (lasts two months) - A dozen bar rags $15.99 (Lasts for five years)

As you can see the savings really do add up. I’m not saying zero waste is always going to be cheaper but I’ve found that 97% of the time the zero waste option saves money.

I think I should do a post on cost comparisons. Are there any products that you’d like to see specifically included?

How to Have an Eco Friendly BBQ

HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE! It’s basically official right? Summer solstice is right around the corner. Not that it has to be summer time to have a cookout, if you’re reading this for a family cookout in November, more power to you!

But, since I’m publishing this in the summer and I’m going to assume you’re reading it during the summer… we’re just going to continue with a SUMMER theme.

the ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

I love summer. It’s my favorite season. I have SO much energy in the summer. I’m like the energizer bunny. When the sun comes out early in the morning I’m itching to start my day - oh and those late summer evenings… there’s nothing better.

Man, I just want to get a snow cone right now. Also, something I’ve noticed is there aren’t any snow cone mobiles in California!

We had snow cone mobiles everywhere in Arkansas and I miss them. I miss you Hawaiian Ice!

I digress, this post isn’t about how much I love summer, warm weather, and snow cones… It’s about throwing the most eco-friendly, zero waste cookout EVER.

And, I’ve got you covered, I’ve thrown many a zero waste BBQ in my day. In fact, since Justin and I got married at city hall we threw a BIG backyard BBQ to celebrate with all of our friends and family and it was an absolute blast.

1. borrow:

If you need more tables, chairs, games, cups, plates etc. Instead of running out to get more, I urge you to ask your guests if they have any you can BORROW.

I promise, they will be more than happy to lend them and this will save you a ton of money! It’s also way more eco-friendly to use materials that already exist in the waste stream than it is to buy brand new.

the ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

2. choose reusables:

A key area of waste at BBQs is all of the disposables. People tend to lean into the disposable plates or red solo cups at parties, but I would love for you to switch to reusable items! 

Now, we've talked about my mom and her meticulous party planning, yeah? 

Since it isn't the safest thing to have kids by the pool with a bunch of breakable plates and glasses, growing up we had a set of BBQ plates which were all plastic. 

They were reusable and made of melamine. We also had reusable plastic cups of course if you'd rather avoid even reusable plastic they make a stainless steel pint cups and plates

Now, I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that going to be A LOT of dishes?

Yes, but I threw a backyard bash with 60 people in attendance without a dishwasher. Just when my friends asked if they could do something to help, instead of turning them down, I asked if they’d help wash a few dishes. They were more than happy to do that!

I had a clean kitchen and a zero waste party with very little cleanup!

Of course, if you have a dishwasher, start your party with an empty dishwasher and then load up and the end of the night. Press a few buttons and when you wake up, you'll have clean dishes! 

julia-zolotova-784840-unsplash-min.jpgthe ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

3. decorate like mama earth:

When it comes to decor stick with what your mama gave you… mama Earth, that is! I love to dress up my parties with fresh flowers.

The morning of my big parties, I like to go down to the farmers market to pick some fresh sustainable blooms.

If you’re curious as to what classifies a flower as sustainable, be sure to check out my post How to Choose Sustainable Flowers.

I also like to light candles and put them in lanterns, use old mason jars, and upcycle old tins. I think fabric bunting that you reuse year after year is adorable and festive too!

photos-by-lanty-597554-unsplash (1)-min.jpgthe ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

4. entertainment:

Ah, yes, but how do you keep these guests entertained? I tend to create a spotify playlist to play while the party is in full swing, and I rented a few corn hole boards and horseshoe games for everyone to play in the backyard.

This is another thing that would be great to ask friends about. I bet a few of them have some backyard party games they’d be more than happy to let you borrow.

the ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

5. food:

And, then we get to the food. My number one recommendation is to go heavy on the veg!

When people typically think about BBQs they think about meat. But, I've got to tell you - grilled vegetables are the BOMB.

I give you all my favorite grilled veggies in this post Zero Waste BBQ and I go in full detail about how I threw a party for 60 people without creating trash in my Zero Waste Wedding part one… including how I hauled my crockpot to the butcher.

the ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

6. attending bbqs:

This is a fun little bonus! When I'm attending BBQs, I actually bring my own stainless tumbler so I don't have to use any disposables. I'm always complimented on it. I sometimes include a small stainless steel plate and a to-go set of cutlery that I wrap in a cloth napkin.

Have you thrown or attended a zero waste BBQ?

the ultimate guide to a zero waste summer BBQ from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #BBQ #cookout #summer #entertaining

The Truth About Zero Waste Living

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…. zero waste isn’t really ZERO waste. I don’t know what it is about the word zero, but man, it really scares people off.

Zero seems so finite, so absolute. But, when it comes to zero waste living, zero is just goal - something that can’t be reached because we don’t live in a perfect zero waste world.

Plastic, trash, waste - IT HAPPENS, and it’s completely out of our control.

The truth about zero waste living from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #thethingstheydonttellyou #gogreen

In fact, trash is kind of like an iceberg. What we see is only 30% the other 70% is lost in manufacturing. So, even when we buy from bulk bins #plasticfree what we don’t see is the plastic bags that the product was in before it was put into the bins.

When you buy a nice reusable water bottle from the store, what you don’t see is the pallet they all came in that was wrapped with plastic.

Most of this is completely out of our control, and it’s why you shouldn’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Zero waste living isn’t about being perfect, and it’s about so much more than mason jars full of trash and grammable reusables.

Zero waste is about moving to a circular economy. By living this way, we’re highlighting areas that need improving, and it’s another reason WHY it’s so important for us to be doing more like asking businesses to improve sustainability initiatives, asking for policy change, and educating our communities.

And, while we’re waiting for that perfect zero waste world to manifest, trash is going to happen. Plastic is going to happen.

And, I really haven’t had a solution to that other than… “welp *shrug* it happens,” but now you can actually offset your plastic footprint!

It’s similar to calculating and offseting your carbon footprint.

Rebalance your plastic footprint with rePurpose! #plastic #plasticfree #rebalance #simplicity #ecofriendly #zerowaste

This post was sponsored by rePurpose. All thoughts and opinions are my own for more information please see my disclosure page.

Like with carbon offsets, the goal is of course to make sure that you are first reducing your plastic as much as possible and then offsetting what’s leftover.

why can’t I recycle?

I hear you, why can’t I just recycle my plastic? And, I wish it were that easy, but as of January 2018, China, the largest global buyer of plastic for recycling, stopped accepting it last year, and other countries are turning it away too.

Malaysia is actually sending 3,000 metric tons of plastic back to the US, UK, and Australia because it’s been illegally dumped in their country. We just have too much plastic to deal with.

Many of these countries that we dump our plastic into do not have proper waste management facilities to handle the influx of waste so a lot of it winds up in rivers thus the ocean.

Rebalance your plastic footprint with rePurpose! #plastic #plasticfree #rebalance #simplicity #ecofriendly #zerowaste

how do I know my plastic footprint?

rePurpose has a tool to help you balance your plastic footprint. There’s a handy calculator where you can calculate your plastic footprint and then offset it.

I calculated both Justin’s and mine, and for about $2.30 a month we can offset our footprint! YAY! The quiz is super fun to take and very eye-opening because even if you buy mostly plastic-free there’s still a lot of secret plastic you might not be seeing.

Rebalance your plastic footprint with rePurpose! #plastic #plasticfree #rebalance #simplicity #ecofriendly #zerowaste

how is it being offset?

I think this is the most important part! For as little as $3-5 a month, rePurpose will intercept & recycle an amount of plastic waste equivalent to your unique footprint calculated above.

rePurpose has partnered with three different organizations at this time, and when you offset with them you get real-time tracking of both your social and environmental impact (volume recycled, type of plastic, workers impacted) at the beginning of every month.

rePurpose focuses on lower-end, hard-to-recycle plastic instead of the more valuable plastic like PET.

Recycling PET isn’t a great choice for this program because these plastics have a high value by nature. They would have been picked up and recycled by workers anyway.

Instead, they offset low-value plastics and pay informal workers to intercept it before it reaches the ocean or landfills! Not only is this a great way to prevent more plastic from entering our ecosystems, it’s also adding a crucial income stream for pickers. You can learn more here.

Rebalance your plastic footprint with rePurpose! #plastic #plasticfree #rebalance #simplicity #ecofriendly #zerowaste

Over 50 million informal workers worldwide spend their entire lives dealing with the consequences of our mindless consumption, all without recognition as environmental heroes or access to basic healthcare or education that traps them in a generational cycle of abject poverty.

In India, a waste picker on average spends 12 hours a day scavenging for recyclable waste in dumpsters and landfills, earning less than $5 from an exploitative supply chain.

rePurpose seeks to end this by paying a fair wage and partnering with organizations that have met a strict criteria:

1) organizational track record: amount recycled, years present in the cities, quality of operational infrastructure

2) implementational capacity: do they have the technical and human resource requirements in order to implement the offset

3) engagement with informal sector: are they engaged with waste pickers & local informal industries, and how genuine is that engagement? do they have the trust & goodwill of the communities?


Rebalance your plastic footprint with rePurpose! #plastic #plasticfree #rebalance #simplicity #ecofriendly #zerowaste

it doesn’t stop there!

Another way that rePurpose sets themselves apart is that they don’t only focus on end-of-life/the waste that’s already been produced.

They also want to help you reduce the amount of plastic that you consume in the first place! After all REDUCE, REUSE then at the very, verrrryyy end RECYCLE. They send out a great newsletter to help make personalized changes in your life!

I would love to know how much plastic you’re responsible for? Mine came out to about 40lbs a year.