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.
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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.
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.
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.
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?