By now, most of us have heard of the zero waste lifestyle. Those of us who are interested in reducing our footprint have probably also adopted some zero waste habits into our own lifestyle. But you may be wondering, is it more expensive to be zero waste? How much will it actually cost me to switch to zero waste? Can I afford a zero waste lifestyle? Well, we're here to help. We have compiled everything you need to know about transitioning to zero waste so that you can decide whether it's affordable or not for your lifestyle.
What is zero waste?
Let's start off with a quick re-introduction to what zero waste actually means. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, "the zero waste lifestyle conserves resources by responsibly producing, consuming and reusing products and taking other actions." Basically, zero waste is a popular lifestyle movement that involves creating as little or no waste as possible. This can be as simple as using reusable bags when doing your weekly food shop or taking a reusable coffee cup for your morning brew. Some people aim to be totally zero waste in every aspect of their lives, whilst others accept that some things just aren't possible for them and focus instead on the things they can do. Essentially, there is no one way to be zero waste and every little helps.
How much does it cost to go zero waste?
The cost of zero waste products can add up quickly, however this doesn't necessarily mean that it's more expensive to go zero waste. In fact, a huge part of the zero waste movement is using what you have and consuming less. Many zero waste products cost more because they will last a lot longer than their disposable counterparts.
It is also important not to immediately bin everything non-sustainable that you already own! In fact, it's more sustainable and budget-friendly to use what you already have before buying something new. Make sure to use up the products you already own before going on to replace them with something more sustainable. After all, the most sustainable option is the one you already own.
Don't forget a huge part of being zero waste is reusing and repurposing things. Save your old jars to use for food storage, use old tins as plant pots and use your old toothbrushes for household cleaning. When you do need to buy more stuff, the zero waste philosophy is to buy used whenever possible. Whether it's clothing, shoes, books, stationery, furniture or toys, all of these things can be easily found in your local charity shops or online in Facebook groups, on eBay etc. Buying used is not only better for the planet, it can also help keep your costs low.
When you do need to buy new, it's important for you to weigh up the costs of conventional products against the zero waste alternatives and decide what will work best for your budget. Here are some common examples;
Pasta. 1kg of white penne pasta from Tesco costs £1.39. From a refill shop it will cost you around £2.
Laundry Detergent. One of the best-selling detergents is from Ariel. For 70 washes you will pay £10.50, making it 15p per wash. You can get 64 zero waste laundry detergent sheets from the brand Zero Waste Club for £6.40, totalling 10p per wash.
Sponges. A pack of 6 heavy-duty sponges costs £3.99 on Amazon, roughly costing 67p per sponge. A pack of 8 biodegradable, zero waste sponges costs £7.99, around £1 per sponge.
Shampoo. A 500ml bottle of Garnier shampoo costs £2.40. A 500ml bottle of shampoo will generally last around 12 washes, making it 0.2p a wash. Friendly, a zero waste, vegan and cruelty free brand makes a popular shampoo bar for only £2.95. With solid shampoo, a 100g bar generally lasts around 80 washes. That makes it less that 0.04p per wash!
Deodorant. Sure deodorant costs £2.50 for a 200ml spray can which lasts around 3 weeks. That makes it around 0.12p a use. There are lots of zero waste, refillable deodorant options available at different price points. One of the cheaper options available on the market is Kutis at £5.85 for a 55g stick which should last around 2 months with daily application, meaning it costs 0.09p per use.
Kitchen Roll. Conventional paper kitchen roll from the supermarkets costs around £2.50 for 2 rolls, with a total of 200 sheets. Reusable kitchen roll from Zero Waste Club costs £8.99 for a pack of 7, which can be washed and reused over and over again.
As you can see, it's not always a simple answer when it comes to deciding which option is cheaper. Some items may be more expensive upfront but will last a lot longer than their conventional counterparts. We recommend taking a look at your personal budget and making a few swaps where you can.
What are the cons of going zero waste?
- Upfront costs are usually higher. If you choose to buy lots of zero waste products like glass or stainless steel food containers, cleaning products and toiletries all at once, you may go over budget. Instead, try to take things slowly and focus on one thing at a time.
- Zero waste options are not always convenient. Conventional products and packaging are all about convenience. Processed foods, individually packaged snacks, cleaning products and toiletries encased in plastic are all easy to find, buy and use. Zero waste products can be more difficult to find and use.
What are the pros of going zero waste?
- It's better for the planet. Most people who make the switch to zero waste do it to lower their environmental impact. Being zero waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the need to consume natural resources and the amount of non-recyclable waste that's created.
- You will buy less. Zero waste is all about consuming mindfully. This often means 'buying for life,' which whilst it can cost more upfront, it is typically more economical overall.
- It aligns with your ethics. Many companies committed to zero waste are also committed to other ethical issues, such as fair trade, cruelty free and the use of natural ingredients.
So, is it more expensive to go zero waste?
No, not really. Reducing your waste is an excellent choice for the planet, and it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. That said, it is easy to go over budget if you try to go 100% zero waste overnight.
To prevent over spending, start small and build up sustainable habits over time, that work with your lifestyle. This could mean anything from going to the farmer's market once a week instead of the supermarket, buying that new outfit you need from the charity shop, or remembering to bring reusable bags when you shop.
Instead of going out and buying lots of zero waste alternatives right away, try to get creative and see where you can cut back on what you buy, and focus on what you can repurpose. By buying less and being frugal, you can not only help the planet, but also your wallet.