5 Easy Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps That Save Money

by Konstantina Antoniadou

Did you know that the average household produces over 400 pounds of kitchen waste each year? That’s nearly the weight of a full-grown adult! Why put such a toll on the environment when we can choose a few easy zero-waste kitchen swaps that save money? 

From the day I started my eco-friendly living journey, I’ve tried quite a few plastic-free swaps. Most of them passed the tests with flying colors. But that doesn’t mean that I do have some all-time favorites.

Today, I’ll share the most budget-friendly and sustainable kitchen swaps for beginners. All options have been vetted and verified by yours truly!

Best Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps That Save Money

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for ways to live more sustainably without breaking the bank. The good news is that making a few simple swaps in the kitchen can do just that! Not only have these easy plastic-free swaps saved me a ton of money, and kept my trash bin from overflowing, but they’ve also made a huge difference in reducing waste and conserving our precious natural resources. 

While it might seem insignificant at first glance, I believe that even the smallest changes can have a significant impact, especially when it comes to our daily routines in the kitchen. Think about it: the kitchen is a central hub in our homes, where we prepare meals, store food, and clean up. It’s the perfect place to start making mindful, eco-friendly choices.

Over the past year, I’ve transitioned to using reusable kitchen utensils, glass food storage containers, and refillable dish soap, among other eco-friendly swaps. Imagine all the single-use plastics and packaging that we can prevent from ending up in landfills or oceans! 

The Positive Impact of Choosing Zero Waste Swaps for the Kitchen

When we think about the waste generated from single-use items in the kitchen, the numbers are shocking, to say the least. Take single-use plastic bottles, for instance. Americans alone purchase around 50 billion plastic water bottles each year. Unfortunately, only about 23% of these bottles get recycled, leaving 38 billion bottles to end up in landfills or as litter. This means that every year, millions of tons of plastic waste are added to our environment, contributing to pollution and harming wildlife.

Soap bottles are another significant contributor to plastic pollution. The average household goes through multiple plastic bottles of dish soap, hand soap, and other cleaning products each year. Considering there are over 120 million households in the U.S., that’s a terrifyingly large amount of plastic waste generated from just soap bottles alone. Most of these bottles are designed for single use and are discarded after they are empty, contributing further to the growing problem of plastic pollution.

It’s not just the waste though. The production of these single-use plastics consumes a tremendous amount of natural resources. For example, it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil annually to meet the demand for bottled water in the U.S. alone. This not only depletes our natural resources but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

By making simple zero-waste kitchen swaps like using reusable water bottles, we can significantly reduce this waste. For example, if we use reusable bottles, we can save around 167 plastic bottles from being discarded each year per person. Similarly, opting for refillable soap dispensers can drastically cut down on the number of plastic bottles used, as one durable container can be refilled countless times.

How Can I Make My Kitchen Zero Waste?

While, in most cases, being 100% zero waste is not possible, reducing the number of single-use and toxic items in your kitchen is easier than you might think!

After trying dozens of plastic-free swaps, here are my favorite and easiest low-waste alternatives:

  • Buy in Bulk: Whenever possible, buy pantry staples like grains, nuts, and spices in bulk. Bring your own containers to the store to avoid using plastic packaging. It’s often cheaper and reduces waste significantly.
  • Use Cloth Towels and Napkins: Replace paper towels and napkins with reusable cloth versions. They’re more absorbent, can be washed and reused countless times, and they add a touch of charm to your kitchen.
  • Compost Food Scraps: Instead of throwing away food scraps, start a compost bin. You can compost fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells. It’s an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden.
  • Shop with Reusable Bags: Always carry reusable shopping bags for groceries. They’re sturdier than plastic bags and help cut down on the millions of plastic bags used and discarded each year.
  • Repurpose Glass Jars: Don’t toss out those glass jars from sauces and jams! Clean them out and use them for storage, drinking glasses, or even as planters for herbs. They’re versatile and reduce the need for buying new containers.

5 Easy Plastic-Free Swaps for A Zero-Waste Kitchen 

1. Switch to Reusable Kitchen Towels

Let’s start with one of my favorite best eco-friendly swaps in 2024! It’s no secret that the average household uses thousands of paper towels each year, which adds up to a lot of waste and expense. Reusable kitchen towels, made from materials like cotton or bamboo, are a fantastic alternative.

They’re highly absorbent, easy to clean, and can be used repeatedly. They’re perfect for cleaning up spills, drying dishes, and even as napkins. I’ve been using mine for almost 6 months now and I couldn’t more happier with my choice.


2. Switch to Reusable Wooden and Silicone Utensils

Every year, millions of plastic utensils end up in landfills, where they take centuries to decompose. So, at the top of my list of zero-waste swaps that save money and natural resources are wooden utensils! Wooden utensils are sturdy and long-lasting, and add a rustic charm to your kitchen.

Silicone utensils are heat-resistant, flexible, and perfect for cooking and baking. These utensils can last for years with proper care. They’re not only better for the environment but also save you money in the long run since you won’t need to keep buying disposables. Plus, they’re safe for non-stick cookware and won’t scratch your pots and pans.


3. Opt for Glass Food Storage Containers 

Plastic food containers may be cheap, but they wear out quickly and can leach harmful chemicals into your food. Glass food storage containers, on the other hand, are non-toxic, long-lasting, and much better for the environment.

They don’t stain, absorb odors, or degrade over time. Additionally, unlike flimsy plastics, glass containers are incredibly durable and can last a lifetime if handled with care. They keep your food fresher for longer and are safe to use in the microwave and dishwasher. To top it all off, they look much nicer in your fridge and pantry!


4. Buy Refillable Dish Soap

We already know that single-use plastic soap bottles contribute significantly to plastic waste. Now, think of all the times you had to replace your dish soap in the past year. When you decide to switch to refillable dish soap, you can drastically reduce this waste and save SO MUCH MONEY! Find a local refill station, get a refill subscription, or make your dish soap at home. You can reuse the same dispenser countless times, cutting down on plastic waste.


5. Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle

A good quality reusable bottle is made from materials like glass, stainless steel, or BPA-free plastic that keep your health and our planet safe. Personally, I always pick stainless steel bottles, but there are so many great, plastic-free swaps on the eco market.  It’s a one-time purchase that saves you from constantly buying bottled water, which can add up to significant savings over time.

As an added bonus, many reusable bottles come with features like insulation to keep your drinks cold or hot for hours, making them super convenient for everyday use.


Sustainable, Zero-Waste Kitchen Swaps Are a Great Investment

I absolutely love these zero-waste kitchen swaps because they’ve made such a positive impact on both my life and the planet. Since I started incorporating these changes into my kitchen, I’ve seen a significant reduction in the amount of waste I produce. When we decide to replace our polluting, plastic home essentials with more sustainable alternatives—like reusable utensils, glass containers, and refillable products—we can drastically reduce our reliance on plastic and save so much money!

Konstantina Antoniadou

Konstantina Antoniadou is a sustainability writer who helps conscious readers discover eco-friendly fashion, beauty, and home products. Recently, she completed a series of courses in sustainable fashion, business models for sustainability, and consumer neuroscience at Copenhagen Business School to deepen her expertise in promoting sustainable practices in consumer industries. Currently, she is attending a 6-week seminar on Chemicals and Health at Johns Hopkins University to better understand the toxicity of commonly found household chemicals and their health impacts as well as how to select products that are better for the environment and health.

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