I recently discovered a trio of women whose green reduction efforts are putting my cloth bags and reusable water bottle to shame.

They live zero-waste lifestyles and don’t send any garbage to the landfill. Instead, they only buy things that can be reused, recycled, or composted.

I wanted to learn more about this seemingly impossible lifestyle, so I met with Mailyne from A Dream Lived Greener blog to ask how she does it. I also read about Lauren Singer’s Trash Is for Tossers project and combed through Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home site to find out how to convert my trashy habits into more sustainable choices.

Thanks to these ladies, I learned about some easy product swaps that can help anyone send less garbage to the landfill. Reducing the amount of trash in one household might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it's important to remember that no sustainable step is too small.

Here are the 16 greener swaps I'm going to make in 2016.

Personal Care

1. Brush with a compostable toothbrush instead of a plastic one.

Sustainable bamboo toothbrushes are popping up everywhere and the neat thing about them is that all of their components (except for the nylon bristles) can be composted.

2. Shave with a reusable razor instead of a disposable one.

Electric and safety razors are greener alternatives to disposable razors, although they do take some getting used to. Read up on Mailyne's first safety razor experience before you use one for the first time, and be sure to read product reviews before investing in one of your own.

3. Make DIY toiletries instead of buying ready-made products.

To avoid buying personal care products that are packaged in nonrecyclable containers, consider making your own using ingredients that you probably already have lying around in your kitchen.

4. Wash your hair with a solid shampoo bar instead of liquid shampoo.

To avoid plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, experiment with solid shampoo bars. To keep your hair soft and free of buildup, you can also use coconut oil as a hair mask and diluted apple cider vinegar as a rinse.

5. Use a menstrual cup instead of disposable pads and tampons.

I've found this alternative to be incredibly affordable and comfortable, though it does take practice to learn how to insert and remove it properly. For those who don't want to switch over to menstrual cups just yet, washable cloth pads and panty liners are also great alternatives to disposables.

6. Use cloth handkerchiefs instead of tissue paper.

You can make your own handkerchiefs, buy new ones, or find secondhand hankies if you’re feeling brave. I know they may sound a bit unsanitary, but they’re actually quite clean (unless you have a cold) and can be tossed in the laundry as often as you like.

Grocery Shopping and Eating Out

7. Pack fruits and veggies in reusable produce bags instead of plastic bags.

Instead of taking those flimsy plastic bags from grocery stores, bag your fresh produce in reusable mesh bags.

8. Buy food in bulk instead of prepackaged food.

Most grocery and health food stores have a bulk food section with spices, grains, beans, pasta, and other dry goods. To take advantage of this zero-waste option, bring a stack of small cloth bags to the store and then transfer the food to glass jars when you get home.

9. Pack snacks in reusable bags instead of plastic ones.

Replace single-use plastic snack bags with reusable cloth bags that have a waterproof liner. Be sure to check that the liner is free of BPA, lead, and phthalates.

10. Bring a reusable takeout container instead of accepting disposable ones.

Be proactive and bring a reusable container made with glass or stainless steel when you go to restaurants, cafés, and bakeries to bypass their disposable takeout options.

11. Carry a reusable coffee mug instead of using disposable cups.

Bringing your own mug will prevent you from using coffee cups that go straight to the landfill. You can go all out and buy a fancy reusable mug or use a simple mason jar that you already have in your cupboard. (Hold it with a cloth napkin to keep from burning your fingers.)

12. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.

Similar to handkerchiefs, cloth napkins are easy to make, buy new, or find used. Use them at home, keep a few at work, and carry a couple in your purse or backpack so you have one at all times.

Household Cleaning & Laundry

13. Buy reusable dishcloths instead of disposable ones.

Skip buying a pack of cheap throwaway dishcloths and get creative. You can buy, knit, or crochet reusable, washable dishcloths with natural materials that will last a long time and can be composted once they’re worn out.

14. Buy cleaning products in bulk instead of using single-use containers.

Many stores that sell bulk products will also have refill stations for cleaning products like dish soap, window cleaner, and laundry detergent. Zero Waste Home has launched a free phone app that locates where bulk items are being sold around you — it's definitely worth checking out!

15. Wash laundry with soap nuts instead of detergent.

Soap nuts are a super natural alternative to those clunky plastic laundry detergent bottles. They're easy to use and naturally coated with foamy saponin — simply place them in a cotton bag, soak them in hot water for a few minutes, and toss them in with your laundry.

16. Dry clothes with reusable dryer balls instead of disposable dryer sheets.

Ditch your disposable dryer sheets and toss a couple of felted wool balls into the dryer. There are also hypoallergenic vegan-friendly plastic and rubber dryer balls available!

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Photo credit: iStock Photo


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