49 Zero-Waste Steps to Saving Thousands of Dollars

People often ask me if zero-waste living costs more. I always say it’s a package deal. Overall, I spend much less money than I did pre-zero waste.

For example, reusables cost more up front but pay for themselves several times over in the long run. Some food costs more, like organic produce at the farmers’ market versus non-organic produce at a discount grocery store. But because of my family’s heightened awareness, we no longer waste food. We also don’t buy snack food and we eat a plant-rich diet which costs much less money than a meat-centered one.

Like I said, package deal.

If you’re not convinced, I present below 49 of the many ways in which a zero-waste lifestyle can save you piles of cash.

1. Food waste

  • Food that the average American family of four throws out every year: $1500
  • Cost of food you waste if you don’t waste food: $0

2. Vegetable broth

3. Scrap vinegar

4. Protein

  • A pound of organic, grass-fed, pastured beef: $9.99
  • A pound or organic chickpeas: $2.29

5. Popcorn

6. Cereal

  • One bowl of highly processed cereal: $1
  • One bowl of steel cut oatmeal, bought in bulk: $0.25

7. Lemons

  • From the grocery store: $1 each
  • From my tree: $0

8. A pound of blackberries

  • From the grocery store: $8.00
  • Foraged or found through Falling Fruit: $0

9. Produce wash

10. Small jar of fermented kimchi

11. Food packaging

  • With packaging: no discount
  • Without packaging: 5 cent discount in some stores for each bag or jar filled

12. Kombucha

  • Store-bought: $4 per bottle
  • Homemade: $0.25 per bottle

13. Kombucha starter kit

  • Store-bought: $79.95
  • Growing your own SCOBY: $4 for a bottle of kombucha to grow the SCOBY
  • Finding a free SCOBY on Craigslist: $0

14. Water

  • Jug of water: $2.29
  • Tap water: virtually $0

15. A cup of tea

  • In a plastic-lined paper to-go cup with a plastic lid at my favorite café: $4.60
  • In my own cup at my favorite café: $3.60
  • In my own cup in my own kitchen: $0.25

16. Cast iron pans

17. Jars

  • Set of six fancy new jars in store: $34.95
  • Basic jars from restaurants or bars or recycling bins: $0

18. Gadgets to keep your avocado fresh

  • Landfill-in-transition plastic Avo Saver: $10.55
  • Glass jar containing half an onion chopped up that you’ll need anyway when you make guacamole with the avocado: $0

19. Salad spinner

  • Big commercial plastic thing: $29.95
  • Cloth bag filled with greens that you spin over your head outside: $0

20. Systems to warn you when your food is about to expire

  • A smart fridge: $5,800
  • Your brain and your senses: $0

21. Dinner with friends (8 people)

  • At a restaurant: $200
  • At home: $100 plus leftovers to enjoy later

22. Goodie bags

  • A bag filled with self-destructing toys and cheap candy wrapped in plastic: $5
  • Saying thank you for coming as you walk your guests out: $0

23. Lunch at work

  • To-go from a restaurant: $12
  • Leftovers from your dinner party: $3

24. Sandwich wrapping

25. Napkins

  • Single-use paper napkins: $9.95
  • Cloth napkins sewn out of scrap fabric: $0

26. Paper towels

27. Menstrual pads

28. Makeup remover pads

  • Single-use disposable: $5.39
  • Homemade sewn out of fabric scraps: $0

29. Tissues

  • Single-use disposable: $1.89
  • Handkerchiefs made out of fabric scraps: $0

30. Baby wipes

  • Single-use disposable: $13.49
  • Washcloths you already own: $0

31. Drying hair

  • Cheap blow dryer: $19.99 plus electricity
  • Air drying: $0

32. Hair color

  • Professional dye job: $120
  • Box of dye: $18.99
  • Au natural: $0

33. Deodorant

  • Store-bought chemical-laden crud in hard plastic: $6.99
  • Homemade: $0.50

34. Mouthwash

  • Commercial brand containing nasty ingredients and packaged in a plastic bottle: $6.59
  • Homemade: $0.25

35. Personal lubricant

  • Store-bought featuring clever marketing: $28
  • Aloe vera plant grown from a cutting from a friend’s plant: $0

36. Jewelry

  • 2.36 carat Tiffany setting platinum engagement ring: $145,000
  • Grandmother’s wedding band: $0

37. Clothing

  • New pants: $60
  • Secondhand pants: $4.49

38. Dealing with worn clothing

  • A replacement pair of pants when the above show some wear: $60
  • Mending the above or embellishing with embroidery and whatnot: $0

39. Shopping for stuff you don’t need

  • At the mall: $400
  • At a clothing swap where you also find stuff you might not need but you’re keeping things out of landfill: $0

40. Home cleaning

  • A gazillion different cleaners: $30
  • Baking soda and vinegar: $5

41. Laundry products

42. Drying laundry

  • Running dryer for an hour: $0.35 to $0.70
  • Wear and tear on clothes caused by dryer: $$$
  • Hanging laundry to dry: $0

43. Transportation

  • Driving car all over the place: $$$
  • Riding bike all over the place: $0

44. Vacation for family of four

  • Flying halfway around the world and staying in a mediocre hotel: $5,000
  • Camping in the woods for a week near you: $500

45. Ice for camping trip

46. Sporting gear

  • Expensive gear you use only occasionally: $$$
  • Gear you rent occasionally: $

47. Yoga

  • At a studio: $20 per class
  • In the living room: $0

48. Watching a movie

  • At the theatre with popcorn and soda in throwaway containers: $30 if you go alone and buy the small snacks
  • Streaming something actually good because all the good ones cost extra: $4
  • Borrowing DVDs from the library: $0

49. Lawn care

  • A rider lawnmower: $2,099
  • Two neutered male goats: $200
  • Ground cover: $0
My sister’s goats clearing the brambles

17 Replies to “49 Zero-Waste Steps to Saving Thousands of Dollars”

  1. Thank you for the cider vinegar instructions! I have a stash of peels and cores in my freezer that need to be used up.

    1. My pleasure! If you’re on Instagram and interested, I’m going to go on IG Live today at 4pm PT (9/10) and do some vinegar troubleshooting.

      1. I’m not on IG. But I’ll see how I do with my first batch, and post a question if something doesn’t seem to be working right. I’ve got the water sitting out to de-chlorinate today. 🙂

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  3. Other big savings:

    – Library books: free

    – Computer used from Craig’s List: $500 for a $2,000 machine

    – Electronics (computer, cell phone): replace around every 5 years or less

    – Software: Linux, Libreoffice, GImp, etc: all free

    – Entertainment: No TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc: free

    Also, befriending farmers at farmers markets has gotten me a lot of free vegetables.

  4. I love it!! So true. And laughter is the best medicine (also it costs $0 from a free blog post vs. $14/month for Netflix vs. a lot more for Sirius radio…)

  5. Cutting up an aloe vera leaf to get the goo to use as lube? Brilliant.

    1. Thanks Jen. Oh and for sunburns too. I guess I have a one-track mind :p
      ~ Anne Marie

  6. Nice list overall!

    Ebook reader might be better option for reading books since it uses next to no energy compared to creating, shipping books if it can work for a long time!
    Computer – 2 to 4 year old refurbished pc/laptop if not running 24/7 still uses less power than buying newer electrics.

    In other case chrome book/TVbox which are low power to begin with could be a better option. Since TVboxs staid at 28nn process for a long time used could be a good option. If new Amlogic S992X boxes are more power efficient than pretty much any other at the of writing.

    OpenSource software could benefit if you paid for support or donated.

    Article would be better if cost of time in hours would be there as well.

    Buying online is better if it is done less but in planed bigger orders with slower shipping, better from retailer who doesn’t repackage in excess

  7. “**Landfill-in-transition** plastic Avo Saver” LOL!!!
    Great list, AND made me laugh. Thank you!
    Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

  8. Great list! My only comment would be that goats are really more than $200: animal shelter, feed, and fencing are not cheap, especially if you live in a Northern climate (hello from a fellow canuck). But you definitely get more joy and manure for the garden. I follow a lot of your other tips to save money so that I have the funds for my animal projects 🙂

  9. I agree with you that all of these things are great to do, but many are only free if your time and labor have no value.

  10. This is a great list! I plan to refer back to it often. These ideas help the planet and your budget – BRILLIANT!

  11. Very nice and useful as well. Thank you

  12. That’s quite the pricetag on the engagement ring. I love cloth napkins and like the idea of this Furoshiki wrap

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