Go Zero Waste on a Budget with These 12 Easy Changes

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Is it possible to save the planet while saving your coins?

Can the tag eco-friendly be budget-friendly?

zero waste groceries without bulk shop or farmers market

As a broke student, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure this whole zero waste thing out.

See, I live in a constant struggle. I want to be as sustainable as possible, but I also kinda want those fancy zero waste gadgets I see on Instagram day after day.

But actually, after a lot of trial and error, I’ve realized that going zero waste is one of the easiest and most affordable lifestyle changes one can make if we know what to prioritize and where to look. Of course, I’d love to have those cute items one day, but right now looks aren’t the priority – wasting less is.

That’s why I’m here today. I want to give you a few tips and, hopefully, convince you that living a greener life and reducing your waste using things you already own or making strategic zero-waste purchases is preeety easy.

Read more about zero waste

Going zero waste on a budget

1. Stop buying bottled water – if you haven’t already

An easy one to get started.

Honestly, if you live in a place with a safe water supply, there is no reason for you to use bottled water. Just do the math and think how much money you’ll save just by not buying bottled water every day.

I know that if you’re in a tight budget buying a reusable bottle will look like a big investment, but think about how many times you’ll use it vs. a single-use plastic bottle.

On top of that, there are TONS of great and budget-friendly options, you just have to find your perfect match. Just make sure you choose the best material for you (glass, stainless steel, copper,…) and that your bottle doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals such as BPA.

You can find many lots of cheaper options here.

But if you want to go the extra mile and invest in your forever bottle, 24Bottles is my favorite brand.

2. No bulk store? No problem!

I know that living close to bulk and zero waste shops is a privilege that not all of us enjoy. But there are a few ways in which you can make your groceries low waste or zero waste in any regular supermarket.

First off, avoid using those little produce bags they offer for vegetables in the supermarket. Actually many times they’re unnecessary (do bananas really need them?) and produce bags can’t always be recycled.

My super low-cost tip is that if you really need to use them for certain products, you can save the ones from previous supermarket trips and reuse them until they’re breaking apart. Then you can research if your city’s recycling facilities accept produced bags and if so whether there’s a designated point to drop them off and make sure they’ll be taken care of.

If you prefer quitting plastic produce bags completely, you can give this reusable produce bag DIY a try. Of course, if you’re not handy, you can find reusable cotton produce bags online for very cheap.

zero waste starter kit with canvas bag and reusable bottle

Do you want more tips on how to do low-to-zero -waste groceries without going to a bulk shop? Check this post.

3. Go for products packaged in glass, aluminium or carton

Did you know that glass and aluminium can be endlessly recycled without losing their quality? And that plastic can be recycled only once or twice?

So always try to go plastic-free and choose the packaging with the lowest impact, and either find ways to reuse it or learn how to recycle it correctly.

For example, some egg packages are made of biodegradable carton that you can either compost or upcycle into something new (definitely check Pinterest for ideas).

And those glass jars you buy pickles in? I’m leaving you some ideas on how to reuse them on points 9 and 12.

4. Think twice before visiting your go-to fast-fashion store

The fashion industry creates huge amounts of waste, so before buying something new (specially from fast fashion brands) think: do you really need it or is it just a whim?

If you really really need it, is there another way to get it? Maybe from a second hand store? Borrowing it from a friend?

Changing your mindset about how you consume fashion will be super beneficial to you in the long run and will help you curve a lot of waste.

I say this on every single post about fashion and sustainability: by quitting fast fashion you’re doing a favor to your wallet and to our planet.

Need help quitting fast fashion? Check out this post!

5. Use refillable pens and pencil highlighters

Refillable pens and fountain pens are the key. There are pens made of recycled bottles, like these Pilot Bottle to PenI’ve been using since forever. They last for a really long time, they’re very affordable and they’re refillable – and if you’re a stationery freak like myself, you’ll be happy to know that they glide across the paper like butter.

Using fancy fountain pens is also a more eco-friendly option to your regular plastic pen, given that you can keep refilling them instead of buying the whole thing over and over again.

Also, instead of using felt-tip-pens, you know, those you use to highlight school notes, use highlighter pencils. They last for way longer than the markers, and you’ll skip the plastic.

6. Switch from paper planners to digital ones

There are many online organizers you can check out on your app store, such as Evernote and Moleskine Journey. But I have to admit that I love just using the built-in calendar on my phone, it’s free, it’s simple and you can synchronize it easily in your other devices.

If you’re old school and prefer a paper planner, you can check these eco-friendly planners to get started.

7. Dare to DIY

If you cannot afford to buy beauty products from sustainable brands, just do them yourself. This goes for beauty products, food, even clothes if you have the talent to make them!

I’ve been doing this for a long time and, even if at the beginning it looks like an investment (buying oils, extracts, etc.), it ends up being waaay cheaper than going to the shop and buying a fancy final product.

And many times you can use stuff you have already at home.

Some of my favorite beauty DIYs are coffee body scrubs and oil-based hair masks. How rewarding is using something you made? Love it.

8. Say no to tea bags

Doesn’t matter if you’re an avid or an occasional tea drinker, just ditch the tea sachets and get leaf tea in bulk. Not only is it way cheaper, but in case you didn’t know, these little bags more often than not contain plastic.

When you put them in hot water, they release tons of tiny microplastics in your drink. Ew.

Buying tea in bulk is life-changing: the taste is x1000 better and it transforms your tea-making routine into a whole ritual. I make mine in a french press because it’s faster for when I’m on the run and it doubles as a coffee maker, but who doesn’t love a more traditional teapot cuppa?

Do you know which other unexpected everyday items contain plastic? Check this post!

9. Ditch the disposable coffee capsules

These pods are usually way pricier than normal coffee grounds, and you will be saving a lot of plastic and aluminium from going to waste.

In the previous point I told you about my love for my french press, but another zero-waste staple is a good stovetop espresso maker – so old-school and sophisticated.

Pro-tip. On that same caffeinated line: an elder family member told me that every day for work and since the 80s he uses a MASON JAR for his coffee. Like how is it possible I had never thought about that before? It does the job and it looks pretty aesthetically pleasing, too. Such a breakthrough.

10. Start using solid skincare products

If you want to learn more about solid beauty and skincare, this post is all about that.

Bottled gels and soaps often have additives and nasty chemicals that you don’t need in your life, so your skin will also thank you for this swap.

The main reason why I swapped most of my bottled skincare products to solid ones is that each bar lasts at least in three times more with the same use. Second reason: solid products are TSA-approved, so you won’t need to think about your beauty products when you fly anymore.

11. Make your snacks instead of buying packaged ones

I guarantee you that they’ll be x5 cheaper, x10 healthier and x20 tastier.

Like these delish + healthy snicker bars. Want to learn how to make them? Click here!

homemade vegan zero waste snacks

12. Reuse mason jars you already own

The ones you buy pickles in? Those ones.

Use them for meal prep, for your takeaways, to store your cookies, your coffee, your leftovers. The sky is the limit.

Bring your lunch in them to work. They look kind of effortlessly cool, which tricks people into thinking you have my life together.

Some day you will have a cute, expensive and instagrammable mason jar. But for now, you can live without it, hang on with the pickle jar.

Repeat after me: you don’t need fancy stuff to go zero waste.


So these are my humble tips. But hey, I’m no expert, so I would love to hear your own eco-tricks. Tell me in the comments, or in my social media places.

Now it’s your turn to kick waste’s ass. Affordably and sustainably.

12 very easy changes to reduce your waste on a budget

What do you think?