...that I was using before plastic-free was in!

Or at least before you heard about the plastic-free movement and concerns about plastic at every corner and saw it on your social media feeds several times a day.

Hi, it's Veronika and by no means do I think I'm better than anyone by reducing my plastic usage earlier than some others, and I'm not a zero-waste master either, but I was always concerned about environment and sustainability
...that's what made me go vegan a few years ago - seeing the huge, unbelievable negative impact of meat and dairy industry on the environment! Of course I'm in it for the animals as well, but honestly, the environmental impact was the wake-up call...
Back to plastics! =)

Here are my top ten ways to reduce plastic waste in your life (and especially in your household) that I've been using for a while now, followed by some tips I've learned rather recently.

Oh, btw, guess what's on the picture - and then scroll down for answers =)

Not necessarily in a specific order, as I believe every little helps, here's the list as it comes to my mind:

A silicone sponge, not spongy sponge - I talked about it earlier, see here, and I still love it. I got used to working with it - it's softer, so it wiggles in the hand and doesn't clean tough unsoaked dishes - but that just means it's gentle and definitely will not scratch any of your precious dishes. So just soak them well and then cleaning is no problem.

Your typical grocery-store kitchen sponge is made from polyurethane, a petroleum-based material that can’t be recycled or composted. Even worse, some sponges billing themselves as antibacterial are soaked with triclosan, that ever-plaguing chemical linked with liver and thyroid issues, and also toxic to aquatic life. (source)

Or if you're not a fan of silicone (I love it as it lasts for ages - it can be cleaned and it's like new), there are 100% cellulose sponges and other sponges/cleaners made from natural materials such as Yuta, loofah and so on. The choice is yours - as you can see nobody needs to be using plastic/oil-based sponges in their kitchen anymore!

I got my silicone sponge from a local store but they can be found everywhere. When I googled, Amazon popped up first - like here. But do your research and find the best deal even outside Amazon (I just often end up buying from there).
I'm happy to read your comments about other sponge alternatives you use and where you get them from, so I can add it to the list - comment below the article =)

Tupperware for packing snacks (not plastic food bags) or if you're not a fan of even this type of plastic (which is reusable, so I wouldn't be completely against it), then tin snack boxes would be a great alternative, as well as glass jars for storing food in your kitchen when you'd otherwise use plastic items.

Washing nuts - my long-term eco-star! I bought them, err... over 2.5 years ago! And still have a lot of them! Washing nuts are a no-brainer as many washing up liquids are full of chemicals, often packed in plastic which is impossible to recycle. These nuts came in a plastic bag, yes, that's not great, but this one bag sat in my laundry cupboard so long that I would've used many plastic bottles of washing-up liquids in the meantime instead. Which I haven't. I guess, if you have kids or any other reasons your laundry would be prone to really heavy staining then these nuts may not satisfy you completely, but I'd still use it as much as possible and where needed I'd go for a biodegradable natural alternative - such as Bio D which I have a bit of experience with and I like it. But I don't really need it, I'm ok with nuts so far =)
Oh, they are weird and sticky and can smell funny when dry, but they do wash well and the laundry has a nice fresh smell. If you fancy a bit of alchemy, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil on the bag which holds the nuts together during washing. Not necessary, but it's fun =)

Useful habits:

Using a cloth or designated tea towel for cleaning kitchen cupboards (because let's face it, the silicone hero I use washes dishes better than countertop) or use biodegradable cleaning cloths (see below my latest discoveries)! All of that is better than tons of paper towels or (again) classic plastic kitchen sponge.
Or make your own cloths and save paper towels:

Jazzy Galarza posted her handmade "unpaper" towel roll picture in a zero-waste vegan Facebook group...

[I] used cotton fabric, terry cloth, and snaps. Don’t mind my hand sewing, it’s not the best. Still I hope this post inspires others =)

...and everyone loved it and they want her to make more to buy it from her =) Indeed, it inspired many others.

And by many, I mean MANY - if you're not up to creating your own unpaper tower roll, you can buy them online - or even have unpaper tower roll handmade for you from Etsy sellers!

Buying all dried food in bulk - as mathematicians know, volume raises cubically rather than the surface area which raises only quadratically - translated into English, if you buy two packs of 1kg chickpeas, you use more packing material than if you buy one pack of 2kg chickpeas. Simple, right?

Even better - buying in biodegradable packaging, which is not yet widely available, but where possible I buy it. Sometimes there are options to come to the store and fill your own box brought from home. Bravo!

So ultimately - buying without packaging! As much as possible.
Which leads to:

Homemade products:

Homemade coconut oil based deodorant - here's the recipe I use:

The ratio is 3:2:3:2
Coconut oil
Shea butter
Baking soda
+ Essential oil (few drops)
Simply gently melt the oils (double cooker is ideal - like when melting chocolate), stir in the dry ingredients and mix in essential oil before you let it cool down. Pour in a small container and let cool (fridge works well). Can be stored outside in room temperature - when stored in the fridge it's more difficult to apply as it's too solid =)
My favourite essential oils are lavender or sweet orange. You can experiment and even make your own blend. It's fun, zero-waste and super cheap.

Original recipe can be found here

And I've recently seen a similar one, only changing one ingredient:
It was a bit difficult to understand the ingredients while listening to the video commentary, so here's the list and the full recipe is in the link above (but generally it's the same - melt everything together and stir well, no alchemy, then add a scent of your own choice as it's more fun and smells as you wish =))
Arrowroot powder 2tblsp
Baking soda 1tblsp
Coconut oil 1tblsp
Shea butter 1tblsp
Essential oil 5-10 drops

I'm including this homemade deodorant recipe too, should someone find the above one is not working for them or perhaps has a corn allergy (even with the latter it's said, it may not work for everyone - but if you're up for homemade alternatives you probably know that sometimes it takes time to find the one that works for you as we are all different and our bodies work and react differently).

Soap - we need to stay clean and nice smelling (usually), so there is the idea of making your own soap (I haven't got there yet) or buying handmade soap to avoid plastic waste. To cut the chase - there are soaps bars available without packaging and possibly liquid soaps in recyclable packaging - that's what you should be after. I prefer soap bars, although we mostly still use liquid soaps at home. My partner says it's better when guests come to wash their hands etc... So I said, let's have liquid soap for guests only and we can have our own bar soaps (one each, why not, we can choose our own preferred scents).
I'm going to write more on this topic soon - stay tuned, I'll be back with more soap ideas and news.

Shampoo - my secret zero-waste weapon. I use rye flour. It's amazing! And it's so natural that nothing can beat it. The flour comes in a paper bag - simply no waste. There are other zero-waste alternatives I'm going to explore, just to know more, but I've been happy with my rye flour washed hair for about three years now. It works well even on henna-dyed hair - see my rye-flour hair when in its natural state and also dyed with henna. Always nice, healthy and full of life!

Briefly, here's how it works: For long hair, I use about 3-4 tblsp of white rye flour (no other type works this way - wheat glues the hair together and wholemeal can't be washed away and leaves grains in your hair =)) mix it with water thoroughly to make a smooth mixture. The smoother the better, as it washes away easier. Warm water helps, but not essential. Apply like a normal shampoo and massage your scalp. Feel the flour mixture all over your hair to make sure you washed it perfectly. Rinse properly to wash away.
After every wash, I use apple vinegar (white "normal" vinegar works too when apple vinegar is not around) as a conditioner. Simply mix about 3-4 tblsp of apple vinegar with water and pour on your still wet hair and massage it in well. Rinse and you're finished. Once your hair is dry, it doesn't smell like bread nor vinegar =) If in doubt, feel free to use "tea" balm - camomile tea for light hair - that's what I was using before henna, cinnamon "tea" for red hair. I don't use it after every wash anymore, but it's nice to do it sometimes. I was told my hair smells like apple strudel =) (Cinnamon... you know...)

Fun fact: My dad gave it a go when visiting me (my mum is more open to vegan cuisine than my hair experiments though) and he was surprised and happy how well rye flour washed his hair too =)

When we're in the bathroom section... one little, but quite an important thing which adds up a lot over time: earbuds.
I don't understand why people are buying earbuds in plastic packaging, made of plastic sticks and don't rather use those thin wooden sticks (usually used in kitchen) and a bag of cotton wool?
Again, mine came in a plastic bag, yes, but this bag has been with me for many years! I remember moving with this bag from my last apartment in the Czech Republic to the UK. Which was almost 4 years ago, and there is still plenty of cotton wool left (my partner even managed to use a big chunk of it in Finland for tinder) as well as the sticks - I store a few shorter sticks within and they last practically forever.
So why do people still buy single-use earbuds? Especially when you see this, you won't be inclined to use it anymore:

Justin Hofman's viral photo from Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia - sourced from photographer's Instagram account - click on the photo to see and read more

Are you missing a note about toothpaste? I know conventional toothpaste tubs are widely made of problematic materials which are difficult or impossible to recycle. That's sad. But tooth and gums are (definitely for me) quite difficult to just randomly switch to something else and test new alternatives without proper research, as I'm careful about my teeth. Not only because the dentist's bills are crazy expensive =)
So at this moment I'm just saying conventional toothpaste, as well as a toothbrush, are areas to focus on too when trying to go plastic-free/zero-waste, but I will rather come back to it in a separate article when I finish my research on it. Stay tuned and I'll include a link to that toothpaste and toothbrush article here later.

UPDATE: How about zero-waste vegan floss? It looks like I might have found one - haven't tried yet, just finishing off what I have already (just traditional plastic-made floss...) and then ready to buy and try - coming from New Zealand, but luckily there's a worldwide shipping available, hooray!

More from the bathroom: Ladies - the recent viral video about the Pink Tax got me thinking how I don't care... because I don't shave (yep, so no pink razors with extra cost for me) and I don't use make-up and plenty of other girly stuff. Also, I don't use classic menstruation pads either. They're full of chemicals and are soooo not recyclable nor biodegradable. And apparently, as 'luxury items', would cost me unnecessary money. I use reusable, washable cotton pads instead. There are plenty of variations available, they can be homemade - it's up to you. Works the same way as "normal" pads, but after use, just wash them with the rest of your laundry. It's not weird nor disgusting. It's zero-waste and environmentally friendly. I use brand called Lunapds and I love them. They cost me a bit of money at the beginning, but I have had them for over two years and they still look too good to replace.

Do you prefer something handmade? Check this selection of handmade menstruation pads on Etsy - I've included the word vegan in the search, to ideally avoid wool felt pads, but it's always a good way to double-check the materials anyway =)

Another option is using menstruation cups (haven't tried yet, but thinking about it because wild-camping when on period is such a pain in the - well, not exactly in the ass, but...) and also some completely natural fully recyclable tampons and pads, should you want to keep throwing these products away every month, but want to avoid the plastic waste.
I've come across one company - Sustain Natural - I'd be interested to try some products from them, unfortunately, they don't ship worldwide. Yet. I spoke to their representative and got an answer that international shipping is planned soon. So stay tuned or shop there and give me some feedback on it if you're from the US =)

A little stop here - let's not forget babies and old/disabled people who use nappies. Just as with pads, these products are also available in washable version. Hooray! Back to the time when our mums were washing nappies at home.

I mean it - I'd rather wash 20 nappies daily then waste 20 non-recyclable nappies daily.

Moving on...

Let's not forget the latest useful trend. Going out? Take your own reusable straw (or recyclable - depends on your needs, I know about the issues coming with some disabilities) and a cup, essential items in our bags today =) I don't drink from straws, but if I chose one I'd like the metal ones - they look really cool =) Travel mugs were in even before zero-waste and plastic-free were everyday topics, so I don't think anyone would be amazed by the idea of taking one with you to ask the barista to fill your own mug rather than use the non-recyclable ones which are still the basic choice when having a quick coffee stop on your way.

Although there are also places, where all dishes (when taking-out) are recyclable or biodegradable, like in London, UK - an amazing 100% vegan place with sooooo goooood waffles =)

By the way, plastic straws are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to plastic pollution in the oceans. The most plastic mass of waste is made of old fishing nets. So there's another reason to go vegan: don't eat fish, lower the needs for using fishing nets and save our oceans =)

Oh and one last thought about plastic straws - I've seen an artist who seals them in cute 'turtles' - I follow her on Instagram via Magicful Home's account, as it's all about the beach topic there =) It's a safer way to deal with still too many wasted plastic straws than if they'd end up in a landfill or in the oceans. It's not easy to melt them or do much more at home, so I'm a fan of these and I support the idea. It's better to make an art from litter rather than keep it as litter.

Sophie Romer's art - photo sourced from the artist's Instagram account - click on the photo to see and read more

And the list isn't finished yet!

Probably the most problematic plastic are bags. Luckily, today we can choose from a wider range than ever - biodegradable/compostable/recyclable:

Carrier bags - biodegradable and/or reusable options are widely available. Or simply get a tote bag which seems to be very trendy, so you will still go with the fashion (if that's what you're after =)

Then bin bags and snack bags - both are possible to buy in a biodegradable version nowadays. And it doesn't cost a fortune. You can choose to use paper snack bags, it's a bit trickier with bin bags, but both have alternatives - look for example here at this amazing (ok, rather interesting) video about one type of biodegradable bags and how the process works.
Cool, right? I've been talking to a lady from this company - Wikaniko - who sells them and again, I haven't tried them yet (I simply don't buy any more snack bags and have still plenty of old bin bags, but will be buying and trying once I need new biodegradable options), but the video explains all my concerns (as not every bio-degradation process is toxin free and completely eco-friendly, but this one looks safe way to go).
And there's one more company - Avanieco - I'm researching more about, which seems to be doing a good job too.

My partner runs a pet-care business and spends a lot of his time walking dogs. If he used normal plastic poo-bags he would add thousands to landfill sites every year, so when he started his business he found a company called BioBags that make not just degradable but compostable products from starch and vegetable oils. These don't just degrade into microplastics like most bags but break down to just water, C02 and residual organic carbon! They also make a range of products like food waste liners, bin liners and garden waste bags.

I'd like to say, that not every bio-bag is actually environmentally friendly and biodegrades completely and without releasing toxins. So thorough research is always recommended.

Even cling film doesn't have to be an issue anymore - rather "cling" reusable cloths with candelilla wax (to keep it vegan).
I don't use cling film, but I see my family using it a lot which is really just a total waste in my opinion. I've found some sources that look good, so I'd be pointing them to those instead - read this blog to find out more and just to understand, why wax wraps and why candelilla option.

Talking about wraps, that article above was posted one blog of a zero-waste company (ships worldwide - hooray!), although not everything is vegan - just read carefully materials (such as bees was,...) or ask them, it seems to be pretty packed with a good zero-waste product range. I'll be checking on Biome later myself, now just as a tip for you to discover.

And when I was going through Etsy products (because I sell there, I got used to shopping or window-shopping for my articles there as well =) I found EarthKind Creations Etsy shop, where you can find candelilla and soy wax reusable zero-waste wraps (some of them are advertised as covered with beeswax, but there's an option to ask for vegan version).

Of course, you could make your own - I haven't tried it yet, but I found an instructional video from a very enthusiastic lady who tried candelilla wax as well as soy wax - and I'm going to say a bit in advance, there's a discovery about tree resin and how it helps to make the food wrap really sticky to serve better purpose when used for storing food and keeping it fresh. So if you like DIY projects, try making your own soy or candelilla vegan reusable food wraps following this recipe on Youtube.

And my own latest zero-waste discoveries!

Just arrived! Excited =) Both the product (sponge cloths, household gloves) and the packaging is made of natural ingredients and are 100% compostable (in industrial facilities only - but that's not an issue)

Household Gloves and cleaning cloth-sponges from If You Care are biodegradable and currently under my thorough testing =) They have a wider range of useful products you could use to replace the usual non-environmentally friendly items in your household. I've included links to Amazon to the two products I'm using at this moment as I found it cheapest there, including postage. Btw, these two links are affiliate should anyone be curious, as well as any other Amazon links in this article.
As well as Etsy links - it is supposed to help me with running costs for the blog, so less money is cut from profits after selling my own charity-oriented products, therefore more money goes to charities, it's a win-win =)

There's surely more to this topic... things I don't use such as loads of cosmetic stuff - from make-up to body lotions, cleaning pads (I know you can take your make up off with washable cotton pads) and so much more. There's still a lot to discover when looking for zero-waste alternatives. I'm happy to add your tips to the list, just comment below...

...but this is just what I use already or plan to introduce soon in my own household, or to my closest ones. Did you find something you didn't know about yet? Or are you missing cool zero-waste tips here? Let me know below in the comments!

Now the zero-waste guessing contest!

Here is the list of my current (not all, just a selection which fits in one picture - even that looks messy already =) zero-waste & plastic-free household items I'm happy to use.

Let's show the list, where possible, I've included links where I bought these items from - unless they've been bought in brick and mortar shops or I just cannot remember anymore =)

1 - If You Care biodegradable sponge-cloth

2 - silicone kitchen scourer

3 - Georganics zero-waste toothpaste (just under testing, will talk about it further in some next article)

4 - mini-mason jar for storing coconut oil (I use it as a lip balm)

5 - Lush cream in a tin pot (got as a gift - I'm looking forward to reusing the tin pot later)

6 - bamboo toothbrush (it's good, yet I don't use it all the time - I'll explain more about it as well as about zero-waste toothpaste and toothbrushes in some next article)

7 - EcoZone washing nuts - I just love them!

8 - BioBag biodegradable food waste bag (I don't have a garden yet, so food waste goes to food bins for now)

9 - If You Care biodegradable Household Gloves

10 - Lush soap bar (I love the scent!) - always in zero-waste packaging

11 - Lunapds menstruation reusable pads - I'm happy user for over two years =)

12 - paper snack bag

13 - cotton wool and wooden sticks - zero-waste earbuds, just slide off the used bit of cotton wool and reuse the stick again

So here we go - which ones do you use? And what other great zero-waste and plastic-free products would you recommend? Comment below! I'm looking forward to reading your tips and expanding this article with useful tips.

P.S. Do you smoke? I don't, so I know a little about cigarettes, but a friend of mine recently pointed at the fact, that cigarettes contain plastic! So, if you smoke and want to go zero-waste - one more reason to quit smoking =) Oh, yes, the article claims that the ashes and buds are possible to recycle (somewhere), but let's be rather plastic (and cigarette) free.

Hi, it's Veronika, your vegan friend and content creator of Veronika Honestly (no, not my surname).
I'm mathemagician (making money as maths tutor! ?), a bit of an artist (well, trying to get back to art) and also animal and adventure lover.
Get to know me on my About page and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get my free printable greeting cards for vegans I made for everyone to use and spread the vegan word!

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Thank you for reading this whole article =) I have a few things to mention here:

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