As I brainstormed ideas for this post, I was originally gearing it for zero wasters who were buying stocking stuffers for their children or family members but soon realized that those are not the people who need guidance on this one. If you already live a certain way and want to influence the people around you to move in a similar direction, you already know what to buy and how to present it. If you are like my parents and have stressed out over what get me that I will not find offensive, look no further!
The following ten items can be found for under $25 (U.S.), are durable, practical and right up a zero waster’s alley. They may seem odd to you, but keep in mind that minimalists believe that less is more, quality is more important than quantity, and used, refurbished or “open box” items are okay.
I am not paid to endorse any of these products, but do use and believe in them. All items can be purchased at 12 Stocking Stuffers under $25!
Complete descriptions for each item are below!
Starbucks estimates that their company alone generates four (4) billion single-use coffee cups per year! Disposable coffee cups are made of paper on the outside with a plastic liner on the inside and are not recyclable. The lids of most disposable coffee cups, including those sold are Starbucks, are made from polystyrene (the same stuff that is used to make Styrofoam) which is not recyclable. Replace these cups with a durable stainless steel tumbler like the ones sold by Klean Kanteen (make sure you buy the lid to go w/ it).
Americans send about 38 million disposable water bottles to landfill every year. It takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil just to make those bottles! Filtered water refill stations are popping up more places, making it easy to find tasty water while on the go. Replace single-use water bottles with a durable water bottle made in Oregon from recycled Aluminum by Liberty Bottles.
The Chinese use so many disposable chopsticks that even the government has acknowledged how bad an impact they have on the environment. Every day the Chinese consume 130 million pairs of disposable chopsticks. To put this into perspective, they cut enough trees to cover 100 football fields…every day. Bamboo is often considered to be a sustainable material because it grows quickly, but something that is used quicker than it is replenished is not sustainable. Something that is single use is not sustainable.
Plastic utensils are such a large cost center for restaurants that it’s not clear to me why they would serve anything other than reusable cutlery for guests who are dining in. It is estimated that upwards of 40 billion disposable utensils are used every year in the United States. A stainless steel spork, like this one from Snow Peak, was originally designed for backpacking, but given its light weight and durability, is great for someone on the go. Replaces disposable forks, spoons and knives, all in one.
Over 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that will never biodegrade are dumped in landfills and oceans every year worldwide. Bamboo toothbrushes from Brush With Bamboo are made with a biodegradable handle, plant-based bristles and recyclable or compostable packaging.
Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year! They say that his equates to about 1.6 straws per person per day. This might seem like a lot, but reflect on the last time you went out to a bar or restaurant. How many straws did you and your friends use? There are many straws to choose from, but I prefer the standard size with a slight bend.
I spend a lot of time in and around dumpsters characterizing waste. In the dumpsters of a typical office building, the number one item in the trash by weight is paper towel/napkin waste! Sure, these items can be composted, but a reusable item is still a better option. I know that sounds like a lot, and it is. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3.6 million US tons (~3.26 million metric tons). Consider cloth napkins and handkerchiefs instead.
Americans throw away 25 billion polystyrene and expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups per year. Mason jars are a cheap and durable alternative. Slip one inside a standard sized beer coozie and voila, you have an insulated beverage container! Zero wasters absolutely love these things.
Most grocery and produce bags are made from film plastic. While this plastic is typically recyclable, these bags are often trashed. Most recycle centers sort through materials on fast moving conveyor belts. A rogue film plastic bag will jam up a belt or pulley. Grocery bags are also one of the top 10 forms of marine debris, floating around in the ocean for years and years. Over one trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
Cotton is a water intensive crop that uses a lot of chemicals that contaminate our fresh water supply. Cotton should never be used for disposable items. Most cotton swabs or q tips are made with a plastic stick. They are not recyclable. Using a stainless steel ear scraper is a great alternative to single use swabs. They are durable and easy to clean.
If you floss as much as you should you will use 120 yards of floss per year. Couple that with the fact that we use 30 billion disposable wood toothpicks per year and that amounts to quite a bit of valuable material. For really not a lot of money you can buy a dental hygiene kit that includes a metal toothpick that is durable and can dig all that gunk out from between your teeth and under your gums. Also, as it turns out, 8,000 people go to the emergency room per year in the US as a result of wood toothpick puncture wounds. Yep…
I can’t find specifics, but I can only imagine how many millions of plastic shampoo bottles we use every year. Consider also that a majority of the shampoo is water that adds a lot of weight and uses a lot of fuel during distribution to stores. Shampoo bars from LUSH are small and last a long time. They also come minimally packaged.
This is my no means a complete list of items, but more of a guide. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Read about more tips and tricks to living a zero waste life at zerowasteguy.com.