10 Things I Never Buy Packaged—For The Environment *And* Minimalist Joy

February 6, 2020

Zero waste toolsIf your 2020 resolution is to be kinder to the planet, cutting back on waste should be high on your priority list! It might seem daunting or impossible on a busy schedule to embrace the DIY spirit and green up your essentials—but trust me, saving resources (and money while you’re at it) can be way simpler and more satisfying than you think. Here are some of my favorite swaps I’ve made that truly simplify my life, spark joy, and are sustainable AF.

10 Things I Never Buy Packaged

1. Toothpaste

I’ve been making my own toothpaste for over two years now and I wouldn’t go back. My teeth feel clean and healthy, it requires no packaging, and it makes me feel good that I know all of the ingredients going into my mouth. I sometimes do equal parts coconut oil and baking soda with a few drops of peppermint essential oil, but plain old baking soda gets the job done as well and is more lightweight for traveling. You can personalize your batch with cinnamon, clove or tooth-loving essential oils, and healing clays—you can definitely experiment to find what works for you. Bonus: baking soda in the bulk section is insanely affordable and will last you ages.

2. Scrubs

There is truly no reason to drop $40 on a scrub when you can make your own with basically no effort and customize it to your own skin. I genuinely prefer my own blends to anything store-bought. My personal favorite is corn flour based with a little oil of choice and a few drops of soothing essential oils like lavender or chamomile. It’s gentle but super effective, smells delicious, and doesn’t make a huge mess (I’m looking at you, coffee scrubs). If you have sensitive skin, rice flour is a wonderful option to explore as well.

3. Non-dairy milk

If you have a high speed blender, there is no need to buy bottled non-dairy milk, because it’s ridiculously easy to make. You don’t even have to soak your hemp seeds, almonds, cashews, coconut, or ingredient of choice. I eyeball it, but traditionally it’s one-part (insert non-dairy milk base here) to four-parts water. You can buy a nut bag, but I use a fine mesh strainer to catch any clumps and it turns out incredibly smooth. This is a sure way to steer clear of any questionable preservatives and ingredients, too. Note: it won’t last you weeks on end— so make as needed, or store for 3-4 days.

4. Teas

I have an incredible local tea shop that carries bulk organic or wild-crafted dried herbs, flowers, and teas, so I fill up my jars there to make my own tea blends. See what you have in your area—health food stores will typically have a few bulk tea offerings as well. Homemade tea blends are great to have on hand for a slow-down moment, have wonderful health benefits, and make a very thoughtful and sustainable gift for family and friends. A lot of tea bags contain plastic, so not only is this an affordable way to sip, but it’s also safer and eco-friendly.

5. Laundry detergent

Soap nuts are a perfect alternative to traditional detergents. You can buy them in bulk and in paper packaging, and they are surprisingly effective. If you can’t stand the thought of your washed clothes not having a fresh laundry scent, some wool dryer balls with a few drops of essential oils will do the trick. Both are also carry-on friendly if you want to do laundry on a trip.

6. Cotton pads

I used to rely on single-use cotton rounds to remove my makeup and apply toner, but reusable cloth rounds feel so much more luxurious and I love knowing that nothing is going to the landfill during my morning or night routine. Just throw them in the wash as needed and they’re like new. Pro tip, go for black ones or darker prints, that way you never have to deal with staining post red lip or smoky eye.

7. Spices

Even though there are some great glass-bottled spice options out there, next time you run out of a staple, don’t re-buy, refill! Grabbing a refill in the bulk section is way more cost effective and better for the environment. Save the planet one reused sifter at a time.

8. Dog treats

For all of my fellow dog parents out there, you’ve probably noticed that dog treats can be on the expensive side, are almost always packaged in plastic, and ingredient heavy. My dog Finn likes coconut oil, bananas, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, and watermelon for a quick snack or good-boy reward. It’s a fun challenge to discover what whole foods your pups enjoy, and it’s way healthier for them than store bought or processed options! Just double check that everything you’re giving your furry bff is dog safe.

9. Disposable razors

Reusable Razor

Safety razors definitely freaked me out the first couple times of use, but the shave is much cleaner and there’s a feeling of quality to them that you don’t get from a disposable. It really feels like yours, knowing it’s something you can have forever. If you’re intimidated by the traditional safety razor, the leaf razor is an awesome option. It’s a bit of an investment, but the layout feels much more like a regular razor and again, it will last you a lifetime.

10. Plastic snack bags

There are plenty of options on this, but I think Stasher bags are the ultimate swap. They’re made of silicone, so you can wash them in the dishwasher, freeze them, take them to the bulk section, use them for snacks on the go, throw your bathroom essentials in them, keep your wet bathing suits in them while traveling, or use them for period care. They are the multi-use light of my storage life.

What products have you stopped buying packaged or in plastic?


Photo: Yasmine Boheas via Unsplash; Mitulla via Unsplash

Jenna Scott is a musician, longtime vegan, certified yoga teacher, wellness enthusiast and environmental advocate based out of Nashville, Tennessee. She’s committed to and passionate about educating others on low waste living, slow fashion, natural healing, a good DIY, and keeping it simple in a complicated world.


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