How to Go Zero Waste On a Budget

We all want to do our bit to help the planet, and it is hard to ignore the pressing issues we face regarding waste. According to National Geographic, 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the ocean every year. Plastic waste harms the planet and wildlife, with millions of animals killed by plastic annually.

There is no doubt that we need to change and reduce waste. But, for many of us, there are personal challenges when it comes to going zero waste. From talking to others and reflecting on my own experiences, the two main challenges we face regarding zero waste are time and money.

So, I want to give you some tips on how to go zero waste on a budget. These tips come from my own experiences and challenges when trying to be more zero-waste. I know it isn’t easy, but remember: no matter how small the change is, if we all do our bit, we can change the world.

Start Small

My first tip on how to go zero waste on a budget is linked to the core idea we promote on Sustainable Sundays. We ask the question: ‘what if we would all start to live more sustainably only one day a week‘?

I know that going completely zero waste is pretty hard to do. Trust me, I have tried! So, how about doing it one day a week? Pick one day a week to go zero waste, and when you are ready to, add another day.

Always Bring a Bottle of Water Out With You

Bottled water is not only overpriced, but it is also harmful to the planet. If you are going out shopping, walking, or to school or work, always pack a bottle of water. You can buy reusable water bottles pretty cheaply, and they will save you so much money.

I try to pack a water bottle whenever I am leaving the house, no matter where I am going. I have made it a habit, and it means that I will never find myself in a situation where I need to buy a bottle of water.

My reusable water bottle was purchased years ago for around five dollars, and it is one of the best investments I have ever made. I actually bought it from HomeSense, so if there is a HomeSense store near you, check it out for discounted, good-quality water bottles!

Always Pack a Shopping Bag

A big part of plastic waste is single-use shopping bags. I live in the UK, and in 2015, an order came in which meant that all plastic bags from shops cost five pence. It has now been raised to ten pence and is one of the reasons why many people opt for bags for life or reusable shopping bags. However, I have found myself nipping to the shops for a few bits on the way home from an event or meeting my friends, only to find myself needing to buy a bag.

how to go zero waste

So, I have recently started to always pack a shopping bag. You can actually buy foldable shopping bags that are super small and fit in most purses or bags! You can also get foldable shopping bags that can be attached to your keyring, meaning that you will always have a bag on hand when you need one.

Hit the Thrift Stores

Want a new outfit for an upcoming party? Need a new book to read? It is time to hit the thrift stores!

I honestly love thrift stores (or charity shops, as we call them here in the UK). The amount of amazing outfits I have found is pretty cool, and the clothes are always so cheap! Oh, and scouring the shops for bargains and unique finds is so fun.

How To Go Zero Waste: Planning is Key

I am very lucky to have a zero waste shop in my city center. These shops have become more and more popular, and they are places you can go to refill your kitchen and household products. From pasta to spices to cleaning products, these shops are a fantastic way of going zero waste.

However, I am going to hold my hands up and admit something. It took me ages to actually go to my local zero-waste shop. This is because I simply did not plan well enough. It is in my city center, and it takes me half an hour to walk to. So, if I was out of cleaning spray and my kitchen desperately needed a scrub, I would just go to the corner shop and buy some more.

It is taking me time to rejig my routine and plan to go to the zero waste shop. However, I know that going zero waste is not that simple, and we shouldn’t feel bad if we don’t do it all perfectly! I am learning, growing, and developing my relationship with eco-friendliness and zero waste.

how to go zero waste on a budget

Similarly, planning meals allows us to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle. This helps you avoid food waste and buying lunch out and about. I am lucky to live right near a greengrocer that sells loose fruit and veg. I go in and can buy everything I need for a delicious meal, but with no waste at all! I plan the meals I will make, and then go to the greengrocer to get what I need. Plus, it is actually cheaper to buy from this shop than to go to a supermarket!

Have a look at what shops are in your neighborhood, and see how they can help you on your zero waste journey. I have found that Asian and Middle Eastern stores near me are great for buying herbs, spices, pulses, and grains in bulk with little packaging.

If you buy meat, head to your local butchers. I have heard that they are usually fine with you bringing along Tupperware and reused containers to pack the meat in.

How To Go Zero Waste on a Budget: The Internet is Your Best Friend

Okay, I know that a lot of the tips I have mentioned are dependent on location. You may not have access to zero-waste shops, thrift stores, or local markets. However, there are some amazing online shops that can help you move towards a zero-waste life!

Online Thrift Stores

There are fantastic online thrift stores to check out. I am a huge fan of Asos Marketplace, as the clothes are all secondhand and pretty affordable. Plus, Vinted is amazing!!! This app allows you to sell and buy clothes that are second-hand. The items on there are always pretty cheap, and you can find some great stuff!


A big source of plastic waste is toiletries. Shampoo, body wash, and soaps are all necessary, but most of them have too much plastic packaging.

If you do not have a zero-waste shop nearby, check out Etsy for zero-waste toiletries and cosmetics. There are so many small businesses on there that sell everything you need, but with little packaging. Plus, you are supporting small businesses this way, so it’s a win-win!

I have also found that shampoo and deodorant bars last so much longer than the stuff you get in plastic bottles. I remember my mum buying me a shampoo bar for Christmas a few years back, and it actually lasted until the next Christmas! When we compare this to how many regular bottles of shampoo we get through in a year, we are definitely saving money.

Olio and Facebook Marketplace

Olio is a fantastic app that links you up with retailers and people in your community that have food that will go to waste. There are also non-food items that can be found there, for example, I got a cute cat house from this app! Everything is free and there are loads of supermarkets on that give away their food.

Similarly, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to get free or affordable items from your local community.

There are other community projects that are based on the exchange of items to reduce waste. I am actually on a WhatsApp community group that shares items for giving away. When I need to get rid of clothes or books, I post them on the group and there will always be someone who wants them!

This is a nice way of helping your community and avoiding waste. If you don’t have one in your community, you may wish to set one up.

How To Go Zero Waste: Simple Changes

There are some simple changes we can make when wanting to go zero waste. Let’s take a look at the things we can do that will make a difference:

  • Use a face cloth instead of face wipes
  • Use a wooden toothbrush
  • Use digital planners instead of paper ones
  • Use a menstrual cup
  • Clean with bicarbonate of soda
  • Buy biodegradable bin bags
  • Avoid retail therapy (other activities will make you feel better!)
  • Get items repaired
  • Use refillable pens

Starting Small Leads to a Big Impact

Going zero waste is a daunting task. However, by starting small and making little changes, we can work to create a better world.

It is important to not put yourself down if you forget your shopping bag or have to buy something in plastic packaging from time to time. It happens! But, the changes you can make in your day-to-day life will help the planet.

I hope you are inspired by my tips on how to go zero waste. Good luck and well done for wanting to change the world.