The low waste home: a room by room guide

From shampoo bars to sofa covers, you’ll love these eco-friendly lifestyle essentials for every room in your home.

Updated

bag with vegetables

We all want to do our bit to protect the world we live in and one way we can do that is by reducing our waste. Making just one simple change in each room of your home can make a big impact. So give your bin men a break and check out our zero-waste lifestyle tips.

Reducing waste in the bedroom – say no to fast fashion

We bought over one million tonnes of new clothing in the UK last year. Sadly, most of that will eventually end up in a landfill. To minimise your contribution to that mountain of material, try to buy second-hand rather than new, when you can. Ebay is always worth a look. Or why not host a “swishing” party to swap clothes, raise cash for charity and enjoy a glass of fizz with friends? Get googling for some fun ideas.

When you do buy new, look for good quality clothes that will last for more than one season and won’t go out of fashion before you get them home from the shop. Avoid material that won’t biodegrade, like polyester. It’s bad enough that you have to remember your fashion disasters when they pop up as a Facebook memory, without knowing that they’ll be hanging around the planet for a few hundred years too. And when you’re done shopping, check out our tips for making old clothes look like new.

clothes and shoes over orange background

How to reduce waste in your kitchen – avoid single-use products

There’s no denying that disposable products like paper kitchen towels, plastic sponges and clingfilm are handy, but if you’re trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, you’re going to need to switch to reusable alternatives. Washable cloths and sponges, Tupperware containers and beeswax wraps might cost more to start with, but they can save you a heap of money in the long-run, as well as reducing your waste. (Some of them are also rather pretty.) Look for biodegradable alternatives where possible, such as wooden handled scrubbing brushes. Do you need to use bin bags or could you just rinse your bin out once a week? Or do you even need a bin at all if you’re going zero-waste? Don’t miss our other tips for creating an eco-friendly kitchen.

For a low-waste bathroom – avoid plastic

Remember when miniature soaps were a popular gift? They’d be individually wrapped in patterned paper, which would release an overpowering aroma of roses and lavender when removed. Thankfully, soap has had a bit of a makeover and is now a great eco-friendly alternative to a plastic bottle of shower gel. Look for bars packaged in cardboard rather than plastic wrapping. And swap to other plastic-free toiletries, such as shampoo bars, moisturisers in glass jars and bamboo toothbrushes. Ditch the plastic wash-sponge for a good retro washable flannel. If you have space, pop an extra bin in the corner of your bathroom to use for recycling. It’ll save you having to separate the cardboard loo rolls and plastic bottles from the clumps of hair and scrunched up tissues.

bamboo toothbrushes over the bathroom sink

Low waste living rooms – choose furniture wisely

In the market for some more furniture? If you can’t find what you want second-hand, look for locally-produced products, or choose brands that have strong sustainability policies. Go for well-built items that can survive a few knocks and will cope with guests who don’t understand the concept of coasters. When it comes to sofas and armchairs, choose ones with removable washable covers or go for wipe-clean leather.

Where possible, upcycle existing furniture before buying new though. Sofas can be given a whole new lease of life by reupholstering them and an ugly old pine sideboard might end up looking pretty awesome with a coat of chalk paint and some new funky handles (we’ve got plenty more great ideas for upcycling pine furniture).

Eco-friendly kids’ rooms – buy second-hand

Children are suckers: they see a kid with a new type of slime on YouTube and just have to have it. And don’t get us started on “surprise” bags at supermarket checkouts. Thankfully, kids also rarely give two hoots about whether their new toy has already had several owners before them. So when your child wants to spend their pocket money, try charity shops and online marketplaces first (just don’t be duped by fakes, as they don’t always adhere to safety standards).

If your child has bought into the fun that is tearing open a plastic bag to reveal a plastic egg with a plastic toy inside, try buying a bulk load of second-hand Shopkins (or whatever toy your child is collecting), and hiding a few at a time in a large bowl of dried pasta or box of scrap paper. Or organise a scavenger hunt with them. Speaking from experience though, you might end up finding small plastic figures in unexpected places for months afterwards – you have been warned.

Enjoyed this article? Check out these five simple changes you can make at home to help protect the environment.

Originally published