How Much Money Going Zero Waste Saves You
We’re all aware that reducing waste and being more mindful of our purchases helps restore our planet.
And there are long-term benefits to being sustainable, including addressing climate change, ensuring that our children and their children will still have abundant resources here on earth.
But also, we just want to know, “What’s in it for me now?”
And let us tell you: a lot (of money) is in it for you if you go zero.
Popular zero waste practitioners, like Bea Johnson, share that her family can slash about 40% of their household costs after adopting the lifestyle. For her, going zero waste “has amazing advantages that go way beyond just doing something good for the environment.”
Kathryn Kellogg, who initially dove into the zero waste movement because of a cancer scare, saved $18,000 in the first two and a half years of being a zero waster.
How Much Money Zero Waste Saves You
It’s not too much of a stretch that zero waste can cut down your expenses.
When you’re reducing and refusing, for example, you’re already buying less – saving you money in the process.
However, there are upfront costs you’ll have to make.
These aren’t necessarily those zero waste starter kits, okay? But more of which products you should buy in bulk, which items can be reusable (albeit costing more upon purchase), and which appliances save you in energy fees.
Let’s take a look at how and where we can save money as a zero waster:
Going Paperless in the Kitchen
Paper towels are one of the most accessible products to swap. There are many options, from recycled cloth towels, huck towels, microfibers, or old tea towels.
On average, families in the US use around 1.5-2 rolls per week. If, say, you spend about $1-$2 for paper towels, that’s going to be a $78-$156 savings per year.
It’s not much, but it’s still money and trees saved. If millions of families commit to this, imagine the reduction in paper consumption.
Buying in Bulk (Only for Things You Use the Most)
This is one popular strategy in the zero-waste lifestyle.
And why not?
Research shows that, on average, a 10% larger package reduces the unit price by 5%. So if you’re out to buy bulk, don’t focus on the costlier price tag. Instead, calculate first the cost of that product per unit (or ounce).
It’s a slight difference, for sure. But if it’s something your family uses daily or quite frequently, those cents add up.
The current average food budget for a family of four is around $700 per month, so saving a chunk of that will add up in a year.
The downside? Not everyone can buy in bulk because of the upfront cost. Instead of paying only $10 for shampoo for, say, five times over a few months, you’ll have to go ahead and buy the $30 pack right now.
Dave Ramsey gives a detailed breakdown of money saved when strategizing bulk buying. Granted, his prices are based on his location, Tennessee. But there are considerable savings when choosing bulk for stuff you consume every day.
For example, for a typical breakfast, your yearly coffee cost if you buy in bulk would be $40, compared to the supermarket cost of $56.
If, for example, your household drinks 4 cups of coffee daily, that’s already $16 saved annually.
If you also eat yogurt along with your coffee, buying in bulk costs $436 per year, compared to supermarket costs of around $650. That’s already $214 savings on yogurt alone!
Aside from the shopping money you can save, bulk purchases also mean fewer trips to the store (and fewer impulse trips for when you run out of something).
You end up saving fuel (hello, gas money) and generating far less C02 when you use your car less often.
Opting for Reusables (Hygiene)
We’re talking about paper again, but this time, the rolls you use in the bathroom.
On average, we use around 57 squares of toilet paper per day. According to Amazon, the best-selling brand Charmon Ultra Soft has 363 paper squares per roll – that’s about 57 rolls of toilet paper per person in a year. At $1.25 a roll, you’re spending $71.25 a year on toilet paper.
What if, instead of paper, you use water instead?
An attachable bidet costs less than $100 (there are $25-$70 options on Amazon). If you swap paper for bidet, you’ll end up saving some the first year you install it, and you’ll buy fewer rolls for the following years.
Don’t scoff at the meager savings. It’s not much, but if you’re a big household, things add up fast.
For parents of newborns, disposable diapers and wipes are part of daily expenses. You could buy in bulk and save more than $150 annually, but if you really want to lessen your footprint and save while you’re at it: choose reusables.
Assuming your baby uses ten diapers a day, at $0.25 a piece, that’s $912 you could save in a year.
Of course, you could also save your sanity by not dealing with soiled linens every day. But again, it depends on what you are willing to do and what seems plain bonkers.
Thrifting on Clothes
American families spend around $1,700 on clothes each year. And this doesn’t even consider how shopaholics spend (we, too, feel seen).
Now take a look at all the newly bought clothes in your closet that you haven’t even taken the tags off – those are practically wasted money!
For a zero-waste mindset, try swapping brand new clothes for thrifted options. You could go to consignment stores and pick second-hand goods or find one-of-a-kind gems in vintage stores.
The savings are pretty significant: thrifting clothes cut your usual expenses by 50%. That’s an average of $850 savings per year in a typical family.
If you’re committed to creating a capsule wardrobe and reducing the number of clothes you’re buying, that budget will go down even further.
Going Natural on Cleaning Supplies
Now more than ever, we’re staying at home. And that means cleaning up the house more often. If on average, families spend up to $500 on cleaning supplies per year, this amount might even be higher these days.
How can you stash away some of that budget?
By using two natural and sustainable ingredients: baking soda and vinegar. Oh, and have we mentioned, they’re pretty darn cheap as well?
A gallon of white vinegar is just close to $3, almost the same as 4 pounds of baking soda ($2.24). These supplies are already enough for a month’s worth of cleaning, give or take.
That’s roughly $56 a year – considerably less than if you buy store-bought cleaning agents. You’re also exposed to less toxic chemicals and carcinogens, to boot!
$76-156 on paper towels
$444 on cleaning supplies
$850 on clothes
$35 on toilet paper
$16+$214 on just two grocery items bought in bulk (definitely slash off more from the monthly $700 budget if you buy more bulk)
TOTAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS: $1635 or more saved in a year
Zero Waste Saves
Practicing it saves money and the planet!
Given the numbers we’ve shared, aren’t you convinced yet?
Accomplishing just one or two of these strategies can already save you hundreds of dollars.
And if we total everything on this article (which is just touching the surface of how we can cut down on consumption and expenses), you could save around the area of $2,000.
Feel free to pat yourself on the back.
Have you calculated your budget to check how much you’ve saved since starting your zero waste journey? How else do you cut costs living sustainably? Let’s talk in the comments.