10 Reusable Items for a Zero Waste Life

Along with the other UCs, Berkeley plans to be Zero Waste by 2020. Simply put, in just two years, Berkeley plans to divert 75% of all campus waste from landfills. Currently, however, the campus is diverting only 50% of waste. We, as students, are responsible for contributing to this zero waste goal for multiple reasons, and the most important thing to remember is that “zero waste” doesn’t just mean sorting our trash correctly. Before waste is sorted, it is even more important to reduce the amount of waste we are creating. One way to do that is by avoiding single use items. Below are ten items that you can use to live a zero waste life, which will help you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, and will save you money in the long term!  

1. Reusable Snack Bags

Take reusable bags to Berkeley Bowl, the Student Food Collective, or even Bear Market to buy produce, nuts, and other grocery items in bulk. Next time you walk into a store, challenge yourself to avoid plastic as much as possible, and see how buying in bulk might end up being cheaper.

2. Utensils

Only about 6.5% of all plastic is recycled. Bringing a set of reusable utensils the next time you go to a student group meeting or grab take-out will ensure that no more plastic forks end up in the landfill.

3. Tupperware

The sad truth is that plastic ziplock bags will break down and put other organisms in danger. Plastics, when broken down, release potentially toxic chemicals, such as bisphenol A. The next time you pack a lunch or go out for dinner, remember to bring along a reusable dish instead of opting for non-recyclable plastics. 

4. Coffee Thermos

Coffee shops use countless paper cups, as well as compostable plastic cups that Berkeley compost facilities cannot break down. Next time, avoid that waste by bringing your own thermos.

Cal Dining is even offering deals for customers who bring their reusable mugs to Peet’s locations; every drink is 25 cents off, and every fifth coffee, espresso drink, or tea is FREE when you use their stamp card!

5. Canvas Bags

Bringing a reusable bag when grocery shopping means one less plastic bag that is put into the landfill. It also means you won’t have to pay 10 cents for a paper bag.

6. Straws

Whenever you can, remember to opt out of using straws at restaurants, or to take a reusable straw with you next time you get boba or a smoothie. 500 million plastic straws are used in the US every day, but you can help that number go down by having a reusable one.

7. Menstrual Cup

A single box of tampons costs around $7, and often contains harmful chemicals from bleach and fragrances. Substitute your pads and tampons for a menstrual cup; it’s safer, cleaner, and more convenient. You’ll save money and stay protected all day long, while keeping harmful chemicals out of your body and out of the natural environment. 

8. Razors

Replacing the blades of your razor rather than the whole thing will reduce plastic waste and packaging, and help you save money.

9. Refillable Soap Dispenser

Purchasing a large bottle of soap is much cheaper than buying single use soap dispensers. A refillable soap dispenser will not only improve the look of your bathroom, but also reduce waste. Buying in bulk is generally the best way to reduce packaging waste, which can be hard to avoid.

10.   Water Bottle

Stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle that you can refill in many different places on campus. Berkeley water is extremely safe, and you can save $255 in a year by avoiding single use plastic bottles!

It might seem counter intuitive to buy even more things to live a zero waste life, but all of these items will save you money and reduce your waste in the long term. As long as you are sure to use them consistently, the energy inputs needed to create these items can be made up for, and you’ll be able to keep single use items out of landfills, and away from our ecosystems.

Bianca Champenois

Bianca is a second year mechanical engineering major who is passionate about energy and sustainability.

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1 Response

  1. Bren Murphy says:

    I agree it does seem counter-intuitive to begin a zero waste lifestyle with even more purchases. But once you get pointed in the right direction and choose to refuse more and more often, the momentum is very gratifying. have to thank you for this really well thought out list – although I notice you did leave out reusable straws. Again, it is best to simply refuse or say no, but sometimes you do need a straw.
    Thank you

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