Zero Waste DIYs: 5 Items to Start Making + Stop Buying

Reader Contribution by Ariana Palmieri

One of the first things I made when I went zero waste was DIY toothpaste. To this day, I still follow the same recipe for it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? But creating one DIY kind of just lead to creating more. I realized, as time passed, there were so many products I had been buying from stores in packaging that I could just whip up at home, package free. Plus, making my own products is always cheaper, not to mention healthier. Often, we don’t realize health of the planet is linked to health of self as well. There are so many zero waste DIYs out there to try, but here are five items to start making and stop buying ASAP to get you started.

There are so many great zero waste DIYs to make! Photo by Nice Tips on Flickr.

Toothpaste

As I mentioned earlier, conventional toothpaste was one of the first things I ditched when I went zero waste! You really don’t need to buy toothpaste ever again. You’ll save so much money if you just DIY your own toothpaste instead. Here’s my go-to zero waste toothpaste recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 25 drops of peppermint essential oil

Directions:

  1. Make sure the coconut oil is melted first, then add everything into a bowl. Stir to combine, then transfer to an empty glass jar of your choice. To use, simply dip your toothbrush in and brush your teeth as normal!

Deodorant

I really don’t like packaged deodorant. Not only does it come in wasteful plastic packaging, but it also contains tons of questionable ingredients you shouldn’t be putting on your skin. Make your own zero waste deodorant instead! Here’s the recipe I use and adore. It’s nice and creamy!

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of shea butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder
  • 20 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops of lemon essential oil

Directions:

  1. Place the shea butter and coconut oil into a bowl. Heat it up in a microwave or over a double boiler so it’s fully melted.
  2. Mix in the arrowroot powder and baking soda. Make sure to combine everything thoroughly, as it should form an off-white, liquid paste that resembles pancake batter.
  3. Add the essential oils of your choice and mix it together.
  4. Then, pour your mixture into a small glass jar and store in the fridge for 20 minutes, or until it hardens. To use, just scoop some onto your finger and smear it under your pits.

Mouthwash

Mouthwash comes in this huge plastic container. Plus, the liquid inside of it is a very bright artificial neon color that can’t be good for you, or the environment once it heads down the drain. Talk about water pollution! I recommend making the switch to a much safer and eco-friendly alternative – zero waste mouthwash! It’s ridiculously easy to make, and you can just store it in a glass bottle of some sort. Bonus points if it’s a glass jar you emptied and re-purposed!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of distilled (boiled) water
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil

Directions:

  1. Boil some water over the stove, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Using a funnel, pour the water into your chosen jar. Now add the baking soda using the funnel for the least mess. Add the essential oil too.
  3. Cap your jar and give it a good shake to combine the ingredients together. For a stronger mouthwash, consider adding some more peppermint essential oil. Use as you would regular mouthwash – swish it around your mouth for a minute or so, then spit it down the drain.

All-Purpose Cleaner

Most cleaning products are packaged in plastic and contain hazardous ingredients. Not sure about you, but whenever I get a whiff of bleach it’s enough to make my throat sore and irritated. Plus, when cleaners go down the drain, they contaminate our waterways. It’s better off for your health, your wallet, and the environment to switch to green cleaning products. Big name brands will convince you to use 20 different products, but all you really need are a select few amazing ones. My personal favorite is orange peel vinegar cleaner – it acts like an all-purpose cleaner you can use on just about any surface. Plus, it helps you give orange peels a second life before tossing them into the compost.

Ingredients:

  • Orange peels (from multiple oranges)
  • White vinegar (enough to cover orange peels in jar)
  • Water
  • 10 – 20 drops of citrus essential oils (lemon or orange – optional)

Directions:

  1. Eat a few oranges (maybe 3 or 4), making sure to save the peels.  Stuff them into a mason jar (the size of it is totally up to you, and depends on how many orange peels you have), then cover them with white vinegar. Secure the lid nice and tight, then store your infusion somewhere cool and dark (like a sink cupboard) for two to three weeks. This will infuse the vinegar with the oranges.
  2. After infusion, strain the orange peels and compost them. You’re left with the infused vinegar. In a glass spray bottle, fill less than half of the bottle with the infused vinegar, the rest with water. You can add essential oils if you choose to help capitalize on the citrus scent – I recommend orange or lemon essential oil. Cap the bottle and use the spray to clean just about any surface!

Vegetable Broth

Are you one of those people still buying vegetable broth in a package? Stop what you’re doing right now! You don’t have to waste another cent on that. You have everything you need at home to make your own vegetable broth using food scraps. That’s right, you heard me: Food scraps. Believe it or not, things like carrot peels, the ends of celery stalks, and onion skins can all help you make a delicious vegetable broth for free. All you need to do is save up your scraps as you make them, then once you have enough, make some veggie stock! It helps to know which vegetables are best for making stock with though (different veggies make different flavored stock). Here are some vegetables to consider saving that will always yield a yummy broth: Carrots, celery, onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, herbs, bell pepper, scallions, leeks and parsnips. Save any skin or ends from these veggies to make your broth!

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Food scraps

Directions:

  1. Add the food scraps into a large pot and then add water. Don’t completely cover the scraps because they’ll shrink over time.
  2. Keep the heat on low and simmer for about half an hour to an hour. The longer you leave it, the more potent the broth will be.
  3. Next, set a strainer inside a big bowl and pour the scraps and broth inside. The strainer will catch the food scraps.
  4. Using a mason jar and funnel, pour the broth into the glass jars of your choice for storage. If you intend on freezing it, make sure you leave enough head space at the top so it can expand without cracking the jar.
  5. Compost the leftover soggy food scraps.

These are only a few of my favorite zero waste DIYs. There are so many more to try! That said, these are great to help start your zero waste journey.

You’ll find that lots of things can be made from scratch you never thought could. For example, did you know powdered sugar is literally just regular sugar blended up inside a blender? You can easily make that at home, along with tons of other things like body lotion, ketchup, peanut butter, nut milk and so much more. The possibilities are endless.

Just don’t get stressed out if you can’t DIY everything yourself. While the zero waste community certainly does encourage you to make things from scratch, it’s also totally okay to support small, ethical businesses when you can’t make it yourself.

Also, try to find the ingredients needed to make these DIYs as package free as possible. Be sure to check your local bulk food store to get ingredients like baking soda, arrowroot powder and shea butter package free in your own jars. Essential oils and vinegar can be found in glass containers relatively easily, making them easy to recycle or reuse at the end of their life.

Browse Mother Earth Living’s natural beauty and green cleaning content to find more simple, natural DIY recipes. Which zero waste DIY will you try first?