How to reduce waste at home

We can all do many things around our homes to reduce the amount of waste we produce.


In the Kitchen

A lot of waste can be generated in the kitchen. Here are some handy tips and ideas to start you on your Zero Waste journey.

Doing the Dishes

Swap your plastic dish brush for a compostable wood and vegetable fibre bristle eco-brush. Some have a replaceable head, extending its life span! Get these online or stores like Stevens and This + That.

Put dishwashing liquid in a glass bottle with pump, and refill at stores like Bin Inn or Down to Earth, make your own (link to recipe below) or use a dishwash soap bar.

Go for cotton dishcloths and tea towels. Far more absorbent and reusable.

Food Storage

Organise your grocery list in advance and bulk buy goods that you can store in the containers you have. Shop at bulk goods stores like Bin Inn or Down to Earth, where you can take your containers in and fill them directly.

Buy a set of attractive storage containers (preferably glass) and label them - check out YouTube for some label making inspiration. 

When it comes to food storage in your fridge, swap plastic wrap or cling film or zip lock bags for reusable silicon food covers that create a spill-free air tight seal. Instead of cling film invest in some bees wax wraps.

Transfer leftovers into reuseable containers you get when having takeaways, or systema with lids.

Quick tip: screw-top glass jars are a fast solution when you have left-over canned food, stock or gravy.

Avoid supermarket plastics

Use your own produce bag for fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. You will find are a range of light cotton reusable produce bags for sale in the produce department. Otherwise visit the growers, or grow your own!

Buy meat at a butcher to avoid plastic/polystyrene trays and plastic wrap. Ask them about waste-free options, bringing your own containers or if they can wrap your meat in paper rather than plastic for the trip home.

Bake your own treats and lunch box goodies like crackers, biscuits and slices.

Bake your own bread, buy from a local bakery or order fresh-made bread from online providers like just make sure you choose the paper wrap option. 

Buy milk in glass bottles from suppliers like Beach Road Milk in Omata or Dolly’s Milk in Stratford. This is raw milk that comes from a dispenser into a bottle or container you provide.

If you are dairy free, make your own oat or cashew milk or purchase your almond/soymilk in recyclable bottles instead of the lined carton option which is not recyclable in our region.

If you are shopping online, leave a note like “please reduce as much plastic as possible”. This way your fruit and veges will arrive fresh in paper bags. 

Quick tip: use paper bags from shopping as a plastic free alternatic to store potatoes, kumara or onions.

Start a Kitchen Garden

Grow your own fruit and vegies! If you only have a small space for growing, consider planting potatoes, lettuce or herbs in pots or buckets. If you have a large space, do some research on your favourites and get planting!

Feed your kitchen garden with compost made from your household food scraps and green waste or start a worm farm. Composting stops all that kitchen waste going to landfill and provides your soil with nutrients. 

Bin separation

Divert waste from the landfill by having separate smaller bins in the kitchen, that you can then transfer to the correct kerbside bin. This makes it easy for your household to separate their waste on the spot. 

Get rid of bin liners. When you’re rinsing and separating your recycling and putting your organics in the compost, you shouldn’t have much left to go in the landfill bin. Rinse your bin at the end of the week if you find it needs it.

Packed lunches for work or school

Eliminate cling film by using a flat clip-lock container for sandwiches, bees wax wraps or reusable snack bags made of funky fabric and closed by Velcro or zips.

Take fruit, it has its own natural packaging :)

Buy bulk yoghurt and divide into small reusable containers for snack sized portions.

Make your own yoghurt with a kit from the supermarket. Prep takes five minutes and then leave 8-12 hours (overnight is best). Put the finished yoghurt in a water-tight container and decant into smaller pottles for your lunch or snack.

Bake muesli bars, muffins or slices and put them in a reusable snack bag or container.

Avoid single-use portion packets like snack packs of chips and crackers, buy larger quantities instead and divide up for the kids into small resealable reusable bags.

Quick tip: cutting fruit the night before and storing portions in a glass jar with a dollop of yoghurt or mascarpone is a delicious snack in your busy day – and it looks café-ready!

Avoid altogether

The more we do something the more new habits will set in. Here is a list of things to avoid buying altogether or try to replace with eco-friendly options:

  • Cling film/plastic wrap - replace with bees wax wraps
  • Paper towels - replace with fabric dishcloths
  • Anti-bacterial wipes - replace with bottled disinfectant and cloth
  • Small single-use packets - replace with bulk items or make your own
  • Plastic bin liners -  eliminate use or replace with paper bags
  • Plastic soap bottles - replace with soap bar 


Handy links

Pantry organising

Love Food Hate Waste

Plastic-Free July

Bread online

Reusable snack packs

Bees wax wrap

Eco dish brush

Homemade dish soap

Natural housekeeping tips

The Rubbish Trip Zero waste shopping guide Taranaki



In the Laundry

Level-Up your Laundry Game


Cold wash: as simple as flicking a switch, changing your water temperature is the easiest eco-friendly change you can make. Ninety per cent of a washing machine’s power usage comes from heating the water! You save money, benefit the environment and prevent clothing dye from bleeding!

Do full loads: keeping in mind your machine needs to have a tiny bit of room left to spin, try to cram in as much as you can with each load. The same amount of water and power is used per load. If you can reduce the number of times you use your machine each week, then you can save huge amounts of water and power! Furthermore, a full washing machine equals less friction between clothing, a factor that is more important than you’d think. Friction during washes removes microfibers from clothing, leading to thinner, damaged clothes and oceans full of little microfibers.


Air dry: dryers can be really expensive in more ways than one. They use heaps of power, costing you and the environment. They reduce the life-span of your clothes. Shrinkage, colour fading and reduced fabric quality are all common results of heavy dryer usage.

What’s the solution? Use your clothesline as much as you can to protect your clothes and the environment!

Wash clothes inside-out: save yourself the hassle of consistently replacing worn out clothing! Wash clothes inside-out to protect the outside fabric from fading and wearing, keeping your wardrobe newer for longer.


Remove stains naturally: make a paste of vinegar and baking soda to brush into fabric with an old toothbrush for an eco-friendly stain-fighting tool.

Stains caused by tomatoes, sugary products, coffee, wine, mustard, grease and yellow underarm stains will vanish when soaked in white vinegar for 10 minutes before washing. If the stain is still fresh, sprinkle on salt and baking soda before soaking in vinegar.

Eco-friendly laundry soap: our oceans will thank you for using brands made from natural and biodegradable ingredients. Products such as Earthwise, Ecostore and Eco Planet are found in all supermarkets and leave your laundry just as clean. Eco-friendly soaps may cost a bit more than other brands but if your keep your power and water usage to a minimum, you’re easily making your money back.


Stainless steel clothing pegs: a little bit fancy, but a super saver over time! Plastic pegs break quickly under the harsh kiwi sun, ending up in landfills forever. Stainless steel pegs last a lifetime and are far more sustainable. Wooden pegs are a good choice too. They last longer than their plastic cousins and if they do break, the wooden part can be composted.

Soap nuts: time to replace laundry detergent with a bag of nuts! Soap nuts are the berries of the Sapindus mukorossi tree of northern India and Nepal. Its shell contains lots of natural saponins (soap). Each load only needs three to six soap nuts, placed in a cotton-wash bag. They can be reused up to six times before heading to your composting bin. Being completely hypoallergenic, they are suitable for even the most sensitive skin, and they work out cheaper than chemical detergents!

In the Bathroom


Switch to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Check out the NZ made Ethique product range on the internet. To save on postage you could pop into Egmont Honey or Farmers to pick up these products.

Shop at the Seaside Market for locally made soaps, solid shampoo bars and other beauty products.

Lush Cosmetics have stores across the world including Australia and New Zealand. Have a look at their  unpackaged bathroom products.

If you want to take it one step further and try the no shampoo route then try using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. You can find detailed instructions here.

You can also substitute lemon water in a spray bottle for hairspray. See recipe here. You can fight greasiness with cornstarch in place of dry shampoo, which can buy you an extra day before needing to wash again.

Try henna for a plant based low waste hair dye alternative.


Make your own lip stain (with beet juice) or lip balm. Béa Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, has recipes for homemade mascara and eyeliner, which comes from a kohl powder she buys at the bulk store.

Support companies that offer closed-loop packaging production and who accept their containers for refill. Check out these plastic-free products on the Oh Natural website or have a scroll through what’s on offer at Etsy. Lush also offers some affordable ready-to-go products. Check out this blog for all the details.

Removing makeup

Replace facial wipes or cotton pads with a face flannel or muslin cloth and wash when needed. Buy a sponge, Konjac Facial Sponges are vegan and compostable after two to three months of use, or a fair-trade, sustainably grown sea sponge.

Instead of makeup remover, try using oil - olive, coconut or sweet almond. Oil does a surprisingly good job at cleaning the skin and is an excellent makeup remover for the sensitive eye region. Try a home made sugar scrub or face mask.


Wash with a delicate soap – olive oil, oatmeal, lavender or goat’s milk that you can buy loose with no packaging. Check out the Seaside Market in New Plymouth for unpackaged soap and other facial products made using natural ingredients.

Exfoliate with the most basic ingredients that can be bought at bulk stores in reusable containers – baking soda, sugar and coffee grounds all work well. Mix them with water or oil, and wipe off with a homemade washcloth.

Make your own masks using clays (French, bentonite or kaolin) bought in bulk online.

Check out Down to Earth for some great moisturisers in their health and beauty section.


Try waxing or sugaring your legs, using squares of old clothes to pull it off.

Use a steel razor, these blades are known to last for up to ten years if you look after them.

Buy an unpackaged bar of shaving soap or try coconut oil.


Use a metal clipper and nail file.

Moisturise the nail bed and cuticles with any oil or beeswax balm that you use elsewhere on your body.


Make your own deodorant. Amanda in Waste Free Land has all the tips on making DIY deodorant that you rub onto your skin with your fingertips. It is all natural and there are no nasty chemicals.


Mix a few drops of essential oil with some sweet almond oil and rub it over your body after a morning shower.

Opt for a solid perfume bar from Lush or try to make your own perfume bar.


Try making your own toothpaste! Here is a great DIY recipe.

View our A-Z Zero Waste Directory

Find local options for donating, recycling and disposing your items safely and correctly.