There’s a cost to mitigating the plastic waste crisis that’s often overlooked. This isn’t the environmental cost of plastic littering our oceans, streets, and bodies. It’s the economic cost that, at times, prevents people from participating in the low waste movement. Not everyone is able to “do it all” – and no one should feel guilty about that.

So what can you do if you’re on a tight budget? You likely won’t be purchasing the newest trending product that might make your low waste journey easier (and more “insta perfect”). But buying new “stuff” is rarely better for the planet. Think about it – when you buy a new product instead of using something you already have, unnecessary resources are being extracted. Fossil fuels are burned to get the product to you and there is always behind-the-scenes waste being produced.

If you don’t have containers at home to store your food, maybe you know someone who has extras. If you don’t have a spare set of cutlery to keep in your bag, a set from your local thrift store will function just as good as that picture-perfect bamboo set. And really, you don’t need 14 reusable straws. Not all waste-reducing decisions need to, or even should, cost more.

In preparation for Waste Reduction Week, we started looking at the economic cost of reducing single-use plastics. Pick one or a few that work for you, and let us know how it goes.


Action Cost Effort
Don’t bother bagging your produce FREE Low
Go strawless (for most drinks, do you really need a straw?) FREE Low
If you have plastic bags already (sandwich, produce, grocery), use them more than once FREE Low
Keep a set of cutlery in your bag so it’s always with you $ Moderate
Bring your own shopping bag with you to the grocery store $ Moderate
Make your own household cleaning products $ High
Use reusable containers and/or jars for storing food (save your pasta sauce jars, or check your local buy nothing group for people who have extra jars/containers) $ Moderate
Write letters to the grocery stores you shop at to encourage them to reduce plastic waste in their stores $ High
Support businesses prioritizing reducing waste Fluctuates High
Use a reusable face-mask instead of single-use $$ Low
Purchase your liquids in bulk (and bring your own container when possible) $$ (higher up front cost, cheaper in the long-term) Moderate
Bring your own water bottle/mug with you everywhere you go $$ Moderate
If you want to bag your produce, use a reusable produce bag instead of plastic $$ Moderate
Carry a reusable straw with you (if you’re able) $$ Moderate
Purchase the concentrated versions of cleaners and add water at home $$ Moderate
Next time you need a new toothbrush, choose bamboo $$$ Moderate
Use a bar of shampoo, conditioner, and soap instead of liquid $$$ Moderate
Choose reusable washable sandwich bags and silicone bags instead of plastic $$$ Moderate
Find alternatives to plastic wrap such as reusable beeswax wrap $$$ Moderate