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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Even if you don’t hear about climate change at least once a week, you have most likely felt its effects, with higher temperatures creeping into the winter months and less snow falling than usual. With the news blasting worst-case scenarios and dire statistics, climate anxiety is spreading quickly. It often feels like nothing can be done to help the environment unless you are a politician, lawyer or well-known activist. This is why I love the zero waste movement.

By seeking to “maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption,” the zero waste movement empowers consumers by reminding them that “products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.” 

In its most basic form, the movement puts power in the hands of anyone and everyone who consumes materials in a capitalist economy, emphasizing a need to consume less. The movement’s widespread accessibility is what makes me so passionate about spreading the message of zero waste. 

However, I also have a lot of problems with it.

If you’ve ever visited a zero waste store either online or in-person, you are familiar with the enchanting minimalist aura that surrounds each of their products. Shelves of Le Parfait pantry jars, plastic-free deodorant and Swedish dishcloths line the walls, while lavender and lemongrass essential oils fill the air. It’s really quite wonderful. It almost makes you forget that you probably don’t need any of it, which is the problem. 

While those aesthetic glass jars and cute Swedish dishcloths may look wonderful in the pantry or next to the sink, take these words as a reminder of what the movement is actually about: you don’t need more crap. If you have a jar of marinara sauce or jam in your fridge, you have a pantry jar. And, if you have an old rag, you have a dishcloth. And, at the end of the day, you have more money, too.

Zero waste stores, like any part of a capitalist society, need to make a profit to survive. For this reason, it is our responsibility to be conscious consumers of what is worth our money and whether it truly aligns with our values outside of what is marketed to us. However, this isn’t to say that everything they sell goes against environmentalism. 

Here are seven things that are commonly sold in zero waste stores and whether they are worth it or wasteful. 

  1. Cotton Rounds

If you are looking for a zero waste way to take off makeup or wash your face, these reusable cotton rounds might seem like the perfect fix. However, unless you don’t own regular washcloths, they might not be the best investment of your money. Usually, a similar, and cheaper, result can be achieved by cutting up a washcloth you already own or using the cloth as is.

Conclusion: Wasteful

  1. Compost Container

I will admit—I have one of these myself. The charcoal filter does a great job of ensuring no bad smells escape, and it is a good size for 1-2 people. However, if you have an old container and room in your fridge, you can easily store your food scraps without purchasing a separate compost container.

Conclusion: Can Be Wasteful or Worth It

  1. Menstrual Cup

If you don’t like the concept of using period products that take up to 800 years to decompose, a menstrual cup might be a good option for you. However, there are also many more options, like period underwear. In the long run, these options tend to cost less because of their reusable nature. 

Conclusion: Worth It

  1. Dryer Balls

Instead of throwing a single-use dryer sheet into every load of laundry, I highly recommend investing in a pack of dryer balls. However, you can often find them a lot cheaper than what they are sold for at zero waste stores. Trader Joe’s sells them for $13 for 4 balls, which is the lowest price I’ve found so far.

Conclusion: Worth It

  1. Bamboo Toothbrushes

In my personal experience, the bristles on these tend to get bent out of shape easily, and I’ve definitely spotted some questionable dark spots on the bamboo part of the head where the water never fully dried. Instead, I recommend getting an electric toothbrush where you only have to replace the head every few months. 

Conclusion: Wasteful

  1. Plastic-Free Deodorant

Unless you are planning to make your own deodorant, I think this one is worth it. However, zero waste stores tend to only sell the brand Meow Meow Tweet, and I like the brand Wild more.

Conclusion: Worth It

  1. Tru Earth Laundry Detergent Strips

This is a great option for a plastic-free laundry routine. However, in making a cost comparison, I found a very similar brand for less, which you can visit here.

Conclusion: Worth It

I truly believe that the zero waste movement has the potential to generate a lot of positive environmental change if enough people participate in it. However, if we hope to create an impact on the fight against climate change, it is imperative that we ensure our actions are not counterproductive.

Hello! I am studying to be a physical therapist with a minor in English at Saint Louis University. In my free time, I like to be in nature, work out, and journal.