6 Zero Waste Tips For Military Families

 In Life, Military, PCS, Zero Waste

This year, we made a change in our home.  We started actively trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce. I’ve always been a little crunchy at heart, as well as frugal minded.  This is why the zero waste lifestyle always appealed to me, but seemed unattainable.  

It all seemed out of reach, until one day I was in the commissary shopping…and I got angry. When I say angry, I mean blind rage wanting to throw stuff kind of angry. If you know me personally, you are probably chuckling reading that, because it is not my personality to throw things, including a fit.  So you must be wondering what had me so worked up.

Well friends…I was looking at paper towel prices. Yup. Looking at $10 for a pack of paper towels that would be gone before I knew it, PISSED me off. I literally was spending money on trash, and it got me angry.

So in a huff, I purchased what I had in my basket and headed home, sans the paper towels, and started searching for more sustainable solutions.  Before making any purchases, I sat down and thought about what I used paper towels for, what possible replacements could be and what I would expect from them to make the system sustainable.  

When thinking about what we use paper towels for, it was mostly wiping messes up, drying hands, and drying dishes on occasion. So when thinking of what could replace them, I thought tea towels would be best.  We had one that I liked to use for drying dishes because it was particularly absorbent, but hated that it always looked so ratty. So with all that in mind, I listed the following requirements: 1. good quality 2. absorbent 3. easy to launder and 4. won’t break the bank.

When I took to Amazon, I found these, and they have been AMAZING.  Not super expensive, great quality and wait for it…bright white.  White is easy to launder because if you get something yucky on there, you can soak in some oxiclean and/or bleach and they come out good as new.  It has kept my towels looking good as new day in and day out.  

Fast forward two months, and my husband comes home from deployment.  He walks into the kitchen and poses the question “where are the paper towels?”  I told him we had one roll left and that it was under the sink. He stared at me confused and responded, “why are they under the sink?”  I proceeded to tell him about my silent fit of rage at the commissary and informed him that we were now a zero waste home.

He smiled and said “ok” with a tone that communicated a mixture of confusion, sarcasm and skepticism.  However, his tune changed when I also let him know that our credit card bill had been cut down by almost half the month that I started making a concerted effort towards a zero waste home.

Long story short… my husband is now 100% on board, and ditching disposables has been a main focus for us.  Below I’ve compiled a list of swaps we’ve made and best practices to start reducing waste in your own home.



Like I said above.  These towels are inexpensive, absorbent and super easy to care for.  I bought a few sets, so that I never run out. Since purchasing them, we’ve been paper towel free!


We have actually been using glass food storage since we got married.  I’ve always been a meal prepper, so when we registered, I not only registered for this set of glass Rubbermaid food storage pieces, but also 12 of the soup and salad size bowls so that I could batch cook meals to freeze for work lunches.  

In addition to these, I also use mason jars instead of plastic bags. The best thing about mason jars is that they keep food fresher for longer because of their seal. Once I made the switch, I realized how much better they were than Ziplocs.


When I found Norwex, I fell in love.  Not only do I love that the products allow me to ditch the expensive consumable products that you have to keep rebuying when you run out or PCS, but it helped eliminate chemicals from our home.  

My husband has allergies and is extremely sensitive to smell, so having a cloth that allows me to clean my home using just water is AMAZING. The other great thing about the Norwex products is that they’re super versatile.  The Envirocloth can wipe bacteria up off of a countertop, or get stains out of couches.  I refer to it as my everything cloth. I’m super excited that this PCS, we won’t have to go and spend any money on purchasing cleaning products.  We’ll have everything we need already!


This has been a big one.  I’ve focused more on fixing, or maintaining things we already have instead of looking for a replacement the moment it gets a little worn.  

A good example, is our living room furniture. When we arrived at our current duty station, our coffee and side tables were yellowed from being in storage.  Instead of purchasing a new set, I repainted them. Not only did it save us a couple hundred dollars, but it eliminated them going into a landfill.  

Same thing with our couch. It’s a cream microfiber sectional. Instead of saying that we need to replace it when it starts to look dirty, I take an Envirocloth  to it and it looks good as new.  I’ve also taken to mending clothes and linens.  For example, we have a bath mat that is still in great shape, except for the edges are starting to let threads free.  Instead of pitching it, and getting a new one, I took a needle and thread to it to close the edges and prevent further freying.  It looks good as new, and we didn’t have to purchase a new one.


I used to be the person that if I needed something, I would go looking for the perfect product to satisfy that need… until I started on the zero waste path.  I distinctly remember trying to find a stainless steel water bottle that I could keep in my purse. I was looking for specific dimensions. I didn’t want it to be heavy, or insulated so that I could maximize the space.  I searched for weeks for the perfect water bottle, but came up empty handed. It wasn’t until I was heading out for a girls weekend and went to dig through my pantry to see what options I had, that I found it.  The EXACT item I had been looking for was in my cabinet and I had totally forgotten I even owned it.

Moral of the story is look within your four walls, before you look outside of them for something. Chances are, you have something that will fit the bill, you just don’t know it’s there.  


I started focusing on using every bit of what was coming into our home food wise.  I started meal planning using the Mealime App, which made meal planning SUPER easy.  Not only does it compile the recipes you choose to use, but it gives you exact quantities of what you’ll need so that you’re not overbuying.  This has been a game changer in our house. I also started keeping a stock box and making my own broth instead of buying it. Click here for a more complete tutorial on that.


These are just a few things that have saved us since going zero waste.  Although we aren’t 100% zero waste, we have significantly decreased the amount of garbage going out the door and have put a pretty big dent in our spending.  What ways have you started reducing waste in your home?  What hurdles have you been trying to overcome with waste reduction as a military family?  Leave a comment below or join the Zero Waste Military Family Facebook group!  


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