Waste dump

10 Ways to Reduce Waste at Home

By Jean Welsh
waste dump

Figuring out how to reduce waste in your life can be as overwhelming as thinking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (for more info, see theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch). The zero-waste movement, based on a philosophy that everything should be reused or recycled, is gaining traction. And while zero-waste is a laudable goal, it’s not possible for everyone. You can start small with any or all of these quick and easy tips for reducing waste at home, and before you know it cutting back will come naturally to you.

1. Take Stock of Your Trash

We’re starting here because action begins with awareness. The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash every single day! Once you know what you’re tossing into the garbage can, you’ll be able to think clearly about how to adjust your behavior. Pick a day and write down everything you throw away. Then, see which items on your list can be replaced with a reusable item.

Can you drink your coffee from a travel mug instead of a disposable cup? Can you eat your dinner off of a real plate instead of a paper plate? Can you switch from daily contact lenses to monthlies, or even glasses? Make it a goal to swap disposable items for things you can reuse.

2. Prevent Plastic Bag Build Up

Every hour, 200,000 plastic bags make their way to a landfill. Do your part to prevent this by bringing a tote bag to the grocery store, and investing in reusable produce bags, like those from Simple Ecology. Better yet, skip the plastic produce bag and give your fruits and veggies a good rinse when you get them home.

3. Refresh Refillably

60,000,000 water bottles enter landfills and incinerators every single day. Add your reusable water bottle to the mental checklist of things you never leave home without – wallet, keys, phone, water bottle? That way, you’ll never buy a plastic bottle on the go again.

4. Support Sustainability

For those times when you must use disposables, buy products from companies whose mission aligns with yours. Paper towels and bath tissue made from recycled paper are widely available at grocery and convenience stores. Buying beauty products like body wash and soap packaged in recycled paper or plastic is an easy way to vote with your dollars.

5. Recycle Responsibly

Recycling standards vary in every municipality but getting to know your local rules will ensure you don’t get caught in the “aspirational recycling” trap. Certain items, like greasy pizza boxes and plastic-lined coffee cups, actually contaminate the recycling bin and can cause the whole load to be sent to the landfill. Check local rules for a list of things you can recycle!

6. Go Paperless

Sorting through mail is not just time consuming, it’s wasteful too! Check the paperless box on repeat mail like your utility bill and banking statement, consider switching to digital subscriptions for your magazine and newspaper, and un-enroll from pesky catalogue mailers. Bye bye paper, hello free time!

7. Mend Your Ways

Figure out how to repair something you find yourself replacing regularly. Stitching up a torn pillow case, rewiring a lamp, or resoling your shoes are satisfying alternatives to simply ordering new items. It’s better for your pocketbook, and the planet!

8. Beg, Borrow, but Don’t Steal!

If you need something for a limited purpose, such as a sleeping bag or camping lantern, borrow it from a friend, rather than buying a new one. Similarly, donate items like old clothes and sporting goods to a local charity.

9. Make a Meal Plan

Americans lead the world in food waste, throwing away about a quarter of the food they buy. Making a meal plan before you shop is a sure-fire way to ensure you don’t overbuy and wind up with a head of lettuce wilting in your crisper. Extra points for buying “ugly” produce that otherwise might be tossed in the garbage!

waste dump
10. Compost

Composting seems like an advanced environmental activity, but it’s actually as simple as saving your food scraps now, so they don’t end up in the landfill later. If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, aerobic composting is as easy as finding a dry, shady spot, adding your food scraps and water, and turning it occasionally. For comprehensive instructions, turn to the EPA’s website.