The average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash every day. Multiply that by 328 million and you’ve got a whole lot of garbage entering landfills every single day. The idea of reducing waste can seem overwhelming with numbers that high but there are a few easy transitions you can make that will significantly lower the amount of waste you personally produce in a day. It’s hard to be perfect and that’s not the expectation, but there is always room for improvement when it comes to taking care of the planet. Here are just a few tips for reducing waste:
1. Bring your own bag to the grocery store
Reusable bags have all kinds of benefits beyond reducing waste. They’re sturdier, for one. No one likes getting halfway to your car and losing a dozen eggs in the parking lot. You can also use them for a lot more than just your groceries. During any shopping trip, you can opt to use your own bag. Whether you’re shopping for clothes, home goods, shoes, or anything in between, a reusable bag is a durable and reliable option. Some stores will even incentivize the use of reusable bags with some form of a discount.
When you do go to the grocery store, remember that shopping bags aren’t the only plastic bags you will encounter. Produce bags are also something you can replace with your own reusable bags. You can find reusable bags made for this specific purpose that are super lightweight and washable. You can throw them in your car with your other reusable bags and never be without them on your next grocery run. Add them to the top of your grocery list so that you don’t forget!
2. Use reusable cutlery and straws
When you’re in a pinch and you need to grab a quick bite to eat on the go, opt for reusable cutlery and straws. Stainless steel straws are recommended since they’re sturdy and easy to clean. Reusable cutlery is as easy as carrying a bamboo camping spoon. Even a pair of chopsticks can do the job, which can also be found in stainless steel, and store easily with your reusable straw. Just remember to give them a rinse when you get home and put them back in the car or your backpack so you have them for next time.
3. Beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap
Beeswax wraps are cloth wraps coated in a beeswax blend that act like a sturdier, durable plastic wrap. These wraps are preferable to plastic wrap in many ways besides the fact that it eliminates another use of plastic in our lives. With a gentle wash, you can reuse the beeswax wraps to cover bowls, wrap the other half of your avocado, or wrap a sandwich to take to work for lunch. Beeswax wraps can actually keep certain vegetables fresh longer than plastic wrap because of its breathable barrier. Plus, they’re compostable. When your wrap has reached the end of it’s life, simply compost it or use it as a firestarter on your next camping trip.
4. Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup
This trick can save you money and reduce waste. With a reusable water bottle, you can fill it with your favorite beverage and bring it on the go instead of buying a new prepackaged one every time you’re thirsty. Many coffee shops will even offer a lower price for coffee served in a reusable cup. Plus, a reusable water bottle and coffee cup can often insulate your beverage better than a disposable one, so you can have warm coffee or cold water longer.
5. Compost your food waste
Composting is a great way to cut down on food waste and other compostable matter entering the landfill! And if you are a gardener, you can make your own compost instead of buying some from the garden supply store by composting your kitchen scraps. Some waste removal companies will compost your food waste for you, all you need to do is separate your compost. Check with your local municipality to see if this is an option for you. If you are new to the idea of composting, check out our blog on how to start composting at home here.
6. Repair what you have before replacing
If your favorite jeans have a hole, sew on a patch! If your favorite jacket has a tear, mend it! Learning to sew so you can mend clothing is not only satisfying but a really valuable skill to have. Give new life to your favorite articles of clothing so you can keep loving them longer. With just a needle and thread, you can learn to sew online through an abundance of YouTube videos and other free resources.
7. Opt for secondhand goods
With apps like Mercari, Poshmark, and Facebook Marketplace, secondhand goods aren’t just for thrift stores anymore! You can find the specific item you’re looking for, often gently used or nearly new on a variety of online platforms. Anything from furniture to appliances to bikes to clothing can be found used online and at a reduced price. By choosing secondhand goods over new ones, you’re not only keeping that item from entering the landfill, you’re also reducing the need to manufacture new items which saves resources.
8. Recycle correctly
Recycling has undergone some changes in recent years, and we all need to be more aware of those changes in order to ensure that our recycling is actually making it to the recycling centers. Contamination is the main culprit in causing recycling to end up in landfills. Contamination comes from dirty or wet recycling, recycling improper objects, or unrecyclable objects. While it seems almost impossible to keep our recycling contamination-free, keeping contamination down to an acceptable amount can be accomplished through some simple education and a little extra effort and attentiveness on our part. Check out our latest blog about recycling here to learn more about what you can do to recycle properly.
9. Go paperless
Paper ends up in our waste through several different avenues. Paper towels, napkins, tissues, toilet paper, and junk mail are just a few. In order to mitigate the use of all these paper products, there are a few quick and painless transitions you can begin to make today. To make bill payment faster and easier, opt for paperless billing. Many companies welcome this option and it eliminates the need to send bills through the mail. Use rags instead of paper towels. Rags are also a great way to give new life to old dishtowels, t shirts, or other articles of clothing that are too worn for the thrift store. Cloth napkins add an elegant touch to your dinner table and are easily washed and reused instead of paper napkins. A tissue can be replaced by a hanky. And finally, toilet paper use can be reduced by installing a bidet. There are many options for bidets online that you can install yourself.
10. Educate yourself
Knowing is half the battle. Meaning, being aware of the problem is the first step in overcoming it. Educating yourself on the environmental impact of the choices you make in your everyday life can help you make a difference moving forward. Learning about new ways you can reduce waste in your life in this article is a great place to start.