Last Earth Day I talked about how recycling is not the be-all and end-all to our problems. Here are 10 different ways you can help reduce waste in your own home.
1. Use Reusable Bags
What it reduces: Using reusable bags when you go grocery shopping will reduce plastic waste. You won’t have a need to use plastic bags if you bring your own!
If you forget your reusable bags opt for paper bags. It’s easier to recycle and paper bags come from a renewable resource. If you do end up using some plastic shopping bags, check and see if there are any areas that will accept plastic bags for recycling.
2. Use Washable Dishware
Styrofoam and plastic dishware are very popular for one time uses. However, these things may never break down.
What it reduces: Using ceramic dishware can help reduce the amount of styrofoam, plastic, and tree waste from one-time use dishware. Using something like ceramic or glass can also reduce the amount of plastic dishware that is created.
Using reusable dishware, even when you are camping or having a cookout, can help reduce a lot of waste that goes to the landfills that may never break down, especially in the wild. If you need to use one-time use dishware, consider alternatives like paper products, wheat straw fiber products, or biodegradable corn starch products.
3. Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Some instances, like the Flint Water Crisis, may force someone to rely on bottled water. Unfortunately, bottled water produces a lot of waste.
What it reduces: Plastic waste. 5.3-14 million tons of plastic is estimated to be dumped into the ocean every year. 5.3-14 million tons. Plastic bottles are one of many things that contribute to this.
If you cannot drink tap water, look at using a filter system for your water or purchase water in larger containers rather than water bottles. Use reusable water bottles and fill up at home and at water fountains instead of buying bottled water whenever you go out.
4. Buy Bulk
What it reduces: Buying in bulk reduces a lot of packaging waste. From paper to plastic waste, there’s a lot of disposable materials that are used to package food.
Using your own bags, and even mason jars, to buy in bulk can help eliminate a lot of packaging waste. You don’t necessarily have to go somewhere like Costco to try to reduce packaging waste. While shopping, opt for the food that is packaged together as a whole rather than individual little packets, like a 1 pound bag of sunflower seeds vs. twelve 2 ounce bags.
5. Cook at Home
Nothing beats a home cooked meal especially when you are reducing your packaging waste!
What it reduces: Eating out often involves one-time use dinnerware and other items like disposable napkins and straws. Eating at home can reduce plastic and paper waste produced from eating out at fast food establishments and from making frozen meals.
If you are going to eat out (I mean, who doesn’t love to!), try going to places that reuse dining ware and avoid restaurants that use a lot of disposable packaging. You can even bring your own mugs to places like Starbucks rather than getting a disposable cup.
What it reduces: Food waste. It takes a very long time for things to break down in landfills, even food. Why not take that food waste and put it to good use?
Composting is easy and is great for your garden. If you manage to make a lot of compost you could even sell it. Check and see if you have a local composting facility near you if you don’t want to compost yourself.
7. Switch to Online Subscriptions
What it reduces: Paper waste. A lot of magazines, newspapers, and bills can now be accessed online rather than being mailed to you. This reduces a lot of paper waste as well as reducing CO2 emissions produced by the cars and trucks that bring you mail.
If you need to receive physical mail, look at investing in a P.O. box especially if you are within walking distance of a post office.
8. Switch to Cloth Products
What it reduces: Paper and plastic waste. Napkins, paper towels, pads, diapers, and more can be switched over to cloth products. Babies can use 2,500-3,000 diapers in their first year alone, a woman will use over 200 pads per year, and one person alone will use about 45 pounds of paper towels each year.
In a day and age where instant gratification and “throw away anything gross” mentality dictates what we do, switching to cloth products takes an adjustment period. Today there are a lot of already made products available like cloth diapers, reusable cloth pads, and reusable paper towels.
9. Buy Second-hand
What it reduces: Buying second-hand from thrift stores or garage sales helps reduce the number of items being thrown into landfills as well as stress on resources needed to make new clothes and other items.
Buying second-hand helps reduce a lot of waste and can even save you money! Be sure to also donate things that you no longer have a need for instead of throwing it out. If you decide to buy something new, try to focus on buying items that are good quality and can be used for a long time. Try to avoid switching things out and buying new things every season!
10. Do it Yourself
What it reduces: Industrial waste, carbon emissions, and landfill waste. When you do things yourself you can help eliminate a lot of waste. From production waste to extra packaging, making things yourself can help reduce waste we don’t even think of.
When you garden you are more likely to eat the “ugly” produce rather than tossing it out, as many farmers end up doing. If you are wanting to purchase your produce, look at purchasing local or seeking out that “ugly” fruit.
Making your own clothes and other DIY projects can help reduce the number of waste products that end up in landfills. If you are looking at buying something premade, consider getting higher quality products made from renewable or recycled materials that will last.
What are some ways you and your family are trying to reduce this year?