The importance of doing your part to reduce waste today goes without saying. But, you may be overwhelmed, or need some help getting started. These 12 home hacks will have you biking — and laughing — all the way to the bank.
Use reusable towels, not disposables
Paper waste reduction can help conserve trees and reduce the pollution produced in the bleaching process of paper towels. If you use disposable wipes, consider that 83,000 tons of disposable wipes wind up in North American landfills every year. Cloth alternatives are more absorbent than paper towels, and also catch and hold dust instead of scattering it.
Know your plastics
It’s no secret that plastics are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. There are ways in which you personally can help reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfill by first checking the resin identification number #1-7 (located inside the triangle to be sure they’re recyclable).
- For more information about recycling plastics, visit our plastics recycling guide.
- To locate plastic recycling opportunities in your local area, visit our recycling search.
To learn more about plastics, you’ll want to check out Healthy Child’s Know Your Plastics.
Use a rainwater catchment, not the garden hose
While some people in the world can’t get enough water to drink or bathe, Americans pour about 8 billion gallons of water a day on their lawns and landscaping.
Reduce your water consumption by setting up a rainwater catchment system to collect water off your roof. The systems are easy to build and, depending where you live, may be enough to keep your yard watered without ever having to turn on the hose. Use a 55-gallon wine or food barrel or a simple 5-gallon bucket and a gutter connection with a leaf and mosquito screen. An optional charcoal filter can be used to remove rooftop contaminants. Check your city to verify if rebates are available.
Recycle your electronics
In many states in the U.S., it’s illegal to throw out old electronics, and you can be fined. Look for community recycling events or local drop-off stations that will recycle and reuse salvageable materials. Find an electronics recycler near you.
Shop your way to waste reduction
If recycling seems like a hassle, then consider shopping at United By Blue. As of December 2019, the company has removed more than 2.1 million pounds of trash from oceans and rivers on behalf of their pledge to remove 1 pound of trash for each product sold. The company sells a wide collection of clothing and other goods made from sustainable materials.
Opt out of junk mail
Did you know the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year? Reduce and eliminate direct mail by opting out of receiving both junk mail and catalogs by using services such as:
- www.catalogchoice.org (free)
- www.stopthejunkmail.com (annual fee)
- www.DMAchoice.org (free)
- Yellow Pages opt-out (free) — and look up telephone numbers online instead
Purchase minimally packaged goods, not over-packaged goods
Before you purchase something, consider the packaging that you’ll be bringing home to just dispose of. Choose the option with less packaging and close the recycling loop by supporting manufacturers who use recycled materials in their packaging or who eliminate packaging all together.
Recycle your own printer paper instead of using new paper
Keep a bin next to your printer for used paper that has only been printed on one side. Use this when printing documents that don’t need to be on pristine paper. When buying printer paper, look for post consumer waste (PCW) recycled paper.
Properly dispose of medication, not down the drain
Flushing pharmaceutical drugs down the toilet or pouring them down the drain creates and environmental hazard since wastewater treatment plants and cannot remove these chemicals and they end up back in our environment. Today, 46 million Americans are affected by trace concentrations of pharmaceutical drugs in their water. If you have unused medication you no longer need, connect with a pharmaceutical take back program. Many pharmacies offer locations for the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal or via medication mail-in programs. CVS stores, for example, offer a pharmaceutical disposal system, which provides customers envelopes to mail in their unused, expired, or unwanted drugs. Also, the DEA offers a search tool to help you find a disposal location near you.
Recycle your carpet, don’t fill up the dump
If you’re about to remove or replace your carpeting, think twice before you just have it hauled away to the landfill. It’s estimated that nearly 5 billion pounds of carpeting end up in the landfills each year. Instead, donate or sell any carpet or area rugs that are still in good condition. For carpeting that is not in good condition, visit our Recycling Search or Carpet Recovery to find a carpet recycling center near you.
Turn your old athletic shoes into surfaces, don’t throw ’em out
You can send your old stinky athletic shoes to Nike and they’ll recycle them. The shoes become “Nike Grind,” which is a material used for playgrounds, basketball courts, school tracks, and other play surfaces. The program is not restricted to Nike shoes—they’ll accept any brand as long as they don’t have cleats. You can bring
Use reusable cloth bags
It may seem like a given but one of the easiest ways to reduce your footprint when it comes to transporting goods is to use reusable cloth bags versus disposable bags.
TIP: After you’ve unloaded the bags, place them immediately back in your vehicle so you won’t forget them at the store the next trip.
Editor’s note: This article was updated in December 2019.