Waste comes in many shapes and forms. Food waste, plastic waste, e-waste… it often feels like the waste is never ending. Are there ways to reduce waste? Let’s take a look!
How to reduce waste at home
The United States has become a very consumeristic society over the last few decades. Out with the old, in with the new isn’t just a phrase anymore — it is a way of life. Something breaks or tears? Jump in your car (or hop on the internet) and buy a new one. A new model comes out of something you already own? You better go buy it so you have the best! Had a busy day? Pick up some food with excessive packaging.
Being mindful of how much your household consumes is becoming more and more important each year as the world population continues to skyrocket. The population in the United States alone is around 300 million.
- Each person in the United States produces about 3.5 pounds of trash per day, which equals 18,433,779,281 cubic feet of trash total. That’s a big number!
- If you were to make the trash pile 400 feet deep (which is how tall a 40-story building is), it would take up over 1,000 acres of land. Keep in mind, those numbers are just for one day! Multiply 1,000 acres by 365 days and that means the trash produced each year in the U.S. alone covers somewhere around 365,000 acres.
Something has to change, and it starts with each and every one of us doing our part, and encouraging those in our communities to do their part too.
You’re probably already doing a lot of things to reduce waste in your home and in your community. You probably bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. You probably carry a reusable water bottle everywhere you go. You probably use the recycling bin provided by your trash service. You’re probably already doing a lot, but there’s more you could do.
If you’re wanting to further reduce waste in your home, here are eight ideas you might not have implemented yet.
1. Evaluate your kitchen storage
How are you currently storing things in your kitchen? Do you have lots of plastic baggies or plastic storage containers lying around? Switch to reusable baggies and use mason jars or other glass containers to store your food. They last longer and can often be recycled.
2. Swap paper for cloth
A lot of people have made the switch from paper napkins to cloth napkins or paper towels to unpaper towels. Consider cloth diapering your baby instead of using disposable diapers. If you’re a woman, switch from disposable menstrual products to a menstrual cup or cloth pads. The amount of waste this one simple change can reduce is huge. Another change some families make (although it’s too big of a change for many) is to switch to “family cloth” aka cloth toilet paper.
3. Compost kitchen scraps
Food waste is an enormous problem. How often do you have food go bad in your kitchen before it gets eaten? If you’re like most people, it’s more often than you’d like to admit. If you don’t have backyard chickens to feed the scraps to, consider composting. There are even plenty of ways to compost in apartments and urban areas.
4. Bring your own reusable containers
If you eat out, you’re probably very familiar with the good ole’ doggy bag. Most often these containers are made from Styrofoam, which is terrible for the environment. Next time, consider bringing your own reusable container and ask that your leftovers be placed in in order to reduce food waste. And be sure to remember your own coffee mug next time you stop at your local coffee shop.
5. Prioritize minimal, recyclable packaging
When you’re shopping, do you take packaging into consideration? If not, that’s a good change to implement. Next time you’re shopping, observe the packaging in different products and choose only those products that have either recyclable or minimal packaging. Another way to reduce packaging waste is to choose only whole foods, not packaged, processed foods. Hit the bulk bins whenever possible too.
6. Make your own cleaners and beauty products
Have you gotten on the DIY bandwagon yet? If not, it might be time. By making your own simple DIY cleaners and personal care products, you can cut down on packaging. You also cut down the number of toxins that are released into our environment.
7. Buy used over new
It’s part of our culture to want to have the newest, latest and greatest everything on the market. We’re fed that mentality from the time we’re children. However, it’s okay to step back and choose another path. Buying used over new is becoming easier and easier. Thrift stores are no longer the only options. Sites like Freecycle and Craigslist make it easier to buy and sell or give away used items. Consider choosing used clothes (especially for children who grow so fast!), kitchenware, vehicles, toys and anything else you seem to go through frequently.
8. Fix what you already own
In many countries, they don’t have the choice to buy new, so they fix the old over and over again. When we lived in Uruguay, you very rarely saw a new car. That’s because the costs were extraordinary compared to peoples’ income levels. You only saw old, beat up cars going down the road. That’s because they fixed everything they could. If they couldn’t get a part, they’d make one. Fixing things is becoming a lost art in the U.S. Let’s revive it. Next time something breaks, see if you (or a professional) can fix it before you run out and buy something new.
No matter how much you’re already doing to reduce waste in your household and in your community, there’s always something more that you can do. Pick one thing from this list you aren’t already doing and implement it this month. If we keep taking steps forward, we can all reduce waste together.
What other ideas do you have to reduce waste in your home and community?
Feature image credit: Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock