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Learn how to manage your own little part of our Earth with these 50 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste.
Waste comes in many forms – food waste, excessive packaging, plastic waste, paper waste, e-waste… We could go on and on. In our consumeristic society, we’re wasting more than ever, and with global populations exploding, what to do with all that waste is quickly reaching a breaking point.
The phrase “out with the old, and in with the new” isn’t just a saying anymore – it’s a way of life. Any time something breaks, we hop in our car or on the Internet, and buy a new one. When a shiny new iPhone model comes out, how many of us just have to have it – even when our old phone is working just fine?
We currently have an enormous collection of garbage – already twice the size of Texas and growing! – floating in the Pacific Ocean. Waste management all over the globe is at a crisis point, and it’s past time we do something about it.
Of course, the issue may seem so big and overwhelming that we can’t do anything about it, but, actually, there’s a lot we can do in our own homes that can have far-reaching effects. At the very least, we can have peace of mind knowing we’re doing what we can.
That’s where these tips come in. You don’t have to implement all 50 of these eco-friendly tips all at once – or ever! But you might be surprised at how easy green living becomes once you get started.
If you make these changes in your life today, every single YEAR you will reduce plastic waste by:
- 167 disposable water bottles
- 346 total beverage bottles
- 70 disposable coffee cups (depending on how big of a coffee addict you are)
- 365 plastic bags (all types)
- 4 plastic toothbrushes
- 300 tampons, pads, and panty liners
- 540 plastic sandwich and freezer bags
- 1-2 rolls of plastic wrap
- 584 plastic straws
- 52 takeout containers and plastic utensil sets (based on US average of ordering takeout once per week)
- And much more!
These statistics are estimates based on the average U.S. citizen. True values will vary by person.
For more ways to go green, check out the following:
Painless Ways to Reduce Waste for a Greener Home
STOP USING PAPER TOWELS
Paper towel production not only kills trees, it’s also contributing to air and water pollution at an alarming rate. Clean up messes with Huck towels and microfiber cloths, and use cloth napkins at mealtimes. Then pop them in the washing machine to use again instead of wasting 100’s of dollars on paper towels every year.
Try machine washable bamboo towels. They’re packaged like normal paper towels, but are stronger and more absorbent and can be washed and reused over 120 times!
AND OTHER DISPOSABLES
Even if you can’t stand doing the dishes, the unnecessary waste created by paper plates and plastic utensils just isn’t worth it. To make the job easier, clean your dishes in no time with Sal Suds to power through tough grease, grime, and stuck-on foods. Wash your dishes every day, so the chore never becomes overwhelming.
Use reusable food containers and utensils as much as possible. Carry your own cloth napkin or handkerchief, so you won’t have to use disposable when you’re on the go. Bring your own reusable utensils and straws. Check out this handy, eco-friendly reusable lunch set complete with food containers and utensils that’s perfect for work or school lunches.
When ordering food for delivery or to-go, leave a note saying you don’t need plastic utensils and napkins. For take-out, ask if you can bring your own reusable food storage containers.
TRADE IN YOUR SPONGES
I prefer using sponges over wash cloths to hand wash my dishes, but typical cleaning sponges only last about 2-3 weeks before you have to throw them away. Buy washable sponge alternatives that clean just as well or better than conventional sponges and can be tossed in the washing machine to last months or even years instead of just weeks!
PRO TIP: E-cloth features loads of kitchen cleaning products to fit any home and cleaning preference for easy, eco-friendly cleaning!
Buy online subscriptions to your favorite newspapers and magazines, and opt for eBooks or an Audible subscription instead of buying new books. Can’t stand to read without a physical book in your hands? Buy used books at your local thrift store or on Amazon.
DITCH PLASTIC BAGS
Carry your own shopping bags and produce bags. Take empty egg cartons and fruit containers to the farmers’ market to reuse them or return them to the farmer. Buy fresh meat at the butcher shop, and have them pack it in butcher paper instead of plastic and Styrofoam.
PRO TIP: Make carrying your own reusable bags so much easier with BagPodz. A set of 5 bags comes with its own small carrying case that won’t take up much room in your purse.
CUT DOWN ON FOOD WASTE
Food waste is a major problem in developed countries. After most meals, we throw away some food without a second thought.
To reduce or eliminate food waste in your home, eat smaller portions, organize your shopping, plan your meals, and don’t buy in bulk unless you know you’ll use it before it expires. Any necessary food waste should be composted for your garden.
PLAN YOUR MEALS
Plan out your meals every week, and write a list of everything you need before you go to the grocery store. Shoppers who use a list and meal plan – and stick to it – tend to waste less food and save money.
BUY IN BULK
You can save loads of time and money if you shop less often and buy in bulk when you do shop, but this only works if you you’ll be able to consume everything before the expiration date.
Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging you’ll use for your groceries over time, since you’ll use one package instead of many plastic or paper packages for smaller units.
PRO TIP: Buy in bulk from stores that let you bring your own packaging, then use reusable bags and boxes instead of disposable plastic bags.
SKIP THE PREPARED FOODS
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t just better for your waistline, it’s also good for the environment! Fresh foods are often sold with little or no packaging, while prepared and processed foods tend to have more disposable packaging. Plus, you can use produce bags to carry fresh foods and reduce disposable packaging even more.
You might also want to skip the frozen TV dinners and other frozen prepared foods, too. Even the supposedly eco-friendly packaged items made from cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic!
Not only is it better to contribute to your local economy, it’s also better for the environment when you shop locally. Go to farmers’ markets and local green grocers. These stores typically use less packaging. Plus, you save on gas money and consumption.
BUY RAW MILK
Raw milk advocates claim raw milk is healthier than pasteurized. If available in your area, buy your milk straight from the farm. This method is better for the environment, since the milk doesn’t need to be transported to the store, and you can bring your own refillable glass bottles. The farmer also makes more money when you buy direct.
Don’t automatically toss foods that are less than fresh. Try to refresh them if you can. Put wilted lettuce in a quick ice bath to make it crispy again, and make stale bread soft and tasty by warming in the oven. Cook slightly overripe fruits and vegetables can mask that they’re a little past their prime.
Some good examples of this include making banana bread with overripe bananas, or freezing them to make smoothies. When kale or other dark leafy greens become too wilted, add them to warm soups for an extra pop of nutrition.
BUY REDUCED ITEMS
Grocery stores often mark down produce and meats that are nearing their expiration date. Snatch up these items, then use them right away before they spoil. That way, the store won’t have to throw them away, and you save money. If you can’t consume these foods right away, freeze them.
PRO TIP: Buy marked down, overripe bananas, and freeze them for smoothies!
AVOID COFFEE PODS
It takes between 150 and 500 years for a single coffee pod to break down in a landfill, and disposable pods are often too small to recycle. If you have a Keurig machine, use a reusable K-Cup and your favorite ground coffee instead.
DRINK LOOSE LEAF TEA
Most tea bags are made with plastic. Buy loose leaf tea, and brew it in a reusable metal filter. Then compost your tea leaves to create even less waste.
USE EVERY SCRAP
Save food scraps from vegetables like celery, onions, carrots, and mushrooms in your freezer. Once you have a big pile, make your own delicious homemade vegetable stock. Meat eaters can also save animals bones and scraps to make chicken, beef, and fish broth.
STORE FOOD PROPERLY
Use reusable containers to keep food fresher longer. Glass containers are more eco-friendly than plastic, won’t leach chemicals into your food, and are much more microwave safe than even the strongest plastic containers.
Also, stop buying disposable Ziploc plastic bags. Store baking ingredients, cereals, and other foods that can go stale quickly in airtight containers. Again, glass is best, but reusable plastic containers are better than disposables. For leftovers, swap disposable plastic wrap for reusable Bee’s Wrap.
If you buy in bulk from farmers’ markets or the grocery store, using quality storage is even more important.
According to the EPA, about 50% of your garbage could be composted to fertilize your garden! By making your own organic fertilizer, you can save money on chemical fertilizer, make your yard and garden look awesome, and do something amazing for the planet all at once!
Set up a small compost bin in your kitchen. Once that gets full, transfer it to a larger bin outside.
ORGANIZE YOUR KITCHEN
When your kitchen is neat and organized, you can take stock of what you have and what you need. That way, you can more easily and efficiently gather ingredients for recipes and won’t buy things you already have. Check out these easy ways to organize your kitchen:
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!
Growing your own food means less plastic bags and disposable packaging at the grocery store and savings on gas to go shopping. Start a small, organic garden in your backyard, and use compost from your food waste to fertilize it for free!
Believe it or not, this doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Even just growing a few vegetables can offset your grocery bill – and your energy consumption!
Don’t want to start your garden? Shop at your local farmers’ markets, and bring your own reusable bags!
Switch to electronic statements and eBills, and pay bills online instead of mailing checks.
While it’s better to use reusable packaging whenever possible, recycling is the next best thing to reduce waste heading for the landfill. Learn what you can and can’t recycle in your city by visiting your local municipality’s website or by contacting a recycling center near you.
AVOID SINGLE SERVINGS
Individual servings of drinks, puddings, applesauce, candies, etc. are much more wasteful than they need to be. Instead of buying a 24-pack of canned soda or small servings of pudding, get the largest size available, and serve in reusable glassware or bowls.
STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER
Sure, you can just recycle all those bottles of water. That’s eco-friendly, right? Not really. Recycling isn’t completely free. We still use electricity and water to recycle, so while recycling is better than the landfill, there’s still a negative environmental impact.
Plus, bottled water just isn’t necessary! If your tap water at home doesn’t taste good, get a water softener, or use a water filter. Keep a Brita pitcher in your fridge for cold, refreshing water any time, or install a faucet filter in your kitchen to get clean, fresh-tasting water right out the tap. With these tools, your water at home will taste better than bottled!
The same thing goes for coffee to-go cups. Take a reusable coffee thermos with you on your morning commute or to the coffee shop. They would be happy to fill it for you.
BUY BOXES, NOT BOTTLES
Buy laundry detergent and dish soap in boxes instead of plastic bottles. Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic bottles.
CHOOSE NATURAL ALTERNATIVES
Rather than buying plastic or metal versions of things, consider what natural alternatives may be available. For example, at Christmastime, get a real tree, buy or make a natural wreath, and make your own stovetop potpourri. Compost these items instead of sending them to the landfill. Bonus: Your home will smell amazing all season long with all that greenery!
REUSE GLASS CONTAINERS
Buy prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic, and reuse the jars to store food or take them with you when buying in bulk. Don’t reuse plastic containers. Plastics can leach dangerous chemicals into your food and beverages as they age. Use a reusable BPA free water bottle instead!
OPTIMIZE YOUR FRIDGE
To save energy, set your refrigerator between 35 and 38 degrees. This is the perfect setting for your food and your energy bill. Also, be sure to pull your fridge 1-2 inches away from the wall to make it easier for the appliance to keep your food cold.
Making sure your fridge and freezer are full will help keep their temperatures consistent – and save you money on your electric bill. Can’t fill them will food? Put jugs of water in there to take up excess space.
For easy DIY cleaning recipes and tips, check out the following:
MAKE YOUR OWN BEAUTY PRODUCTS, TOO
DIY beauty products can help you save money and control what you put on your body. To get started, check out these Easy All Natural DIY Beauty Recipes.
SWITCH TO LAUNDRY POWDER
Liquid laundry detergent comes in heavy plastic containers. Consider switching to laundry powder in a cardboard box or similar eco-friendly packaging.
TRY DRYER BALLS
Conventional dryer sheets are loaded with toxic chemicals. Natural dryer sheets are better, but you’re still throwing them away. Enter wool dryer balls. They help you save money on energy costs because they absorb moisture, reducing drying time, and they’re good for 500+ washes!
PRO TIP: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to your dryer balls to make your laundry smell amazing!!
USE ECO-FRIENDLY CANDLES
Try beeswax or soy candles (pesticide-free and non-GMO) instead of regular (paraffin) wax candles. They burn longer and cleaner than paraffin candles and don’t release toxic chemicals and fragrances like conventional candles do. Make sure to buy candles with a cotton wick, which further extends their burn time.
OPT FOR MATCHES
To light that eco-friendly candle – or light a campfire – use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters that sit in landfills for decades and have even been found in dead birds’ stomachs! If you can’t bear to part with your lighter, get a refillable metal lighter.
CHOOSE BAR SOAP
Instead of heavily packaged liquid soaps and lotions, opt for personal care supplies with minimal – or even zero – packaging. You might even save some money since soaps and lotions in bar form tend to last longer than their liquid counterparts.
Check out Good Soap – it’s package-free and available exclusively at Whole Foods.
GET A BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH
It’s estimated that more than 850 million toothbrushes end up in U.S. landfills per year! This makes sense, since dentists recommend we replace our toothbrushes about every 3 months. Trade in that plastic toothbrush for an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush that can be composted.
USE CLOTH DIAPERS
According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. every year! It takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and 200,000 trees per year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone, and 450 years for them to disintegrate in the ocean and 500 years in landfills.
Reduce your baby’s carbon footprint – and save money – by using cloth diapers and making your own DIY reusable baby wipes. Store-bought baby wipes are not only wasteful, they’re also loaded with chemicals! Make your own all natural baby wipes with this easy recipe:
- 1 3/4 cups boiled or distilled water (you can use regular water if you use them in less than a week)
- 1 tablespoon liquid Castile soap
- 1 tablespoon witch hazel
- 1 tablespoon pure aloe vera
- 1 teaspoon olive or almond oil
- 12 drops essential oils (optional)
- Reusable cloths
In a quart size mason jar, mix the ingredients, and stir to combine. For the essential oils, I like to use grapefruit essential oil to kill germs and for the fresh, invigorating scent. To soothe baby, use lavender essential oil. Add enough cloths to fill the container (use wash cloths or cut up old t-shirts and soft towels), making sure to get the cloths completely wet in the solution. Use a cloth any time you need to clean up baby.
For more ways to clean your home and body, check out 25 Uses for Liquid Castile Soap.
SKIP THE DISPOSABLE RAZOR
Buy a razor that uses replaceable heads instead of tossing the whole thing out when it gets dull.
GREEN YOUR PERIOD
Instead of using disposable cotton period products, try a reusable silicone cup, period underwear, and reusable pads. You’ll not only reduce tons of waste, you’ll also potentially save 1,000’s of dollars over the course of your reproductive years.
Can’t deal with reusable products for your period? At least use eco-friendly, 100% organic cotton period products – they’re healthier for your and for the environment.
GREEN YOUR DOG’S POO, TOO
Wait, what?! I just mean you should make sure to use biodegradable poop bags for your pooch! That way, their waste won’t spend decades in a landfill.
REUSE + REPURPOSE
Instead of throwing things away, try to imagine a new purpose for them. Use egg cartons as seed starters or pallets for painting, or take them to your local farm to get them refilled with fresh eggs. Reuse glass jars and bottles as storage containers, flower vases, DIY candle jars, and decorative pieces. With a little creativity, your can turn what you thought was trash into something useful.
Use surge protectors to protect your electronics from power surges and lightening strikes. This can also help you save on energy usage, since when all your plugs are all in one place, you can more easily unplug them from the outlet. Just be sure not to overload each outlet, or you may start a fire.
PRO TIP: Did you know that turning off your electronics or the power strip isn’t enough to save electricity? You actually have to unplug your devices from the outlet. As long as they’re plugged in, electricity will still flow, wasting energy – even when they’re turned off!
REDUCE JUNK MAIL
Not only is junk mail annoying, it’s also extremely wasteful. Over 100 billion pieces of junk mail are stuffed into U.S. mailboxes each year, and most of that goes straight to the landfill.
Go to OptOutPrescreen.com to opt out of credit card and insurance offers.
Stop unwanted catalogs and other junk mail at CatalogChoice.org.
QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
Buy better quality products like clothing, so you won’t have to pay to replace them as often. Learn how to sew, and repair clothes instead of replacing them every time you lose a button or get a small hole.
Online shopping is super convenient, and while some people advocate shopping in physical stores to cut down on packaging, I think it’s a draw. Sure, you can save on packaging at the store if you remember to bring your own shopping bags, but you’re also using gas – a non-renewable resource – to get to the store. Either way, shopping just isn’t very eco-friendly.
If you really want to buy online, try to place fewer orders. When you make one big order instead of a bunch of little ones, your stuff will usually be sent with fewer boxes (unless Amazon sends your order from multiple distribution centers).
No need to buy new. Save the Earth – and your money – by buying lightly used items. They’re often just as good as new, and you’re keeping them out of the landfill.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BELONGINGS
Give your stuff a little TLC, and you might be surprised at how long it lasts. Paying for regular and preventative upkeep on your home and car usually costs less in the long run than neglecting them.
Separate laundry by color to prevent colors from transferring to lighter clothes. Wash jeans inside out. Hand wash lingerie to help it last longer, since the washing machine can damage bras and other delicates.
Dry your clothes on a drying rack or in the sunshine to save on energy costs and keep colors from fading. Use a high quality laundry detergent that doesn’t build up in the fibers and fade colors. A detergent that washes clean can make clothes last longer.
REPAIR, DON’T REPLACE
Have your belongings like clothes, shoes, and other items repaired – or repair them yourself if you have the skills – rather than replacing them. Unless the item is completely ruined, you’ll often save money over buying new.
REUSE WORN OUT CLOTHES
Instead of just tossing out old, worn out clothing, cut them up into reusable cleaning rags.
SELL OR DONATE
Instead of just throwing out your unwanted stuff, consider donating it to charity, selling, or recycling them. Clothing in good condition, eyeglasses, and working electronics can all be donated to charities. Clothing in poor condition can be recycled into reusable bags and other items. Look for drop off locations in your area.
Drop off old, broken electronics like computers, printers, and air conditioners at the recycling center, so they can be disposed of properly to prevent dangerous chemicals from being released into the environment.
Sell unwanted items on your local Facebook Sell and Swap pages.
These 50 Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Home will help you implement a greener lifestyle the easy way! Don’t be intimidated by all these tips. Just try a few at a time. You might be surprised at how easy adopting a greener lifestyle can be once you get started!
What do you think of these waste reducing tips? Have you implemented any green habits into your lifestyle? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!