The facts are flabbergasting. According to the EPA, the average person creates about four-and-a-half pounds of waste destined for a dumpster each day. Landfills across the country are taking in literal tons of trash each day. And, the most shocking of them all, most people aren’t doing anything to combat their contribution.
Many people think that little changes won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Some worry that the effort will be costly and time consuming. But we’re here to tell you to throw away all of your preconceived notions! (Or maybe recycle them?) Because the little things count, and there are plenty of free and easy ways that you can develop a more sustainable and waste-free lifestyle.
1. Explore the recycling options in your town. Perhaps the most obvious (and effective!) method of reducing waste in your home is to start recycling. It’s an important aspect of sustainability, and many communities offer ample amounts of recycling options. From paper and glass to batteries and electronics, you can recycle most of your waste! So do some research, sort accordingly, and help save the planet.
2. Opt for paper (or reusable) bags. When it comes to deciding between paper or plastic bags for your groceries, opting for biodegradable paper over plastic should be a no-brainer. However, most people prefer the convenience of plastic. If you fall into the latter category, consider buying some reusable cloth bags instead. They offer the same perks as plastic, but without endangering the planet.
3. Avoid disposable things. An astounding number of water bottles, coffee cups, beer bottles, and soft drink containers get thrown away each day, despite the fact that there are plenty of alternative options. So go ahead and invest in those reusable mugs and bottles. Use refillable growlers from your favorite brewery instead of buying a six-pack. Most places offer discounted prices to people that use their own containers, so the extra cost will quickly pay for itself (and will save you money in the long run)!
4. Cancel that junk mail (and always use the paperless options). You know of the mail I speak: the paper spam that is inevitably tossed directly into the trash can without a second glance. With millions of Americans receiving several pounds of junk mail each year, it goes without saying that it all adds up. So take the time to unsubscribe as much of the waste as possible. From selecting the “go paperless” option whenever offered to calling up the places that send you the most mail, there are plenty of ways to reduce the amount of junk that ends up in your mailbox.
5. Donate your old clothes and unused items. Instead of sending unwanted items (from faded tees and frayed jeans to old couches and scuffed tables) to your local landfill, consider taking a trip to a nearby donation center. Many people shop secondhand, and it’s an ideal way to to get the full use out of an item.
6. Look into natural cleaning supply alternatives. There are a lot of questions that go along with this suggestion: “Are natural cleaning supplies as effective?” “Are they really that much better for the planet?” The answer is yes! Science has shown that green supplies are equally effective and much healthier than their chemical-ridden counterparts. (And for those of you not wanting to spend the extra money on name-brand cleaning supplies, vinegar and baking soda are wallet-friendly alternatives to eco-friendly cleaners.)
7. Get into DIY. The concept of making your own stuff might seem a little daunting, but it’s a fun and easy way to practice waste reduction. So track down some empty jars and half-used bottles of essential oils, and make some candles (instead of spending $20 on new ones). Or turn old cereal boxes into brightly colored desk organizers. There are so many ways to turn garbage into greatness!
8. Practice FIFO. For anyone that’s worked in the food industry before, the term “FIFO” (or “First in, First out”) should be familiar. But for those who haven’t, don’t worry! The concept is simple and easy to implement, and it can drastically reduce the amount of waste caused by expired food. The practice entails using or consuming products in the order that you buy them, thereby decreasing the likelihood that it will expire before you get around to eating it. (In other words, eat food before it goes bad!)