Tips for Reducing Waste at Home

You might have heard about the guy who saved all of his garbage for one year to see what it would be like if he had to live with his own waste. He composted and reused what he could, but still ended up with a good deal of trash stored in his home. Ari Derfel saved all of his trash from December 4, 2006 until December 4, 2007, during which he claims he began to feel every purchase he made.

When you go to buy a bottle of juice, can of soda, or carton of milk, stop and think about where that container came from. It was made in a factory somewhere, then shipped somewhere else for bottling and packaging, and trucked to the store where you are now buying. Once you are done drinking your soda, you recycle the can. But what happens to the can after that?

Ari Defel and his trash
Ari Defel and his trash

If you stop to think about the entire process, you might stop and make smarter choices when you buy. We live in a world where convenience is offered to us in nicely wrapped packages, and this is okay as long as we are socially responsible about how we treat these packages. There are some simple things you can do to prevent waste.

Reduce – Buy less small packages. I know that the individually wrapped packages and drinks are convenient, but they are wasteful. Buying in bulk saves you money and has less packaging. If you love the idea of individually wrapped servings, simply use small, reusable containers to divide up the bulk product.

Reuse – You don’t have to toss out plastic tubs after you use up whatever came in it. I reuse yogurt containers all the time to store leftovers in. You simply have to wash them out before using. When you do decide to get rid of them, you can recycle them—but know that they have lived a full life.

Say No To Bags – Instead of choosing between plastic or paper, don’t use a bag. If you only purchase one or two items, you might be able to carry them. Try putting small things in your pocket or purse. If you are getting a lot, take your own reusable bags or a backpack. There is no need to recycle bags if you don’t use them in the first place. Some grocery stores will put your items in a bag without asking, but I will simply take my items out and leave the bag at the counter.

Reusable Containers – Buy reusable containers, like water bottles and travel mugs. Instead of buying individual bottles of water that you will end up recycling or coffee cups that get tossed, buy reusable ones. You can wash them each day, and fill them as you need to. Some stores, like Whole Foods, let you bring your own containers to purchase things like fresh peanut butter, honey, olive oil, and flour (just to name a few).

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How do you reduce waste? 9 comments

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Great advice. I've finally gotten my family into using the old recycle bin that has been sitting in the backyard for years. My room is currently stuffed with newspaper, bottles, and cans, just waiting on the recycle man... I keep missing him week after week. Oops


writewanda profile image

writewanda 8 years ago

Greeat article. I also save my water bottles and reuse them, recycle, and put kool-aid in my kids lunch in those small milk containers that comes with the kids meals at Mcdonalds. The open yogurt containers are also good for crafta and painting. Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it!


Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle Author

Whitney, my grandparents stopped recycling because it was "too much work" and they don't "create a lot" of waste. I tried pointing out that if everyone says that, there is a lot of waste created...it's like talking to a brick wall.

writewanda, thanks for bringing up crafts. I also reuse container for crafts. My husband always asks why I keep so much garbage, but I use it all!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

The craft angle is very good. 

Perhaps younger people [our church youth group does it] could pick up the recycling for senior citizens, and seniors could reduce consumerism to the mimimum themselves. Would grandparents accept that?

Recycling plants pay 57 cents/pound (16 soda cans)here right now.

Excellent Hub.


AmandaB profile image

AmandaB 8 years ago from Middletown

I've never thought about trying to keep all of my trash to see how much I waste, but it's an excellent idea. The mere thought proves a HUGE point!

Great Hub!


annaw profile image

annaw 8 years ago from North Texas

Good Hub.I do some of the things suggested because it just makes better sense. Growing up my mom would keep every single country crock container she could and would be fighting mad if I threw away one or forgot to return it after I had taken something home in it. I also do not use a new trash bag everytime.For example if I have something wet to dispose of, I wrap it in newspaper before putting in trash.If I am throwing away vegetable cans etc. I take the extra time to be certain they are upright. Thanks again for the great info and food for thought


michelle willow profile image

michelle willow 7 years ago from Croatia / Europe

Always appreciate new tips on reducing waste and reusing stuff! Nice hub!


carriegoff profile image

carriegoff 6 years ago from Michigan

Great ideas! Throwing away everything is definately a habit that can be broken, but some nuts are tougher to crack than others. If I find a cereal box or plastic container in the trash, my kids scatter!! They may laugh at my "obsessions" now, but I think they will be recyclers if I just stick to my guns. It bothers me that in our area, only #1 and #2 plastic is recyclable. So, any cottage cheese or yogurt containers have to go in the garbage. It's very frustrating to not have another choice. I suppose I could attempt to make my own yogurt and cottage cheese, but I KNOW my family wouldn't go for that!


Jamia 3 years ago

Thanks for the comment. We will deinfitely try our best to spread such initiative around our campus. I believe the biggest obstacle for a lot of traveling people to use reusable water bottles and refill is that people usually want to travel light and they usually do not have much room left for a reusable water bottle. So they would rather buy water when they need it and throw it away once they finish the bottle. This thinking sometimes came across my mind as well. But we should deinfitely work on changing people's mindset. One of the thing Brown does is that we do not sell any bottled water and it has been working well so far. Also, we have just installed some new water refilling machine which have a counter showing us how many plastic water bottles we have save. I personally love this gadget because the number shown encourages me not to use disposable water bottle and also allowing me to have a concrete idea of how many disposable water bottle we are all actually saving. I just visited your blog, and I like it a lot. Keep it up of spreading the nature pursuing message as well and happy Earth day.

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