A-Z Guide to Reducing Household Waste
For quite some time, I've been on a personal quest for waste reduction (most actively in the past five years). Even as a kid, I clearly remember taking an interest in the environment, and trying to do right by it. Back in the 1980's, I remember people saying "don't be a litterbug," seeing advertising campaigns for recycling and litter prevention, and learning about the three R's - reduce, reuse, recycle (there's a fourth R now - refuse). Growing up, my parents always recycled and I remember helping my dad sort the paper, plastic, glass, and cans before taking it to the recycling center.
I held this interest through high school and college (I was the kid who collected my recycling in cardboard boxes, loaded it in my car, and drug it to the recycling center every month). Post college, I participated in community-wide clean-up events, and donated to environmental groups.
Fast forward to now. Lately, I've really been concentrating on my individual footprint and what I can do to lessen my impact on the earth. Waste and energy reduction is a big topic right now, and for good reason. According to NASA, the earth is in a warming trend and it is extremely likely due to human activity. This is a hot-button political issue and we won't get into that, but regardless of your political viewpoint, I think we can all agree that there is a massive amount of waste in our world and reducing it would be a good thing. I'm also aware that my own individual efforts are a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of worldwide waste, but at least I'm trying. If enough individuals, corporations, and governments could work together and reduce their waste and energy outputs, perhaps that could swing the pendulum in the other direction.
In the spirit of Earth Day (which is fast approaching on April 22, 2018) I compiled an A-Z list of ways to reduce household waste (this includes energy reduction, since wasting energy is well...a waste!) The journey to waste reduction is a process, and is different for everyone. It may involve lifestyle changes, time, and/or resources. The ideas on this list may work for some, and may not work for others, but that's OK! The important thing is to do what you can given your individual circumstances, when you are able, and simply remain conscious about your impact on the environment.
Note: This is a working list and will be updated with additional ideas (because there's a ton of them!)
-Apple orchard - visit an orchard for local, in-season fruit
-Bike or bus
-Buy local (as much as possible!)
-Bidet (or bidet attachment)
-Bulk bins - bonus if your grocery allows you to fill up using your own containers
-Bar Soap (wrapped in paper, not plastic)
-Beeswax wraps, instead of cling wrap
-Composting food scraps
-Cloth baby wipes
-Clothing swaps (with friends, family, co-workers, parent's groups, etc)
-Cleaning supplies (homemade, using non-toxic ingredients such as vinegar)
-DIY projects - make your own t-shirt rugs, curtains out of leftover fabric, bookshelf's from scrap lumber, crafts from up-cycled materials, etc
-Deodorant - make your own, or swipe a slice of lemon under your armpits
-Donate - gently used items, instead of throwing them away. Even obscure items may find a second life somewhere (example: I donated bra's to The Bra Recyclers and textbooks to Better World Books). Even if they can't use them, they dispose of them properly.
-Dryer Sheets - switch to wool dryer balls
-Energy efficient applicances
-Experiences - Need to purchase a gift? Give the gift of an experience, rather than a material item
-Fermented foods - homemade fermented foods are rich in probiotics
-Family cloth - use cloth in place of toilet paper
-Forgo Laundry Softener
-Forgo pesticides in your yard and garden
-Gift swap - swap gifts at the holidays instead of purchasing new (examples: book swap or toy swap)
-Homemade foods - such as bread, fruit vinegar, sour cream, pizza crust, pizza sauce, jam, applesauce, hummus, mushroom soup, sauerkraut, etc.
-Homemade products - such as lotion bars, air freshener, bath bombs, chapstick, body scrubs, etc.
-Insulation - insulate your water heater, walls, attic, and garage
-Junk mail - ask to be taken off subscriptions lists
-Keurig - use reusable coffee K-cups
-Less packaging - and choose easier to recycle packaging (such as paper instead of Styrofoam or plastic)
-Line dry clothing
-Library - rent books, instead of purchasing new
-Napkins (use cloth)
-Newspaper - switch to reading online
-Open - in the winter; open your dishwasher after washing, your oven after baking, and your curtains to let the sunshine in
-Package free - select products with the least amount of packaging. (examples: use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, fresh garlic instead of jarred, etc)
-Pack lunches - using reusable containers
-Parties - host eco-friendly parties. Click here for an example of an eco-friendly new years eve party
-Produce bags (reusable)
-Reusable shopping bags
-Refuse - some examples of items I refuse are dryer sheets, conditioner, perfume, and single use plastic whenever possible
-Repair - make an attempt to repair your damaged items before purchasing new
-Stainless steel straws
-Safety razor (but please be careful!)
-Sandwich bags (reuseable)
-Thermostat - turn it down in the winter and up in the summer. According to my local energy company, my home went from "average" to "efficient," and this is a big reason why.
-Toothbrush - make the switch to a more Eco-friendly option (compostable, wooden, bamboo)
-Toilet paper - use 100% recycled, or family cloth
-Textiles - recycle old clothing and fabric, instead of throwing them in the landfill
-Turn off lights when not in use
-Tableware - real is best. If that's not possible, opt for Eco-friendly options (products using recycled material, compostable products). Note: most commercial compostable tableware must be composted in an industrial compost facility, however I have found brands that can be composted at home.
-Upcycle - turn old t-shirts into pet toys, empty wine bottles into centerpieces, old wrapping paper into party decorations
-Utilize the farmers market - for example, purchase eggs at the market and bring the containers back to the vendor for reuse
-Unpaper towels (use cloth instead of paper towels)
-Vacation- drive instead of fly
-Vacuum sealer - use a food sealer designed for glass containers, instead of plastic
-Water bottle (reusable)
-Wool dryer balls
-Wrap gifts in cloth
-Xerox machine - use recycled paper, and only make as many copies needed
-Xmas - homemade gifts (or no gifts), DIY decorations using up-cycled materials, Eco-friendly wrapping paper (cloth, newspaper, Kraft paper)
(Clearly, I'm grasping at straws with this letter!)
-Yard sales (shop for secondhand items)
-Ziploc Bags - don't use them; store leftovers in reuseable containers