Looking to reduce the trash that comes into your home? I don’t blame you: The average American creates approximately 4.4 pounds of waste per day. That’s about 29 pounds of trash per week. Crazy, huh? Well, there’s definitely hope. I recommend practicing a zero waste lifestyle. For those who aren’t aware, zero waste doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never create trash again. Sadly, we live in a linear economy, instead of a circular one, so creating no trash at all is kind of impossible. Things are designed for the trash can, instead of longevity. The system sets you up for failure so you’ll continue to purchase single use items over and over again. However, there are plenty of ways we can fight this and embrace an economy that promotes reducing waste. Here’s how to reduce trash, save money and go green.
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It’s important to reduce the amount of trash we make on an individual level, as well as a society. Here are some steps you can take right now to make this world a little less trashy. For even more ways to eliminate waste, download my free ebook 10 Ways to Reduce Trash!
Before I went zero waste, I thought I was helping the Earth simply because I recycled. I was so wrong. Plopping emptied out plastic water bottles into recycling bins doesn’t mean I’m saving the Earth. In fact, there’s a good chance that plastic won’t even get recycled, due to many various factors.
For starters, did you know only 9 percent of plastic actually gets recycled? And if you think that’s bad, take into consideration we’ve generated over 8.3 billion tons of the stuff since large scale production began.
If we continue to consume plastic mindlessly, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. There really WILL be more plastic than fish in the ocean by then, if that’s the case.
To add more flame to the fire, China has stopped accepting our waste. Now, the plastic build up in the US is getting out of hand because of this.
The reason China isn’t accepting any more? The plastic simply is not clean enough. Harmful contaminants are mixing in with recyclable materials and polluting the water and land.
Americans don’t exactly have the best (or strictest) recycling policy, so it makes sense this keeps happening. And I certainly don’t blame China for wanting to protect their people.
But the truth is, all of this waste is getting out of hand, and it just goes to show recycling is not the end all answer.
So, what can we do? Stop relying on recycling so much, for starters. It’s a good place to start but a poor place to end.
Instead, lets reduce the amount we have to recycle entirely. Making the switch to reusable items is a much better solution. We need products that are built to last, not designed to last five minutes for convenience. Because in truth, it’s really not convenient at all for the planet.
Jumping off the “stop relying on recycling” band wagon – I definitely recommend investing in reusable items! When you own reusable products, they help you avoid so much trash it’s not even funny.
Not to mention, reusables will also save you money in the long run. For example, when I first went zero waste, one of the first items I bought was a reusable water bottle. I’ve had it for years now, and it’s saved me hundreds I would’ve spent on single use water bottles.
Another example? Disposable plates. Think about how much money you wind up spending on those every week or month, versus how much you save when you eat off reusable ones. Plus, reusable plates look nicer too!
Here are the top reusable items I recommend investing in:
These basic zero waste essentials will help you reduce waste very easily. I carry them around with me in my bag all the time. They’ve helped me divert so much trash from the landfill, plastic and paper alike.
Food shopping tends to generate a lot of waste. Whenever possible, I recommend getting your food as package free as possible.
For me, this means hitting up the farmers market with all my reusable produce bags and totes. Also, I’ll go to the health food store that’s a few train rides away from me to restock on dry goods because they have a bulk section there as well.
I really encourage you to look into your local farmers market. See if you have any near you! A quick google search should yield some results. If so, make sure you bring your totes and reusable produce bags with you to avoid creating any waste.
It’s important to support your local market because everything there was grown, well, locally. Plus there aren’t any annoying produce stickers on your food (though there may be some rubber bands wrapped around leafy greens – you can simply return these to the farmers every week you come back).
For those who don’t have access to farmers markets, that’s okay. I suggest looking at your local grocery store and seeing if they have package free fresh produce. Mine does – it’s a huge section that makes shopping there waste free very easy (aside from the silly produce stickers).
If you don’t have a bulk food store, that’s okay too. Just check and see if your local grocery store have the items you’re looking for in plastic-free packaging. I always recommend choosing paper, cardboard, glass, or aluminum packaging over plastic. These items are easier to recycle, can be reused, or even composted.
If for whatever reason you have to buy something in plastic packaging, it’s not the end of the world. Try to get the biggest plastic packaging they offer, so it’s easier to recycle and doesn’t get lost in the recycling bin.
If it’s in a plastic bag, look into seeing if there’s any plastic film drop off locations near you, as plastic bags often aren’t accepted with regular recycling (by plastic bags, I’m talking beans, carrots or celery wrapped in plastic bags by the way).
Too often when something breaks, we’re quick to toss it in the trash. I encourage you to re-evaluate that kind of thinking.
Instead, look at the item and analyze whether or not it can be easily repaired. Perhaps a button popped off your jeans, or your hanger broke. Can you patch it up without it costing an arm and a leg? If so, do it!
Consider learning the basics of sewing – this will help you a lot further down the road in terms of repairing items. You’ll be able to mend holes in your leggings, fix buttons, and stitch on patches to cover unsightly marks.
I also highly suggest getting familiar with your local tailor – they can help mend your clothes so they stay wearable. Also, I recommend checking out your local cobbler for any shoe repairs you might need. I still need to go visit mine to repair my favorite pair of boots!
As far as electronics, appliances or vehicles go, take it to a repairman before buying a replacement.
Last, but certainly not least, compost. I know you’re probably scratching your head right now and wondering how composting reduces waste. The answer: How doesn’t it?
If you’ve ever cooked in the kitchen before, chances are you’ve noticed how wasteful cooking is. There’s a lot of food scraps that end up right in your trash can. What’s worse is they start to stink!
Well, I have a solution for that: Start composting! Compost is made up of two parts: Greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon). Greens consist of food scraps, while browns consist of dry yard waste and paper.
If you have a backyard, you can create your own compost pile. Just grab a bin that’s at least 3 feet in diameter and fill it with soil, browns and then the greens. Make sure to add some water to the compost pile until moist but not soaking wet, then mix it up and let it sit. You can add to it as time progresses, always keeping a balance of browns and greens. Cover it to keep any pests out.
If you have an apartment (like me), you can invest in a compost pail. Here’s the ultimate guide to composting in an apartment.
Composting will ensure your excess food won’t go to waste, and your garden will certainly thank you for the additional nutrients too!
For more ways to recycle your food, be sure to check out this mega list of food waste recycling options.