Trash is all around us, but it’s something most of don’t normally think about. Take a walk around any street in your community and you’re bound to find small bits of plastic, plastic drink bottles, cigarette butts littered on the side of the road, and an overflowing trash can or two. And it’s no wonder, the average American creates nearly 4.5 pounds of trash per day! With the amount trash we create individually each day, have we ever wondered about how we could all make a whole lot less of it?
Here are 10 simple ways to dramatically reduce your trash footprint. Remember to go slow, make small changes and simple swaps and soon you’ll be on your way to less trash!
- Simplify Less is more. Reducing consumer wants and needs and focusing more on experiences rather than stuff is a way to cut waste. Not to mention when we simplify our needs and stuff, we make life a little less overwhelming and being less overwhelmed allows us more room to breathe and to take in what we truly value and love. Simplifying also allows us to be more organized and to be more thoughtful with what we choose to add into our life.
- Bring Your Own! No need to use something once and toss it. Bringing your own durable reusable items to take the place of single-use items is one of the easiest things we can do each day. Bring your own durable reusable mug, cup, or thermos for hot or cold drinks. Bring your own cloth grocery and produce bags to take the place of plastic bags and plastic produce bags at the market. Bring your own napkin to avoid paper napkins. Bring your own container to bring leftovers back from a restaurant.
- Go Reusable! Let’s face it, we live in a disposable world. Nearly everything we consume is often used only once and then tossed. Everything from razor blades, diapers, paper towels, coffee cups, straws, food containers, utensils, and even floss! When you think of it, many of these items that we use once and then toss require lots of energy to make. From extraction to manufacturing, shipping, and consumer use, then often a quick disposable. All to use something once? I suggest taking a look at all the single-use disposable items in your home and that you come across in your day and make the switch one by one to a durable reusable. For example, you can Invest in a reusable safety razor set to take the place of disposable razor blades. Safety razor’s may seem a little daunting at first, but are incredibly easy to use and will save you lots of money in the long run. Also shaving soap bars are inexpensive and last for months!
- Refuse It Refusing single-use disposable items and overly packaged foods and products is an easy way to prevent day to day trash. Here’s a tip, next time you order a drink at a restaurant or bar, kindly ask your server for no plastic straw. Over 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the United States alone! That is a lot of plastic waste! Make it a point to refuse freebies and swag from events and conferences too.
- Start Sharing Sharing platforms are a great way to buy less, therefore avoiding new packaging. Sharing platforms are popping up everywhere. From sharing libraries, bike & car sharing, gardens and even tool sharing. Not one in your area? Start your own!
- Community Power What’s in your community? I’ve found a host of local inexpensive handmade items made from people in my community. Handmade soaps, breads, and even handmade knitted socks, hats, and sweaters!
- Get Thrifty! One my favorite do-it-yourself trash-free tips is to make your own tissues! I have two tissue jars in my house. One made from old curtains and one made from an old scarf. I cut up the unwanted fabric into squares and stuff them into glass mason jars. They feel great on my nose and because I make so many, I don’t have to do laundry all of the time.
- Simple Cleaning Most cleaning supplies come in plastic packaging, and not to mention can be full of artificial smells and chemicals. Make cleaning at home simple and easy by using all natural cleaning agents, which are also ingredients you might already have for cooking: baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils. I can clean my whole home with just these few ingredients. Not to mention the waste stream this was is near nonexistent.
- Pressure Cooker – If you want to make inexpensive, healthy, and quick meals get yourself a pressure cooker. I’ve had mine for over 10 years and still works like a charm. I’ve made hundreds of meals from simple plant-based ingredients. Imagine feeding a family of 4 for under $10! One of my favorite meals to make in my pressure cooker is a black bean and quinoa stew. Tomatoes, onions, quinoa, black beans, peppers, and spices! Yum!
- Compost – We’d be surprised on how much of our household trash is food waste. Starting a compost is a great way to take that waste and turn it into something useful. No space? No worries. I lived in a small apartment and didn’t have a yard, so I started my own worm compost! They are easy to start and for the most part easy to maintain. The worms do most of the work. Learn more about vermicomposting here. You can also see if you can share a compost with a friend, family member, or a local farmer!
About the author of this post:
Andrea Sanders lives in Boulder, Colorado and is the founder and director of Be Zero, a non-profit with a mission to inspire, educate and activate individuals to rethink their trash and plastic footprint and lead simple and sustainable Zero Waste lifestyles.