The average American produces 1,600 pounds of trash a year. That’s one American. In one year. Sixteen hundred pounds of trash. Over four pounds of trash every day. That’s a crazy high number.
Take a look at your trash. What’s in there? Heaps of paper and plastic? Empty bottles? Makeup containers? Unfinished food?
We aimlessly throw things away all day long. What would happen if we got rid of our trash cans? Would we be more mindful every time we went to throw something away? I guess we would have to be, there would be no trash can! We would probably start to ask ourselves more questions, such as:
“Can I recycle this?”
“Does this go in a compost?”
“Did I really need that paper towel?”
“Can I make this product myself?”
"Does that lettuce truly need to be in that packaging?”
If you are reading this post you are probably passionate about how to reduce waste. So here is your first step: look into your garbage can. Dig around a bit. Are you grossed out? That’s okay :) this is an important first step. You need to understand what you are throwing away before you can start to implement ways to reduce waste.
Second step: get rid of your big trash can. Ahh...scary. You can do it :) start off with starting to throw things away in a little trash can, without a lid on it. This will help you recognize what you are throwing away.
Once you have a good understanding of what you are throwing away and using on a daily basis, you can start to make a change. Whether that be one change or all 19 of these changes… small actions turn into big actions. So don’t be overwhelmed, maybe just choose one or two things to do to start off with, slowly incorporating more changes. Or, if you are fully ready to jump in then here are 19 tips on how to reduce waste that you can implement this week! Be the change. And let us know how we can assist you on your journey.
Below you’ll see 4 categories. These are in no particular order of importance, what is important, is completely up to you!
1. Veggies in plastic bags is a no go.
Plastic bags are at our disposal at grocery stores, they are by the tomatoes, the avocados, the onions- is guacamole on my mind? :)- by the cucumbers, lettuces...I mean everywhere. We pull a new plastic bag for each veggie or fruit that we put in our shopping cart. And why? We wash them anyway when we get home. Truly, your fruits and veggies don’t need to be in those bags. Just place them in your cart, or bring your own cloth veggie bag!
2. Food packaged in plastic: why?
I think I saw a meme one time that said something like, “Man too bad nature couldn’t find a way to protect fruits and veggies.” And it had pictures of bananas, pineapples, avocados, etc on it. The meme was full of sarcasm...because all of these are protected with its own skin! Yet, we buy fruits and veggies in plastic containers from the produce section all of the time. Kind of silly, don’t you think? I can’t even play devil’s advocate here...there’s just not really any excuse for it...not to sound harsh. So next time you are at the store? Maybe opt for not buying the pineapple engulfed in plastic. Same with lettuce and spinach. Do we need the lettuce, kale and spinach in plastic?
3. Reusable grocery bags are amazing!
Paper or plastic? That’s the question we get every time we check out at the grocery store! And then when we get home, we are left with countless plastic and paper bags. Sadly, they end up in the trash. It’ll feel good next time to reply, “Neither!” And then hand over your own bags. Did you know that 1. Most grocery stores have reusable bags that you can purchase for cheap? 2. That you typically get a “bag discount” every time you bring your own grocery bags? Amazing!
4. Use growlers for beer
This one requires a little bit more effort, but is completely worth it! If you like beer and purchase it often at your local grocery store, we suggest that you venture out a bit and find a local brewery you like. Most of the time, breweries will have glass growlers that you can buy and they will refill the beer directly into the growler...some even offer discounts for re using the growler. If you are a wino, check out local vineyards. They sometimes have similar deals.
5. Use glass tupperware, recycle plastic tupperware when it’s time.
Do you have countless plastic lids and containers sprawled throughout your cupboards? If so, that’s okay, but when they start to wear down, recycle them. When you buy jam at the store or anything that comes in a glass jar, keep it when you’re done, and use that as a food storage container. Mason jars work wonderfully. If you are ready for new tupperware now, buy glass ones, they last a lot longer.
6. Pack your lunch in glass, not plastic, the extra added weight is worth it.
No more sandwich baggies! We know, they are so convenient! But, we use a ton of them and do we really need them? No, probably not. Use smaller tupperware for what you would put in sandwich baggies. If you have little kiddos that you can’t give glass to, then pack their snacks in recycled plastic tupperware. Trust me, they won’t miss the baggie. Such a small change. So how can you implement this this week? Don’t buy the sandwich baggies when you go to the store. Use your remaining ones, recycle them and be done with them.
7. Don’t be scared of the bulk section.
The more bulk purchases, the less packaging waste. Don’t be scared of the bulk section. One thing to be careful of here is not to buy food that you think you’ll waste. Because that just kind of defeats the purpose :) So, being careful not to fill your food storage container with too much is key here. Buying from bulk bins at the store reduces waste because you can generally bring your own container to fill it with. If you forget your container at home they’ll have plastic bags for you, just be sure to recycle them once you get home.
8. Composting leftover food feeds our soil.
Compost feeds soil. So if you have a garden then this will be an easy thing to start to implement. There are lots of resources out there on how to compost, what to put it in your compost pile, etc. But if you live in an apartment and have no use for compost? Well...first ask around. Do you have any friends that would benefit from your compost? If not, that’s okay, but now it’s time to get creative...and make new food with your scraps. Sounds a little weird, we know. But, it’s actually easier than you might think. Here is a great list of just 13 ways that you can use food scraps if you don’t have a compost.
9. Did you know they have compostable bamboo toothbrushes?
You have options when it comes to how you brush your teeth. Using a compostable bamboo toothbrush is way more eco friendly than your typical toothbrush. We aren’t telling you to go out this minute and buy a new toothbrush and just throw out your other one, but keep it in mind for the next time you or a family member needs a new toothbrush. Because once you are done with your current toothbrush, you can reduce waste next time, and that’s a great thing!
10. Reusable cotton rounds instead of cotton balls.
Cotton balls and pads are a favorite among women who use them to take off makeup, nail polish, or just to clean their face with. However, there is some controversy around the cotton industry and how nasty cotton farming is for the environment. So an option for reducing your cotton consumption is to, next time you're at the grocery store, skip the one time use cotton. Instead, you can buy reusable cotton rounds. Use a cotton round, and then throw it in the wash! Typically they come in packs of eight, so you can use one every day and still have an extra one for laundry day. You’ll be surprised at how much you end up loving these things.
11. Makeup that comes in recyclable packaging is the way to go.
Take a look inside of your makeup bag. Is any of the packaging recyclable? Do you have to throw out cartridges and tubes when it’s out? We know you are probably attached to your makeup and we aren’t telling you that if you keep your same makeup, that it’s bad. Of course it isn’t. We are recommending that you do some research on your makeup brand. When we support eco friendly companies, we support the wellbeing of the earth. And even if they aren’t the most eco friendly, that’s okay, but what can you do to help? Can you recycle any of the materials, or use less packaging by using different refill tactics? Just something to think about.
12. Bulk castile soap is your best friend.
Buying bulk castile soap for your personal hygiene needs is a great way to reduce the amount of packaging you use, and will ultimately is a great tip on how to reduce waste in your home. You can purchase bulk castile soap in local stores, or if you can’t find any, you can divert to purchasing it online. Just keep it mind the resources it takes to ship something. It’s a good balance though. As always, don’t be too hard on yourself, life is all about balance.
13. Have fun and make your own toothpaste.
Not only is this a great way to reduce waste, but it’s also super fun. Get the kiddos involved if you have them, or let your cat play in the baking soda as you make it...just kidding, that’d be a disaster. On a real note, making your own toothpaste reduces waste, is completely safe and natural, and ensures that only pure ingredients are going in your mouth. Baking soda is a natural teeth whitener, so there is no more need to pick out toothpaste that has “whitens your teeth” on the packaging. This recipe already has that covered for ya! Coconut oil is also good for your teeth, and on a side note, is commonly used for oil pulling.
You only need three ingredients to make your own toothpaste. Keep it in a jar, and walla! Immediately reduce your waste at home.
Here is how you make it:
2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 tablespoon baking soda
20 drops organic pure peppermint oil
Mix all the ingredients in a little jar and use a spoon to put a little bit on your toothbrush, and brush away.
No dentists have gotten mad at anyone that we know for using this mix!
14. Stay smelling fresh, opt out of parabens , make your own deodorant.
Another fun one. There is a lot of controversy around deodorant, and we don’t want to get into all of that, ultimately you decide what works best for you and what you want to put on your skin. We are just here to give you options and simply state, that by making your own, you can reduce waste :) You can research different essential oils that work great for deodorants, but the problem we ran into with those, is that the oils are a little too harsh for the skin and need to be diluted. You can dilute essential oils in various ways, using vegetable glycerin, another carrier oil like jojoba, or whatever else you like to use. Here is a recipe that we like from Mommypotamus, and you can add whatever essential oils you like to it.
3/4 cup arrowroot powder/cornstarch (non-gmo)
1/4 cup baking soda
4-6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
*optional essential oil of choice
1. Combine baking soda and arrowroot powder/cornstarch.
2. Add four tablespoons melted coconut oil and mix with a fork. Continue adding coconut oil until the deodorant reaches your preferred consistency. (Use 10-20 drops off essential oil, if choosing to do so)
3. Transfer mixture to a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Good essential oils for deodorant:
15. Goodbye sponges, hello compostable dish brush.
Do you find yourself using sponges a lot? Or throwing away dish brushes because they get disgusting? You can find compostable dish brushes at the store that can serve as a better option. Non toxic-biodegradable brushes are only a few dollars and typically are made with bamboo or some other type of wood. The reason why you want to switch from using sponges is because they typically are non compostable.
16. Skip the paper towels.
It’s so easy to just rip paper towel after paper towel and not even realize every time we use them. Here is an idea, next time you are out of paper towels, don’t buy more. Try going without them for a week. You’ll be surprised at actually how easy the transition is. If that sounds terrifying, then go for the recycled paper towels at the store and just don’t buy as many. Cool? You can do it!
17. Opt for soap and water.
Plastic bottles...chemicals...we just don’t need it. When do we truly need surface cleaner? Going on a limb here and saying...never. Soap and water typically does the trick. And if it doesn’t, vinegar will. If you like the smell of cleaners, add some essential oil to your soap and water mixture. Here is a natural cleaner that you can make yourself to have on hand when soap and water won’t cut it.
½ cup water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
20 drops Tea Tree, Lemon or Eucalyptus oil
18. Make your own laundry detergent.
Yay, another fun one! Making your own detergent can be quite therapeutic. But maybe that’s just us :) Grab the ingredients, turn on the TV and make it a relaxing task. You can make detergent so many different ways. We have the easiest way for you below. Making your own detergent ensures that only pure ingredients are being used to wash the clothes that you wear, and once again, dramatically reduces waste. In the old days, all they used for washing clothes was soap and water. And that’s really all you need. If you don’t want to make your own detergent, just find a brand that you can recycle the packaging and perhaps is an eco friendly company!
Here is a mixture that we like to use:
1 bar of grated soap (you can use a cheese grater, or pulse in a food processor)
1 cup washing soda (you can find this in the laundry detergent area)
1 cup of borax (you can find this in the laundry detergent area)
Around 20 drops of essential oil of choice (lemon is a good one to use for laundry)
Once you grate the soap, mix all of the ingredients together, add the essential oil drops last, and then store in an airtight container.
Use one to two tablespoons per load. This mixture is fine for HE (high efficiency) washers.
Tip: Dr. Bonner’s Sal Suds liquid cleaner is great for stains.
19. Forgo the dryer sheets, and make some dryer balls.
We don’t want to dabble in the dryer sheet debate either...we’ll just say, perhaps don’t use them? :) Or do, that’s okay too. If you do choose to forgo the dryer sheets, dryer balls are a great alternative! They reduce static and the essential oils that you can put in the dryer balls make your clothes smell nice and fresh. You can buy wool dryer balls, local farmer’s markets tend to have them. You can also purchase kits to make your own, or just buy your own wool. The process is pretty simple. You can find video tutorials all over the web but here is the process.
Take your wool and begin to tear off a strip, roll it tightly into a ball, and continue this process until all of your wool is in a ball. Then you’ll grab a pantyhose stocking and place your wool ball all the way into the stocking. Fill up your sink with warm, soapy water and begin to dunk the ball into the warm water. Be gentle with the ball at first. Take the ball out of the water and roll in your hands, continue this process for about 10 minutes, becoming more firm with the ball. Once you feel that the wool fibers have joined, you can take the ball out of the pantyhose and then leave to dry! Drying time could take a couple of days. Once it is fully dry you are free to throw in your dryer. You can add whatever drops of essential oil into the dryer ball to leave your clothes smelling good.
All of these tips on how to reduce waste don’t need to be done this second. Choose the ones that will work best for you and your household. This post was inspired by a video that we saw back in 2015, where a women living in an apartment fit two years of trash into one mason jar. It is possible and she is proof that all of these tips and life changes can be made. If there is anything that we can do to help you along your journey please let us know! And again, be gentle with yourself, don’t feel pressured to implement all changes right away, but you can if you want to. All of our lifestyles are different, but a little mindfulness will go a long way.