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How many things do you buy that ultimately end up in a landfill? 30% of your purchases? 40%? More?
As our lives have gotten busier, the need for instant gratification has increased. Which means single-serving sizes, plastic packaging, and products that are cheaper and pretty, but also lower quality. Driving more frequent replacements and much, much more waste.
In our home, we are always looking for ways to reduce waste. We may not be ready to go zero waste, but we do try to keep a green home. It’s good for the environment, reduces clutter (both mental and physical), and it saves us money!
Here’s how you can start cutting back on the waste generated at your house today!
1 – Get Organized
It will be REALLY hard to reduce waste at home if you don’t even know what all you have.
“We are out of tape again?! I guess we need to go and buy more,” when really you have tape hidden in 5 other places already.
So, make sure everything has a place and everything is in its place. Of course, it’s next to impossible to do this perfectly, especially when living with little ones, but a bit of organization goes a long way.
Always ask yourself, “Is there a place for this in my home?” If not, do you really need it?
2 – Pass on Freebies
You’re not saving money or benefiting yourself by taking something for free that you didn’t really need. This is a statement I need to tell myself over and over.
Every item in your home has a cost. Whether it be to maintain it, store it, or actually buy it purchase. Free things take up space in your home. It will only add unnecessary waste and clutter. Say no.
If it’s an item you actually had on a list of course grab it. It’s free! But don’t grab something just because it’s free.
3 – Buy Quality Over Quantity
How many times have you bought the best deal over the best reviewed?
Washing machines, knives, patio furniture, plastic storage boxes.
Buying the cheaper product might be easier on your wallet today, but it is more costly and harder on the environment in the long-term. Each time you have to replace a cheaper item, when a higher-quality one would still be running strong, increases your total amount of waste.
Always search for purchases by “best reviewed” and look at the volume of reviews. And save up for the better version, instead of pulling the trigger on something that will break or wear out in three months.
4 – Reduce Mail Waste
Paperless billing and automatic withdrawals will reduce the amount of paper waste entering your home.
Most bills you receive will note both of these options right on your bill (and often offer benefits for opting to paperless). As you pay each bill this month, take two minutes to set up paperless billing. You will thank yourself later.
You can also get off junk mail lists – credit card offers, phone books, and catalogs. Learn where to opt-out at Eco-Cycle.
5 – Reduce Food Waste
Do you know how much food Americans waste each year? A shocking 30-40%! This statistic can be hard to swallow, especially when there are still people dying of hunger. According to the USDA, food waste is also the single largest group going into landfills. This then leads to the third largest contributor to methane in the environment.
So, how can we help that percentage go down? Here are some simple ways I have found to reduce food waste.
- Meal Plan. This can be as simple or as fancy as you want it but it is such an effective tool to save on food cost and waste. My personal strategy is to make a rotating 2 week meal plan each month. This allows you to stretch ingredients (and simplifies meal preparation).
- Every 3 months have a pantry/refrigerator clean out challenge. Take stock of all your items and get creative until the majority has run out. Once again less waste and this helps your food budget (I also find the challenge quite fun!)
- Compost. Not only is this a great science experiment if you have kids around, but it’s such an awesome way to reuse food into something usable…SOIL. People pay top dollar for composted soil but it’s quite simple to do! You can either buy a pre-made compost bucket for your yard or a tall laundry basket or trash can with holes can work quite well. You can find a book or youtube video on the specifics but a compost is a mix of yard waste, and food waste (and nature provides the decomposers). Items you can compost: Fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds… many of the items you trash everyday!
- Plan for a leftover meal. I have a family of 6 and we like to call this our “Choose Your Own Adventure” meal. We do it for one of our weekend lunches or dinners before I grocery shop. I take everything edible out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter and put out a stack of plates. The kids enjoy making their own choices and own concoctions.
6 – Reduce Plastic Waste
Plastic products have their place but for regular disposable use it is a major source of waste in the home.
Here are some ideas to reduce plastic waste:
- Give everyone in the home 1 or 2 water bottles. Make it a habit to fill these and stick them in the refrigerator so they can be grab and go for your busy family.
- Use cloth napkins. These don’t have to be fancy, and you can find them at thrift stores or clearance aisles. Bonus…you will impress guests and they won’t fly away when eating outdoors. We place them on the back of our chairs after each meal and then set aside for the wash.
- Use glass containers for leftovers. Not only does plastic food storage prove to be unsafe for your body, but it also wears down faster.
- Purchase stainless steel straws. If someone in your family loves straws, invest in some stainless steel ones to replace all that plastic! They feel more like regular straws than glass and last forever!
7 – Clean with Microfiber
I am a huge fan of microfiber. It has reduced so much clutter, cost, and waste in my home.
With just a few cloths, I can clean my entire home. And all I need is WATER. It’s also a great way to incorporate the kids into cleaning without fear of them working with chemicals.
When you do need a little boost, use cleaning products that reduce waste. Branch Basics is a gentle cleaner without harmful chemicals, that still cleans incredibly well. And since all the different cleaners are made from one concentrate, the product is set up for you to refill your bottles.
8 – Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Set up a recycling center in your home with a simple print out telling your family what your city recycles. You can find this on your city’s website. It’s surprising what materials they can recycle (and can’t!)
Think about what is recyclable when you’re buying products as well. Try to avoid plastics or products that will end up in landfills.
9 – Use Reusable Bags
I hate it when you go to the grocery store for five things and somehow end up with eight plastic bags. Instead, opt for reusable bags.
We like thick canvas bags. You load them down with books, groceries, road trip supplies, or whatever you need. Since many houses seem to attract piles of reusable bags, you can also find them at your local thrift store at a fraction of the cost.
The biggest mistake I make is forgetting to use them. To help with this, I store them in my trunk and put a child in charge of the bags each grocery trip (one less thing for you to remember!). If you do forget, opt for paper. You can definitely recycle that or sometimes use it in your compost!
10 – Don’t Buy Things You Don’t Need
Finally, our biggest and most important way to reduce waste.
Stop buying things you don’t need.
Whether that means skipping the plastic toy your kids will play with twice and then forget about. Or opting for a clothing swap over new jeans. Making the decision to only purchase what you need means fewer things that will be decluttered to be left in a landfill. Better for you and better for the environment.
When you’re stuck, think through the thought process of a frugal mind.
Saving the Environment & Your Wallet!
Once you start reducing waste in your home, you can begin to reap the benefits of a simplified budget as well as fewer bags of trash to drag out to the curb each week. You’ll feel more grateful for the things you do purchase and better about your long-term impact on our planet.
What is your favorite way to reduce waste at home? Share your strategies in the comments!