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Simple Tactics for Reducing Disposable Waste at Home

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Let’s face it: we throw away too much stuff. I don’t think I’ll get any argument there. The disposable waste problem in America is tragic. Disposable products, packaging, electronics that seem to define planned obsolescence, it all ends up in the landfill. Here’s how to reduce waste in your home, painlessly.

recyclable tin and plastic in a green bin from above

 

Shop smarter to reduce waste

The first and most obvious way to reduce waste is to stop bringing it into your house in the first place. If it has a package, consider other alternatives.

  • Can you make it yourself (breadice)?
  • Can you choose a different product with better packaging (loose tomatoes instead of those in plastic packages or spaghetti sauce in glass rather than plastic)?
  • Can you do without or get it second hand?

More ways to reduce waste when shopping:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags with you.
  • Don’t bring home paper towels and paper napkins. Instead, use rags for cleanup and cloth napkins for meals.
  • Invest in some good glass storage containers so you don’t rely on zip top bags for storing food.
  • Skip the Styrofoam. If you must use disposable plates or cups, opt for a compostable version.
  • Stop buying items in single-use containers: Most drinks come in containers that are meant to be tossed. If you must have juice, make it at home. And pick up a reusable water bottle.
Ban fruit flies in your compost with these easy tricks.

Compost

If you’re not composting yet, consider this the nudge you need to do so. Divert your kitchen scraps from the landfill and make garden gold.  Try composting with worms or start an easy compost pile. Figure out what works and do it. There’s no reason to toss the kitchen scraps you generate; turning them into a soil booster is a great way to reduce waste in the home.

Donate items

I once worked for a woman who threw her toddler daughter’s outgrown clothes away. Like, in the garbage. I doubt anyone here is doing that, but think about what you toss.

  • The local preschool might be able to use some of those obscure packages in craft projects.
  • Your friend with chickens might appreciate your egg cartons.
  • A local business that ships products might like that bubble wrap that your birthday gift came in.

Cook from scratch to reduce waste

Buying a pre-made salad at the deli counter is fast, but leaves you with the hard plastic clam shell packaging to throw away. Instead, buy a head of lettuce, use your cloth produce bags, and top with whatever veggies are in season. Skip the canned soups and make your own. Or learn to replace one of your favorite supermarket “cheat foods” with a homemade version. You’ll eat better and avoid the disposable waste.

More ideas to reduce waste at home:

  • Use up your leftovers.
  • Get a reusable coffee filter. Especially if you have a Keurig machine. Those pods are an environmental nightmare.
  • Ditch the plastic wrap. Make these beeswax wraps to use instead.
  • Buy food in bulk to cut down on packaging.
5 wooden spoons filled with spices as an example of how to avoid disposable waste

Recycle

In my mind, it’s more important to reduce the amount of recyclable items that we use first, but if you must use them then please recycle. In this household, we fill about one kitchen trash can every two weeks. It’s primarily filled with plastic: Toilet paper wrapping, the plastic safety bands from supplement bottles, tortilla packages.

I’m sure that’s a lot less than some of you, and more than others. In any case, it makes me cringe every time we fling our trash over the edge at the transfer station. I’m certainly not aspiring to zero-waste like this family, but we need to reduce the waste we produce.

So. Will you come clean and tell us how many bags of trash you go through a week? And what are you willing to do to reduce that amount of waste?

metal trash can with plastic waste overflowing

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

2 comments… add one
  • Susan Jun 23, 2018, 2:44 pm

    I’m wondering why you are ‘certainly not aspiring to zero waste?’ You make it sound like there is something wrong with that aspiration.

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 28, 2018, 12:50 pm

      Not at all! I applaud people who are aspiring to it, or have achieved it. Zero waste is a pretty huge mountain to climb, though, and I’m being honest. My gluten free flours,for instance, aren’t available in bulk, so they DO generate packaging. I don’t want people to think that the only answer is zero waste — there’s a LOT of waste that can be eliminated even if people aren’t aiming to eliminate it all.

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