Looking to switch up your New Year’s resolution so you don’t have to pretend that you’re actually going to hit up the gym for the third year in a row (believe me, been there, done that). Here’s a suggestion that will help you, your wallet, and the environment: Reduce your waste!
Let’s start with some facts:
- Did you know each person throws away an average of 4 lbs of trash per day!?
- Americans generate approximately 254 million lbs of trash per year.
These facts are not to say that every person throws out 4 lbs everyday…remember this is an average. When I first heard these facts was when I really started thinking hard about sustainability and what we can reasonably do to do our part in taking care of the environment. Then I drove past a local landfill and started thinking…what happens to all our trash!? Think about how many people there are in the world…that is a lot of garbage!
Worrying about sustainability and the environment is no longer just a “hippie” thing. It needs to be an “everyone” thing! You may think, what can I do, I’m just one person!? However, think about all the landfill space we could save if you reduced your trash to just 3 lbs per day. That’s 365 lbs of trash saved per year! If 10 people do that, it’s 3,650 lbs of trash that isn’t rotting in a landfill.
How to Start Reducing Your Waste
So what can you do? I’m not suggesting going “zero waste” right this minute. We live in the 21st century…zero waste is not realistic for everyone (including myself). However, these are some things I have done or looked into to do my part. Decide which changes you might incorporate into your life so you lessen your footprint on our planet earth.
Let’s start off simple. Stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. Everyone has cloth bags lying around. Gather them in one place and bring them to the grocery store to use instead of taking home 10-20 plastic bags. Also, my grocery store always asks me if I want my meat in additional plastic bags..my answer is always no! What a waste of plastic!
Purchase mesh produce bags to put your fruits and veggies in at the grocery store instead of plastic produce bags. I got these and love them (pictured). These bags are washable and of course, reusable.
Skip the Baggies, Use Containers
When packing your lunch, putting food in plastic bags may be easier and more convenient. However, if you make a sandwich for lunch everyday and put it in a Ziplock baggie, that’s 260 baggies per year! Stop buying plastic baggies and start using plastic or glass reusable containers. Pro tip: make sure you have a good supply to get you through the week (I pack 3-4 containers in my lunch per day!) I purchased this 42-piece Rubbermaid set from Amazon and I love them.
Paper Towel Alternative
Stop using paper towels. Instead, use washable cloths/rags. I used to think paper towels were essential. However, since we stopped buying them and went to using washable cloths, I haven’t missed them at all. To make the transition easier, try these Heavy Duty Eco Friendly Machine Washable Reusable Bamboo Towels – One roll replaces 6 months of towels!
Pro tip: make sure your husband knows that you don’t throw these away, or else you will have to buy more!
Take a look at your toiletries. So much of what we use are sold in large plastic bottles that we just throw away. Consider these alternatives:
- Buy bar shampoo. In addition to not having a plastic container, bar shampoo is also great for traveling because there’s no liquid. My mom loves her organic bar shampoo that is scented with essential oils. Remember to store it away from water so it lasts a long time.
- Bamboo toothbrushes: These toothbrushes are 100% biodegradable.
- Find a local shop that sells homemade soaps/lotions. I like Bath and Body Creations in northern WI. Local places like these are great, because I can bring my empty soap/lotion bottles back to have them refilled, so I don’t have to throw them out. And they offer a 10% discount if you do this! Talk about a win-win. Do some research and see if there are any similar places where you live.
- I know there are alternatives to feminine hygiene products, like Diva Cups or cardboard tampons. I myself am not yet willing to use these…but if these interest you, do some research!
Compost Food Waste
Start composting! Instead of throwing uneaten food/scraps away, compost them! This fall I started using my raised garden after the plants died to compost. However, I am still looking into the best way to compost. If anyone had any tips, post in the comments!
Shop local or hit up the farmers market. Instead of buying a bag of carrots, buy them from a local farmer who doesn’t use plastic packaging. This may be difficult depending on where you live or time of year (Wisconsin in the winter is not optimal for farmers markets!).
Bonus: Another reason shopping local helps the environment is that carbon emissions during shipping are a major offender when it comes to environmental concerns. Find a market you can walk or bike to is one of the best ways to support the environment while you shop.
Straws (The Little Things Add Up!)
Let’s talk straws. If you eat out (or stop for a soda on your way home from work) 3 times per week. That is 156 straws per year! Refuse the straw when they offer it and bring your own stainless steel straw to use instead. Bring them to restaurants, or just forego straws all together when eating out. Here is a set of 8 stainless steel straws that includes a wire brush cleaner and a carrying bag to keep an extra straw in your purse.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)
When getting your morning cup of coffee, bring your own reusable travel cup instead of using their paper/plastic ones.
Also, be sure to take your own reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go. (I hate to even think about all the waste created by disposable plastic water bottles.)
Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle
As you can see, these suggestions are all reasonable things we can all do to reduce our trash that doesn’t require crazy lifestyle changes. If you are interested in taking it a step further, read the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) website for even more suggestions for how to reduce your waste at home. Read our article about using essential oils to clean your house to reduce chemicals and plastic bottles. And as always, remember to Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle!