Simple Ways to Reduce Waste at Home
Preventing environmental damage sounds like a near-impossible mission, one that would take the whole world banding together to accomplish. But you don’t have to turn your whole life upside down or wait for a movement to be part of the solution rather than the problem. You can take easy steps in your everyday life to reduce waste and inspire change around you.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
This is one of the easiest ways you can reduce waste and start living a greener lifestyle. Cutting out single-use plastic bags from your shopping routine can truly make a difference, but be wise about what you replace them with. It’s great to have a few reusable bags that you use and wipe clean often, but if you find yourself buying a new reusable bag every time you forget one, you’re not necessarily helping the cause. Remember to use the reusable bags you already own. Opt for paper or for carrying your items if you forget.
Avoid Individually-Wrapped Items
The next time you go to the grocery store, look around. You may find items like two apples encased together in Styrofoam and plastic—which clearly doesn’t make sense from an environmental standpoint. Keep looking around and you’ll see that everything, from plastic water bottles to individually-wrapped breakfast pastries, are irresponsibly packaged. Instead of buying individually-wrapped products, buy in bulk—but make sure that your bulk items aren’t individually wrapped inside the larger packaging.
When your food and yard scraps are thrown away, they go to a landfill. This means they have to be transported, which requires fuel, and then are dumped in waste pile that produces methane and must be burned, creating greenhouse gas emissions. When you compost, however, the organic materials break down naturally to create nutrient-rich “waste” matter that will nourish the plants in your garden.
Cut out Plastic Straws
Plastic straws may seem like a tiny problem. But over 500,000 plastic straws are produced every day, and they’re among the top 10 marine debris items. These find their way to the ocean, where marine mammals and seabirds ingest them. Instead of contributing to this problem, make this small life change for the better of the world. At restaurants, be sure to ask your server early on not to bring you a straw.
Go for Glass
Reusable plastic cups and water bottles are convenient, and certainly preferable to single-use. But if you start buying glass instead, you’re saving that water bottle or cup from eventually going through an inefficient recycling process or ending up in a landfill, taking decades if not centuries to photodegrade. You’re also saving yourself from the toxins transmitted from plastic to your body, which include more than the infamous BPA.
Choose Paper over Plastic
Many items are perfectly happy in cardboard or paper packaging without the extra layer of plastic surrounding it. Pastas, beans, and fresh bread are just a few of many food products that can be safely packaged without any plastic whatsoever, so opt for these whenever possible. When it comes to feminine products, choose tampons with cardboard applicators rather than plastic. Many small decisions like this can make a big difference.
Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
You can reduce chemical waste (and exposure to harmful chemicals) by making your own all-natural cleaning and hygiene supplies. You can make your own soap, laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner…the list goes on. Start by replacing the cleaning supply you use most often. For instance, if you find yourself wiping off your kitchen counters twice a day, you can make a homemade cleaner with castile soap and a vinegar disinfectant to follow. If you do mounds and mounds of laundry each week, start by making your own laundry detergent. Common all-natural cleaning and hygiene product ingredients include baking soda, lemon, white vinegar, club soda, olive oil, and liquid castile soap. Make sure to look up recipes, as combinations of some of these may not be effective.
Stop Using Plastic Water Bottles
Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles in one year, only a portion of which are recycled. These require 17 million barrels of oil to produce annually, and the energy used to produce them could power 190,000 American homes. Do your part to reduce these wasteful practices by drinking tap water or purchasing a water filter to purify it further. Look for a sturdy reusable water bottle that you can carry around with you for convenience.
These tips will help you be more aware of your daily waste and the better choices you can make—and that’s something you can feel good about.
Hannah West writes for Modernize with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.