Reducing waste is everyone’s responsibility. If you think to yourself “I’m only one person. I can’t make a difference,” you’re wrong. I recently read that Americans are particularly guilty of excess garbage production with four to five pounds of garbage per person daily. if you do the math, that’s 1,460-1,825 pounds of garbage produced by each person annually. It can be difficult at times to prevent or reduce your waste when most products are covered in plastic and/or boxed, but there are a few tricks you can use when shopping. There are also some daily habits you can change to help produce less trash.
- Cups: Do you drink coffee or tea in the morning? Making yours at home in a reusable thermal cup will not only keep it hot for hours, but will also prevent you from having to throw out your cup after drinking your favorite beverage. Some businesses will also allow you to bring your cup to refill, so you can still enjoy your frivolous drinks without making them. Additionally, using glass cups or mason jars at home for everyday use decreases plastic waste compared to disposable plastic cups and reduces your exposure to things like BPA that can be harmful to your body. Not to mention plastic water bottles can take 400 years to decompose, which means that the plastic you are using today will be around for generations to come. Buy a cute reusable bottle that you like and fill it up with water instead of buying cases of water at the store. Nervous about your drinking water? We have a reverse osmosis filter system for our water and we refill water tanks to use on our water cooler. We used to go through cases of water bottles, but now with this system we still have the convenience we want without all of the waste.
- Utensils: This is something that I plan to change in my near future. Plastic utensils can be found wherever convenient food can be purchased. I plan to buy bamboo utensils (you can even buy them on Amazon and they come in a little case to carry them in) and carry them with me in my purse when I am out. Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic and wood because it is a self-sustaining (it continues to grow after being cut) unlike trees while remaining reusable.
- Straws: I’m sure you already have heard this because of the anti-straw movement, but plastic straws are not only wasteful, but dangerous for animals that may come in contact with them. For example, they can get lodged in turtles’ nostrils. They do have reusable metal and glass straws that you can use, but I say just ditch the straw all together.
- Produce bags: I used to never think twice about using the plastic produce bags in the stores. When we became vegetarian, we started buying a lot more produce and it became very obvious that they are very wasteful and in some cases unnecessary parts of our shopping habits. We purchased reusable (and machine washable) cloth produce bags from Amazon that we bring with us (we carry them inside our reusable shopping bags) to stock up on produce. With some things we don’t even use a produce bag. If we are buying something like a couple sweet potatoes or a single onion, we feel there is no need for a produce bag. The employees at our local Wegmans have never given us a problem about our reusable bags or not using a bag at all for produce. And when you get home, you don’t have to fill your garbage bag up with unnecessary plastic bags.
- Shopping bags: You already know that shopping bags are a huge problem. This is such a big issue that California has passed a law banning shopping bags and I am hoping that New York will follow their lead. We use both Thirty-one brand large totes and various reusable shopping bags from our favorite stores. You can leave these in your car’s trunk for your next shopping trip so you won’t forget them. The plastic bag full of plastic bags that your mom used to have in a closet (at least mine did) are a thing of the past.
- Dryer sheets: We do a lot of laundry for a household of only three. Two of us work in the medical field and the third works in construction/demolition, so as soon as we get home, we change out of our work clothes. We were going through a lot of dryer sheets and reusable dryer balls are an awesome alternative. You can even add a few drops of essential oil to your dryer ball for the subtle scent that dryer sheets give you.
- Purchasing Products: We buy in bulk a lot which decreases the packaging. When we do buy regular products, we try to buy glass bottles that we can reuse in some way or buy the least-packaged products.
There are countless other ways to reduce your garbage production daily, but these are a few things to get you started on your journey. Buying less unnecessary products in general will reduce waste and help you to live more minimally.
Take care of our planet and reduce your waste.