Foolproof Ways to Reduce Waste
While working toward reducing plastic use is vitally important, it isn’t enough to tackle the waste epidemic we have around the world. Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to reduce waste once and for all when you make these simple swaps.
Why Reduce Waste?
While I believe we all have a general sense that waste is out of control in our world, I think it helps to see the numbers to get an idea of just how bad the problem actually is.
- The average American creates over 4 pounds of trash EVERY DAY. This equals up to 56 tons of trash a year.
- Every year, more than 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into oceans around the world.
- All sea turtle species and nearly half of all seabird species have been found with plastic in or around their bodies.
- The past 5 years have been the hottest ever on record.
Now, I normally don’t like to state such blunt and scary facts because I know eco-anxiety is a real thing, and hearing stuff like this doesn’t help. However, if you’re on the fence about the need to reduce your waste, I think you realize that now is the time to act.
Fortunately, these are some of the easiest and most affordable ways you can reduce waste to live a greener and more sustainable life.
1. Ditch the Paper Towels
One of the easiest ways to transition to a less wasteful life is to get rid of paper towels and switch to reusable alternatives. In our home, we use these cloth napkins for dining and these organic unbleached cotton unpaper towels for cleaning.
If you’re wondering why I only recommend using organic cotton, this post explains the difference between microfiber and organic cotton.
Once you get the hang of cutting back your paper towel use, consider making the switch to an eco-friendly toilet paper to help save even more trees.
2. Give Up Plastic Bags
When you realize just how often you use plastic bags, you’ll understand why this is an important swap to reduce waste. First, you can bring reusable grocery bags and reusable produce bags to the store to eliminate the need for plastic bags there.
3. Get Rid of Plastic Wrap
When you’re making the switch from plastic bags to reusable bags, don’t forget to swap out that plastic wrap for beeswax food wrap. You can use beeswax food wrap to cover bowls and wrap up cheeses, breads, fruits, vegetables, and more.
In our home, we use these beeswax wraps by Abeego and these organic cotton beeswax wraps. Since both options come from zero waste online shops, you can be sure you’re making a truly sustainable choice that’s also good for the environment.
If you like to DIY, you can even make your own beeswax food wrap.
Reusable silicone covers are another option you can consider to get rid of plastic wrap. These flexible and durable covers come in numerous sizes to stretch over your bowls and preserve your food.
Related: How to Create a Zero Waste Kitchen
4. Shop at Zero Waste Stores
If you’re trying to reduce your waste, you’ll likely need to change your shopping habits a little. Most of the big-box stores out there don’t cater to low waste or zero waste lifestyles.
For that, you’ll need to shop at a zero waste store. These stores sell zero waste versions of all of your household essentials. Unfortunately, not every community currently has a local zero waste store. A quick online search will tell you if you have any nearby zero waste shops.
If you don’t, you’re not completely out of luck. Instead, you can shop at one of these best zero waste online shops.
5. Change Where You Buy Your Food
Shopping at a zero waste store isn’t the only buying habit you’ll need to adjust to reduce your waste. You should also consider changing the way you buy your food.
Shopping at a traditional grocery store produces A LOT of waste. Every single thing you buy is in its own package, and that package is typically plastic.
If possible, see if your community has bulk food stores where you can do zero waste grocery shopping. Doing your grocery shopping at a farmers market is another great way to reduce waste and cut down on all the plastic packaging you bring home.
If you don’t have any bulk stores or farmers markets in your community, you can still cut back on your waste when you shop at traditional grocery stores. Look for items packaged in cardboard, glass, or aluminum cans, since these materials are easier to reuse and recycle. And, as always, don’t forget your reusable bags!
6. Start a Garden
Another way you can cut down on waste from grocery shopping is to start a garden and grow your food. Having a garden offers an incredible variety of benefits aside from reducing waste.
Even better, pretty much everyone can grow a garden. I used to think I was plant-care challenged, but with a little practice and a lot of trial and error, I figured things out. Now I grow a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year for my family.
Plus, you don’t have to have acres and acres of land to grow a garden. Even if you have outdoor space the size of a postage stamp, you can find plenty of plants that grow great in pots.
If you want to get food on your table right away, check out these best fast growing vegetables for a quick harvest.
7. Don’t Throw Away Food Scraps
If your goal is to reduce waste, you need to take a look at the food scraps you throw away. The EPA estimates that Americans generate around 41 million tons of food waste every year. That means about 20% of what goes into landfills is food.
The problem is, when food scraps are sent to landfills, they decompose and produce methane gas, which is one of the leading causes of climate change. Bacteria from decomposing food scraps can also contaminate surface and ground water.
Instead of letting your food scraps rot in a landfill, you can compost them. Not only does compost help you reduce waste, but it also provides nutrient-rich soil that you can turn around and use in your garden.
8. Freeze Your Leftovers
In addition to composting, it’s also important to do what you can to prevent food waste. It’s estimated that Americans waste about 150,000 tons of food every single day.
An easy way to be less wasteful is to simply not waste food. If you have some leftovers and you know they won’t get eaten before they mold, stick them in the freezer.
These reusable silicone food storage bags can hold leftovers, liquids, meal-prep kits, and more in the freezer. Plus, you can use them in the refrigerator, microwave, oven, and dishwasher.
9. Keep Your Fruits and Vegetables Fresh
Leftovers aren’t the only types of food that people tend to waste. Fruits and vegetables also get tossed out before they’re eaten because they lose their freshness.
Fortunately, you have a variety of options if you’re trying to reduce wasting fruits and vegetables. These produce storage containers have a tray that helps keep moisture away from your produce and vents that regulate the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
If you’re trying to reduce your plastic use, these organic cotton produce bags allow ethylene gas to escape, which keeps fruits and vegetables fresh longer. (As a bonus, they’re also what I use when I do my zero waste grocery shopping.)
This herb saver can triple the lifespan of your fresh herbs. These silicone food covers can fit perfectly over a variety of fruits and vegetables to extend their life. You can even use them to cover open jars and cans.
10. Pack a Waste-Free Lunch
Packing a lunch every day instead of buying one is a great way to save money and eat healthier, but it can also create a lot of waste. Whether you’re packing a lunch for yourself or your children, you can follow these tips to make it a zero waste lunch.
11. Bring Your Own Reusable Containers
If you’re eating out and end up with more food than you can finish, you’ll likely ask the restaurant for a takeout container. Unfortunately, that typically means you’ll end up with a plastic or Styrofoam container.
Instead, bring your own reusable containers. These stainless steel food storage containers are an excellent option. They’re safe and strong. Even better, they come with stainless steel leak-proof lids with air-tight clips. This makes them a plastic-free option as well.
They’re also an essential item if you’re planning a zero waste Disney vacation.
12. Pack Reusable Cutlery
Along with reusable storage containers, you should also consider bringing along reusable cutlery when you go out. When you have your own cutlery, you don’t have to rely on plastic forks and spoons if you stop to eat.
I carry this bamboo travel utensil set in my purse. It comes with everything I could possibly need when eating out. Best of all, everything comes inside a small case. That makes this utensil set ideal for zero waste travel.
13. Drink Loose Leaf Tea
I used to use tea bags to make my morning cup of tea. But then I found out that many tea bags contain plastic. That’s when I made the switch to loose leaf tea.
I’m fortunate enough to have a local bulk store where I can buy my loose leaf tea. If you don’t have a bulk store, one of the best options for loose leaf tea is Arbor Teas.
Once you receive the organic and fair trade tea, you can store it in an air-tight container and compost the packaging in your compost bin.
14. Stop Using Those Coffee Pods
While I’m the tea drinker in our household, my husband is the coffee drinker. Even though he uses a Keurig, he doesn’t use those wasteful single-use coffee pods.
When he’s done with his coffee grounds, I turn around and reuse them to make this homemade coffee scrub that helps reduce the appearance of cellulite.
15. Bring Your Own Coffee Mug
If you’re the type of person who likes to get your coffee when you’re on the go, make sure you remember to bring a travel coffee mug from home.
Since to-go coffee cups are often lined with plastic to keep them from leaking, they can’t be recycled. If you ask nicely and explain why you’re using a reusable cup, most stores are happy to make your drink in it.
Related: 50+ Genius Alternatives to Plastic
16. Save Water in the Shower
Showers are one of the largest water wasters in a home. If you’re trying to create a zero waste bathroom, the shower is an important place to start.
The average shower lasts around 8 minutes, and the typical showerhead puts out around 2 gallons a minute. So, in the shower alone you have 16 gallons of water going right down the drain every day.
This High Sierra low-flow showerhead delivers 1.5 gallons a minute, which can save 40% more water. Plus, since you’re not using as much water, you don’t need to heat as much water, which can help you save energy as well.
It’s also available with a trickle valve that lets you shut off the flow at the head to save water while lathering or with a handheld wand. Best of all, every option still delivers a strong and full spray to help you get clean.
17. Stop Using the Dryer
If you’re interested in making your laundry routine more eco-friendly, one of the best things you can do is stop using the dryer. There are around 88 million dryers in the U.S. When combined, they emit more than a ton of carbon dioxide each year.
Ditching the dryer will help you cut down on energy costs and make your clothes last longer, both of which can help you reduce waste and save money. Since you might not always be able to hang your clothes outside (or you might have certain items you don’t want hanging outside — hello undies!) consider getting this foldable drying rack.
No longer using the dryer isn’t the only way you can reduce waste in the laundry room. Here are some other great ideas that can help:
- Using Soap Nuts to Clean Laundry
- Homemade Liquid Soap Nut Laundry Detergent
- DIY Laundry Detergent
- Softening Clothes Without Dryer Sheets
- Incredible Stain Remover for Clothes
- DIY Bleach Alternative
18. Avoid Single-Use Items
One of the best ways to reduce your waste is to take a look at every single-use item you currently have and find a reusable alternative. You’d be surprised at the different eco-friendly alternatives to common household items you can get.
Choosing a reusable straw is one of the most popular switches to make.
In the bathroom, you can also switch to a safety razor instead of using a disposable razor. You can even start using a bamboo toothbrush in place of a plastic toothbrush, and choose eco-friendly dental floss instead of plastic floss.
19. Stop Drinking Bottled Water
Not only is bottled water expensive, but it’s also incredibly wasteful. If you’re ready to reduce your waste once and for all, give up that bottled water.
You’ll find plenty of reusable water bottle options. Since I’m trying to reduce my plastic use as much as possible, I use this glass water bottle. It comes with a silicone sleeve to protect the glass, and their entire thing is dishwasher safe.
If you’re worried about contaminants in tap water, you can get a reusable water bottle with a filter. This water filter bottle filters as you drink. If you’re interested in a plastic free version, you can choose this stainless steel water filter bottle.
20. Say No to Fast Fashion
Fast fashion might be affordable, but it has a lot of problems. It uses a significant amount of natural resources and dumps all types of toxic chemicals in our water and on our land. Plus, many of the laborers forced to make the clothing deal with horrible working conditions.
While you might think you’re getting a good deal on your clothing, keep in mind that it’s so cheaply made it doesn’t last very long. That means you have to turn around and spend more money to replace your clothing.
Rather than buying fast fashion, make the switch to sustainable clothing. If you’re not sure where to start, this post details the best sustainable clothing brands.
You can also find sustainable clothing options for every occasion and every member of the family when you check out these other posts:
- The Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Kids
- Awesome Eco-Friendly Activewear Brands
- Stylish and Comfortable Sustainable Swimwear
- The Best Ethical and Sustainable Maternity Clothes
21. Buy Secondhand
Switching to sustainable clothing isn’t the only way you can make your shopping habits less wasteful. You can also buy secondhand instead of buying new.
When you buy secondhand, you encourage retailers to accept donations and resell items. The next time you need something, consider checking out the thrift stores and secondhand shops before you buy new.
Not only is buying secondhand a great way to reduce waste, but it’s also an essential homesteading skill to start learning if you’re interested in having your own farm someday.
22. Fix Instead of Buying New
In the era of planned obsolescence, fixing instead of buying new might seem crazy. However, it’s actually one of the best ways to reduce waste.
If something breaks around the house, see if you can have it repaired before immediately throwing it in the trash and buying a new one. You can use this tip on anything from a broken chair to torn clothing.
Related: How to Start an Urban Homestead
23. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of making your own cleaning products. In addition to helping me reduce waste, making my own cleaning products is safer and healthier for my family. After all, you’d be surprised at some of the dangerous chemicals hiding in your everyday cleaning products.
Related: The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soap
Even better, making your own cleaning products is also incredibly easy. Here are some excellent ideas to help you get started:
- Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner Without Vinegar
- DIY Toilet Cleaning Tablets
- Homemade Hardwood Floor Cleaner
- Reusable Disinfecting Wipes
24. Make Your Own Beauty Products
In addition to making my own cleaning products, I like to make most of my own beauty products. Just like cleaning supplies, your beauty products can hide some dangerous chemicals.
Making your own homemade massaging shampoo bar and your own DIY loofah soap eliminates your need for plastic shampoo and body wash bottles that you often can’t recycle. Likewise, making your own shaving gel means you never have to deal with shaving cans that you use once and then throw away.
You can even choose a zero waste toothpaste to get rid of plastic toothpaste tubes that you can’t recycle.
But don’t worry, if you don’t like to DIY, you can still reduce waste by purchasing one of these best shampoo bars.
Related: The Best Zero Waste Makeup Brands
25. Use Cloth Diapers
For the parents out there, this one may seem hard, but it’s time to start thinking about switching from disposable diapers to cloth diapers. Most disposable diapers are made with a nonrecyclable polyethylene plastic. This type of plastic takes hundreds of years to breakdown. In the process, these diapers leak toxic chemicals and microplastics.
Not to mention the fact that you have to constantly buy new diapers. In fact, parents who choose disposable diapers end up spending up to $2,700 every year on diapers.
When you make the switch to cloth diapers, you can save money, reduce your waste, and find all of styles you need for your baby.
Not quite ready to switch to cloth diapers? That’s OK. Then just check out these best eco-friendly diapers. You’ll even find some disposable options on the list!
Related: The Best Eco-Friendly Baby Wipes
Simple Ways to Reduce Waste
If your goal is to reduce waste this year, it won’t be hard to do. In fact, all you need to do is start implementing a few of these simple swaps every week. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a zero waste or low waste lifestyle!
More Excellent Low Waste Tips
Now that you see how easy it is to reduce waste, are you interested in even more great tips on sustainable living? Then be sure to check out some of our other popular posts:
- Guppyfriend vs. Cora Ball for Reducing Microfiber Pollution
- Over 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes
- Real or Artificial: What’s the Most Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree?
- Best Children’s Books About Sustainability