Humans produce too much waste.
In general, humans are seemingly careless about what is consumed. How much, what it’s made from, and where it goes when we’re done consuming. The dismal side effects are any where you look around. Trash on the side walks, trash on the highway. Plastic taking over our lakes and oceans. In suburbia, you’ll see a plastic Walmart bag or styrofoam Whataburger cup rolling down the street like tumbleweeds in the desert of a Western movie. Only this is real life.
How do we fix this ever-growing trash problem?
I think it starts with awareness. Protecting the environment and producing less waste is certainly not something everyone is passionate about. But the more we can talk about it, the more people will think about it and start making conscious decisions and find small ways to create less waste.
A healthy side effect of producing less waste isn’t just a cleaner environment. In many cases, it can also save you money! Money that you can save in a travel fund to spend on a luxurious beach vacation. That hopefully, is a clean beach with no trash floating among the waves.
Even though a ‘zero waste lifestyle’ is aspiring, I don’t think it’s completely realistic for most people. My family has made significant strides at reducing waste, but eliminating it altogether is a long way off. Today I want to chat with you about some basic rules for creating LESS waste, and ideas that can help you do this!
Basic rules to follow for creating less waste
- Avoid anything plastic, especially if it doesn’t have a recycle symbol. Also avoid styrofoam. Many of the ways to create less waste below follow these two simple steps!
- Donate anything you can. Don’t just throw unwanted items away. ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is a real thing.
- Only purchase quality items that you really want. Purchasing cheap, temporary items can lead them to break or have you be tempted to throw it away when you’re done with it. Purchasing higher quality items that you truly love will not only be a better financial decision, but also helps avoid useless and broken items ending up in a land full. A good method I just heard from The Minimalists is to ask yourself, ‘Would the best version of myself buy this?’ Asking this question can also help eliminate unnecessary purchases that might get donated or tossed more quickly.
Ways create less waste
- Bring reusable bags with you to the grocery. Keep them in the trunk of your car so you always have them. If you live in a city and walk to the grocery, keep them right by your front door so you can’t miss them.
- Avoid using plastic bags in produce, and bring a box or reusable bag to separate delicate items like lettuce. I have a set by this brand which can be found on Amazon.
- Try to only purchase food items that are in a cardboard or recyclable container. This one can be really hard, but you can check the packaging for a recycling symbol. Remember that product like apples, which comes in a bag made of polyethylene (like a plastic grocery bag), can be recycled.
- Purchase fresh produce in bulk when it is on sale and then freeze it in reusable containers instead of purchasing frozen produce in plastic bags that cannot be recycled.
- Purchase meat from the butcher wrapped in paper opposed to in bulk wrapped in plastic. (I am still working on this one. Right now I’d say we just eat less meat in general to produce less of this kind of waste.)
- Purchase from bulk bin and bring your own container to place it in.
- Opt to snack on fresh fruit or nuts instead of packaged bars. Or make your own bars!
- Purchase beverages in glass bottles or cans instead of plastic bottles.
- Bring your own mug to Starbucks. Better yet, make your own coffee!
- Wash and recycle yogurt cups.
- Recycle spice containers when they’re empty.
- Make your own foods like hummus or nut butter instead of buying it in a plastic container. If you do buy it, make sure to wash the container thoroughly so you can recycle it.
- Skip getting a fast food drink and just get a sandwich. Enjoy your water out of your own bottle/tap instead, or get a different beverage that isn’t served with a styrofoam cup or straw.
- If you do order a drink, ask them to leave the straw out of it.
- Grow your own herbs that you like to buy fresh so you don’t purchase the plastic case.
Kitchen & Home
- If you do need to use or purchase items in plastic bags, google your city’s recycling policy for bags and make sure they’re accepted. If not, often times Walmart will have a dropbox to recycle bags.
- Stop using ziplock bags, and opt for reusable sealing bags instead, like Stasher bags.
- Don’t use tin foil or plastic wrap for storing avocados or other sliced produce. Use silicone food keepers instead. Try these for fruits or vegetables and these made specifically for avocados! They’re truly amazing.
- Use mason jars for food storage instead of cheap plastic Tupperware.
- Use paper plates instead of styrofoam plates. Better yet, just do the dishes.
- Invest in a set of real silverware to serve at parties instead of using plastic cutlery. I don’t think your guests will mind tossing a fork in the sink instead of in the trash.
- Purchase, rent or borrow reusable tablecloths for parties instead of cheap plastic disposable options.
- If you use Solo cups at a party, don’t throw them away. Instead collect them, rinse them and recycle them.
- Use wash clothes instead of sponges or paper towels, so you can wash and reuse instead of throwing them away.
- Bring your own silverware to work for take out and never use plastic silverware.
- Buy stainless steel straws instead of plastic straws.
- Learn how to compost. (This is on my to do list for this summer.)
- Recycle the plastic part of the cases your contacts come in. The tin foil may be able to be recycled in some cities, too.
- Purchase diaper cream in a larger, bulk container you can recycle instead of buying the plastic tubes. If that freaks you out, you can get a reusable diaper cream applicator.
- Use homemade face wash and make up remover you can mix in a mason jar. Or, purchase a wash that is in a plastic container with a pump that can be recycled, and not a squeeze bottle.
- Get q-tips made with cardboard instead of plastic.
- Use a washcloth for removing make up instead of a cotton ball/pad. I use clothes like these that I picked up from Target.
- Find feminine products with cardboard applicators instead of plastic.
- Use electronic airline tickets for travel.
- Bring your own water bottle and snacks to the airport.
- Get receipts emailed to you instead of printed.
- Use electronic to do lists for grocery lists.
- Find a place to recycle old electronics, cords and batteries. Best Buy is a good starting point, but check with your city’s Environmental Center/Committee.
- Have old paint or hazardous chemicals picked up by the recycling and waste center in your city for proper disposal.
- Don’t develop a picture if you aren’t positive where you’re going to hang it up.
- Use LED light bulbs so you change them less often.
- Purchase baby food in a glass jar instead of plastic with film top. The plastic piece can be recycled once you rinse it, but the film cannot.
- Avoid buying baby food in pouches. If you really want them for convenience, try making your own. I’ve never bought these even though they do seem so convenient.
- Instead of buying snacks in pre-portioned bags, purchase a larger bag and use snack cups.
- Try to purchase wooden toys over plastic ones. Melissa & Doug makes some great options!
- Speaking of toys, you don’t need to overload your home with these. I mean, your toddler will probably play with an empty plastic bottle just as much as a $20 noise-maker.
- Use a burp rag for wiping baby’s nose instead of a tissue.
- Actually, opt for a burp rag for most cleanups instead of reaching for a baby wipe.
- Buy diapers and wipes in bulk for less packaging.
- You can try reusable diapers. And if you do, you’re a true environmental saint.
Disclaimer: This post contains some Amazon affiliate links for reusable products that I love. I make a small commission off any products purchased from these links.