15 Tips for Reducing Waste at Home
Waste production at home is a growing concern in today’s society. With the rise of consumerism and the prevalence of single-use items, household waste has become a significant environmental issue.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018, which is equivalent to 4.9 pounds of waste per person per day. This amount of waste not only takes up valuable space in landfills but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and other negative impacts on our health and wellbeing.
It is important to understand the impact our actions have on the environment. Many of us have been recycling for many years, but did you know that there are actually many opportunities to reduce your waste as well?
What are 15 tips you could do at home to reduce your waste?
By reducing waste, we conserve natural resources, prevent pollution, and help protect the environment for future generations. Greentumble’s 15 tips for reducing waste at home are the easy way to decrease the amount of waste you generate and take a positive step towards preserving natural resources.
#1 Rethink your shopping and only buy what you need
You don’t always need to run out and buy the newest version of something, especially if an item still works well.
Producing goods requires the use of natural resources such as water, land, and energy. By buying only what you need, you reduce the demand for these resources, thus conserving them for future generations.
The manufacture of items always generates waste. Think of packaging materials and manufacturing byproducts that are often severely polluting and get discarded as unusable.
By buying only what you need, you also reduce the amount of waste that is generated during the production process. This waste is not directly seen but creates a significant portion of waste.
Transport from the manufacturer to the retailer and then to the consumer requires the use of fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
#2 Buy in bulk and reuse containers
Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging that is needed. When products are purchased in small quantities, they come in individually wrapped packages or containers, which can accumulate into significant amounts of waste. When you buy in bulk, you can use our own reusable bags or containers, which can significantly reduce packaging waste.
When products are shipped in bulk quantities to retailers, there are fewer trips needed to restock the shelves. This reduces the amount of fuel used for transport, thus decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
There is an additional advantage of buying in bulk. It often allows you to purchase products at a lower cost per unit, which leads to cost savings over time.
When you buy in small quantities, you often make more frequent trips to the store. This leads to an increase in resource consumption, especially the fuel. However, by buying in bulk and reducing the number of trips, you can help to conserve resources such as water, energy, and land.
Many stores such as local co-ops sell food and other goods like coffee, tea, but even detergent or shampoo freely, without packaging. This allows you to not only save money since you are not paying for packaging, but you buy only as much as you really need. People usually bring their own reusable containers to fill up with the desired product.
#3 Start a garden or grow your own produce
Our global commercial food system produces a lot of waste, especially with all of the energy required to produce and transport it to faraway countries. Then, once the food sits in your refrigerator, it happens quite often that your food goes bad even before you eat it, which is even more wasteful.
Once you actually purchase the food, it likely contains much less nutrition than when it was harvested.
By growing our own food in our own gardens, you reduce a lot of this waste and can harvest food fresh just when needed. When you grow our own food, you can avoid the packaging that often comes with store-bought produce. Fruits and vegetables in the supermarket are typically wrapped in plastic or other materials without actually having to be wrapped at all, if you peel them anyway. The unnecessary packaging is often just a marketing trick to get you to buy the produce by looking aesthetically pleasing.
Furthermore, modern agriculture is a resource-intensive activity that requires water, energy, synthetic substances to fertilize and keep weeds at bay, and lots of land to grow large-scale. By growing our own food, you are reducing the overall demand for resources.
#4 Compost at home
Most of our home waste is composed of organic materials such as fruit and vegetable scraps that could be separated and turned into soil-enriching compost. Starting a home compost system is easy, or you could do some research to find out if your municipality has facilities for collecting your home organic waste.
Composting at home is an effective way to reduce waste, especially organic waste that makes up a significant portion of our daily waste. The disposal of organic waste in landfills adds to the already increasing waste problem and contributes to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases such as methane.
Composting can be used to turn your biodegradable waste into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to support plant growth in gardens. This is similar to natural ecological processes, where nutrients are recycled to renew soil and support plant growth.
Composting is a simple process that doesn’t require any special skills. All you need is a designated spot, such as a compost bin or pile, and enough time for the organic waste to break down.
#5 Buy quality from the start
Cheaply made items tend to break down sooner, requiring replacement. By buying a quality product in the first place, you will decrease the need to buy more of that item in the future.
Quality products are often made from durable and sustainable materials, which can reduce the overall environmental impact of their production. A high-quality product made from sustainable materials will have a lower environmental impact than a lower-quality product made from non-sustainable materials.
Additionally, quality products are often designed to be repaired or upgraded. This extends their lifespan and reduces the need for new replacements. This approach is known as “circular economy,” where products are designed to be used, repaired, and recycled or repurposed, reducing the need for new resource extraction and minimizing waste.
Buying quality products helps to reduce the carbon footprint associated with production and transport of the product. When we buy high-quality products that are made locally, we reduce the distance that the product needs to travel, thus reducing the carbon emissions associated with transportation.
#6 Buy items that can be repaired
Buying items that can be repaired is an excellent way to reduce waste. When you buy products that are designed to be easily repaired or maintained, you extend their lifespan and reduce the need for frequent replacements, thus reducing waste.
Unfortunately, many products are designed to be disposable, with parts that are difficult or impossible to repair or replace. This leads to a culture of throwaway products that contribute to the growing waste problem. By buying products that are designed to be repaired, you take a step towards breaking this cycle.
Repairing products also has the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint associated with production and transport. When you repair an item instead of replacing it, you reduce the need for new production, thus saving resources and reducing emissions. Additionally, repairing locally sourced items means reducing transportation emissions.
#7 Reuse things & wear them out
Reusing items and wearing them out is an excellent way to reduce waste and minimize our environmental impact. When we reuse items instead of throwing them away, we save valuable resources and reduce the amount of waste generated.
Reusing items can take many forms, such as repurposing or upcycling items, using reusable bags or containers instead of single-use ones, and borrowing or renting items instead of buying new ones. By finding ways to reuse items, we reduce the need for new production and minimize the resources and energy required to make new products.
Wearing items out before replacing them is also an important aspect of reducing waste. When we dispose of items prematurely, we contribute to the growing waste problem and increase the demand for new production. By wearing items until the end of their useful life, we ensure that we are getting the most value out of them and reducing waste in the process.
#8 Mason jars are awesome!
Mason jars can be used for more than just canning.
They have many uses, such as containers for storing homemade goodies, herbs and spices, dried goods, bulk food items, leftovers like homemade soup, and can be used as lacto-fermentation vessels to make things like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Here are some reasons why mason jars are great for reducing waste: Mason jars are designed to be reused over and over again, reducing the need for disposable containers.
They can be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as storing food, holding beverages, organizing small items, and even as vases.
Mason jars are made of sturdy glass that can withstand heat and cold, making them ideal for storing and preserving food. They are also dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sanitize for reuse.
Using mason jars reduces the need for single-use plastic containers, which take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. Mason jars can also be recycled at the end of their useful life, further reducing their environmental impact.
Mason jars are an affordable and long-lasting alternative to disposable containers. They can be purchased in bulk and used for years, saving money on single-use containers over time.
#9 Make your own at home
Try making some of your own granola bars, deodorants, lotions, and other products, many of which can be made out of ingredients that you already have at home.
This saves money and decreases our waste by eliminating the packaging that comes with many of these items that we buy pre-made. You will also have the advantage of knowing all of the ingredients that are in these items.
No more chemicals that you don’t recognize going into your body!
Here are some examples of products that can be made at home to reduce waste:
- Cleaning products: Many cleaning products come in single-use plastic containers and are filled with harmful chemicals. By making your own cleaning products using natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils, you create a healthier living environment.
- Personal care products: Items like soap, shampoo, and toothpaste can be made at home using natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and baking soda.
- Food items: Making food items like bread, yogurt, and granola at home can reduce the amount of packaging waste generated by store-bought products. It also saves money and leads to healthier eating habits.
- Clothing and accessories: Upcycling old clothing or making your own accessories like bags and jewelry can reduce the need for new production and minimize waste.
#10 Cook whole foods from scratch at home
What we eat makes a huge difference with the amount of waste that we produce.
While pre-packaged and processed foods are convenient, they also require a lot of energy to produce, lots of packaging for storage, don’t taste that great, and often contain unhealthy preservatives and other unsavory ingredients.
You will be doing your health and your Earth a favor if you cook from scratch at home.
Whole foods are generally healthier than processed foods, which often contain high levels of sugar, salt, and preservatives. Cooking whole foods from scratch allows us to control the ingredients and make healthier choices.
When we cook from scratch, we can use up ingredients that might otherwise go to waste. For example, vegetable scraps can be used to make broth, and leftover rice can be made into fried rice.
The production and transport of processed foods require energy and resources. By cooking whole foods at home, you reduce the carbon footprint associated with large scale food production.
Cooking from scratch is often less expensive than buying processed foods. By buying whole ingredients and cooking at home, you save money and reduce waste.
#11 Buy or obtain used when you can
The saying that “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” often holds true. Garage sales and thrift stores often have many gently used items that we can give a second life in our homes.
Online resources such as Craigslist and local “Free Market” exchanges allow people to give away things that they don’t need for free and provide opportunities for others to find free things that they might need.
You might be surprised what you may find!
Buying or obtaining used items is an awesome way to promote sustainability. Not only are we keeping items out of landfills, but we are also reducing the need for new production which requires a lot of energy and resources. Plus, buying used items is often less expensive than buying new ones, which can save us money and reduce the financial strain on our budgets.
By reusing items that were meant to go to waste, we are creating a circular economy, where products are designed to be reused and recycled, and waste is minimized.
So, next time you need to buy something, try looking for a used option first. You never know what gems you might find!
#12 Make your own cleaning supplies
This is easy, inexpensive, and eco-friendly. Not only are you avoiding the need for single-use plastic containers and excess packaging, but you’re also able to control the ingredients that go into your cleaning products.
Many store-bought cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that can be damaging to the environment and to our health. By making your own cleaning supplies, you can use natural ingredients that are safer and healthier for you and the planet.
Most of these homemade products can be just as effective as many of the more expensive and toxic commercial products available on the market today. For the average home cleaning tasks, baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils can go a long way in keeping your home clean.
In addition, making your own cleaning supplies can be more cost-effective in the long run, as you can reuse the same containers and purchase ingredients in bulk.
#13 Buy reusable water bottles and use them
Kick the disposable plastic water bottle habit! Single-use plastic water bottles are a major contributor to plastic pollution, and many end up in our oceans and landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Reusable water bottles are made from durable materials like stainless steel or glass, and can be used over and over again. They also come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit your personal needs and preferences.
If you are concerned about the quality of the water coming out of your tap, a number of high quality water purifiers are available on the market that last a long time like this one.
In addition to reducing waste, using a reusable water bottle can also save you money in the long run. Instead of constantly buying single-use plastic water bottles, you can fill up your reusable bottle from the tap or a water fountain for free.
#14 Use cloth instead of paper towels
Paper towels are a single-use item that generate a lot of waste and contribute to deforestation. Cloth towels can be washed and reused multiple times, making them a more sustainable and cost-effective option.
Old cloth items like t-shirts, towels, and bed sheets can be converted into cleaning rags and napkins. This not only reduces waste, but also gives new life to old items that might have otherwise been thrown away.
When converting old cloth items into cleaning rags and napkins, simply cut them into smaller pieces and hem the edges to prevent fraying. These items can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks around the house, from wiping up spills to dusting surfaces.
So, next time you need to clean up a mess or wipe down a surface, consider using a cloth towel or rag instead of a paper towel. By making this small change, you’ll be doing your part to reduce waste and promote sustainability in your household.
# 15 Consider borrowing an item instead of buying it
Many of the items we use on a daily basis, such as power tools, lawn mowers, and camping gear, are only used occasionally, and it doesn’t make sense to buy them outright.
By borrowing these items from a friend, family member, or community lending library, you can save money, reduce waste, and build stronger social connections. Borrowing an item also means you don’t have to worry about storing it or disposing of it when you no longer need it.
In addition, borrowing an item can also help you discover new hobbies or interests. For example, borrowing a musical instrument can allow you to try out a new hobby without committing to purchasing an expensive instrument.
So, next time you need an item for a one-time use, consider borrowing it instead of buying it. By borrowing items, you’ll be doing your part to reduce waste, save money, and build stronger social connections in your community.
How many lawnmowers or ladders does one community need anyway?