The world as a whole creates a massive amount of waste. Every year, we struggle with finding places to put the waste due to limited places for it to go and ways for the waste to be properly disposed of.
The average person in the United States produces an average 4.4 pounds of trash per day. Simple changes in your everyday life can make a lasting impact on your footprint. These steps can range from the way you shop and where you buy your goods to small changes in your household.
However, despite knowing that there is a lot of waste around the world, there are still ways in your own daily life you can make a difference in reducing the amount of waste you use in some simple steps.
Understand the Rules of Recycling
A lot of people find recycling to be confusing. With so many different products and having rules for recycling that are location-dependent, it’s hard to know what your community’s rules are.
Here are the basic recycling rules to follow:
- Recycle clean bottles, containers, cans, paper, and cardboard pieces.
- Keep all food and liquid out of the recycling bin and anything you plan on recycling.
- Do not recycle any loose plastics or any sort of bagged recycled items.
Any paper item that does have any liquid on the item cannot be recycled and should instead, be used in a compost.
How Can I Help Reduce My Own Waste?
Unless you live where you already create zero waste, there are always ways in which you can make improvements to your ecological footprint. Reducing the amount of waste you create can be intimidating at first, but once you find small ways to decrease your waste, it can make a huge difference in your overall waste output.
Shop Using Eco-Friendly with Reusable Bags
Currently, over 100 billion plastic bags are used in the United States alone. This amounts to almost one plastic bag, per person every day. Worldwide, over a trillion plastic bags are used each year.
The majority of plastic bags end up either in a landfill or in the ocean. In the landfill, a plastic bag is not able to decompose completely and takes over 1,000 years for the plastic to downgrade. With the number of plastic bags used in the United States alone, it requires over 12 million barrels of oil each year to even manufacture the bags.
Some states have even banned using plastic bags in stores, and other countries have started charging the consumer to get them at the store. Instead, it is recommended to use a reusable grocery bag. These bags can be purchased at a low cost and then used over and over again. They are typically able to hold more weight than the standard plastic bag as well.
In addition to the normal plastic bags for getting your groceries home, you can also get reusable bags to put and keep your produce.
Stop Using Disposables in The Kitchen
Using disposables in the kitchen may be a lot easier while you are cooking, however, they create a lot of waste.
Some disposable items that can be replaced with alternatives include:
- Plastic wrap
- Tin Foil
- Paper towels
- Plastic Ziplock bags
Using reusable containers and washable snack bags can reduce the need for both plastic wrap and plastic Ziplock bags. Using silicone baking sheets can replace the need for both tin foil and parchment paper. And remember to use a microfiber cloth to clean up after working in the kitchen.
Buy In Bulk, Not Single Packs
Whenever it is possible it is best to avoid single-use items such as candies, snacks or coffee pods. These items contain a lot more plastic than its comparable product that comes in bulk.
Buying in bulk can not only be a huge waste saver, but it can also save money and make your shopping less time-consuming. Look for a bulk program near you that can give you a zero-waste shopping experience. These companies will typically use a reusable container to drop off the product. A few to check out would be All Good Goods, Common Good and The Good Fill.
Switch to Paperless Billing
It is really easy to start having your account statements or bills start to pile up in your mailbox. All you need to do is spend a little bit of time switching all of your accounts over to electronic billing, and from there, add the email address to your address book or make sure to mark them as not spam so you do not lose them!
From there, create a few folders to keep track of the different companies or financial institutions to easily find if you need them. You can also create a calendar to check off each month when you go through them, to ensure you receive them.
Start Composting Today
Every day, when you are cooking or eating a snack, a large amount of what you are throwing into the trash can be composted.
To start composting, all you need is a bin and some space to put it. Having these two things will allow for you to be able to start, you can then use your composting to help grow a garden. In addition, growing a garden is another huge step you can take to reducing your waste footprint!
Buy Items Used and Donate
It is also good to join used sale groups or check out these places:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore
Purchasing items from these places can end up saving them from having to go in the dump and typically saves you a lot of money as well.
Stop Using These Plastic Items
Plastic is one of the most harmful materials for the environment, but most of the things we use today are made out of it. You can stop using these plastics listed below to reduce waste.
Plastic Water Bottles
Stop buying plastic water bottles and start using reusable bottles. Water bottles and paper coffee cups are a huge waste in today’s world. Rather than continuing to purchase these products, buy a reusable water bottle or coffee thermos to take your drinks with you, everywhere you go.
You can also stop using plastic straws. Whether you are going out or having a drink at home, you do not have to use a straw. Instead, get in the habit of not using one or if you must continue to use a straw, consider purchasing a reusable metal straw to avoid using extra plastic.
You can also stop using plastic toothbrushes. Nowadays, there are so many alternatives to using a weak plastic toothbrush that will be thrown out within the month, such as an electric toothbrush that you end up going through parts less. If you want to start using no plastic with this, you can even find bamboo toothbrushes to make this waste footprint down to zero.
Replace a Dryer Sheet with a Reusable Dryer Ball
Something so simple as a dryer sheet can be replaced with a dryer ball to decrease the amount of waste being created! A dryer ball can easily be bought at a store, and most can last up to 500 washes. If you are not able to find one in the store, you are also able to make your dryer ball using wool. Most of these dyer balls use different essential oils to create a clean smell.
Not only is shopping local a great way to boost and support your local economy. But local shops tend to use less plastic wrap when wrapping up their foods. You can check out farmers’ markets as well. Farmers’ markets are food items brought directly from a local farm. This reduces the number of emissions being used to get the food to you. Farmers markets you can bring your bags and not use any plastic.
Buying from a secondhand shop or a thrift store is not only good for saving you money but also huge in reducing your waste footprint. The fashion industry itself creates over 80 billion pieces of clothing worldwide, each year.
Buying from these shops reduces the number of new clothes being purchased each year, which in return will eventually reduce the amount of clothing put into production by manufacturers. If you are not wanting to shop secondhand, an alternative option could be finding companies that make products out of recycling items.
Start Using Reusable Containers
Once you start shopping locally and using bulk food stores, you can start using reusable glass containers to store your items. Not only will this allow for you to store your bulk items properly, but it also keeps them fresh longer and extends its life.
How Can I Get My Community Involved?
We have talked about ways that you can get started with reducing waste within your own home. Now let’s take a look at how you can grow your efforts even further and include all types of waste.
Lawn and Garden
There are a few additional ways that you can encourage recycling and creating less waste and that would be easier to get your community or neighborhood involved in.
- Raise the height of your lawnmower during the summer. It keeps roots in the shade more, making it so the grass requires less water.
- Create a share program around your neighborhood for bigger tools. Doing this saves on the number of tools bought and produced and also saves you more money!
- Instead of disposing of the grass clippings when mowing your lawn, leave them on the ground, and they will return nutrients to the soil. And it will reduce the amount of stuff being put into the landfill.
These are simple things that not only you can do, but you can share with others without changing too much of their daily life at a time!
School Supplies for Kids
When you go to buy school supplies every year, have you thought about the amount of stuff you purchase year after year? Start thinking greener when it comes to buying your school supplies:
- Look through all of your kids’ items from last year. Some of those items can be reused. If you have more than one school-aged child, the children’s needs may overlap and can be reused.
- Purchase school supplies made from recycled products.
- Buy as many school supplies in bulk as possible. Either save for at home or future school years. Or donate to the school for use.
Now, let’s take a look at getting schools themselves involved in reducing waste.
Getting Schools More Involved
There are also ways that they can teach students to be more waste-friendly during school hours:
- Get your local school to get a garden and start a composting program.
- Encourage kids to only pick out foods that they are going to eat. And encourage them to use fewer paper items such as napkins.
- Teach them to recycle their cans and bottles when they are down eating.
- Make posters to remind students about recycling and the composting project.
Adding these types to your local school can help children at a younger age learn more about what it means to recycle. It will also teach them good habits for when they are grown up!
Pushing Green at Work
Encourage and try to motivate your coworker to help reduce their waste:
- Try not to print hard copies of documents and keep all documents digital.
- Make your printer more environmentally friendly, have it set to print on a double-sided. page. You can also make the font smaller to save paper and ink when possible.
- Use paper clips instead of staples as they are reusable.
- Reuse all file folders and stores, instead of constantly purchasing new ones.
- Purchase recycled office materials such as paper.
- Have recycle bins near each desk or group of desks
- Buy energy efficient appliances.
- Encourage biking or rideshare to work!
These are a few ways that you can help people start their recycling journey while at work.
Recap of Recycling
Recycling has so many different aspects and categories that you can look at for reducing your footprint. It can range from plastic materials to items in general, to the amount of water you use and the electricity that runs on your own.
Now is the time to take all the different ideas and choose a few to start your journey. Once you get those implemented into your lifestyle, then look at a few more and start adding those too. Eventually, you can almost get rid of your entire waste footprint!