15 actionable ways to reduce waste at home
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Growing up with “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” as the mantra, it is shocking that we still need lessons on how to reduce waste at home. Globally, 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste is generated per year. It is expected to grow to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050
With that much waste being generated globally, we all need to be doing more to reduce waste at home. The majority of ideas of this list of 15 Actionable Ways to reduce waste at home are things that every household should already be doing Every.Single.Day as global citizens to reduce our impact on the environment. Read through the list, and at the end, drop a comment on how many of these you are doing and which new ones you’ll be implementing into your household.
No brainer. Many municipalities globally have some sort of recycling program which goods are either picked up directly from your home or can be dropped off at a recycling depot. If you’re throwing everything into one bin at home, sorting your trash is the simplest way to reduce waste at home.
Even when you live in a small space, if you prioritize reducing waste in your home, with a bit or thought and organization, finding an area for sorting waste shouldn’t be an issue.
Items that are not able to be picked up by local services can usually be dropped off at local recycling depots. Keep a box for items such as electronics, soft plastics, glass or items which qualify for deposit return, and take it all in one load.
Similar to recycling, organics bins with local pick up have become something of the norm. Whether it’s food scraps or garden waste, collecting organics is another simple way to reduce waste in your home without too much effort.
Do you have a garden? Then you should have a compost bin! Take all the rich nutrients from the organics bin and garden waste and repurpose it to feed your garden. Living on or off the grid, a compost bin is a self-sufficient way of recycling waste into nutrient rich garden food.
4. Shopping bags
Across the globe, grocery stores, towns and cities are in the headlines for controversially “banning plastic”. But hello? This is a no-brainer! How many times do you get a cloth or reusable bag when you buy something these days? Use them! Leave them in your car so you can take them into the grocery store. Fold them up and pop one in your purse for a shopping spree. Don’t like bags branded with shop names? Buy a couple cute bags and make it a fashion statement. I can’t shout it from the roof tops loud enough, “STOP USING SINGLE USE BAGS!”
5. Shop Smart
They say not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. One look at my snacks cupboard and I would say that’s a fair statement. But what about shopping without a list? Before you do your next grocery shop, if you truly want to reduce waste at home, all you need to do is sit down, plan out your meals you will be shopping for, and buy that. Just that. Need a head of lettuce but it’s BOGO? Buy one. Only need four apples for lunches but a bag of 12 is on sale? Buy the four you need.
By buying what you need and using that, you will reduce the excess food that typically gets thrown out. Be honest with yourself, how often do you throw out produce you bought because it was on sale if you bought a bigger size? That’s actually just throwing money away. Stop throwing out food and money and make a grocery list based on a meal plan. It may not be easy at the start, but it will not only reduce waste at home, but it will simplify your week when you know what you’re going to cook and that you have all the ingredients.
6. Bulk Dispensary Shops
Does your store have a bulk section? That part where there’s every nut you can imagine, 10 types of flour and a bunch of grains? Well, those sections of the grocery store have morphed into stand-alone stores and are rising in popularity. Shopping at dispensary style bulk stores are a great way to reduce waste at home. Some require their bottles to be used/re-used, others allow you to bring any contraption you wish. These shops are not just limited to the pantry goods found at the supermarket bulk section, but they also have beauty products (think shampoo and conditioner or body wash) and household cleaners. The beauty of most of these products is that they are also environmentally friendly.
Taking your own reusable containers to a bulk dispensary means you won’t have an excess of plastic bottles to get rid of. The costs can be lower as well, as you are able to purchase the quantity you require, not based on the size of the container.
7. Multi-use products
Skip single use products and reduce not only the waste at home, but also the clutter in your cupboards. Did you know that vinegar and water is one of the best cleaners for your home? It can be used as a disinfectant, cleans windows and mirrors and even takes water spots off your sink. Mixing baking soda with water not only shines your stainless steel appliances, but it also acts as a deodorizer. Ammonia and water is great to soak oven racks or grill grates in as a degreaser. The next time you reach for a bottle of cleaner at the store, think about items you may already have at home that could do the job just as well.
8. Refillable water bottle vs single use
I shouldn’t even need to say this, but lately I’ve seen it with my own eyes and been shocked: STOP BUYING SINGLE USE WATER BOTTLES. Buy a reusable water bottle (or use one of those single-use ones you’ve just finished) and refill as needed. Full stop.
9. Individually wrapped items
We buy individually wrapped items because, well, they’re convenient. A box full of smaller boxes of a product. It may cost a bit more than the box without the smaller boxes in it, but we’re paying for the convenience. For a simple, actionable way to reduce waste at home, stop buying the convenience pack. Decant items as needed into a reusable container. How many times have you bought a big bag of small bags of snacks, only to eat 3 small bags at once? Just fill up one container with the amount you actually need or want and you’ll reduce waste at home in no time.
10. Cling Wrap
I have to admit, I didn’t actually realize people still bought this until I saw it at my parent’s house. With reusable containers, snack pouches, beeswax sheets, silicone covers … why are you still buying cling wrap?! Next time you run out … don’t run out and buy more, just run out. Find an alternative that isn’t going to be thrown out as soon as you’re done with it.
11. Paper Towels
This one kills me. It honestly baffles me that people buy paper towel. The only thing I could come up with was to clean the toilet. I’ll give you that. But otherwise? Use rags, tea towels, a cloth napkin, or a plate instead. Similar to the cling wrap, the next time you finish a roll, pop the cardboard tube in the recycling (yes, you can and should recycle these AND toilet roll tubes) and that’s it. You’re done. Don’t replace it. Find another solution.
12. Cloth napkins vs paper
Paper napkins are a bit like paper towels, although they seem slightly more mainstream. A simple replacement of a paper napkin is a cloth one. Make the swap and see how much you reduce waste at home in a week.
13. Paperless invoices
Call the bank, your utility companies, and anyone else who sends you mail you don’t need a paper copy for and have them send you an electronic statement instead. By default, your “mail” will finally be filed, as you will be able to easily search it within your email.
I’m willing to bet you don’t even open most of your statements and then when you realise it’s too much to shred, you just tear it up into bits and throw it in the bin (and not the recycling bin). Reduce waste at home by reducing the mail coming to your door.
14. Swap magazine & newspapers subscriptions to digital editions
As a way of reducing clutter, I swapped to an e-reader instead of real books. In an age of scrolling and screen time, I found that I was more likely to carry a small device or read a downloaded book on my phone or e-reader than to lug a book around with me. Having the electronic version made me read more.
If you’re looking for a way to read more and reduce waste at home, think about swapping out magazine and newspaper subscriptions for digital editions. Stop saving an entire magazine or ripping out pages to keep but that you end up just throwing out in the end and have a digital copy at your fingertips.
15. No cutlery please
Take away meals are convenient. You’re on the move, or you’re having a picnic. But what about when you are getting take away and taking it home? I can’t count the number of times I’ve received chopsticks, napkins and a spoon when getting sushi that I’ve eaten at home. By simply asking for no cutlery, you’ll reduce waste at home and not have plastic cutlery going straight into the garbage.
This list is by no means the complete list of ways to reduce waste at home, but it is a good start. By implementing these 15 actionable ways to reduce waste at home, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your impact on the environment and starting healthy habits towards a more sustainable life.