Waste in America has always been a huge problem. With an economy that focuses heavily on consumerism, it’s inevitable that you’re going to purchase things made of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials. But, despite all of these products being pushed at you, you can make the active choice as a consumer to not buy products that are harmful to the environment. If you’re interested in making the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle, these 11 ways to reduce waste could help you along the way.
Reduce Food Waste
108 billion pounds of produce is wasted every year in the United States. That’s 130 billion meals and $408 billion dollars of food that is thrown out each year. In 2020, it was estimated that 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, meaning they didn’t have the money or the access to buy food for themselves or their families. Not only is food waste bad for the environment, but all the food that is wasted could easily be used to provide meals to hungry people and families. If reducing food waste is a goal that you believe in, there are a couple of easy things you can do to help make an impact.
Use All Of The Food You Buy
If it’s the end of the week and you have some leftover produce in your fridge that has gone unused, consider using your imagination to make a new culinary masterpiece. You could use some leftover vegetables and meats to make a delicious soup or stir fry. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try using apples and cooking them down to make applesauce. Regardless of what leftovers you have, there are endless combinations to make interesting, delicious meals.
If you have extra food, don’t be afraid to “share the wealth” and donate the remaining produce to those in your community, whether it’s stopping by a friend’s house or donating goods to a food pantry. Either way, you’re making a difference in your community.
Store Food Properly To Avoid It Going Bad
One helpful tip to make sure your food doesn’t expire quickly is to buy a more efficient refrigerator. Refrigerator efficiency doubles every 15 years, so purchasing a new refrigerator could help you save money. But, if you’re not in the market to buy a new refrigerator, an alternative you could try is separating your produce that emits ethylene, a chemical that quickens the ripening of produce. Apples, melons, avocados, and tomatoes are just a few fruits that release ethylene. Storing these products in a different location, such as a drawer in your refrigerator, should help preserve the freshness of your other fruits and vegetables. Additionally, when you’re gazing into your refrigerator deciding what to eat for dinner, prioritizing eating perishable foods before non-perishable foods can help reduce your food waste.
If you’re storing food in reusable containers and it’s still going bad quickly, it might be time to switch up your containers. Mason jars with lids are extremely efficient in keeping your fruits and vegetables fresh, as well as any air-tight container (just make sure it’s BPA-free). If you’re considering storing cucumbers, try filling the container with a little bit of water. This helps the cucumbers stay fresh for longer and reduce your overall food waste.
Start a Compost Bin
If you’ve mastered the art of recycling, it might be time to add another step to the process: composting. Composting is a process that turns food and other items into organic matter that can be added to your garden or soil to feed your plants. Before you start throwing all of your food scraps in your compost bin, it’s important to know what can and can’t be composted. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends following the Browns, Greens, and Water rule. Browns include dead leaves, twigs, and branches. Greens include grass trimmings, leafy greens, any fruit or vegetable waste, and coffee grounds. Water includes just water, but having clean water that’s not full of contaminants is important to healthy plant growth. If you’re still unsure if something can be composted, the EPA has a list of what can and can’t be composted for your clarity. Composting is a sustainable way to reduce your waste and your carbon footprint.
Avoid Single-Use Paper and Plastic
Around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. These single-use plastics ultimately end up in landfills and oceans, polluting our planet. The production and incineration of single-use plastic are estimated to emit 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year. Avoiding single-use paper and plastic is a great way to help the environment. Next time you go to the grocery store, consider buying reusable bags to use every time you go shopping. Or, if you’re an avid coffee drinker, doing something as small as switching to a reusable coffee cup every day could make a huge difference in reducing your personal carbon footprint. You could also buy stainless steel straws to accompany an iced coffee drink, which is a great alternative to plastic straws.
Ditch Disposables in the Kitchen
Some common kitchen disposables are trash bags, sandwich bags, plastic utensils, wax paper, tinfoil, plastic wrap, paper towels, and napkins. All of these items have a very short life and ultimately end up in landfills. By replacing them with biodegradable alternatives or reusable versions of those items, you could easily reduce your overall waste. Consider exchanging plastic wrap for reusable food wraps, or plastic sandwich bags for silicone sandwich bags.
Shop at Reduced-Waste Grocery Stores
Have you ever noticed how easily your recycling bin fills up after a trip to the grocery store? All of the boxes and plastic that food products come packaged in can have a massive impact on the environment. Because plastic isn’t biodegradable, every single plastic item that has ever been made is still on this planet. Buying your food at grocery stores like Whole Foods, where you can use your own reusable containers to store food, can easily help reduce this problem. Farmer’s markets tend to be the best for buying organic food with no packaging as well.
Recycle The Right Way
Recycling the right way can help keep materials that can be repurposed out of landfills, but it’s also important to keep items that don’t belong in recycling bins out of them. Contamination in recycling bins is very common and can disrupt the recycling process, so ensuring your recycling bin is clear of contaminants is a great starting point. If you think you may have contaminated your recycling bin, checking out WM’s Recycling 101 is a great way to ensure you’re recycling correctly.
Switch to Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes
Biodegradable toothbrushes are an amazing alternative to regular, non-electric toothbrushes. If you find yourself wanting to switch up your brushing routine to something a bit more sustainable, try incorporating biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes into your routine. Bamboo toothbrushes are plant-based, which is what makes them biodegradable. Some bamboo toothbrushes even come with biodegradable packaging, which means you’re reducing your waste just by purchasing the brush. If you’re looking for other household items that are made with bamboo, try looking at Brush with Bamboo for other ideas.
Switch to Package-less Cleaning Supplies
A lot of new brands have recently been promoting “just-add-water” cleaning products for purchase. This means that they provide you with reusable cleaning bottles and tablets with biodegradable packaging that you mix with water to make a cleaning product. This idea helps promote a sustainable lifestyle. Some great “just-add-water” brands are Blueland, Dropps, and Cleancult, who all sell similar products for laundry, dishes, and hand soap.
Start Paperless Billing
Paperless billing is a smart and time-friendly way to reduce your waste. If you receive your bank statements and bills through the mail, consider calling those companies and switching to paperless billing. Once you do this, all of your bills should start being sent to your email address rather than being stuffed into your mailbox. If your bills end up in your inbox, it’s easy to just delete them after you’re done using that email with little effect on the environment, but if you’re receiving paper bills and statements, they’ll ultimately end up in landfills and harm the environment.
Reduce Energy Waste
If you’ve noticed your energy bill getting too high, it could be because of technology in your home that’s consuming energy while not being used. This phenomenon is called “phantom power” or “ghost electricity”. Phantom power usually makes up around 20% of total energy consumption, and it’s not only a waste of energy, but it’s a huge factor in your monthly energy bill. The honest truth is that wasting energy is increasing your carbon footprint. Using energy-efficient appliances is a great solution to reducing energy waste, whether it’s by investing in a new refrigerator with the Energy Star certification, some new windows to prevent heat loss in the winter, or by investing in solar. Investing in energy efficiency can improve many things, such as your environmental impact, the health of your home, and your overall comfort in your home, while also saving you money every time you receive an energy bill. Any small change can make a major difference in the world and in your home.
Start a Produce Garden
If you have extra space in your backyard, a sustainable way to get food is by growing it yourself. However, there are a lot of factors to consider when growing your own fruits and vegetables, such as if you have good lighting, the time to maintain your garden, whether or not pests could eat your produce, and if you have the space to garden. If you don’t have the space requirements for a full produce garden, or if you’re an inexperienced gardener, start off with trying just one vegetable or fruit. Peppers, tomatoes, and raspberries tend to be easy plants to grow during the warm summer in Massachusetts, which is perfect for beginners. If you’re interested in a step-by-step guide on how to start a produce garden on your property, consider reading this article that details the entire process for you.
If you don’t have the space for your own garden, but there’s space in your neighborhood, try coordinating a community garden. With this option, not all the work falls on you. This is perfect, especially if you’re just starting to learn how to garden because you can learn from your community. It also helps ensure no food goes to waste since the entire community is sharing it.
Buy Secondhand Items For Your Home
It’s inevitable that you’re going to have to buy new things for yourself, your home, or your kids. Everyone grows and changes over the years, and it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends and still be sustainable. One way to combat this is to purchase secondhand items. If you’re interested in buying a new coffee table for your living room, consider buying one on Facebook Marketplace. While shopping for secondhand furniture, sometimes you can find amazing items that aren’t even on the market right now. It’s a great way to invest in new furniture to spruce up your space while also being sustainable. Or, if your kids are going through a growth spurt and are in need of some new clothes, consider purchasing some new ones from Goodwill or Savers. Additionally, make sure to donate or sell your old clothes and furniture secondhand as well.
These ways to reduce waste can help make a positive impact on the environment. We know it’s hard to make the switch to reduced waste when there are so many other convenient products out there, but the environment thanks you for the dedicated effort you’re making to help the world be a better place. Keep up the good, sustainable habits!