Many people seem to think reducing their waste is a huge task that will take up a lot of their time and compromises their quality of life. To help you help the environment I made a list of some easy ways to reduce your waste that you will hardly notice in your day to day life.
1. Carry a foldable bag at all times
Let’s be honest, how many times did this happen to you? You’re on your way home and you realize that you need something from the grocery store. So you stop by to pick up that particular item, but somehow you have an entire cart full of stuff when you arrive at the checkout. How will you carry all of it? You need a bag of course! But what if you just have a bag sitting in your purse for moments like these? Just think back to all the times you had to get a single-use bag at the grocery store. Imagine how much plastic you would have saved if you just carried a little foldable bag with you all these times.
2. Opt for glass or cardboard packaging
Glass and cardboard are much easier to reuse and recycle than plastic packaging. If you have the option to get a similar product in glass or cardboard packaging, it’s best for the environment to leave the item in the plastic packaging alone.
3. Repair, reuse, reduce
In this day and age, it’s become common to throw something out as soon as it breaks or you don’t want it anymore. Many items are easily repaired if you just take the time to Google how to fix them. And if you don’t need an item anymore for the purpose it’s meant for, try to find a new use for it before you consider tossing it. By repairing and reusing items until you really can’t anymore, you reduce a tonne of unnecessary waste.
4. Digitalize communication
Nowadays there is hardly any reason to send physical letters. E-mail and texting are accessible to almost everyone you need to reach. For every letter you send via E-mail, you saved another piece of paper, a stamp AND an envelope.
5. Use meaningful pictures to decorate your home
So many people decorate their homes with cheap decor that they get bored of and replace in no time. If you decorate your home with pictures that are meaningful to you or remind you of valuable memories, you’re less likely to want to replace them.
6. Buy in bulk if you can
If you buy in bulk, less packaging is needed for the amount of product you buy. A really big bag of rice simply uses less packaging than 10 little bags. It can be interesting to buy in bulk especially on items with a long expiration date or non-food items, both for your wallet and the environment.
For food scraps to compost, it requires a very specific environment. This environment is not found in a landfill. Every time you send food waste to a landfill, you might think you’re not doing any harm because ‘food will decompose anyway’, but you’re wrong. If you create the right composting environment at home, you will see how hard it can be, and you can use the compost itself as a fertilizer for your plants.
8. Install a bidet or use toilet paper from recycled paper
This one is pretty self-explanatory: if you use a bidet, you won’t need to use (as much) toilet paper. However, a bidet is not for everyone and that’s okay. If you still want to reduce waste while being on the toilet, opt for toilet paper made from recycled paper.
9. Buy package free as much as possible
There is no need for every single piece of food to be wrapped individually. Especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. You don’t even need the little plastic bags at the grocery aisle either. Just bring your own bag from home for convenience if you do need them.
10. Choose quality over quantity
Let’s say you’re in the market for a new food processor. You see one from a reputable brand, but it costs $80. You know it will likely last at least 10 years, maybe even longer. But you don’t want to spend that much money, so you choose a $20 one instead. However, this $20 machine needs to be replaced every 2 years because it wears down quickly due to its poor quality. Over 10 years you have spent more money and created a lot more waste than you would have if you had just saved up a little longer and bought the higher quality one.
11. Buy secondhand
Buying things secondhand saves you a tonne of money, it also reduces the number of products sent to landfills significantly. Another great benefit of buying secondhand is that you don’t contribute to the demand for new products. Buying secondhand has a bad reputation because many people assume secondhand items are dirty or broken. But this is not the case for most secondhand products. Often, you can find almost new items that just don’t serve the current owner as well as they expected.
12. Borrow one-time outfits from friends and family
Why would you buy an entirely new outfit for just one occasion if you can borrow (or even rent) it for the day? If you need a professional-looking outfit for a job interview while your usual style is more casual, ask a friend to borrow an outfit so you don’t have to buy an outfit you will likely never wear again.
13. Learn basic sewing skills
Learning basic sewing skills can benefit you in so many ways. It allows you to repair clothes so you don’t have to throw them out or tailor them if they no longer fit well. You could even combine and alter clothing items to make brand new looking pieces!
14. Develop your own style
This one goes for areas like home decor and clothing. Why would you copy the way the people around you dress and decorate their homes? There’s a huge chance you will get bored of their style in a short amount of time because you are not them. Try to develop your own style and only invest in items that really match that.
15. Get a teapot
You can reduce the number of tea bags you use significantly by using a teapot. If you use a single tea bag for a one-litre pot of tea, you can drink approximately 4 cups from that one bag. This might not sound like it has much impact at first but think back to all the tea bags you could have saved in just last week if you used a teapot instead.
16. Make your own pet toys and supplies
Let’s be honest here, does your cat really care about how high quality and beautiful their pink fluffy cat bed is? If your cat is like most cats, it probably doesn’t care as much as its human does. Cats are just as satisfied with a cardboard box that you can reuse from a package you ordered as they would be with an expensive pink fluffy bed. You can find plenty of toy and supply ideas for practically any pet type that uses items like toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, and cardboard boxes.
17. Sell or donate items you no longer need
Just because an item no longer serves you, doesn’t mean it can’t serve someone else. Maybe your clothing style has changed in the last few months, but your current clothes are still in good condition. Consider selling them on Facebook, or even organising a clothing swap with friends. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of selling items and getting strangers at your door, you can always donate your clothing to a local thrift store. There are plenty of better options than sending them to landfills.
18. If you want something, wait at least a week before you buy it
Impulse buying is a huge contributor to landfills because we get tricked into thinking we want something, while we actually don’t. Once we realize these items don’t serve us, most of them get sent to landfills. To reduce the number of impulsive buys we make (and later send to landfills), you should wait at least a week before you actually get it. If you still want it after a week, you most likely will enjoy the item. If you forget about it in a week, it would have been an impulse buy.
19. Make a wishlist for your birthday/Christmas
How often have you received gifts that didn’t serve any purpose for you? Think about all those scented candles you got, that you didn’t like the smell of so you never used them. If you make a wishlist your friends and family can gift you things that you actually need and enjoy. This way you won’t end up with a tonne of unused items that will eventually get thrown away.
20. Re-use glass bottles for storage
There is simply no need to buy a tonne of small storage containers if you reuse the glass bottles that hold foods. Simply rinse them and put them in the dishwasher afterwards, and they are good as new. If they come with one of those pesky sticky labels, just leave them in water overnight and the label should come off on its own. Just don’t use them for food items as they are no longer airtight after you open them for the first time.
21. Learn to recognize marketing tricks
Marketing is meant to trick us into buying things. Most of the time, these are things we don’t even need or want. As I’ve mentioned earlier, impulsively bought things often turn out to not serve you and end up in landfills. If you become more aware of the most often used marketing tricks, it might help you see through them and decide if you actually need the item.
22. Donate cardboard packaging to schools
Have you seen how many arts and crafts projects can be made from simple cardboard boxes, egg cartons and toilet paper rolls? When I was in primary school, our school asked parents to save these items and give them to the school to use for arts and crafts. Imagine how much fewer art supplies would have to be bought and produced if every parent donated just a few of these items every month.
23. Borrow items that you rarely use
If you are the type of person that only bakes one single birthday cake a year, why would you buy a cake pan? Just ask your friends or family if they have one you could borrow. This saves you money on an item you don’t need and will likely throw out once you realize you will never use it again. On top of that, it saves space in your kitchen cabinets as you just return said cake pan after you’re done with it.
24. Eliminate single-use items as much as possible
Why use single use wipes to clean your house if you could just as easily use a fabric wipe as well? Why use cotton pads to take off your makeup if you could just as easily use a washcloth? The fabric wipe and washcloth can be used over and over again after putting them in the washer, while the single use equivalents end up in landfills after just one time. Imagine how many single use items a single reusable one can replace over the years.
25. When in doubt about purchacing an item, borrow it first
If there’s an item you want, but you’re not quite sure if it fits in your life, why not try to borrow it first? If someone close to you has the same or a similar item, ask them if you could use it for a day to see if it suits you. If it doesn’t, you give back the item and move on with your life. If it does, you return the item and can get one of your own.
26. Propagate plants at home
Propagating plants is so much easier than most people think. On YouTube you can find plenty of 2-3 minute tutorials on how to propagate the most popular houseplants yourself. This way you can over time decorate your entire home by buying just a few plants. By doing this, you don’t add to the demand for plants. Even though plants are organic products, they can be pretty harmful to the environment to grow in large quantities. Another big advantage of propagating plants at home is that you have free gifts to hand out. They are great tokens of appreciation to give to people that did you a favour.
27. Ask your friends to make a birthday/Christmas wishlist
Similarly to receiving gifts that you have no use for, you can also end up on the giving side of the equation. It’s so much more satisfying and environmentally friendly to see your friend or family member use the gift you have them, than to never see it again because it didn’t suit them. By giving someone a gift they actually want and/or need, it has no reason to end up in a landfill.
28. Use a reusable (water) bottle
Just like carrying a reusable bag with you at all times, it can be very beneficial to carry a reusable water bottle as well. Think back to every time you bought a bottle of water and had to send the empty bottle to a landfill. Now imagine you had a reusable water bottle with you all these times and just refilled it at a tap. Not every country provides drinkable tap water, but if yours does, it’s just silly to buy single use water bottles.
29. Avoid packaging within packaging
If you buy a box of cookies, why does every single cookie need to be wrapped individually? If you want to keep them fresh, you can just as easily stash them in an airtight cookie jar. Just think about how many pointless wrappers one single cookie jar can replace. Try to avoid these types of packaging as much as possible and opt for reusable items to keep foods fresh instead.
30. Only buy something new if you can’t find the item secondhand
This goes mainly for furniture and electronics. Just because an item didn’t serve their previous owner anymore, doesn’t mean it can’t serve you. Take a used tv for example: maybe the previous owner got a newer model because the current one didn’t meet their needs anymore. It could still meet your needs. Or maybe they want to travel the world and don’t have use for the tv anymore. It’s still a good tv. Try to find these kinds of products secondhand if you can to avoid adding to the demand of new products. Sometimes you’re lucky and even save money. Sometimes you’re not and you still have to buy the item new, which is fine. Try to see buying new as your plan B.s
31. Freeze leftover foods to eat later
I mean, why would you even throw out perfectly edible food? Just because it’s cooked already? You can just as easily put it in an airtight container and freeze the dish. Not only does it reduce your waste significantly, it also saves you a lot of time cooking next time you want to eat that same dish. You could even save up several leftover dishes and have a special leftover night with your family so everyone can pick their favorite dish from that week.
32. Drink loose leaf tea
Tea bags might look like they would easily decompose but in reality, they don’t. Tea bags are made from microplastics and therefore are not compostable. If you buy a reusable tea strainer and loose leaf tea, you can keep the tea bags out of the equation alltogether.
33. Don’t use straws
If you are not a child or have a serious condition that makes you spill your drink easily, you simply don’t need a straw. It might look ‘aesthetic’, but is that Instagram post really worth the unnecessary waste that gets sent to landfills?
34. Buy refurbished electronics
Be honest, is the newest model of Iphone really that much better than the one older version? Most people wouldn’t even know the difference except for the amount of bragging they would otherwise do. Do bragging rights justify spending a few hundred dollar extra and adding to the demand of new phones while there are plenty of perfectly usable phones out there? If you are just a little tech savvy and know what to look out for, you can buy a used phone off of someone directly. If you want a sense of security, check local stores for refurbished phones. They check them thoroughly for defects before buying them in, clean them if needed and reset them so you can use them straight away. Most stores even offer a warranty period in case they missed a minor defect.
35. Don’t replace an item until the current one is beyond repair
This one ties in to ‘repair, reuse, reduce’. In this consumption driven age companies make it too easy to replace an item so they can make more money. If the seam of your shirt rips, you can easily fix it yourself. You simply don’t need to get a new one simply because of one ripped seam. It might be easy to hop online and order a new one, but that means you also have to send your current shirt to the landfill. That makes taking 5 minutes to repair your shirt much more appealing, doesn’t it?
37. Don’t fall for trends
Not only is keeping up with trends stressful, it’s also very harmful to the environment. The clothing industry is by far one of the most polluting industries of all because of the extremely high demand for clothing. This demand is not there because we don’t have enough clothing available, but because the clothing industry creates the feeling of being left out if you don’t wear the latest trends. If you develop your own style, you don’t have to keep up with this (let’s be honest) nonsense. This doesn’t mean you can never buy an item that is in style though. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself ‘would I still wear this item if no one else is?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, go for it because the trend that’s going on happens to match your style. If the answer is ‘probably not’, it’s best to leave the item be and wait for another trend that fits your style better.
38. Grow your own food
Even though you won’t directly see the impact growing your own food makes, it makes a huge difference. Imagine all the pesticides, packaging and gas that is no longer needed to get a certain food item from being a seed to your plate. Of course, not everyone has a garden to grow food in, and it’s not realistic to grow every type of food by yourself, but many people making a small contribution can have a huge impact. Even if you don’t have an outside area, you can still grow herbs in your kitchen. This way you eating herbs doesn’t require the use of pesticides, packaging and gas that it otherwise would.
39. Buy reduced food items in the grocery store
Some grocery stores have special discounts for products that have almost reached their expiration date. Legally, they can’t sell products beyond their expiration date, but that doesn’t mean they are not edible. You can easily eat most of these products the same day or the day after the expiration date. You can even freeze some products if you don’t need them until later. If no one takes these perfectly fine products, they will be thrown out.
40. Use a meal plan and grocery list
How many times did you end up with way too many groceries just because you didn’t have a plan while going shopping? If you make a list of all the items you need for the week, you are less likely to buy extra products that you ‘might need’ but actually don’t.
Bonus: share video games with friends and family
When I was a kid, my mom owned a Nintendo Entertainment System, and so did her cousin. Since the games for it were pretty expensive, she often swapped games with her cousin. I remember them discussing on the phone what games they would swap at their next meetup, and for how long. This way, both of them saved a tonne of money but still got to play the games they wanted. Doing this in modern days, not only saves you money but also significantly reduces demand for the number of video game copies. If you finish a game, why let it gather dust until you want to play it again in a few years while your friend could enjoy it in the meantime?