Quantcast

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Waste So Every Day Is Earth Day

Food
Shopping at farmers markets can help minimize your waste.

Earth Day 2018 is focused on the all-important theme of reducing plastic litter and pollution. Of course, we shouldn't just reduce our plastic footprint, we should try to reduce waste in all shapes, sizes and forms. It's said that the average American generates a staggering 4 pounds of trash every day—but you don't have to be part of that statistic.

Here are six entirely manageable tips and tricks to help you cut waste.


1. BYO (Bring Your Own)

We all know we should bring our own bag to the grocery store, but what about bringing your own straw or takeaway container to restaurants? I now make it a habit of toting a "Zero-Waste Kit" with me everywhere so I don't make trash when I'm on the go. As you can see below, it contains essentials like canvas bags, utensils, beverage holders and cloth napkins. Reusable items are staples for a trash-free lifestyle.

From left to right. Large canvas bag; a 'tall' size mason jar with sipping lid; water bottle; cloth napkin; glass container with lid; utensils; metal straw; smaller canvas bags for loose items and/or produce.

2. The "Three Rs" of the environment isn't just a rule, it's a tier

The hierarchy of the eco-refrain "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is key. For instance, switching to a reusable water bottle will help you stop buying single-use plastic ones. Almost all drink bottles are made from virgin, petroleum-based plastic, not recycled material. The vast majority end up in landfills, oceans or other bodies of water, where they never actually degrade, but break down into tinier and tinier pieces, potentially causing harm to the natural environment and wildlife.

However, recycling that disposable bottle isn't the best answer either. Recycling itself is an energy-intensive process and has emissions associated with it, too. And, in case you haven't heard, China is no longer accepting the world's recyclables, leaving recycling centers with ever-growing mountains of trash. Simply, we have to find ways to buy less and use less.

I'd like to add two more Rs to the list:

  • Refuse. This R is probably more crucial than "Reduce." For instance, you don't need that paper or plastic bag at check-out; tell your servers "no straw"; refuse to buy things that come in wasteful packaging.
  • Repair. When your clothing gets a tear or your electronics aren't working, try fixing it instead of buying new. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke…

3. DIY

If I had to recommend one "must-have" tool for the home, it would be a high-speed blender. I use it to whip up smoothies, nut milks, soups, sauces, dips and flours. Sure, homemade food is often healthier and cheaper, but it also means I don't have to buy these individual items from the store, cutting down on unnecessary packaging.

Many everyday products and cosmetics can be made at home. Check out prominent zero-waste influencer Lauren Singer's "Trash is For Tossers" blog and YouTube channel. Singer—who can remarkably fit four years of trash into a single mason jar—teaches you how to make your own toothpaste, lotion, deodorant and more. (Actually, follow some of these other amazing zero-wasters such as Anne-Marie Bonneau, Celia Ristow and Jonathan Levy, who give great ideas and advice on litter-free living.)

Is there something you consume a lot of that you can make at home instead? I love kombucha, so instead of paying $4 a bottle at the store, I make my own. I also grow simple foods such as leafy greens and herbs. I know, I know, you don't always have the time or effort to DIY. But if anything, it's a big money saver.

Some easy-to-grow greens and herbs, homemade kombucha in the back.

4. Look for multipurpose, long-lasting, giant-sized items

Buy in bulk for things you always need, such as non-perishable foods, laundry detergent, olive oil, toilet paper, etc. Also, the best products have multiple uses, like castile soap. Just a few drops can go a long way in making soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even fruit wash. I like to buy the biggest version, which lasts for months. And check out this awesome list for 30+ uses for apple cider vinegar.

5. Think local

Is there a farmers market near you? Or a CSA program you can join? Not only are you supporting community farmers, the food travels fewer miles and often comes without, or in much less, packaging. For instance, the onions and potatoes from my weekly CSA box never come in the unnecessary netting you often find at the supermarket.

6. Catalogue your waste footprint

The most important step, really, is to take an honest look at what you throw away. Have you been tossing out a lot of food lately? Try making stock from veggie scraps or start a compost. Does your car guzzle a lot of gasoline? Consider taking public transport if it's available, or investing in an electric bike for shorter distances. Do you go through a lot of clothing? Try second-hand or raid someone else's closet. The point is, there's almost always a more environmentally friendly option.

Keep in mind that cutting your waste might not happen overnight, but it's important to make the effort. The planet will thank you for it.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less