Ever walk into a room and see something that you can’t unsee? That is what happened to me when I started focusing on my plastic and waste consumption.
Now, I walk into the grocery store and the first thing I notice is the packaging, and not how it looks (hey, I’m a designer), but the sheer amount of it.
The truth is, our world is drowning in waste created by people like you and me; and sadly most of it is single-use, thrown away almost immediately. This trash does not just “magically” go away, it’s in landfills everywhere and they’re filling up.
When I started my journey to reducing my waste, I was immediately overwhelmed. I quickly learned that you have to pick and choose your battles and that reducing your waste doesn’t mean being perfect (zero), but using what you have, for as long as possible.
Below are several measures I have taken to reduce my household waste. I invite you to test them out and see if they stick. A greener world is depending on it.
Reusable Water Bottles & Reusable Coffee Cups
These are two of the easiest things you can do to reduce your waste right now. Bring your water with you in a reusable bottle and opt for making your coffee at home using a regular coffee pot or french press. Forgo the Keurig Machine and if you have to give-in to your Starbucks craving, try to have them fill your reusable cup. It may feel weird the first time, but you’ll get over it. My hope is that one day Starbucks will offer a discount to people that do this.
Reusable Grocery & Produce Bags
California has already put a ban on plastic grocery bags, (woohoo) how about those plastic produce bags that you use for a total of 10 minutes? I found a solution and I love the way my fruits and veggies look in their organic cotton cloth bags!
You can shop them here: https://www.simpleecology.com/
Reusable Containers, Silverware, & Cloth Napkins
Are Tupperware parties going to make a come back?? Probably not, but taking your breakfast, lunch, picnic (whatever) in a reusable container can reduce your waste immensely. I used to put all my snacks in plastic bags and have found that small glass tupperware keeps them fresher, longer and simply looks more appealing. Throwing metal or bamboo silverware in your bag can help cut down on the amount of single-use utensils you use when eating out. We have a GIANT bag of these in our house and have recently started to say “hold the plastic utensils” when we pick up take out. It’s a win, win for all involved.
Cloth napkins… I feel embarrassed that it took me this long to figure this out. It wasn’t until my Grandma passed, that the lightbulb went off. I received a box of her kitchen belongings and in the box were these beautiful, colorful cloth napkins. Cleaning my hands or face with these while eating feels more uplifting, classy and fun. There are hundreds of these napkins floating around thrift shops near you. This same idea can be applied to cleaning kitchen counters with cloth towels instead of paper. I have a basket in my kitchen that is used solely for dirty cloths that I launder once a week. Be creative and create a system that works for you!
Chop Your Own Vegetables
I know, the lazy in us is laughing right now. But guess what… it will save you a bunch of money and help you reduce your waste. Also, some grocery staff do not wear gloves when handling produce… yuck.
Bulk Bins at Stores
Find a grocery store that offers buying in bulk. Use the bulk section to buy things like nuts, seeds, coffee, cereals, rice, beans, dried fruits; the list goes on. Use old mason or spaghetti sauce jars to fill while shopping. Grocery stores use the tare system, so you won’t be charged for the weight of your jar. And if the store doesn’t know how to do this, hold them accountable in a polite way.
My pantry looks gorgeous now that I’ve limited all the packaging (aka advertising) and can see my ingredients sitting in their clear, reusable glass containers.
Did you know that food waste trapped in landfills is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases? And that it produces a gas that can actually explode? This is why we should compost.
Composting used to scare me. It sounds sciencey (which it is) and difficult (which it is not). I use to think that you had to make soil to compost, but really if you have a Green Waste trash can, you can compost. Store a bin (I suggest one with a seal. I bought mine from: https://www.naturalhomebrands.com/) on your counter or under the sink to throw all your compostable food scraps into. Compost things like veggies and fruit scraps, eggshells, etc. Don’t compost animal proteins or pet droppings.
When the small bin fills up, throw those scraps into your large Green Waste bin to be collected. These scraps will break down naturally with your yard clippings.
There is a ton of information out there on composting. Here is one resource of many: https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/making/what-to-use/
Remember, taking steps to reduce your waste should feel inspiring and fun! Start small and see what works (and sticks) for you and your family; and then challenge yourself to try something new and different.
Get the ball rolling and keep living, healing and connecting with our planet!