Ways to Reduce Waste at Home

Shannon Quinn - February 7, 2020
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As time goes on, people have become more aware of how our bad habits are affecting the environment. Trash is floating in our oceans, and landfills are getting fuller by the minute. All over the Internet, you can find people who have attempted a “zero waste” lifestyle. Even for those who try their best, the world we live in is not designed to accommodate those of us who are trying to cut down on excess trash we are creating. However, if everyone even attempt to improve their habits, this could make a huge impact on the world. Here are several ways you can reduce waste at home. 

Remember to bring your own bag to the grocery store. Credit: Kaboom Pics

50. Bring Your Own Bags to the Grocery Store

Plastic bags at the grocery store are truly terrible. They cannot be recycled with your other plastics, because they get caught up in the machinery that sorts through cans and bottles. So you really do need to put them in the trash, or reuse them as trash bags in your garbage cans. However, even if you use them to line your bins, there are usually so many bags, that you might not know what to do with them all.

Mesh produce bags are great for carrying fruit and vegetables. Credit: Kaboom Pics

This is easily avoidable by purchasing reusable grocery bags. Most grocery stores will sell these bags for just $1 each. Even at places like Aldi, they will allow you to buy your plastic bags. Once you buy them, you can bring them back to the store and use them over and over again.

If you have the choice between produce packed in plastic or without, choose the individual option. Credit: Pexels

49. Avoid Food Wrapped in Plastic 

Unfortunately, avoiding food wrapped in plastic is easier said than done. Most grocery stores will wrap their food in plastic to preserve its freshness. Even fresh produce that you would assume would be grab-and-go is sometimes in plastic. If you have the option to choose, go for produce that is sitting out in the open. Compare price-per-pound, because you might find that buying your fruits and vegetables individually is the same price as a bagged product. And if you are single, or only need a small amount for a recipe, this is also a good way to cut down on food waste.

Ask yourself if your food packaging is recyclable or not. Credit: Shutterstock

If you are buying frozen food, avoiding plastic is nearly impossible. However, try to examine all of the options you have in front of you. If there is a container that can be recycled, at least you know that you can dispose of it properly after you are done cooking.

Buying too many new things can pile up waste. Credit: Pexels

48. Stop Buying Too Many New Things

Whenever you buy something new, it almost always creates extra waste. Products usually come with tags, plastic wrapping, boxes, containers, and shopping bags. If you are the sort of person who shops due to boredom, you might want to find a different hobby. Not only will it help the environment, but it will obviously also help you save money. When you appreciate the things you already own, it is a lot easier to feel happy and satisfied.

Some people go on shopping sprees when they get bored. Credit: Shutterstock

Those products that you are admiring are going to be in the stores whether you buy them or not. But buying new things that are unnecessary is only helping to create a demand in the economy. So if everyone were to cut back on buying things they don’t need, it would also cut down on waste overall.

Shopping locally can help to cut down on waste. Credit: Kaboom Pics

47. Shop Locally 

If you have a local bakery, farmer’s market, or health food store, you will notice that there is significantly less plastic being used on their products. In some cases, fruit and vegetables are taken in baskets directly from someone’s farm, and put in containers ready for customers to buy them. This is a true farm-to-table experience. The same can be said about buying clothing, decor, and other items from local art shows or craft fairs. 

Buying objects from a local thrift store gives back to your community. Credit: Shutterstock

Shopping at small businesses also helps your local economy, rather than supporting a huge corporation. Many small town thrift stores will contribute directly to a local charity. So if you buy from your local thrift shops, this will directly go back to your community, instead of a company. And if you also donate on a regular basis, you can feel good knowing that you are essentially recycling objects between yourself and your neighbors.

Try to order several items at once to cut down on boxes and plastic. Credit: Burst by Shopify

46. Condense Your Amazon Orders 

Anyone who orders from Amazon on a regular basis knows that this creates a tremendous amount of waste. The boxes are always larger than they need to be, and it’s usually stuffed with extra packing material as well. When you have Amazon Prime, it can be tempting to buy just one thing for overnight or two-day shipping. However, if you’re trying to make an effort to cut down on waste, try to wait until you can buy a few things at once.

Try to condense multiple Amazon orders into one. Credit: Shutterstock

Amazon also gives you the option to choose “no rush” shipping. If you are buying multiple items, they will do their best to put multiple orders into one box while they wait for those items to be collected around the warehouse. You will get a $1 digital credit every time to choose the “no rush” option, which can be redeemed for ebooks, movie rentals, and music.  Last year, I earned back $20 in digital credit. In my mind, I imagine that my $119 annual Amazon Prime membership went down to $99, and I still got to enjoy the benefits of free two-day shipping when I absolutely needed it.

Buying products in bulk can reduce packaging. Credit: Pixabay

45. Buy in Bulk

The good thing about buying in bulk from places like Costo and Sam’s Club is that you can get a large amount of food in a single package, rather than buying multiple boxes or bags of that same product. For example, if you can buy one jumbo-sized bottle of Seracha that lasts an entire year, that produces less waste than buying 3 bottles in that same length of time. Same goes for buying bulk toilet paper, paper towels, and pretty much anything you can imagine. On top of helping the environment, bulk products are usually a lot cheaper.

Bulk stores like Costco help you cut down on multiple shopping trips. Credit: Shutterstock

Buying in bulk can also be great for refilling your existing packaging. For example, you could buy a glass oil dispenser, and a jumbo-size bottle of olive oil. Every time the small bottle gets low, you can refill it from your larger bottle. This same concept applies to liquid hand soap, and you can even get refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles installed in your shower. 

Carrying a bag gives you a place to put your products without using bags. Credit: Kaboom Pics

44. Carry a Large Bag or Backpack 

Every time you go to a store, you will probably have someone ask if you want a bag. Sometimes, they don’t even ask, and automatically assume that you want your product bagged in plastic. Sometimes, it’s possible to say “no thanks” and carry the item out to your car. 

Carrying a backpack is easier to carry things without plastic bags. Credit: Shutterstock

If you are walking on foot or taking public transportation, it would be easier to have some sort of bag to put it in. So by carrying a large tote bag style purse or a backpack, you always have a place to put the things you buy. 

Educate yourself on your local recycling programs. Credit: Burst by Shopify

43. Recycle 

To some of you out there, choosing to recycle is a no-brainer. But some people out there throw their recyclables in the trash. Or, they aren’t sure what they can and cannot recycle in the first place. Take some time to educate yourself on what is recyclable, as well as what can go to your local recycling programs.

There are a lot of products in your home that can be recycled. Credit: Burst by Shopify

For example, most towns have a location to dispose of your old batteries, electronics, and cans of paint. These cannot be placed in the normal recycling bin, but if you put them in the garbage, it could be potentially toxic for the Earth. So try to do your due diligence with recycling.

Some grocery stores allow you to refill your own containers to buy products. Credit: Shannon Quinn

42. Look For Food Dispensers at Your Local Grocery Store

Certain grocery stores have food dispensers that allow you to buy nuts, grains, and coffee by the pound. This can reduce waste compared to buying something pre-packaged in plastic. Many of these same stores will allow you to bring in your own packaging, or you can pour the products into a biodegradable paper bag. 

Pouring the amounts of food you want into paper bags cuts back on waste. Credit: Shutterstock

Getting into this habit will help to cut down on food waste as well, because you can buy the exact amount you need. For example, if you just want to buy enough food to have a snack that week, you don’t have to buy an entire container or bag of nuts. You can measure out your exact amounts instead, which will potentially save money in the long run.

Frozen meals cause a lot of waste. Credit: Pixabay

41. Avoid Single-Use Meals

One of the biggest sources of waste is buying single-use meals. Some people like to buy frozen meals like Lean Cuisine, because they are easy to take to work and pop in the microwave. While these are convenient, they create a lot of waste. From the cardboard box, to the plastic wrap and tray. Even worse is that if you take this to work, you are likely throwing it in the garbage instead of recycling it.

Single-use frozen meals create a lot of waste. Credit: Amazon

The best way to combat this is to learn to cook at home. Honestly, those frozen meals aren’t exactly the most tasty or nutritious thing in the world, either. Once you learn to cook at home, you can buy glass Pyrex containers that can be reused over and over again.

Used electronics helps to cut down on waste. Credit: Shutterstock

40. Buy and Sell Second Hand Electronics 

According to The United Nations, there is 40 million tons of electronic waste dumped every single year. There are plenty of people out there who want to buy the newest iPhone every year, but this obsession with technology is terrible for the environment. The older phones get, the more likely they are to be thrown away. It’s possible to buy used electronics on eBay, or look at the options from Amazon Renewed

Renewed products are cheaper than new. Credit: Shutterstock

Most communities will have an electronics recycling program, but so many people are not educated about their options. One way you can prevent items from going into the landfill is to buy a second-hand electronic. This is giving an old item a second life, and it saves your money. Also consider selling your old products too, instead of tossing them in the trash can.

Composting food scraps helps to cut down on waste. Credit: Shutterstock

39. Compost Your Excess Food

In the United States, 31% of food goes to waste without ever being eaten, which adds up to 133 billion pounds. Considering how many people are homeless and hungry, this should never happen. Unfortunately, a lot of that food ends up in a landfill together with other garbage. If you live in an apartment and don’t have anywhere to put your excess food, it is likely that you feel as if you have no choice but to put it in the trash can. But most community gardens will have a composting program.

Mixing garden and food scraps together creates compost. Credit: Shutterstock

If you are willing to buy yourself a compost bucket to keep in your kitchen, food waste can be taken to your local program. And if you have a big backyard, it should be possible for you to make your own outdoor composting pile, which can be used to fertilize your garden.

A reusable water bottle cuts down on plastic bottles. Credit: Shutterstock

38. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle 

For some of you, buying a reusable water bottle seems like a no-brainer, but it really is one of the best ways to cut down on plastic waste. Drinking from plastic water bottles has been proven to be terrible for your health, anyway, so this is also helping your body as well as the planet. This also helps to save money over time, plus it can be a fashion statement if you choose a brand you really like. 

A reusable water bottle is one of the essentials for an eco-friendly meal. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Most airports, amusement parks, gyms, and public buildings will have water fountains for you to refill your bottles wherever you go, so it’s like getting free refills. It’s also generally more convenient to have a water bottle on-hand in your home, so you never have to run out to the grocery store to buy more backs of water bottles. If you prefer to have filtered water at home, invest in a Brita pitcher, so that it will taste clean every time.

Avoid plastic cutlery by bringing your own to work. Credit: Kaboom Pics

37. Bring Your Own Cutlery and Straws

When you are at work or traveling, it can be tempting to use the plastic cutlery that is provided for you. However, if you are truly serious about being an eco-warrior, you might want to consider bringing your own cutlery from home. There are even portable wooden cutlery sets that are easy to keep in your bag. Since they’re made of wood, they are completely biodegradable whenever the time comes to dispose of them. 

Wooden cutlery and metal straws help to cut down on waste. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Another big source of waste are plastic straws from fast food restaurants. Scientists estimate that there are 7.5 million plastic straws in our oceans. If you are sitting down to eat, you can ask the cashier to not give you a straw, or avoid it when you are picking up your own utensils. They sell packs of metal straws online if you really need to use them. But in most cases, you can simply sip from the side of the cup like you would at home.

If you see trash on the street, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Credit: Pixabay

36. Pick Up Trash on the Street

Even though we are giving tips about what you can do to reduce waste in your own house, your neighborhood is also part of your home. Whenever you see trash on the side of the road, sidewalks, parks, or water, that is directly affecting where you live. If you are walking out in public and you find trash on the ground, pick it up and bring it to the nearest trash can.

Community service groups pick up trash on a regular basis. Credit: Shutterstock

If you were really feeling motivated to help your community, join a local beach or park pickup volunteer group. These are events when people get together on a weekend up to clean up their local public spaces. This may even be a great way for you to make new friends with people who live near you. 

Loose leaf tea helps cut down on garbage. Credit: Pixabay

35. Drink Loose Leaf Tea 

Almost everyone likes to drink coffee or tea in the morning to help them get a boost of energy. However, using K-cups creates plastic waste, and so do tea bags. The best low-waste solution is to buy bags of loose tea and coffee grounds. There are also plenty of stores that allow you to buy coffee beans in bulk. If you have never made your own ground beans, they sell coffee grinders online. Plenty of coffee nerds out there actually prefer to do this, because it tastes amazing.

Tea balls hold loose leaf tea while it steeps in hot water. Credit: Shutterstock

When it comes to tea, this is a bit more difficult. Stores like Teavana sold loose tea in bulk, but they have closed down due to a lack in popularity. In some high-end grocery stores, they will have large tins of tea that you can measure out into paper bags. Once you buy the loose tea, you should put it in a tea ball so that it diffuses into a cup of hot water. Or, you can buy tea sets that come with a little loose tea container built into it. 

Making your own furniture helps to reduce waste. Credit: Kaboom Pics

34. Build Your Own Furniture 

A lot of people love Ikea for the fact that it’s cheap furniture. However, most of their pieces are made out of particle board, and they will eventually break over time. According to Curbed, 9 million tons of furniture goes into landfills every year. You can help to prevent this waste in a few ways. First is by keeping your old furniture and repainting it. Second is to buy from a thrift store, which will prevent used furniture from going into a landfill.

These rustic farmhouse tables are actually easy to DIY. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Third would be to build your own furniture. Recently, we cut down a few trees on my property. So I was able to make side tables out of slices of a tree by attaching metal hairpin legs to the bottom. Pretty soon, I want to create my own farmhouse table with a tutorial I found online. The process is actually easier than you would imagine.

Shopping from thrift stores holds off on waste for a while longer. Credit: Burst by Shopify

33. Shop at Thrift Stores 

Every year, the average American creates 82 pounds of textile waste from throwing away old clothing. This adds up to a tremendous amount of waste in our landfills. There is a misconception among some people that thrift stores should be reserved for the poor. They believe that if they buy from those stores, it somehow takes away from people who are more in need. In reality, this is a great way to extend the life of clothing before it ends up in the dump.

Thrift stores have loads of cheap options. Credit: Shutterstock

Major thrift chains like Goodwill get so much donated to them, that they can’t handle it all. You may be surprised to find that there are plenty of amazing pieces available, and some even still have the tags on them. If you’re looking for an amazing deal, check out Goodwill Outlets, where clothing is just $1 per pound. And most Salvation Army stores have one day a week where nearly everything is 50% off.

Plan ahead to prevent yourself from wasting food. Credit: Shutterstock

32. Don’t Waste Food

Earlier on this list, we mentioned how millions of pounds of food are wasted every single year. But this is not just generated from the grocery store leftovers and scraps. Far too many people accidentally buy too much food, and it goes bad before they can eat the leftovers. This isn’t just bad for the environment, either. It can also hurt your wallet. According to the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws away $640 of food every single year.

Make sure to use up all of your food before it goes bad. Credit: Shutterstock

One good tip is to attempt to eat everything in your pantry before you buy anything new. Only purchase the items that are necessary to go with your stocked items. This will help you save a lot of money, and it also cuts down on your waste. Forcing yourself to eat this excess food also teaches you what items you should never buy again.

Making a meal plan will help you cut down on food waste. Credit: Shutterstock

31. Make a Meal Plan 

In the last entry, we mentioned cutting down on food waste in your kitchen. One of the best ways to do this is by making a meal plan. Write down the meals you want to cook on each night of the week, as well as the ingredients that you need. Check your cabinets for food items that you already have in stock, in order to use everything up. For example, if you have a lot of rice, you could use it for a stir fry one day, and burritos the next. If you enjoy cooking, a meal plan can be a great way to incorporate new dishes into your rotation. 

A simple meal plan like this is easy to make at home. Credit: Shutterstock

When your are making a meal plan, it’s important to be realistic. Give yourself at least one day of eating out at a restaurant, especially on the weekends. This helps you to get a break, and know that there is a sense of relief from cooking too often. Also remember to include days when you are visiting your relatives or friends for dinner. Remember that you could also eat leftovers for lunch the next day, or use containers for meal prepping.

Going vegan can help to reduce your carbon footprint. Credit: Shutterstock

30. Go Vegan

According to the University of Oxford, going vegan cuts down on an individual’s carbon footprint by 73%. So this is the single greatest things you could possibly do to help the environment. If you think that’s an exaggeration, keep in mind that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. There is also a tremendous amount of methane gas emitted from farm animals, as well as land that is being demolished to raise livestock. I really recommend watching the documentaries The Game Changers and Cowspiracy, which both go more into the environmental and health factors of going vegan.

Going vegan is simply a choice of eating better foods. Credit: Shutterstock

Personally, I have attempting going vegan a few times in my life, and social pressure always brought me back to eating meat. I am proud to say that I am currently on my one-month checkpoint of starting again in 2020. This time, I am never going back to my old ways, because it is the best way for me to lose weight, clear my skin, as well as look and feel 10 years younger. After watching The Game Changers documentary, it convinced my father and brother to go vegan, too. In the first 5 days of going vegan, my dad’s blood pressure dropped by 15 points, and it continues to go down. So there is no doubt that it has already prevented him from having a heart attack or stroke in the future. 

Silicon mats help to reduce paper and foil waste. Credit: Pixabay

29. Use Silicone Mats and Wax Wrap

If you do a lot of cooking, you already know that parchment paper and aluminum foil are frequently used in the kitchen. While these items are typically very cheap and available at the local Dollar Tree, they will always end up in the trash after every meal. Now imagine this magnified by every home in the world that is doing the same thing, and you can see how this trash would quickly add up. A great reusable alternative to foil and paper is to buy silicone baking mats. These are safe to put in the oven, and they will ensure that your food doesn’t stick to the cookie sheet. 

Bee’s wax wrap can cover bowls of leftovers. Credit: Amazon

To replace plastic wrap, you can buy wax wrap, which you can clean in the sink and reuse again and again. Alternately, you can start using glass Pyrex food containers, which will last for several years. In my house, we have switched over to using these, and it cuts down on waste. While we might need to keep some of the wraps for backup, we might be one box per years instead of doing it every week.

Look out for clearance food at the supermarket. Credit: Shutterstock

28. Buy Clearance Items at the Supermarket 

Clearance food is just a few days away from becoming trash. So if you can manage to make a meal out of this food, you can rest assured that you’re doing a good thing for the environment. If you have a local butcher or baker, ask them about possibly buying food that is close to expiration, if they don’t already have a program in place. In my local area, we have a farmer’s market full of produce that is called “seconds”, which means that they were overstock or imperfect by supermarket standards. So I get my fruit and vegetables for a fraction of the retail price, which makes my plant based lifestyle super affordable.

Walmart always has a clearance section for their bakery items. Credit: The Krazy Coupon Lady

Every supermarket puts food on clearance. Typically, you might see these items with little yellow “clearance” stickers when they are approaching their expiration date, or they could be moved to a different section of the store. At Walmart, you may have noticed that they have an entire cart full of day-old baked goods. Not only is this food a lot cheaper, but it also means that you will save it from being thrown into a landfill. 

These fake purses keep up with trends, but they get thrown away frequently. Credit: Shutterstock

27. Avoid Trends 

Every single year, there is a new fad or trend that hits the marketplace. Kids and hipsters jump on the bandwagon of buying whatever they think is new and cool. The only problem with fads is that they will often go out of style very quickly. A year from now, you might end up donating those items to the thrift store, or throwing them in the trash. For example, how many of you still have your Furby from when your were a kid? And how often did you buy something based on a celebrity’s style, only to ditch it a few months later? 

How long will you continue to wear your trendy items? Credit: Shutterstock

Instead of following trends, try to buy products that you know you will love for several years. A great way to know if you truly want something is to put it on an Amazon wishlist for a while, and wait at least a week before you buy it. If you still find yourself pining for the items that you have had on your wish list for a long time, go ahead and buy them.

Use up your old products before you buy more. Credit: Shutterstock

26. Use Up Your Old Beauty Products 

Many of us have so much makeup and skin products, we could go an entire year without buying anything new. Unfortunately, though, products have expiration dates. So a lot of the time, we are wasting makeup when we don’t use very much before it goes in the trash. Instead of buying new products, try to get into the habit of using up everything first. If you try to adopt this practice, it can help you narrow down which products you want to buy again. For example, I figured out that Nars Sheer Glow Foundation is my “holy grail” product. It’s $50, which may seem expensive. However, it matches my skin perfectly, and lasts exactly 6 months, making it just $8.30 per month. So I actually save money compared to my old habit of trying new $15 drugstore foundation every month, and I’m recycling just one bottle instead of 6.

Try to figure out which products you love the most, and only buy those. Credit: Shutterstock

Always make sure you are recycling your empty product containers, as well. Many people throw these away in their bathroom trash can, when they actually belong in the recycling bin. Mac Cosmetics also has a recycling program called “Back to Mac” where if you bring in 6 empty products, they will be able to get a free lipstick.

Growing your own food in the vegetable garden will help cut down on waste. Credit: Pixabay

25. Grow Your Own Food

If you have a large backyard, consider growing your own vegetable garden. This will help you save money from buying produce at the grocery store, and it will also help to reduce the waste you are creating from the plastic wrapped around your fruit and vegetables. Most gardeners carry their home grown produce in their hands, or in a small basket.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be incredibly fulfilling. Credit: Shutterstock

This can also help you cut down on your food waste. When you can pick fresh vegetables from the garden, you can use them immediately, and coordinate your recipes for what is in season. You can even buy a small greenhouse to keep all of your plants warm, and extend the growing season. If you find that you have more than enough, your friends and family should be happy to take organic produce for free.

Menstrual cups can reduce the number of tampons you buy. Credit: Burst by Shopify

24. Try Out Menstrual Cups 

Women cannot control when we get our time of the moth, and we are all just doing our best to get through. But in the United States alone, 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are thrown away by women every year. This doesn’t even begin to cover the amount that is created throughout the world.

Tampons and sanitary pads create a lot of waste. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Eco-conscious women try out menstrual cups. These can be cleaned and reused month to month without creating any waste. Looking at reviews online, there seem to be two camps of women who totally love or absolutely hate using a menstrual cup. For those who love it, they save a significant amount of money over the course of the year. So the only way of knowing if it works for you is to try it out.

Repairing an old item instead of throwing it away cuts down on waste. Credit: Pixabay

23. Repair Your Old Items 

In today’s world, we have a throw-away society. Very few people know how to fix things, and they decide to throw it away instead of attempting to repair it. Whenever possible, try to find a tutorial online to see if you can fix something. And invest in a sewing kit so that you can easily repair small holes and tears in your clothes. Once you get in the habit of repairing, you can save tons of money.

Phone screens can be replaced. Credit: Shutterstock

Sometimes, being handy can help you get an amazing deal. A couple years ago, I found a 50-inch flat screen HDTV at Goodwill Outlet for only $5. I plugged it in at the store to see that it powered on, but the screen was black. After watching a tutorial online, my dad and I were able to spend $20 on a new fuse, and the TV worked again. For just $25 total and an hour of my time, I was able to help my parents upgrade their old clunky TV. It seriously pays to be handy.

Making a budget can help cut down on overspending, and waste. Credit: Burst by Shopify

22. Make a Budget 

I know what you’re thinking. What does making a budget have to do with the environment? Once you have a strict budget of what you need in any given month, you will be able to track your spending more efficiently. Many people are buying more than they can actually afford, and it puts them into debt. So if you get yourself in a healthy lifestyle of making a budget, cutting down on spending, and only buying items that are necessary, it will also translate into cutting down on your carbon footprint.

Writing down your budget can help you keep on track. Credit: Shutterstock

Sometimes, these budget plans go hand-in-hand. For example, I realized that my Toyota Prius was the most budget-friendly option for me when I was shopping for a new car. And it kills two birds with one stone, because it cuts down on the amount of emissions my vehicle is putting into the atmosphere.

Reusing jars is a great way to prevent yourself from throwing things away. Credit: Burst by Shopify

21. Reuse Glass Jars 

Even though glass is recyclable, it can still be very useful to reuse glass jars from spaghetti sauce or other products. These can be used in place of Mason jars for foot storage. Sometimes, you can purchase plastic jar lids from Walmart that will fit perfectly on the top of an old pickle jar. 

Glass jars can be used for food prep and storage. Credit: Shutterstock

There are so many more uses for glass jars than just food in your kitchen. You can even use these to keep things like tacks, paper clips, and more. 

These friends are saving money by lending books to each other. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Borrow Before Buying

In the United States, we live in a consumer society. Whenever we need something, our first thought might be, “I need to go buy this.” However, in a lot of cases, there are items we buy that we might only use once or twice a year. It’s far more sustainable and affordable to borrow something before you buy. Home Depot allows you to rent expensive appliances for a few days if you’re doing a big DIY project. And you can always go on Facebook to ask family and friends if they have the item you need.

It’s possible to rent high end clothing instead of buying. Credit: Shutterstock

When you have friends that are the same size as you, you might already borrow each other’s clothes. And if you’re reading this in 2021, you might not be going out any time soon. It’s fine if you wear sweatpants every day. But when we’re ready to go to weddings or other special events, borrowing clothes is a more sustainable and practical way to approach fashion. Rent the Runway is a company that allows you to rent high-end clothing and purses for special occasions. You wear the items once or twice, and send it back. Then, they dry clean the item and rent it to someone else. 

Giant containers or protein powder are only useful if you’re body building. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Don’t Buy More Than What You Can Use

Earlier on this list, we recommended that you should buy products in bulk to cut down on packaging. However, some people run into the issue of buying a jumbo-sized product and never finishing it before it expires. This commonly happens when people get a membership to somewhere like Costco or Sam’s Club. They get excited about buying a large version of their favorite product without actually thinking about how often they use it on a daily basis.

Mega sized condiments at Costco. Credit: Shutterstock

Throwing away unused food, beauty products, or supplements is just as wasteful as creating multiple containers for the garbage. Before you buy something in bulk, check the expiration date. Think about how often you use that product, and how long it typically takes to complete the bottle. If it’s due to expire before you can finish, skip it, and buy the normal-sized bottle. Alternately, try to see if there are companies out there who sell biodegradable packaging for commonly used products.

Most people use q-tips to clean their ears. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Switch Up How You Clean Your Ears

A common item that ends up in the landfill are q-tips from your bathroom. According to Unilever, they produce 25.5 billion q-tips every year…That doesn’t even include the off-brand items. Many of these products contain plastic. As terrible as this is, we still need q-tips. When too much wax builds up over time, it can cause hearing issues, itching, and more. Recently, a few companies have tried to figure out a sustainable solution to this everyday item by selling reusable q-tips that you can wash and re-use multiple times before throwing them away. In some cultures, ear spoons are popular for scooping out wax, too.

Some people use this device to suck out ear wax. Credit: Shutterstock

Years ago, a doctor told me that people should never use q-tips, because it actually pushes the wax buildup back into your ear canal. Instead of q-tips, the doctor recommended laying on your side, and pour a 50-50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water into your ear. This will bubble and pop for about 20 minutes. Once the popping sound stops, you place a wash cloth over your ear, and quickly flip your head over so that the wax comes pouring out of your ear canal. Alternately, you could use a soft bulb washer to suck the wax out of your ear.

A pack of rechargeable batteries. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Use Rechargeable Batteries and Plug-In Devices 

Batteries are one of the worst things to end up in a landfill. Over time, batteries corrode and burst, which causes them to ooze harmful chemicals. These chemicals will go down into the earth, and contaminate both soil and water. According to experts, Americans throw away 3 billion batteries every single year. Compounded over time, this is contributing to the pollution of our planet, and ultimately hurting our own health in the end.

Everyone is familiar with recharging their phone. Credit: Shutterstock

If you must throw away batteries, this should be done at a local community recycling event so that it can be disposed of properly. These events typically only happen once or twice a year, and may have completely stopped due to the recent healthcare crisis. So if you want to reduce the number of batteries you’re sending to the landfill, spend the extra money to buy rechargeable batteries. Also look into purchasing rechargeable devices with an internal battery. 

Bagless vacuums make it easy to remove dust and dirt with less waste. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Switch to a Bagless Vacuum

Nowadays, it’s not very often that you find a new vacuum that comes with a bag. However, a lot of people have been using the same vacuum for decades. Some people also inherit a high quality vacuum from their parents, and they continue to reorder the bags that go inside of the machine. While most vacuum bags are made out of cardboard, a lot of the HEPA filters contain multiple layers of the bag itself. This is biodegradable, but the bags are usually thrown away in a plastic trash bag.

A lot of companies sell bagless vacuums. Credit: Shutterstock

To be fair, dust and dirt is usually thrown away in the garbage no matter what. However, when you have a bagless vacuum, you always have the option to dump the dirt into the woods if you happen to live in a rural area. Dust alone also takes up less room in the trash bag compared to a large vacuum bag pouch, and therefore uses up less plastic over time. Admittedly, switching to a bagless vacuum might do very little to help the environment. However, it will probably drastically improve the freshness of your home.

Cooking from scratch is a great way to bond with your family. Credit: Pexels

15. Cook From Scratch 

Food packaging accounts for the vast majority of the trash that people throw away on a daily basis.  Most of this is made of plastic, and will take hundreds of years to break down in the landfill. One of the best ways to cut down on packaging waste is by cooking from scratch.  If you shop for ingredients from farmers markets and places like Whole Foods that accommodate dry goods in bulk, you could potentially avoid plastic completely. And in today’s world, cooking at home is also safer, since it lessens your exposure to other people outside of your household.

Learning how to cook can be a fun and joyful experience. Credit: Shutterstock

Not only does this help the environment, but usually ends up being cheaper to switch over to this lifestyle, as well. On top of that, it’s usually a lot healthier too. Once you start cooking from scratch, you know exactly what goes into your food. There is no chance of added chemicals or preservatives ending up in your meal.  When you think about it, all of the most fattening foods are wrapped in plastic. A lot of people who switch over to a sustainable whole foods diet end up losing weight, or having less fat on their body, which leads to better muscle tone.

A fancy pour-over coffee system. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Switch to a Pour-Over Coffee Maker

Over the past decade, companies like Keurig and Nespresso have popularized the idea of convenient coffee pods. I’ll admit that I used to use a Keurig almost everyday. While it might seem easier to clean up compared to a traditional coffee maker, it actually creates far more waste in landfills. One of the best options that I have found is to use a pour-over drip coffee maker. It’s one of the most simple and primitive ways of making coffee oh, but it’s honestly the best. Some companies get fancy with glass and metal drip coffee systems, but I go with a simple ceramic mug with holes in the bottom.

Simple ceramic pour-over coffee makers are the best. Credit: Shutterstock

You still need to use a coffee filter, but this is totally biodegradable. It can even be put into a compost pile if you have one. Aside from being more environmentally friendly, it is also a lot more sanitary. In any kind of coffee maker, you can’t get into the interior mechanisms and clean it as thoroughly as you would like to. Mold and grime can grow over time, and it’s actually very disgusting if you ever open up one of those coffee machines. The pour over coffee method is also a lot more affordable. Instead of buying $10 boxes of K-cups, all I need is one good bag of coffee grounds, and a pack of filters from Dollar Tree. 

Patches can be a very cute way to cover up holes. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Learn How to Mend Clothing

Years ago, young ladies learned how to sew clothing from scratch in Home Economics class. Today, very few people know how to sew, because it’s cheaper and easier to purchase store-bought clothing. Even if you’re not an aspiring seamstress or fashion designer, it’s actually very easy to learn how to use a needle and thread. Many rips, tears, and missing buttons in clothing can easily be fixed in just a few minutes. This will save you money by preventing you from buying new clothes, but it also saves them from the landfill.

Learning to sew is totally worth the time. Credit: Shutterstock

Sometimes, there will be holes that are beyond repair, especially if moths chew their way through your sweaters. However, I’ve seen a lot of people use patches as a creative solution to that problem. A friend of mine took a cardigan that had holes in it. She used Gucci inspired patches to cover up the holes and staines. Now, it looks far more expensive and trendy than it did before. Once you know these basic mending skills, it will carry you through the rest of your life, even well into having children of your own that will need their clothing mended, too.

Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Use a Bamboo Toothbrush and Natural Toothpaste

The American Dental Association recommends that you switch your toothbrush every 3 months. However, most toothbrushes you find in the store are made of plastic. They will take 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Luckily, you can switch to bamboo toothbrushes very easily. Even Dollar Tree sells them, so it’s available on any budget. I recently switched over, and I actually prefer bamboo over plastic.

A bamboo container with home made toothpaste. Credit: Shutterstock

It’s also possible to make your own toothpaste, using coconut oil and baking soda. This will eliminate throwing away plastic toothpaste tubes. If you like the minty taste of toothpaste, you can add some mint oil as well. This can be kept in a reusable container with a lid. Some people also like to make their toothpaste out of charcoal powder, instead. Aside from being environmentally friendly, this can also save money, and is less abrasive on your enamel and gums.

Glass containers are reusable, sturdy, and biodegradable. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Carry Your Own Reusable Containers to Restaurants 

When you eat at a restaurant, you get to eat on a washable plate with forks, knives, and spoons. But if you ask for a doggie bag to take home with you, they will typically bring back a styrofoam box in a plastic bag. Both styrofoam and plastic take over 500 years to decompose in a landfill. The best thing to do is to only order what you can finish, and eat everything on your plate. However, almost everyone has had moments where your eyes were bigger than your stomach, and you could turn your order into multiple meals at home.

Bamboo cutlery and cardboard takeout containers are biodegradable. Credit: Shutterstock

If it’s completely necessary to take food home, consider bringing your own glass containers. Ask the waiter if they will take the container with them when they put your food away. For some, it may sound embarrassing, but many waiters would actually appreciate the fact that you’re environmentally conscious. This advice may not be relevant if you’re no longer going to restaurants. However, the day will come when we can go out to eat, as well as visiting friends and family for large get-togethers.

Going green will help the planet, and save you money. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Switch to Solar, or a Green Energy Supplier

One of the best ways to start using clean energy is by switching over to solar power. According to a study conducted by Berkley University, switching to solar power reduces your carbon footprint by 80%, compared to using fossil fuels. Even if you can’t afford to put solar panels on your roof, research if there are any green energy suppliers in your local area. Believe it or not, it’s actually a lot cheaper to switch to these companies.. After a quick Google search, I found that switching to a green energy supplier would save $4 per kilowatt hour. This is a strange measure of energy, but let’s put this into perspective; If you have an appliance that uses up 1,000 watts of electricity, that’s 1 kilowatt hour. Even if you’re living in an apartment, you can save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.

Solar panels are an investment. Credit: Shutterstock

The only obvious downside is that no matter what method you try to switch to independent solar panels for your own home, it’s expensive. My family switched over to solar power about a year ago. For $10,000, the company gave us a new roof, and the solar panels cost $100 a month over the course of a 20-year contract. This gives us free electricity, but the solar company keeps the profits made from selling the excess. If you wanted to keep that energy or make a profit from selling energy back to the grid, you would need to purchase the panels out of pocket, and possibly purchase a Tesla Powerwall to store the energy for days when it’s not sunny. 

The Habitat for Humanity sells all leftover materials from their construction projects. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Reuse Reclaimed Renovation Materials 

The Habitat for Humanity is a charity organization that builds houses for people in need. They receive a lot of donations from construction companies, as well as individuals who have extra building products. Home Depot also gives them brand new products that have been returned or slightly damaged. However, the charity gets so many donations, they can’t always use them all for their building products. Excess materials are sold at their retail locations called The Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Here, you can find discounted building materials like doors, lumber, knobs, paint, rugs, furniture, and more. They also have your typical thrift store items like lamps, books, and small accessories. The money from your purchase will go towards the organization, so it’s supporting a good cause and keeping those products out of a landfill.

The fireplace mantle and coffee table were made from reclaimed wood. Credit: Shutterstock

Another way you can find reclaimed construction materials is on the Craigslist “free” section, Freecycle, and Facebook Marketplace. People will often try to get rid of their excess materials by posting it online, and leaving it by the side of the road. You should be able to pick things up without coming in contact with another person. The only catch is that you’ll need to move it yourself. You will need to have a pickup truck, or rent a Uhaul in order to pick up these free materials.

If you get excited about being eco-friendly, you might end up buying a lot. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Don’t Go Overboard Buying Eco-Friendly Items

If you’re reading this article, it’s most likely because you are trying to be more eco-friendly in your home. Maybe you’re looking for recommendations on what products you can buy to make your life more green. However, some people can go overboard with buying new products in order to achieve this. This can have the opposite effect, since buying new things is part of the problem when trying to be sustainable. Even if the item you buy is biodegradable, it usually still involves plastic when you purchase, and shipping products causes carbon emissions.

Be careful not to overspent on your eco-friendly journey. Credit: Shutterstock

More often than not, you can use the items you already own. For example, instead of buying new mason jars, you can just reuse glass food jars. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll buy metal straws only to realize that you’re not much of a straw person, anyway. On the other hand, don’t hold yourself back from buying something that’s truly worth it. For example, I bought cheap metal insulated water bottles because they were trendy at the time. But they eventually rusted out, and could no longer be used. I splurged on a glass one from Starbucks. It was more expensive, but I use it almost every day. Basically, choose your battles, and spend your money where it counts.

Facebook free groups are a great place to save money. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Join Facebook Free and Swap Groups

On Facebook, there is a movement going on called “The Buy Nothing Project”. It’s an eco-friendly mission for people to share and swap their objects with one another to prevent anyone from buying things new ever again. If you find one of these groups in your local area, you can also ask everyone for something you’re “ISO” or “In Search Of”. You may be surprised at just how many people will eagerly offer to meet up with you to give that thing away for free, or even offer to mail it to you. Obviously, this can save you a ton of money, but it’s also good for the planet, because it decreases the consumer demand. 

By swapping items, you can avoid buying new things. Credit: Shutterstock

Aside from swap groups, there are also free and “curbside” groups that will advertise things people are giving away in their local community. Sure, there is the Craigslist “free” section too, but since the information is public, the good stuff is often swiped up to resellers very quickly. You might need to do some digging on Facebook to find a private group. For example, I found a private “free” group on Facebook for a town where I had to  prove that I actually lived in the area. This was worth the effort, because  I have gotten some amazing furniture for free that may have otherwise disappeared before I had a chance to get to it. 

Kindles and iPads are a great place to keep ebooks. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Go Digital 

Nearly everything is done on the Internet nowadays, including banking and other important paperwork. If you haven’t done so already, opt-in to paperless banking. Technically, paper is fully recyclable. However, you’re still putting paper trash in plastic bags, and it’s causing more space to be filled in landfills. These letters also need to be sent by the postal service, which is adding more carbon emissions to complete these deliveries. With so much going on in the world, these postal services are already overworked, so there is no need to add more unnecessary mail to the delivery.

Streaming movies can help eliminate physical DVD’s. Credit: Shutterstock

With modern technology, there isn’t any reason why you should continue to buy physical DVD’s, books, or music either. Some of these objects may hold some sentimental attachment, or you might enjoy collecting decorative coffee table books. But the vast majority of these physical media items are unnecessary.

Hang drying your laundry will save on energy cost. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Change Your Laundry Habits

On all washing machines, you have the option to choose the temperature of the water. By switching to cold, you’re cutting back on electricity, and it can also be better for your clothing. Apparently, washing in hot water won’t make it any cleaner. Warm water can contribute to making colors bleed, as well. So in some cases, washing in cold water can help maintain the quality of your clothes over time. Always check the tags on your clothing to see the washing instructions.

Wool dryer balls help replace fabric softening sheets. Credit: Shutterstock

In the United States, nearly every household has a clothing dryer. But if you live in Europe and other parts of the world, you’re already used to the idea of hang-drying your clothes. While it might be more convenient to use a drying appliance (especially in the winter time) you’re spending a lot of power on electricity. It’s also a waste of nature’s best drier- the sun. Yes, you need to coordinate your laundry days with the weather. However, it makes your house smell amazing when you have freshly dried laundry out on the line. And if you’re used to using dryer sheets, consider swapping them out for wool dryer balls instead.

Facebook marketplace is a great place to sell large items to local buyers. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Sell Your Used Items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace

If you’re trying to live in a minimalist home, you may be donated your unwanted items to a thrift store. A lot of the time, this is great, and it benefits people who are less fortunate than you. Unfortunately, donating your items isn’t always a guarantee that they will be used and appreciated by someone else. Certain items get thrown away, even if they still hold value. In fact, Goodwill receives so many donations every day, that a lot of it is sent to their Goodwill Outlet locations. After that, a lot of those items end up in a landfill, anyway.

eBay items can be sold around the world. Credit: Shutterstock

If you want to get some money back and make sure your objects go to someone who truly wants and appreciates it, list it on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Just keep in mind that if you sell something on eBay, you need to perform customer service. If your buyer is unhappy with the item, they have the right to return it or get their money back. So always be honest about the product’s true condition. Obviously, this is time-consuming, and it can be frustrating. So no one’s judging if you would rather just donate these items. 

Microfiber cloths are great for cleaning windows and glass. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Use Cloth Instead of Paper Towels

It’s important to clean your house, especially when you’re trying to protect your home from viruses. But paper towels are a wasteful way to go about doing it. Paper towels take two weeks to decompose, so they can be put in the compost bin, if you have one. However, they are still packaged in plastic, and cost money to purchase. Your trash bags are also made of plastic, and it takes 500 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Instead of using paper towels for everything, consider swapping to rags instead.

Rags can be used to clean off tables. Credit: Shutterstock

Dollar Tree sells multi-colored microfiber cloths, so you can designate certain colors to specific rooms of the house, if you want to avoid cross-contamination. More often than not, you don’t have to purchase wash rags from the store. If you have old clothing that’s falling apart, these can be ripped apart and turned into rags. After cleaning, these rags can be washed and reused many times before it’s time to throw them away. Admittedly, it’s very difficult to stick to only using rags, especially when you’re used to paper towels. However, if you make an effort to switch over, even for specific tasks like dusting, it’s better than nothing.

Succulents are popular desert plants. Credit: Shutterstock

2. In Your Garden or House, Use Drought Resistant Plants and Change Your Watering Habits

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, with 30% (or 96 gallons) dedicated to outdoor gardening habits. One of the biggest drains is turning on the sprinkler to water your lawn. Out of this water, 50% of it is wasted from inefficient methods. This might not seem like a lot, but when you compound this for every family in the world, it’s an incredible amount of water that’s wasted on recreational plants and gardens. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to fix that.

Cornflowers grow with very little water. Credit: Shutterstock

When it rains, some people set out buckets or watering cans to capture the water that falls from the sky, and use it for their plants on a day when it’s dry. Another way to save on water is to purchase drought-resistant plants. These species often thrive in a desert climate. They can go a very long time without water, and can survive with the natural amount of rainfall. A lot of people also give their plants more water than necessary. Do a little bit of research to see which species of plant needs more, and which need less.

Neti pots are useful for clearing out sinuses. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Use a Neti Pot Instead of Tissues

When you have a cold or flu, having a stuffy nose is one of the worst things to deal with. It’s difficult to breathe, and you’re constantly straining to blow your nose. And when you’re having sinus issues, your nose may be running. It’s possible that you could use a handkerchief to blow your nose, but most people use tissues. When you’re sick, these tissues can seriously add up. By using a neti pot, you can significantly reduce the amount of waste you produce when you get sick.

Reusable supplies can eliminate the need for boxes of tissues. Credit: Shutterstock

A neti pot is a little teapot that you mix with warm water and a solution. By pouring this through your naval cavity, it cleans out your sinuses. This sounds gross, because it is. But people who use neti pots swear by their effectiveness in removing a blocked nasal cavity. You can breathe easier, and use a single handkerchief that can be thrown in the washing machine. Neti pots are also reusable. They are very hand to keep around in your family’s first aid kit.

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