Why is Reducing Waste Important?
The average person in the United States produces nearly four and a half pounds of trash a day, equating to over 1600 pounds of trash per year. Reducing waste or living a zero-waste lifestyle can help conserve the planet’s most valuable resources, reducing the amount of garbage sent to landfills, and in turn, the carbon emissions released into our atmosphere. Reducing waste lessens the harmful impact of pollution on our ecosystem and encourages sustainable living, biodiversity, and a healthy, productive balance of organisms.
Practical Ways to Reduce Waste
There are many practical ways to reduce waste and curb the overflow of toxic pollutants in landfills, such as:
1. Buy fresh produce. When possible, opt to buy fresh fruits and veggies when you head to the grocery store. Fresh produce doesn’t come with extra packaging waste, which can reduce the amount of plastic you throw away. Reuse fabric or cloth bags to carry fresh produce, so you don’t have to use the plastic produce bags in the store.
2. Compost. Much of the food waste we produce, like eggshells or fruit peels, are compostable materials. Under the right conditions, composting can turn your food scraps into pure organic nutrition without all the harmful methane byproducts. Incorporating compost into your home garden is a natural way to mulch your soil, rather than using chemical store-brand versions.
3. Eliminate single-use items. Single-use plastics or paper goods like utensils, straws, paper towels, and plastic bottles contribute to much of the garbage and pollution plaguing our planet. Instead, utilize reusable items like metal cutlery or cloth napkins to reduce the amount of paper and plastic waste you generate with every meal. Keep your own reusable water bottle on hand rather than buying new bottles from the grocery store.
4. Recycle. Recycling is the process by which used materials are converted into new products. There are many ways to recycle, from DIY repurposing old objects to sending used materials to facilities. Recycling cuts down on our need to harvest resources, helping to save energy, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce deforestation over time. Learn more in our beginner’s guide to recycling.
5. Thrift shop. Thrifting, buying secondhand clothes and goods from thrift stores or flea markets, is a great way to reuse and repurpose pre-existing materials. You can repurpose or upcycling thrifted items like furniture into other useful goods, saving these items from winding up in landfills.
6. Use paperless billing. According to a 2007 study, if every household in the United States switched to paperless billing, nearly 17 million trees would be saved. Switching to electronic billing reduces paper waste by curbing the amount of physical mail that comes to your home. While it’s nearly impossible to slow the daily onslaught of junk mail that you receive, choosing electronic billing can positively impact the environment.
7. Use your own containers. You can reduce waste by using your own containers or bags when food shopping or planting flowers and vegetables. Mason jars make great planters and reusable containers for food items. If you’re out of reusable bags, you can fasten an old bedsheet into one for grocery shopping. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can wash and reuse a travel mug without wasting paper coffee cups.