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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reducing Waste

I have been thinking about the amount of trash my family has - way too much to admit to here in cyberspace - but not anywhere near as much as some families our size have. We are decidedly somewhere in the middle of super wasteful and uber crunchy.

Here are10 steps to help you and I  reduce our garbage output and household waste.

1. Take a Close Look at Your Trash – What is in there? What are you currently throwing away? How much of it doesn't need to be there? 
  • Can you replace it with a nondisposable item? It may cost more up front but it will save you money in the long run. Reusable batteries come to mind. Or glass storage containers for food.
  • Can you recycle it? Does your city or other company have a recycle option?
  • Can you fix it? Either by you or someone else - a repair person or the manufacturer perhaps?
  • Can you donate it to charity or a thrift shop (you might be able to take it off of your taxes!) or put it on Freecycle or even Craigslist?
  • Can you find a creative reuse for it? This doesn’t always involve super duper craft or DIY skills. For example I cut up worn out towels and socks to use in place of paper towels and refill empty glass bottles with bulk grains.
2. Date it. By writing the date when I open items I can tell how long they last in our house before they spoil (if applicable), it also helps me to know the best size to buy for our family, and how long it should last.Then I don't have 20 toothpaste tubes that would take 5 years for us to use.

3. Make a plan and choose one. Choose one area of trash to cut down on and make it family affair. One of the very first crunchy things I ever did was to give up using paper plates on a regular basis. It could be a contest to see who uses the least amount of disposable drink bottles.

4. Buy the large/bulk sizes and put in smaller reusable containers if you can.  I often buy large family size bottles of soap/shampoo/cleaners etc. and use it refill small dispensers throughout my house.  Have you ever noticed that we seem to use less of something when it comes out of a small bottle than the large family size bottle? It lasts longer,there are less containers in the recycling bin, and it often saves money because we're buying in bulk.

5. Check the packaging. Try to buy items in low waste, recyclable or reusable packaging if possible.

6. Cook from scratch more. Find ways to make quick meals with lower waste food.

  • What about making something ahead of time and freeze it for later?
  • Can you eat leftovers for lunch instead of a prepared frozen meal or a canned soup?
  • Can you enlist your little slaves (most people call them children) to help you make dinner by boiling pasta, washing or chopping vegetables, etc.? 
  • You could use that wok, crockpot, George Foreman and breadmaker - don't buy dinners in a bag! 
  • Bake cookies and muffins and treats for your family from ingredients you bought in bulk or from a Farmers Market.
  • Eat fruits and veggies for snacks - no waste there, especially if you compost the inedible parts.
 7. Get the food waste out of your trash!
Americans throw away between 14-25% of the food that comes into our homes. Go here to read a thoughtful post on food waste. Be a good steward of the bounty you have.

  • Plan what you are going to prepare before you go to the store, the Health Food Store or the Farmers Market.
  • Prepare what you plan for. 
  • Don't make oodles of food unless you are freezing for another meal and then do it before you serve the meal. If you make too much, which does happen well then,
  • Save your leftovers.  And then don't let them mold or become lost in the freezer,
  • Eat your leftovers. There are lots of great sites that help you to use up your leftovers, turning them into something different and delicious.
  • Always eat mindfully - at the table, sitting down, paying attention - not reading or watching TV or Blogging (oh is that only me?).
  • If you go out to eat - order a smaller portion, an appetizer instead of a meal, share with your honey! (really does anyone EVER eat all their fries?) box up and bring home your leftovers to have for lunch tomorrow or to be made into something new. 
  • When all else has been done - compost your food scraps. We also give all fruit and veggie scraps to our chickens. Yum Yum is heard from the coop!
8. Stop buying so much stuff.
  •  Do you yard sale or thrift shop for sport but end up with a ton of extra stuff you don’t use?  
  • Do you end up buying extra stuff just because it’s on sale but not sure what you’re going to do with it? Do you have something already that might work?  
  • Can you borrow what you need? Or go in with several people and "share" the item? 
  • Christmas is coming up - do you have a plan to buy responsibly? If you must buy, then buy for durability and longevity. Don't buy junk. Don't upgrade automatically. We don't need all the crap that is often purchased at Christmas time - almost always in WAY too much packaging!

9. Change wasteful habits. A few ideas:
  • Do you measure items like laundry detergent or just dump it in? If you dump it chances are you are using more than you need, go though it more quickly, and generate more waste. 
  • If you use Fabric Softener Sheets are you using a whole one for each load or are you ripping them in half? or thirds? or even fourths?
  • Do you use too much of something for an average size job? (Like shampoo - do you really need to lather, rinse, repeat?)
  • Are you drinking soda?
  • Are you drinking your water out of disposable bottles? I admit we do this sometimes - but you will always find a big pitcher of water and several old glass juice bottles full of water in my fridge. 
10. Be willing to look a little silly.
  • bring your own bags to stores - even clothing and retail stores. 
  • bring your own snacks in reusable containers to ball games.
  • use a handkerchief instead of a disposable tissues
  • Give up disposables like paper towels, TP, diapers, wipes. 
  • Bring your pyrex with you so you can bring your leftovers home (or heck have your fast food put in it - hmm, not sure I could do that but what a great idea!)
  • If you are of the feminine persuasion have you considered The Keeper?

Reducing the amount of trash and household waste is an on going project.

Do what you can in small steps. Every time you you are mindful of the waste you could be causing we all win.

We all have different lives and different situations - big families, small families, urban living, rural life, and we just need to do what we can and leave the rest. No need to stress.

Slow and steady - try something - if it works for your family, continue if not just stop and do something else - slow and steady!

I posted awhile back on "Tightening the Belt" it has lots of great frugal and crunchy tips that will help you to cut back on your trash!

So tell me, what do you do to reduce your trash output?

Linking this to Simple Lives Thursday blog hop
and Life As Mom's Frugal Friday


  1. I do a bit like reuse lots of stuff for kids toys/crafts, use cloth instead of paper towels but I refuse just refuse to give up my TP. I mean there is no other option. I had to give up my bidet when we redid the bathroom and who knows which one is worst waisting water or sliver of paper

  2. great tips! is 'the keeper' for real? it almost seems like a saturday night live skit ;)

  3. @polwig - the TP is definitely in the seriously Green category - not for the faint of heart - btw I am not there 100% and no one else in my house is at all!

    @Christy -you bet it is real! But you made me spit out my drink because I laughed out loud - you are right it does seem like a SNL skit!!!

  4. Great list! I take a look at recyclables and see if there is a way that I can get some extra use out of them before I donate them. I use plastic contaiiners as mini-greenhouses for starting seeds, glass pb jars to store chopped nuts, and cut the top off boxes to create storage containers for my sons art supplies.

  5. I recently stopped using so many paper towels and switched to t-shirt rags.

  6. I love this! When I stopped buying processed foods our garbage AND recycling went down to just about only the dog poop. The fastest way to find your biggest opportunity for change is to look at your garbage and recylcling. Whatever makes up the bulk of it is what you tackle first. Thanks for hooking up to Simple Lives Thursday!

  7. Great tips!!! I was so proud of myself when I started composting a few years back. I do compost, recycle (from batteries to electronics to toys to clothes to things we've mentally grown out of), reuse, donate...anything I can to keep stuff out of the trash, if possible. Thanks for the great reminder =)

  8. Love this post! So helpful and informative!

  9. great tips!

    I have an award for you:

  10. I'm glad to say that I already do most of the things on your list (although I'm not sure I'm ready to take Pyrex out to dinner with me. :) )! I would add making your own cleaners. Homemade cleaners are greener, cheaper and more concentrated so you don't have to use as much which generates less garbage.
    I found your blog through the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop; I really like it and am now off to peruse your archives!

  11. Love the post! I use recycled TP (no, it's not from old TP, but from recycled office paper, etc) and no paper towels, just rags.

    I also don't get ATM or gas receipts, because I never used them for anything. Now it's one less slip of paper to waste.

    I haven't gotten to the take my own to-go to the restaurant, although it's one of my goals. I just haven't been able to ever remember it. But I HATE styrofoam, so I'm trying to get there.

    Our trash is already down to 2 shopping bags a week, which I think is pretty good for 2 people. Lots of composting & recycling. Thanks for all the new ideas and for reaffirming the old ones!