Most of us know the dire state the environment is in at the moment, and it’s largely due to trash. Landfills are overflowing and the oceans are full of plastic; household waste is a massive contributor. Reducing waste can seem overwhelming, and short of tying on a cape and becoming some sort of environmental trash vigilante, there are real ways that you can reduce waste and do your part.
It’s dangerous to get in the frame of mind that what you do in your own home is not going to make a difference, or that your efforts are too small to matter. Imagine if everyone thought that way! No one person is going to wage the war on reducing trash; it’s a global community battle and everyone needs to mindful of more sustainable living.
Let’s have a look at some realistic, real-life ways to reduce trash and your environmental footprint. Changing your habits and reducing waste takes a little planning and a bit of organization, no doubt. But once you take responsibility and put some plans in place, being responsible for your little neck of the woods will become second nature; and Mother Nature will thank you for it.
1. Purge the Plastic
Unnecessary plastic is EVERYWHERE! It’s an epidemic that is choking our planet. Most environmentally savvy people are taking their reusable shopping bags to the store each week and this is a great habit to get into. What’s worrying though is the amount of unnecessary plastic that has leached into our stores and markets. We’ve become so used to seeing it that it’s become “accepted” and “expected” to some degree.
When shopping, be mindful of excess packaging. Do you need the prepackaged kilo of apples wrapped in plastic, or can you purchase them loose? Part of reducing waste and trash in your home is not letting it through the door in the first place! Planning your meals, and shopping with a list can also help to minimise food waste. Don’t buy more than you need only to have it end up on the street waiting for the garbage collection.
2. Go Digital, Everywhere.
In this day and age, the majority of us have a smartphone, tablet, computer, or all of the above. This technology makes it easy to reduce paper waste in your home. If your mailbox is overflowing with flyers, brochures and catalogues you need to get a “No Junk Mail” sign. The latest deals and 20% off sales can all be found online. Most major outlets, grocery shops, and department stores even have their own apps.
While you’re focused on your letterbox, think about canceling those paper bills, and opt to receive your invoices and accounts via email. Some companies even charge for the luxury of a paper bill, so signing up for electronic billing may even save you a few bucks.
After implementing some of these trash hacks, you might feel like curling up with a good book. Is it an eBook? Save a tree and sign up to online stores like Amazon, Audible and iBooks. If you’re a die-hard book fan and love the feel of the pages in your hand, buy second-hand books and sell or donate your hardcopies for others to enjoy. If magazines and newspapers are more your thing, get an online subscription delivered straight to your inbox and reduce paper waste in your home.
3. Buy Second Hand
When you purchase second-hand items, you’re avoiding the packaging, plastic, and Styrofoam that is common with brand new items. Not only are you refusing to have the excess waste come into your home, but you are also saving an item from landfills. Although thrift shopping and vintage items have become more popular in recent years, it’s our mindset that needs an adjustment here. When something breaks or you need a new item, most are quick to buy brand new. Buying second hand is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
4. Rechargeable Batteries
Most households will have at least a couple of remote controls, and other items that require batteries; and if you have children you’re bound to need a few dozen batteries for toy cars and light books, etc. Invest in a set of rechargeable batteries in the most common size you use.
5. Buy Quality Items
Our society has become so disposable in many ways. Fashions come and they go, things break and we replace them without a second thought. When you can buy a new toaster for $15 and three T-shirts for $10, it’s easy to see why. Gone are the days of buying quality items and actually looking after your stuff! This is something you can change. Buy the best quality items you can afford. Treat them well and with respect. It might mean paying a little more in the short term, but the environment, (and your bank balance) will be better off in the long run.
6. Donate to Charity, not to Landfill
Now that we are looking after our things well when it comes time to upgrade or let go of those items, donate them to charity. Someone in need might get a bargain, and you can rest easy knowing it didn’t end up in a landfill.
7. Swap Takeaway for Dine-In
Everyone loves grabbing some takeaway after a long week and kicking back on the couch. But that Chinese food you just had delivered is completely surrounded in plastic. Grab a friend, or a date and make a night of it! Enjoy socialising and your Chinese food using reusable cutlery and dinnerware.
8. Make your Cleaning Products
Thousands of plastic bottles and aerosols from cleaning supplies contribute heavily to our overflowing landfills. Making your own cleaning products from natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda reduces the number of chemicals in your home and it’s better for your health. Store your homemade cleaning supplies in reusable containers and spray bottles and you’ll keep Mother Nature happy too.
9. Composting and Growing Food
Composting and gardening will make you feel extra good and worthy of your savvy trash reducing status. Composting your kitchen waste is incredibly rewarding and a great way to reduce waste that would have otherwise ended up in the bin. This compost replaces nutrients back into the earth. Tending to a small herb garden or growing your own vegetables is not only great for your health but also the environment. It’s also a bonus that produce from your garden will come free from unnecessary packaging!
10. Ditch the Disposable
One of the biggest areas where you can reduce household waste is in the kitchen. Try trading the plastic and single-use items for more sustainable alternatives.
- Ditch the plastic plates and cutlery at your next BBQ or party. Reusable bamboo and stainless steel straws are more readily available now too.
- Replace disposable paper towels and cleaning wipes with fabric alternatives. These can be washed and reused over and over again. Bonus points if you up-cycle old towels or clothes as cleaning rags!
- Reuse glass jars for storing leftovers or other food products. Mason jars are also great for storing food that you have purchased in bulk, minus the packaging!
- Invest in a good glass or stainless steel water bottle that can be washed and reused day in and day out. It’s estimated that Australians spend more than half a billion dollars on bottled water every year. For a country that is lucky enough to have access to clean water, this is mind-boggling. And no prizes for guessing where those plastic bottles end up.
Ok. Time to get started! It can be helpful to write a list of the actions you’re going to take. This will also keep you accountable! The most important thing when reducing trash is to be mindful. Think about sustainable alternatives to common problems, come up with creative ways to reuse items, and refuse unnecessary plastic and disposable items.