10 Easy ways to minimize your household waste
How much does your family contribute to landfills? It may be more than you think. Let's all do our part to minimize our waste and give the landfills less business.
Repurpose wine bottles
You enjoy just one glass of vino a day, but those empty bottles pile up quickly! Before you toss them into the trash, consider these alternatives:
- Get your craft on! Turn your wine bottles into lamps, oil and vinegar dispensers or one of these easy DIY projects.
- Drink by the glass. The20 offers customized ammo cans and wood casks for dispensing three-liter bags of artisan wine ($45/cask, the20). No more bottles!
- Check in with your local recycling center. Depending on the type and color of the glass, some of your bottles may be recycled.
Reduce food waste
The National Resources Defense Council sheds a harsh light on food waste; 40 percent of food in the U.S. (about $165 billion worth per year) goes uneaten. If we reduce that by just 15 percent, an additional 25 million Americans can be fed.
Food sharing websites like Crowd Kitchen connect locals to exchange foods to help reduce food waste. "So many recipes call for a quarter of an onion or half a can of condensed soup," says Crowd Kitchen CEO Heather Seeber. "Doubling recipes to share helps use up all of those leftover ingredients. And sharing half of a homemade meal means you won't be throwing it the trash next week!"
Pare down your wardrobe
The average household throws away 175 pounds of clothing each year, but there is no reason to trash clothes!
Donate gently worn items to Goodwill or needy families. Sell them on eBay or at a garage sale. Host swap parties with friends and take turns wearing each other's clothes.
Check out Twice, an online marketplace for buying and selling high-quality secondhand fashion. You'll reduce clothing waste while making and saving money.
Stop smelly trash
When your trash stinks, you want it out of the house now — even if the trash bag isn't full. Reduce the number of trash bags you use by preventing smelly garbage in the first place.
- Utilize a countertop composter for kitchen scraps. "Composting keeps kitchen waste out of the trash so the kitchen doesn't get smelly," says environmental writer Kristin Arrigo, author of Seasonal Home Repair Checklist: Eco-Alternatives for Maintaining Your Home.
- Use stink-stopping trash bags. Glad ForceFlex OdorShield®trash bags neutralize odors and leave behind clean scents such as Fresh Lemon, Fresh Vanilla and Lavender. Stretchable Strength® technology uses less plastic than other trash bags — another bonus for the environment. ($8, Walmart)
The packaging used for take-home food is excessive and becomes yours to dispose of.
- When you go out to eat, share an entrée to avoid food waste. If you're a doggie bag kind of person, bring your own container instead of using the restaurant's foam monstrosity.
- When you order take-out, forego the free napkin and plastic utensils. You can use your own at home.
Hang up on phone waste
- Opt out of giant phone books by going to YellowPagesOptOut.com. While you're at it, eliminate the rest of junk mail at CatalogChoice.org and StopTheJunkMail.com.
- Recycle cell phones and gadgets after upgrading. Gazelle can take some of those old gadgets off your hands… and pay you for them!
"It's really easy to make your own cleaning supplies," says professional organizer Alison Kero, owner of ACK! Organizing. "Baking soda has countless uses — and the packaging is minimal."
Eliminate all of the bottles and cans of cleaners you use. Ninety-nine percent of your cleaning projects can be completed with vinegar and/or baking soda — neither of which will hurt the environment!
Boycott water bottles
Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour! These bottles end up in landfills or at the bottom of the ocean. Filtered or unfiltered, there's nothing wrong with tap water. Switch to a trendy reusable glass bottle ($15, FaucetFace). FaucetFace will provide at least 100 liters of clean water to India for every bottle sold — and you'll save about $334 per year.
The foods you buy have an impact on your household's waste. Buy fresh foods. Buy in bulk. Buy from the farmer's market and the butcher. The healthiest foods require the least amount of packaging. And remember to bring your own reusable shopping bags and containers.
Just buy less
It may be common sense, but we're still guilty. "Don't buy things you don't need," says Julie Hancher, author of Green Philly Blog. For the things that you do need, "look for a quality, durable solution over disposable ones." If you never bring it into the house, you'll never have to throw it away.
"Reduce, reuse, refuse (as in just say, 'no'), recycle and rot (as in compost)," says sustainable living advocate Debra Baida. "As a general practice, be mindful of your consuming and disposing ways. Try to divert as much from landfill as possible so, as a planet, we can avoid reaching 'landfull.'"