Since my husband and got married and moved in together, living sustainably has been something that we’ve been in the process of centering our lifestyle on. As someone who has been examining my consumption of clothing intentionally, considering my over all consumption and waste output has also been at the forefront of my mind. Over the recent months and years I’ve been introduced to a handful of helpful tips to reducing waste in our own home, and have compiled a few here for your own use!
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
While many of us know that most plastics today are recyclable, what we may be less aware of is the energy, water, and resources needed to complete the recycling process. The sad reality is that most municipal governments do not have the necessary infrastructure to recycle plastics effectively.
When plastic is unable to be properly recycled, it can take up to thousands of years for it to breakdown in landfills. If not exposed to light, it may be even longer.
There are a couple of options in reducing personal use of single use plastics. Bringing your own shopping bags & produce bags to the grocery store helps avoid consumption of LDPE Low plastic, that which grocery bags are made of.
Eliminating single-use plastics in the home can be done by utilizing Tupperware, replacing ziplock bags with reusable ones (I personally love Stasher Bags), and replacing saran wrap with washable beeswax wraps.
Carry Reusable Dishware
Along the same vein of reducing plastic, being prepared with personal to-go dishware is another easy way to avoid single-use materials. Recently plastics straws have been under attack — and rightfully so, as up to 500 million plastic straws are discarded daily in the U.S. alone. Even worse, much of these discarded straws end up on beaches, and in oceans.
But plastic straws are only a small part of the problem, and being mindful about the ways we consume both plastics, and our meals in general are necessary steps in reducing our personal output of waste. This deserves an entire post of it’s own — but reducing the amount of meat, sugar, and dairy we consume plays an essential role in preventing climate breakdown.
In addition to reconsidering one’s diet, staying prepared by carrying reusable straws, utensils, and drink-ware will help avoid single-use plastics and disposable dishware. I personally like to keep a mug and a cutlery set with me at all times, in the case that I grab a spontaneous cup of coffee, or grab a meal to-go. But you need not get any fancy bamboo cutlery to do so — for quite awhile, I simply brought utensils I already had from my kitchen at home! You can also re-use plastic and glass containers from past grocery runs to pack a lunch to-go, or store bulk grocery items.
Reducing waste really doesn’t have to break-the-bank with fancy, new accessories and containers.
Believe it or not, textile waste composes nearly 10% of landfill waste each year. According to the council for Textile Recycling, the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textile waste each year. That adds up to nearly 25 billion pounds of annual textile waste coming from the U.S. alone. WOWZA. More often than not, our textile waste is shipped to other parts of the globe where it’s then dumped into other, oftentimes marginalized communities — making it both unsustainable, and unjust.
Shopping secondhand is cost-effective, greatly reduces your individual contribution to textile waste, and is overall better for the environment. For every kilogram of cotton that is recycled, 20,000 liters of water are saved. (it takes quite a bit more water than one would expect to produce a single cotton tee — especially if it’s non-organic cotton). Shopping secondhand also gives pieces that would otherwise be disposed of, a second (or third, or fourth) life! While shopping with ethical & sustainable companies is a great start — replacing unwearable items with quality secondhand pieces provide an even more sustainable alternative to buying new. A few great online secondhand shopping platforms that I’ve found especially helpful are Poshmark, ThredUp, and Relovv.
Shopping secondhand also doesn’t have to stop at clothing! Consider finding furniture, dish-ware, and other home-goods from your local flea market or secondhand shop rather than purchasing something brand new.
Revamp Your Hygiene Game
While it may not be something we think about every morning, the items we use daily keep ourselves clean may actually be negatively contributing to the environment. Considering the ingredients that go into our soaps, shampoos, and deodorants is important — but also the packaging in which they come in! Since hygiene items are meant to be used regularly, their packaging will also be in need of disposal after we’ve used the products up.
Companies like byHumankind and LUSH are creating alternative options, with refillable hygiene products that eliminate one-time-use dispensers. Being conscious of both the toxicity of the ingredients used and the packaging with which they come in, brands like this make it easy to care for yourself while also caring for the environment.
Or if you’re up for the challenge, there are dozens of recipes out there for making your own hygiene products! From DIY deodorants, to self-made toothpastes, to much more – you can typically refill personal hygiene products on your own, with the right combination of common household ingredients.
Although paper and cardboard are already the 2nd most recycled items, only about 62% of paper good produced are actually recycled. This means that both properly recycling, and reducing paper consumption altogether is important.
One obvious way to reduce paper waste is to go paperless with receipts, bank statements, and other documents periodically sent your way. You can also opt to have your name removed from junk mail lists, to avoid the unsolicited mailer ads that tend to go straight into the recycling bin upon arrival.
Integrate Reusable “Paper” Products
In an additional effort to minimize paper consumption, consider everyday items that may actually not need to be thrown out after one use. Think: makeup wipes, paper towels, napkins — even toilet paper!
Companies like Marley’s Monster’s make reusable & washable products to replace single-use paper products like many of those listed above. But you can just as easily make your own! One can pretty easily recycle old cotton tees by repurposing the fabric into washcloths, cotton-round wipes, and much more. It just takes a little bit of time & sewing!
Surprisingly enough, there are even sustainable toilet paper options! (and no, it doesn’t involve washable tp – although that would make for quite the interesting product) A handful of companies make toilet paper from recycled paper goods, and even tree-free toilet paper from alternative renewable sources.
I understand that this list was in no way comprehensive of every way one might possibly work towards a low or zero-waste lifestyle, but my intentions was to provide practical and simple first-steps.
At the very least, I hope that this short list of low-waste tips provided some guidance for those of you also early on in your sustainability journey. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these yourself, or have additional tips and tricks to share with us!