Waste reduction is one of the most important steps we can take as individuals to cause less harm to the environment. But living in a pre-packaged world can make the task seem daunting. The good news is there are plenty of ways to reduce how much waste we produce on a personal level. Here are ten simple and efficient ways to waste less, reuse more, and save some money in the process:
Plan your meals before you shop
Planning your meals comes with several advantages. Since you’ll only buy as much as you need to cook the pre-planned meals, you will be wasting a lot less packaging. Also, if you’re deliberate, you can purchase more fresh produce, avoiding the metal and plastic packaging preserved groceries come in. You’ll also waste less food, which not only means less food thrown in the trash, but also less greenhouse gas emissions from the farms and factories your groceries come from and you’ll waste less water. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save!
Use the First In, First Out rule
When you get home with a fresh batch of groceries, place them at the back of the shelf and put the older ones at the front so you won’t forget to use them. Whether we’re talking fridge, pantry, or freezer, placing newly bought items at the back will keep the foods with closer expiration dates at the top of your mind and remind you they need to be used first.
Switch to plain food items
There’s nothing like a bowl of granola or yogurt with fruit and oats to kick off your day in a healthy way. But too often, to satisfy our breakfast cravings, we purchase flavored yogurt, ready-made granola, several types of oatmeal, and much more. Instead of getting several individually packaged and pre-mixed items, purchase the plain versions of as many foods as you can, get some fresh or freeze-dried fruits, some flavorings like honey and peanut butter, and mix your own at home. You’ll waste less packaging and food and end up with healthier and cheaper meals.
Get refillable containers & on-the-go cutlery
How many plastic or paper coffee cups do you use every week? How many small water bottles do you buy? How many times have you used single-use sandwich bags or cling film? Ditch everything that you get single uses from and purchase durable containers for your lunches or sandwiches. Furthermore, get reusable on-the-go coffee mugs for your hot drinks as well as for water bottles for your cold drinks. When it comes to cutlery, get metal or wooden spoons, forks, and knives for your workplace, and buy some reusable straws!
Take your own packaging to the store
Just like you can use durable containers to store your foods and drinks on the go, you can get plenty of reusable items to shop with. Instead of getting paper or plastic bags at the store, get a reusable plastic bag made of recycled plastic, woven polypropylene, or nylon. Cotton totes aren’t your best option since it’s more damaging to produce them than just to get plastic, but they’ll do in a pinch. You could also get a couple of containers to avoid the plastic bags in the fresh produce section or skip individually packaging them altogether – if they’re not going to make a mess in your bag, just put them in there as is and gently wash them later. Lastly, if you can, find stores where you can buy items like oatmeal, cereal, and so on from a dispenser and bring your own containers.
Ditch the fast fashion & cheap furniture
Fast fashion and cheap furniture are some of the biggest offenders in terms of waste. Because of how quickly these items tear or break, you need to replace them much too often. This means a lot of water and energy are wasted in producing them, while you’re throwing away considerably more trash. If you have the budget, invest in clothing you’ll be able to wear for a long time and redecorate with furniture that won’t break easily. And while we feel the need to look nice and switch our outfits up, you can also get a few quality pieces you can mix and match for years to come, and that will look better than their flimsy counterparts anyways.
Borrow or share tools
How often do you need a drill to use around your house? Or mow your lawn? Or use a pressure washer or a saw? Yes, having your own can come in handy if you’re in an emergency, but how often do those really happen? Instead, you could borrow some from your neighbors, or purchase some together as a community. Imagine how nice it would be if your apartment building or neighborhood had a few items everyone could share and use only when you needed them. In apartment buildings you could even share an ironing board or a vacuum. Creative people around the world are even coming up with libraries for these items.
Maintain and repair your things
This one is self-explanatory: don’t throw things out just because they’re broken. Take them to get repaired, or, better yet, hone your skills and learn to repair some of them yourself. This applies not only to appliances and furniture but to clothing as well. You can find plenty of guides online which will help you learn how to design beautiful patches, to stitch up clothes without leaving a trace, and more.
Repurpose items you no longer need
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if it’s broke and you can’t fix it, you can try repurposing it and getting something new out of it in the process! From spaghetti jars to wine crates, plant pots, blankets, even bubble wrap – anything can be used to design something new and creative. Plus, you’ll have unique things around your apartment and original clothing that you surely won’t find at the store.
Sell or donate things you don’t use
Finally, if you have to get rid of something and it’s still in working condition, don’t just throw it away. Earn some extra cash by selling it or do some good and donate it! Either way is better than adding more waste to the planet’s landfills.
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