Recycling diverts approximately 35% of household trash from landfill but the US still creates 250 million tons a year, equal to around 4.4 pounds of trash per person each day. In response, a growing trend among millennials is to strive to create zero waste, filling just one small jar each year with the tiny amount of their garbage that can’t be recycled or reused in some way. This may be a little too extreme for the average household to manage but taking any small steps towards minimizing the amount of curbside collection, such as running a successful home composting program, not only helps the environment but saves time, money and resources.
Eliminating Food Waste
Combined with energy saving and generally making your home more eco-friendly, cutting down on waste means a more satisfying and sustainable way of life can be maintained. Planning meals, preparing shopping lists and only buying what you need can all help cut down on food wastage. Up to 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the US will never be consumed so as well as putting your food scraps in the compost, be aware of use by dates on foods, make better use of your freezer for keeping leftovers and don’t be put off buying misshapen vegetables that are still tasty and nutritious and that you can save from going straight to landfill.
Cutting Down on Packaging
When purchasing your groceries, give a thought to the amount of packaging that comes with them. Around the world, a million plastic bottles are bought every minute and that number will jump another 20% by 2021. You can cut down on the amount of plastic and packaging you bring into your home by making simple switches to stainless steel straws and bottles, reusable jars and biodegradable toothbrushes. Buy them from shops selling sustainable and ethically sourced goods or from eco-friendly markets where customers are also encouraged to bring their own containers to refill with dried fruit and nuts, fresh herbs or even laundry detergent. For other cleaning products, you could try making your own from natural ingredients to further cut down on plastic bottles in your home.
Disposing of Hazardous Waste Safely
Even once you start using homemade cleaning solutions, water-based paints or energy efficient light bulbs, you may still have products in your home that you are not able to recycle and that can’t just be thrown in the trash. Hazardous waste needs to be disposed of carefully and many towns now host annual or one-day waste collection events where household items like oil-based paints, pesticides and batteries can be dropped off. Americans buy 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year so once you’ve discarded all your used batteries, switching to rechargeable batteries will not only save you money but will help the environment too.
Even as levels of recycling continue to rise, the world is still creating more and more garbage. To minimize waste, save yourself time and money, and support a more sustainable lifestyle, thinking carefully about what you bring into your home is just as important as disposing of waste responsibly.