We are literally living in our own trash – we dump approximately 2.12 billion tons of waste, which if put in dump trucks would be enough to go around the Earth for 24 times.
A person produces around 4.4 pounds of trash everyday on average. So in a household of 4 people, this amounts to: 17.6 pounds of trash per day, 123.2 pounds in a week, and 6,424 pounds in a year. Multiply this by the number of households in the planet, and it's no wonder trash is one of the primary environmental concerns we have – it's affecting our ocean, the wildlife, and even us. We are basically filling the planet with our trash.
So what can we do about this? The obvious answer is to reduce the trash our households produce daily. So are you ready to reduce your household waste to something that would fit in a quart-sized jar instead of countless giant trash bags? Or why not aim for a zero-waste home? Here are a few tips on how to reduce your household trash:
Main tip: Refuse items you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse what you consume. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. And Rot (compost) the rest.
For your kitchen:
Use alternatives to disposables such as paper/kitchen towels, wax paper, aluminum foil, garbage liners, and disposable plates, cups and utensils. Instead, use reusable cloth rags, reusable food containers and utensils.
Buy food supplies in bulk and at the counter – bring containers such as reusable bags for dry goods, jars for wet items, and bottles for liquids. You can also purchase food items direct from suppliers to eliminate plastic packaging.
Look for and shop at farmer’s markets – aside from the fact that they can reuse food packaging like egg cartons or fruit baskets, the vegetables you would purchase from them would most likely be free of plastic packaging and stickers as well.
Use a water filter or purifier to make your tap water safe to drink.
Use alternative products for cleaning, such as: castile soap as dish and hand cleaner, baking soda (you can put this in a stainless Parmesan dispenser) with a compostable cleaning brush (wooden one with natural hair) for scrubber. You can also purchase these in bulk.
Segregate your trash. You can turn your big trash can into a compost keeper, and a little one for the trash you cannot reuse – the sizes are meant to encourage you to minimize the things you throw away. You can also opt to eliminate garbage liners altogether as wet waste is mostly compostable.
Minimize food waste by reinventing your leftover food before they go bad. You can also adjust portions based on how much your family consumes to minimize leftovers.
Other eco-friendly kitchen tips: water your plants with your vegetable cleaning water, leave your oven’s door open after baking to warm your house during winter.
For your bathroom:
Use recycled and unbleached toilet paper.
Use an alum stone or baking soda for your antiperspirant.
Use reusable razors and shaving soap for shaving.
Buy your shower products such as shampoo and conditioner in bulk and refill your bottles as needed. You can also opt for alternative shampoo and conditioner such as baking soda, or even shampoo bars. Click here forrecipes.
You can look for and use package-free solid soaps. You can again use baking soda for exfoliation, and bulk clay mixed with water or apple cider vinegar for masks.
To maintain clean teeth, you can switch to a wooden compostable toothbrush, and homemade tooth powder (see above link to recipes).
Minimize your cosmetics and consider other substitutes such as homemade lip balms or tints. You can also opt for makeup packaged in recycled paper.
To maintain your nails, all you need is a nail clipper, a stainless steel nail file, and again, some homemade balm to maintain shine.
Stop using Q-tips – it’s not healthy anyway.
Other eco-friendly bathroom tips: compost your nail and hair clippings, put a brick in your toilet tank to conserve water, collect water in buckets while your shower heats and use these to water your plants or for cleaning, clean your bathroom with minimum waste by: use microfiber cloths to clean your mirrors, vinegar for mold, baking soda to scrub, and a mixture of baking soda and vinegar for drains.
For your closet:
Invest in basics – things you can make the most of in terms of your clothes, shoes, and purses. Remember, quality and not quantity.
Avoid compulsive buys.
Consider used and upcycled items.
If you really need to purchase new stuff, buy quality with minimum tags and packaging: bring your own reusable bags to store clothing purchases in, leave your new shoes’ box in the store.
Be very unforgiving about your clothing choices in terms of fit and style. If it looks good and fits you well, the more likely you are to wear and make the most out of it.
Donate unworn clothes. Or if you’re creative and can manage a sewing machine, you can opt to redesign or upcycle so you can reuse them.
Turn worn out clothes no longer fit for Goodwill into rags.
Learn basic sewing tricks to darn or even update your clothing pieces.
Other eco-friendly closet tips: you can use handkerchiefs instead of disposable tissues.
For laundry and cleaning:
Consider and use alternative cleaning products, such as: castile soap on floors and sinks, homemade all-purpose cleaner (see the link above for recipes), baking soda for other cleaning requirements, and vinegar for mildew.
Aside from alternative cleaning products, you can also opt for alternative cleaning implements, such as: a metal scourer for stainless steel items, a wooden brush for light scrubbing, an old toothbrush for nooks and crannies, and cloth rags for everything else (here’s where those worn out clothes would be put into good use to clean counters, floors, mirrors, fridge, etc.)
Clean your floors with a boar bristle or silk broom, then wash with rags or a mop along with a few drops of castile soap.
Purchase other cleaning agents in bulk such as dishwashing soap – with which you can use vinegar as rinsing aid.
Instead of air fresheners, cultivate and grow houseplants to help purify your air. Open windows to regularly air out your home.
Minimize laundry washing to conserve time and dryer energy costs. Do this by doing full loads and cold water cycles as much as possible. Purchase laundry detergent in bulk and store in reusable containers. For stains, you can use dishwasher detergent, chalk, lemon, or vinegar.
Install drying lines in your backyard and use them as much as possible.
Only iron clothes that absolutely need it.
Other eco-friendly laundry and cleaning tips: there are sustainable dry cleaners available in the market, and you can compost dryer lint and dust bunnies.
For dining and entertaining guests:
Bring and use glass jars to store your good when out grocery shopping. Bring extra when shopping for guests – this includes takeout as well.
For larger parties, opt to serve finger food and serve water with lime slices.
Always use glassware, ceramic dishes, non-disposable utensils, and cloth napkins.
Minimize the use of serving platters and dishes, and instead serve food directly in plates. Doing so conserves water used for cleaning, and allows for plate presentation.
Be creative in table styling when hosting a party, such as: napkin folding tricks, discarded or recycled items from your yard or home, or even incorporating seasonal fruits.
Make new votive candles for company by reusing empty ones and their wick bases together with bulk beeswax and lead-free wick.
Purchase and download music and videos online, and stop buying CDs and DVDs.
For a hostess gift, you can opt to bring a homemade consummable wrapped in reusable cloth or jars.
Talk and educate your friends about going zero-free so they wouldn’t bring waste into your home during gatherings.
Other eco-friendly dining and entertaining tips: bring your own food containers for leftovers when dining out, use rechargeable batteries for your home electronics such as remote controls, etc.
For your office:
Refuse and help put a stop to free pencil or pen giveaways. Instead, use refillable pens, fountain pens, mechanical pencils, and even refillable whiteboard markers. You can also opt to donate extra office supplies such as pencils and paper to schools who may need them.
Refuse and stop junk mail. Opt to sign up for electronic bills and statements when possible, and cancel phone directories – Google instead.
Reuse single-sided used/printed paper for printing or as scratch paper – you can also bind them with a metal clip for easy use. Reuse other paper products such as junk mail envelopes. Opt to buy and use recycled paper that’s packaged in paper as well.
Make do without a trash can, and strive to stick to your compost and recycling bins.
Request, use and reuse recyclable packing material such as paper tape when shipping. Print the necessary postage and addresses directly on the envelope, use surface mail, and use return address stamps instead of stickers.
Forget the stapler and staple wire, use and reuse paper clips and staple-free stapler instead.
Purchase and download ebooks, subscribe to online copies of your daily paper or magazines, or use your local library.
Do away with CDs and use external hard drives and memory sticks instead.
Other eco-friendly office tips: refill your printer cartridges, and use a power strip for your office equipment.
For your garden:
Plant drought tolerant and native plants, including short native varieties of grass for your garden and lawn.
Compost. Consider a worm composter for liquid fertilizer, and a separate pet composter for your pets.
Return purchased plant’s plastic containers to the nursery or your local gardening store for reuse.
Purchase seeds in bulk.
Consider giving away plants and other gardening materials such as landscaping rocks, fences, irrigation piping, etc. that you do not want nor use anymore to friends, or post them online for free or for a small price.
For your other gardening needs such as dirt, rocks, compost, etc., use refillable sand bags.
Other eco-friendly gardening tips: keep only a number of quality tools for your garden, opt for those made of metal and wood as these can be easily repaired.