I think all parents can agree that we want to provide the best futures for our children and subsequent generations – and one way that we can contribute to that is keeping our planet as healthy as possible for as long as possible. According to the EPA, in 2013 Americans generated 254 MILLION tons of trash. While we are far from perfect and I can think of many ways our family should improve, we have taken several steps to decrease the waste that we produce. Below is a list of some of the easy ways that help us reduce our trash output, and some of them have an added bonus of saving us money as well, which is always welcome!
Reduce household waste by meal planning.
By building a grocery list around what I know we will eat for the week, I am able to purchase only what we need which has made a huge difference on the amount of food that ends up going bad before it can be consumed! Taking inventory of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry periodically and building meals around those items can also help food from expiring and ending up in the trash as well.
Reduce household waste by taking advantage of grocery-pickup services.
Creating a grocery list online has prevented so many impulse buys while in the store, because I buy only what we need instead of getting distracted in the aisles. It also prevents me from buying something we already have, because I’m able to check our inventory before adding it to my list. Less duplicates equals less things being thrown out or going bad. My only gripe about this service is that the groceries are brought out in plastic bags – in an ideal situation, I could drop off my reusable bags ahead of time and have the groceries loaded into those, but for now I just gather the plastic bags and have them recycled at the store each week when I pick up my next order.
Reduce household waste by eating leftovers and finding new ways to utilize them to keep meals interesting.
My husband and I take our breakfasts and lunches to work every day rather than eating out. We keep easy lunch staples on hand like sandwich fixings, but most of the time we eat leftovers. One way to keep it interesting is to turn the leftovers into something new. For example, if I have extra rice from last night’s dinner and shredded chicken or half a pork chop from a few days ago, I can combine them with a few other things to make a pan of homemade fried rice to spice up the lunch menu and prevent the ‘boring’ items from getting lost in the back of the fridge.
Reduce household waste by using the bulk bins.
Many stores in town have a great selection of cooking staples and specialty ingredients in the bulk bins, and you can even bring in your own packaging for them! Quite a few items are significantly less expensive when buying in bulk vs. buying prepackaged, and being able to buy only the amount that you need for specialty items prevents you from having to buy a whole package of something that you only need a small amount of and end up throwing the rest out.
Reduce household waste by reusing what you can.
Wash out those jelly jars and reuse them to hold your bulk items or to store leftovers. I haven’t yet taken the plunge and purchased washable silicone ‘ziploc’ type baggies, so for now I use the plastic ones as many times as I can before throwing them out.
Reduce household waste by recycling or “upcycling” what you can’t reuse.
Rather than throwing out old items, see if there is a way to repurpose them or see if someone else can find use for them before throwing them out. T-shirts past their prime make great cleaning rags, for example. I have a bag of old, worn towels in my trunk to drop off at the humane society so that they can be used for animal bedding rather than being thrown out. When in doubt, list it for free on the Facebook Marketplace – you’d be surprised what others can find use out of, and that’s one less thing taking up space in a landfill! If an item can’t be repurposed, make sure to check if it is recyclable before throwing it out.
Reduce household waste by purchasing reusable items.
Sil-pat mats are excellent to line cookie trays with and make cleanup a breeze. Reusable metal straws and tumblers make staying hydrated on the go much easier. I’m trying to cut back on paper towels and switch over to absorbent, washable flour-sack towels to make my cleanups a little friendlier on the planet.
Reduce household waste by shopping secondhand.
I love browsing the Facebook Marketplace and thrift stores when I have something specific in mind – not only am I saving big money over buying items new (especially kid items that get outgrown so quickly), but I’m also giving new life to items that someone else no longer has use for. A caveat with this is making sure to be intentional with your purchases – don’t bring it into your home if you don’t have a need for it or know exactly what purpose it will serve. That just creates clutter!
Reduce household waste by borrowing or trading.
Instead of purchasing a big-ticket item that won’t get much use, see if a friend or neighbor has one that they’ll loan or trade you. Also check with your local stores to see if they offer rentals on specialty tools.
Reduce household waste by making your own household cleaners.
As my pre-made household cleaners are running out, I’m replacing them with homemade versions. You’d be surprised at how easy they are to make and how much the savings are! Most of the ‘ingredients’ are items I already had on hand. I have been reusing the containers from my old cleaning products and making new labels for them, but you can also find reusable glass bottles to purchase.
I know there are so many other practices our family could be implementing to reduce waste, but these are a step in the right direction! What are some tips that you have? I’m always open to new ideas!