When it comes to being an environmentally conscious homeowner, knowing ways to reduce waste can make a big difference in your family’s carbon footprint.
Americans produce about 258 million tons of garbage every year. That garbage is a major contributor to global warming.
Landfills are the largest man-made source of methane gas produced in the United States. And methane is 23 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming than other greenhouse gases.
By reducing the amount of waste you produce, you can help slow down the growth of landfills and their negative impact on the environment.
From composting to buying in bulk to making your own household cleaners, here are seven ways to reduce waste and your home’s trash output.
Every year, about 31% (133 billion pounds) of our country’s food supply is thrown away. Wasted food is the biggest contributing factor to American landfills, and it’s responsible for 18% of the methane emissions that come from the nation’s landfills.
Organic food waste in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change — and not in a good way. By composting your home’s organic waste, you can improve your soil and help reduce the nation’s methane emissions.
Never composted before? This guide will have you composting like a pro today.
2. Grow Your Own Food
49.1 million Americans went without nutritious food in 2014, yet the pounds of wasted food across the country could provide a 2,000-calorie diet to 84% of the population.
As Jonathan Bloom of Wasted Food says, “Becoming more connected to your food will help you avoid waste.”
Growing your own produce rather than buying it from the store cuts down on fossil fuels emitted during long-distance food transportation.
3. Shop Smart
Packaging typically makes up half of your trash by volume for each food and household item you buy.
Follow this checklist to reduce packaging and food waste every time you shop:
- Avoid individually wrapped items and single-serve containers
- Buy in bulk
- Bring reusable containers and re-sealable bags for the bulk items
- Only buy what you can use before it goes bad
- Find products that are returnable, reusable or refillable
- Purchase household cleaners like dish soap and laundry detergents in concentrate forms
- Use reusable grocery bags
4. Buy Reusable, Not Disposable
When purchasing items for your home, invest in reusable products instead of disposables to cut down on waste.
Before you hit the store to restock on batteries or kitchen items, keep the following options in mind:
- Microfiber cloths instead of paper towels and disposable wipes
- Rechargeable batteries instead of traditional disposable batteries
- Reusable tableware and utensils instead of plastic ware
- A glass or stainless steel straw instead of single-use plastic straws
- French press for coffee rather than coffee maker that uses filters or a Keurig that uses disposable cups
- Reusable metal tea strainer rather than disposable tea bags
5. Make Your Own Household Cleaners
Making your own household cleaners can cut down on disposable cleaning packaging and supplies, and make sure your family isn’t exposed to harmful chemicals that populate many store-bought cleaning products.
Here’s our step-by-step recipe guide about how to make your own natural homemade natural cleaners. If you do buy cleaning supplies every once in a while, make sure it has the EPA’s Safer Choice Label to ensure it doesn’t contain contaminants for your family, pets, or the environment.
6. Recycle Everything You Can
Recycling makes a huge impact on reducing your home’s waste output. When you recycle, you reduce water pollution and water consumption, and preserve natural resources.
Products created from recyclables also save energy: It takes 95% less energy* to recycle aluminum than it does to create it from raw materials; recycled steel saves 60%* on energy production, while recycled newspaper saves 40%*; recycled plastics save 70%; and recycled glass saves 40% in energy production.1
Keep these lists of items in mind to ensure you’re recycling everything you can, and not contaminating your recycling bin with things that should stay out:
What you can (and can’t) recycle:
- Aluminum cans
- Aluminum foil and bakeware
- Steel cans and tin cans (soup cans, veggie cans, coffee cans, etc.)
- Corrugated cardboard
- Office paper
- Paper cardboard dairy and juice cartons
- Unsolicited direct mail
- Clear (flint) glass
- Brown (amber) glass
- Green (emerald) glass
Plastics (must be clean!)
Batteries and bulbs
- Car batteries
- Household and button batteries
- Rechargeable batteries
- Incandescent and LED
- Compact florescent bulbs
- Computers (CPUs, monitors, peripherals, keyboards)
- Office equipment (photocopiers, printers, fax machines)
- Consumer electronics (VCRs, stereos, home/office phones)
Do NOT recycle these glass items:
- Glass contaminated with stones, dirt, and food waste
- Ceramics like dishware, ovenware and decorative items
- Heat-resistant glass like Pyrex
- Mixed colors of broken glass
- Mirror or window glass
- Metal or plastic caps and lids
- Light bulbs
Contact your local recycling center to find out how to properly dispose of the following items:
- Smoke alarms/detectors
- Fire Alarms/detectors
- Large appliances (refrigerators, etc.)
- Non-decontaminated medical equipment
- Any device with sludge or liquids
7. Repurpose Before You Scrap It
Whenever possible, reuse your household items before you toss them for new versions.
Before you throw something away, do a quick Google search or scan Pinterest for creative ideas to breathe new life into your things.
Some things don’t need much work to find a new purpose: Old t-shirts make great dishrags and cleaning cloths, while you can use newspapers to clean windows and glass.
The same goes for household items you may think are disposable. Check and see if they’re recyclable, or on this list of 63 ways to repurpose disposable household items. Even if your item is broken, all may not be lost — here are 100 ways to repurpose broken household items.
No matter how diligent you and your family may become about reducing your home’s trash output, chances are you’ll still produce at least some waste that can’t be repurposed, reused, recycled or composted when it comes time to move.