One of the bigger problems of 21st-century society involves combatting convenience culture. Too many of the items we use quickly end up in trash cans and landfills. That said, the problem isn’t buying products — it involves learning how to reduce waste at home from all the things we do buy.
And it all begins with the 4 R’s of green living:
- Reduce what you use
- Reuse everything you can
- Recycle what you can’t
- Repurpose when possible
We want to provide some specific tips you can put into action around your home so that you can become more eco-friendly with your choices.
5 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste Around Your House
There are five core sections of your life where you can focus your waste-reduction efforts:
These concepts can be used in more than one area, and we’ll note them as needed. But if we were to reduce this post to a single sentence, it would be: “Pay attention to what you buy and learn how to get rid of it when it’s no longer useful.”
1. Reduce Your Trash at Home
Decreasing how much we throw away at home starts with our consumer goods, clothes, and appliances. These items are often created from multiple materials, making them difficult to either reduce, reuse, recycle, or repurpose.
Thus, it’s essential we find ways to limit how often we place them on the curb, such as:
- Learning basic home repairs
- Borrowing, renting, and sharing with friends and family
- Purchasing items that last
- Donating and giving away
- Using rechargeable batteries
If these items cannot be repaired or repurposed, learn the most effective ways to dispense with them by talking to your local trash removal company and recycling company.
2. Reduce Your Energy Waste
This kind of waste can’t fit in a trash bag or recycling bin, but it can definitely impact your house and the environment. While this list merely scratches the surface of the numerous energy-saving tips you can employ, it’s a good place to start:
- Use proper thermostat settings
- Turn off the lights
- Switch to LED light bulbs
- Use power strips
- Lower the water heater temperature
- Run heavy appliances at night
The goal isn’t necessarily to simply use less energy (though that helps, too). Instead, we want you to think about how you can use energy more effectively.
3. Reduce Your Food Waste
Most food products decompose so they don’t take up landfill space. However, wasting food — where you buy or order food that you don’t end up eating — can inadvertently lead to higher grocery bills, rising food prices, and food shortages in other parts of the world. To lower how much food you throw away, we encourage you to follow these suggestions:
- Buy in bulk (and store in reusable containers)
- Buy what you will eat
- Enjoy leftovers
- Try new recipes from what’s left behind
It’s important you pay attention to what you buy for your meals, especially in a global economy where produce is often shipped internationally.
4. Reduce Your Paper Waste
We produce lots and lots of paper, and far too much of it gets thrown away instead of being recycled. But let’s take our efforts a step further than just learning how to recycle properly (which we go over in that link).
Common ways you can reduce your “paper trail” include:
- Switching to paperless bills
- Saving receipts and documents digitally
- Unsubscribing from mailing lists
- Buying multiple items at once when online shopping
- Using cloth napkins
- Using real plates
- Taking notes on a shared whiteboard instead of paper
In short, be intentional when you use paper and recycle what you can.
5. Reduce Your Plastic Waste
Eliminating the overuse of plastic goods around your home is essential to creating a better planet. Common ways you can reduce your plastic waste include:
- Avoiding single-use plastics
- Using canvas bags when shopping
- Using reusable containers
- Buying items with recyclable and reusable packaging
- Using a refillable water bottle
- Using a coffee mug or thermos at work
- Using real silverware
As we’ve said in another article, using plastic by itself isn’t bad. What’s bad is using too much of it because it’s convenient then not having a way to throw it away safely or use it in another way. The simplest way to use plastics with greater thoughtfulness is to use them as little as possible — especially when it comes to inexpensive consumer goods.
Reducing Your Waste at Home Requires Conscious Effort
Ultimately, sustainable living is more than just recycling. It actually starts with the other three R’s: reduce, reuse, and repurpose. To actually lower the amount of trash you create in your home, you start by using less stuff and continue by using it well. Consciously think about how you’ll use something before you buy it, including what the item could or should become before you finally throw it away.
Making better choices about what you use and how you’ll throw it away isn’t a simple checklist. It entails changing your whole model of consumption because once you use less, you automatically have less to throw away.