It turns out Americans are trashy. Real trashy. Last weekend we went to Portland and visited the Portland Zoo. It was a fantastic zoo – seriously awesome animals, great scenery, green and leafy…loved it. One of the exhibits had a series of increasingly large footprints representing the amount of garbage/pollution that various parts of the world produce. I don’t remember the exact numbers but the US produces disturbingly large amounts of trash in comparison to others. Before we get too far, I should warn you – I’m watching 30 Rock while writing this so there might be some grammatical and spelling errors today. Smiley face/winky face.
Anyhoo, I looked it up and saw varying numbers but the only one that I saw consistently is that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash EACH day. Ya, that’s PER PERSON. And we have how many million people in the states??? Yep, over 300 million. Yikes. So it got me thinking…what can we do to reduce the amount of trash we produce? Here are five EASY things we can all do to reduce the amount of trash our households produce:
1. Recycle More, Throw Away Less. The key to this is make it as easy as possible. Add recycling bins throughout your home. We have one upstairs and this has made it considerably easier to recycle papers, tissue paper rolls, cardboard boxes, etc. I also added a bucket that we weren’t using underneath the kitchen sink. Our kitchen is right next to the garage door where we keep the big recycling bin and yet I would throw things away because it was easier. Since adding the bucket, I find myself recycling much more. Another thing that helped me was to make sure I understood the local rules for recycling. I recycle so much more now that I know what’s allowed.
2. Change the Way You Grocery Shop. Bring your own bags. Keep them in the car or in your purse. I’ve also been using reusable produce bags instead of using one-time use plastic bags. Just these two things have cut down our trash considerably. Avoid buying pre-portioned packaging like single serving sized carrots, hummus, peanut butter, etc. Instead buy a bigger bag and use small tupperware type containers – portion them out yourself. Try to buy more produce than packaged goods and bulk bins definitely cut back on waste also.
3. Limit the Number of One-Time Use Products You Use. Swap out paper towels and lysol wipes with microfiber towels, handkerchiefs for kleenex, bring a mug to work instead of using cups at work, use reusable sandwich bags or tupperware instead of disposable sandwich bags, use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Change the nature of things to make them reusable instead of one-time use: reuse the backside of paper for lists instead of using a new piece, use newspapers to clean windows, use paper bags with pretty ribbon to wrap gifts – be creative!
4. Borrow, Lend, Sell and Share. Do you really need to buy a brand new power screwdriver when you never use one? Could you just borrow one? Or could you just buy a perfectly good one off of Craigslist? If you’re like me, you have appliances that you never use…try selling them on Craigslist or ebay or give them away on freecycle. Good stuff shouldn’t get thrown away. Holidays seem to be the worst. Get together with your friends and trade Christmas decor instead of buying yet another wreath.
5. Drink Filtered Water and Buy a Water Bottle. Single use bottled water is crazy expensive in dollars and abuse on the earth. Get a stainless steel, glass or BPA free plastic bottle and carry it everywhere with you. It’s good for you too!
Other things you can do that aren’t so easy to do are compost (this reduces a LOT of food trash), use cloth diapers instead of disposables, and use cloth diaper wipes instead of disposable wipes. So many easy ways to reduce garbage. What do you do to make less trash?