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The shear amount of waste America produces is overwhelming. In 2014 Americans produced 258 million tons of waste (I don't quote numbers without sources: EPA).
A draft horse weighs about one ton, so we produced 258 million dead horse's worth of waste in one year! At Modern Self-Reliance, we try to reduce our household waste with simple steps built into our daily lives.
For me, the less trash I leave on this planet, the better. Therefore, I have put together a list of 10 ways I reduced my waste without changing my habits too much. Will they work for your family?
I will admit, it took me awhile to commit to buy cloth napkins. I used to have a bagel every morning, on a paper towel as I walked to my car. I felt ashamed every time I cleaned out my car trash and it was only paper towels, barely soiled. I would link you to amazing cloth napkins, but I bought mine at Savers and they cost me about $1 a piece. I bought 8 and that seems to work well for my family of 2. We wash them with our normal laundry, so it doesn’t take extra time or energy. Thus, we have significantly reduced our paper towel usage. Good for the environment and our wallet!
Save veggies scraps.
We save all vegetable scraps in the freezer in gallon bags. These scraps then go to making our own beef and chicken stock. (Check out my recipe here. ) Alternatively, if you had a place to compost, banana peels and coffee could be diverted from the trash this way.
We have a hard-plastic reusable K-Cup pod that works for us. We keep a cute jar of ground coffee near the Keurig. We empty the pod, fill it with fresh grounds, and make coffee like normal. Next morning, we rinse out the pod and replace with new ground. No plastic K-cups from our house. We use this brand refillable K-Cup pods.
Reusable take-out containers.
I always curse myself when I get to a restaurant and realize I forgot my own take-out container. I hardly ever eat my whole meal at restaurants, and end up taking that plastic or Styrofoam container home. Which will end in the trash. I have now started to keep clean containers in my car for this purpose. Less waste for me and less containers the restaurant needs to buy. If only we remember to bring our own…
Grow your own herbs.
I have started to grow my own herbs, this reduces the need for me to buy herbs from the store. It also reduces the plastic package the herbs come in! (I would say it saves money, but I run expensive full-spectrum lighting so I am not sure about that. Check out my indoor growing system here.)
Can garden produce and beans.
I always say I will go to the farmer’s market and buy produce and can it myself. Never happens. What does happen is me buying dry beans in bulk and cooking them in my pressure canner. This reduces my recyclable waste as we don’t buy nearly as may metal cans for things like baked beans, black beans, pinto beans, tomatoes, pasta sauce, salsa, and tomato puree. I hope to expand as I get better at gardening. Check out how I pressure can beans here.
I am starting to learn to make my own soap. Making the bars myself and storing them in a regular box reduces the packaging. Even simple bars of soap come in a cardboard box shrink wrapped in plastic. Shampoo comes in plastic bottles, which you probably won’t have another use for. If you aren’t up to the challenge of making your own soap, maybe there is someone around who makes soap and packages it with less waste.
Refill water bottles.
I watch my neighbors carry in cases of plastic water bottles each week and then throw out those same empty bottles. We use harder plastic bottles (like coke bottles) that stand up to multiple uses better than thin-walled water bottles. We wash and refill the bottles and re-stock our beverage fridge. We save the waste bottles, we save money, and we always have extra water on hand. It’s really a win-win-win situation for us.
Reusable grocery bags.
While Massachusetts and California (and others) have started to ban plastic bags, they still exist. We bring our own bags to the grocery store to reduce the waste of the plastic bags. While there are many uses for plastic bags, often times they end up cluttering the space under our sink. Also it will be less of a shock when they are banned altogether.
Refuse to bring junk into your home. This is very difficult, but can reduce the waste you throw out. Do you NEED that pen from the bank? Or will it end up in the trash. Do you WANT that flyer from work about goat yoga? No. It will be hard, as it won’t completely divert that item from the trash, but it may slowly turn the tides. If what you own doesn’t help you live the life you want, why is it in your home?
Hope you enjoyed our list of 10 ways we reduce clutter and waste in our home. How do you reduce waste? What tips, tricks and habits do you find most environmentally friendly? Thanks for stopping by!
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