Reducing household waste can seem like an inconvenience or something that requires specialized skills to do effectively. The truth is there are many ways to decrease the amount of refuse we accumulate and throw away that doesn’t require much prior planning or knowledge.
When we make a commitment to minimize what we buy, use and then discard, we’re taking action to help protect the environment. Landfill space, where the majority of our trash ends up, produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases as the garbage decomposes (mostly releasing methane and carbon dioxide but also several other gases) that contribute to the intensification of climate change and its effects.
By increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we’re amplifying the planet’s natural greenhouse effect and turning up the dial on global warming. | Greenhouse Effect 101 – NRDC
Landfills also produce a highly toxic liquid runoff (leachate) when snowmelt or rain passes through and collects the toxins released by decaying garbage. This can cause groundwater pollution that contaminates soil, streams, rivers and water supplies — so it’s abundantly clear that we must do what we can to reduce our household waste and protect the environment. Here are nine ideas that will help you do just that …
Menu Plan | About one-third of all food that’s produced worldwide never gets eaten and ends up rotting away in landfills. From farming to manufacturing, and distribution to consumption, food waste occurs at every single stage; culminating in restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and households, etc throwing out uneaten produce. Discarded food in the U.S. is the largest category of material that’s found in refuse sites, so carefully planning our meals will help to reduce the amount of food we buy that ends up being unused and then thrown in the trash.
Reinventing Leftovers | Even with meal planning, there will be times when you end up with leftovers. Aside from making sure you actually get around to eating them, get into the habit of using them to make another meal — better yet, create a menu plan that includes dishes you will use in a number of different ways throughout the week. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also helps your finances by reducing expenditure on food that ends up in the bin. Actively think about incorporating meal plans that include leftovers being made into soups, pies, casseroles, pasta bakes or fillings for something like quesadillas or baked potatoes, for example.
Reusable Food Storage | Ditch the wrap, foil and plastic bags and opt for items that can be washed and reused. Plastic containers are a good way to reduce single-use plastic, especially if the brand you’ve got will last a long time and is fully recyclable, but oven-safe glass versions (that come with plastic lids) are even better because you can use them as bakeware as well as food storage. Both plastic and glass containers stack well and can be freezer-safe and reheatable — just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when going from cold to hot, and vice versa, because some containers may crack, weaken or shatter.
Create Compost | Instead of throwing your food scraps away, consider getting a kitchen countertop compost bin. They are really easy to use, require little effort and come in a range of prices and designs that will fit most budgets and kitchen decor. Use the compost you make to nurture soil and plants in your garden or alternatively if you don’t have an outside space, gift it to a friend or family member who does.
Make Some Stock | Vegetable scraps can be made into a delicious stock to use in soups, casseroles, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rice or meat/vegetable-based sauces, etc — and so much more.
Recycle | This is an obvious but really effective thing we can all do. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area that has curbside service, make good use of it. If you don’t have this available, use a designated kitchen bin just for recyclable items and take it to a local recycling facility when it’s full (some places may require you to presort your items).
Paperless Billing | Where it’s appropriate to do so, opt-out of receiving your bills through the post and go online instead (a lot of companies offer this service). Less paper being used will not only reduce paper waste but it’s also good for the environment by helping to conserve forests and trees.
Make Notebooks | If you still have some paper lying around that’s only been used or printed on one side, give it another lease of life before you recycle it and make it into a scrap notebook for shopping lists, to-do reminders or quick messages, etc. To make sure it remains 100% recyclable after you’ve finished using it, bind the notebook pages together without using glue, staples, clips or tape — a good example of how to do this can be found here.
Repurposed Rags | If your dusting or cleaning cloths can’t be machine washed and often end up in the trash after a few uses, create laundry-friendly, reusable alternatives by cutting up some old clothes (t-shirts are best but any soft fabric items will work if they don’t have buttons, zippers or studs that can scratch, etc). Lay the clothing on a cutting board/mat or similar, protected flat surface and then carefully cut the material into squares using scissors. They make great dusters/rags — or alternatives to paper towels — that can clean, polish, dust or wipe down most household items and surfaces really well.
Are you making an effort to reduce your household waste? What innovative, yet easy ways do you find to reuse, repurpose and recycle?
The Effects Of Landfills On The Environment — Sciencing
You’re Doing It Wrong: 7 Tips To Recycle Better — Earth Day
Fight Climate Change By Preventing Food Waste — World Wildlife Fund