On an average day, an American individual produces 4.51 pounds of trash according to estimates in 2017 from the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On a global stage, this sets America up to be the third most waste producing country only behind Canada and Bulgaria. These numbers are staggering, especially since so much of what ends up in landfills can end up being substances that could have been disposed of in much more eco-friendly ways. According to those same findings from the EPA, 139 million tons of waste out of the yearly average of 267.8 ended up in landfills. However, much of what did go to landfill could have easily been reused or disposed of in better ways.
There are plenty of ways in which we can all cut down on our waste production. We can recycle according to our local guidelines, purchase products in little to no packaging or with recyclable or compostable packaging, and donate our used goods that may have been well loved but still have plenty of love to give.
But, there are also many ways that are a bit less common in which we can all strive to be more sustainable in our consumerism.
- Buy in Bulk
Sometimes buying food or other items in bulk may seem unreasonable. Unless you have a large family or many mouths to feed, buying large amounts of food at a time puts you at risk of letting some of that food go bad before being used. However, You can still buy in bulk within reason for your life.
This could mean buying flour, nuts and seeds, or other non-perishables in large quantities. Or, for non-edible items, buying hand soap in gallon sizes to refill smaller counter top bottles, or doing the same with shampoos and body washes.
All of this will help you to create less waste buy buying one larger package rather than multiple smaller packages. Often these smaller packages, while physically smaller, create more waste in the long run from the amount you’ll be buying more frequently. You will also find you’ll have to get to the store less often, and you’ll save money in the long term as many places offer discounts on bulk items.
2. Reuse Textiles
Not everyone knows how to sew, and that’s okay. You really don’t need to know how to sew to reuse your loose fabric scraps.
Recently, I found I had a few shirts I’ve been holding on to for years but never really wear, and I would if only they were slightly adjusted. So, I cut a layer of fabric off the bottom of one of those shirts to create a much cuter crop top version, and got to use the fabric strip I cut off to make a super cute headband without any sewing.
You can take these loose scraps and make just about anything, and Pinterest is a great place to find new ideas. However, you can also use old clothes that haven’t gotten cut for scraps but are unwearable for kitchen rags, gentle hair towels, and cushioned packing material.
3. Goody Swaps
This is one of my friends and I’s favorite things to do! Often when seasons change or someone moves, we’ll all get together to do a clothing and goody swap- more or less it’s a swap meet! We’re lucky that we all wear vaguely similar sizes and have overlapping styles.
Each person can bring clothes or items they no longer use and begin swapping with each other for new-to-you items that still have so much use left. Most often my friends and I find ourselves swapping clothes and cosmetics that have been cleaned and only lightly used. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t waste any cosmetic products, especially when you found the product wasn’t right for you but you still have a lot left.
This is a great idea for any group of friends trying to save money for the holidays as well. Giving the gift of sustainability between friends is always fun!
4. Up-cycle Packaging
We’re all pretty used to wrapping our gifts in wrapping paper and gift bags with ribbon. Problem is, these items often aren’t recyclable and will ultimately end up in landfill. A simple solution is to reuse the bags and gift wrap, but there are better options for when it’s time to replace these items.
My favorite way to up-cycle items as gift packaging is to hit up my local goodwill and antique shops to find cute jars and old bottles that I can fit gifts in to. Not only do my friends and family receive their gifts, but they also receive a cute jar they can use however they want!
Other items you can reuse as packaging are fabric scraps, gently used sheets and bedding, or you can go the Jim Halpert route and find a cute sentimental teapot! (Where my The Office fans at??)
No matter where you live, you should be composting. Composting is the best way to get rid of any organic material, which just about everyone uses a lot of on any given day. Organic materials are often disposed of in landfills, and when they end up there they get buried among the garbage and produce what’s called methane gas. Through anaerobic decomposition organic matter releases methane into the atmosphere which causes the rapid acceleration of global atmospheric pollution.
I never used to want to do this because I assumed composting materials in my apartment would stink up the place, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. You can purchase a number of different kinds of composting bins online that will do all the work for you once you plop in some banana peels and egg shells, you can freeze your compost materials, or you can find a simple outdoor bin to keep on your balcony if you have one.
Once you’re ready to dump your compost bin, or your freezer is full to the brim with organic material, there are a number of ways you can get rid of the waste. First off, if you do have your own garden and backyard, you can go ahead and use your compost materials yourself when it’s ready. However, for those without gardens and yards, you can donate your compost to your local community garden if they have a compost heap, to your neighbors who do have gardens, or you can check and see if your community has a public composting program.
For more ideas on composting, here is a great article: https://goingzerowaste.com/blog/composting-for-apartments/
Becoming more sustainable in waste production is possible for everyone. That being said, some of these things might be a stretch for you, and that’s okay. Doing what you can each day, and getting better as you go is ultimately the goal. The one thing we shouldn’t do is get comfortable with our waste production if it is continually causing harm to our beautiful planet.
Let me know: In what ways are you becoming more sustainable in your waste production? Have you gotten into any of the above suggestions?