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16 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste

The average American throws away about 1,600 pounds of trash each year. With all the food and product packaging, single-use products, kid stuff, broken electronics, old clothes, and junk mail finding its way into (and out of) our home I can see why.

Sometimes I think it'd be easier if I just quit my job and went "off the grid". It'd be so much easier to be zero-waste if I lived off the land and was completely self-sufficient, I could grow my own food, raise livestock, make soap and candles, and learn to make my own clothes. Maybe I can learn blacksmithing. I wouldn't have to work so much because I wouldn't have to pay for stuff. Great plan! But then I think...wait. That sounds like work. All of the time. Maybe I'll just stick with my day job and buy stuff when I need it. So it's either leave civilization or deal with all this trash, right?


It doesn't have to be one extreme or the other. We can make a positive difference to reduce waste without donning a bonnet and avoiding civilization. Here are some easy things we can do to reduce packaging and waste, reduce use of fossil fuels, and even save money!

  1. Recycle properly.

  2. Compost food scraps (about home composting).

  3. Support waste reduction businesses like Park + Coop! (of course).

  4. Use paper bags at the grocery store or bring your own tote bags.

  5. Plan meals around food you already have in your refrigerator, so you don't throw food out and buy only what you have a plan to use.

  6. Shop in the bulk section at the grocery store and at farmers markets.

  7. Buy refillable soap, lotion, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.

  8. Donate stuff you don't use if it has life left.

  9. Shop at thrift stores, garage sales, Goodwill, and other second-hand stores rather than buying new.

  10. Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups.

  11. Buy high quality, classic clothing staples that you can wear for a long time.

  12. When you feel you must shop on Amazon buy all at once and have items shipped together.

  13. Buy domestic goods or even better, locally made.

  14. Reuse shipping supplies like boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts.

  15. Take yourself off of junk mail lists.

  16. Substitute single-use products with multi-use products you love. Read this blog post on our favorites.

Every bit counts. By changing just one thing you're making a difference. Take a peek in your garbage can and see what is making up the bulk of your trash. Then focus on reducing that one thing. Add a new change with each new year to build on your successes. Remember, nobody's perfect. We certainly aren't. But we feel happy when we try. You will, too.

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