Making changes is not always easy, especially if we cannot immediately see the benefit of them. I have struggled trying to change so many things for the better in my life. To improve my diet. Get a hold of my sugar cravings or to regularly exercise. The two most important things I have learned are that a drastic change never happens overnight and the bigger the change the harder it is and the longer it takes to fully internalize it. Lucky for you, I am not suggesting any drastic changes today. I am simply offering you 10 easy steps to reduce your waste. Implementing these small changes will not only benefit the environment, it will also save you money and potentially improve your health.
I suggest you try to implement one or maybe two of these changes at a time rather than trying to tackle the entire list at once. I have also included links to a store called Life Without Plastic, they make high-quality, ethically sourced alternatives to everyday plastic products. If you purchase something at Life Without Plastic, I will earn a commission, which helps me cover the costs of this blog and continue to improve it. Me earning a commission does not affect that I highly recommend their store due to their quality and values. They are based in Canada, but ship worldwide. Feel free to check them out. Now let’s get on with the list.
1. Get a reusable water bottle / to-go cup
Did you know that it takes 3 liters of water to make one 1/2 liter bottle of water (source)? In addition, the cost of buying bottled drinks quickly accumulates and since the bottles are rarely reusable, they produce a lot of trash. I am not even going to mention how ridiculous it is to pay for water if you live in an area where the tab water can be consumed. Having a nice bottle will also remind you to drink more and help you keep track of how much you are drinking. By the way, you don’t have to put water in the bottle, it could be anything if you aren’t a water drinker. Just remember to clean it thoroughly if you fill it with other things.
Investing in a high quality reusable bottle is totally worth it. When I say high quality bottle I mean glass (i recommend this one) or stainless steal (like this one). Try not to buy a plastic one. In addition to not being a sustainable option, plastic cannot be washed at high temperatures because it will begin to degrade and it can harbor bacteria, if not washed properly.
Another tip which is connected with buying a reusable bottle, is getting a reusable to-go cup if you drink a lot of coffee outside of your home. Most cafes won’t mind putting your coffee in your own cup and some will even give you a discount. I would recommend getting a light and simple one that you can easily throw into your bag and just take with you, like this one.
2. Bring your own shopping bags
This is perhaps the easiest step towards reducing your waste, but also one that has a considerable impact. We have the habit of packing everything into large amounts of plastic. We, for instance, pack loose vegetables and fruits into individual plastic bags and then put them into another plastic shopping bag. Many times we end up throwing away the plastic bags we get at the store.
A simple solution to this problem is to bring your own shopping bags. I keep a cloth bag rolled up in my purse at all times. It is convenient and practical. Plus, if you live in a country where they charge for shopping bags like here in Denmark, you will even save money in the process.
You can either take plastic bags that you have at home with you or be even more sustainable and get yourself a tote bag. These bags are not only a lot more durable, they are also super trendy. I personally love the colors on these and they come in a pack of 6. Buying your totes without print also allows you to personalize them by adding writing, printing on them or doing decorative stitching (do I hear weekend diy project?! :D)
3. Opt for unpacked or bulk items
When you go to the store take a moment to think about how the things you buy are packaged. Often, products are packed using a lot more packaging than necessary. When buying fruits or vegetables, try to buy the ones without packaging. This also allows you to handpick your produce and often saves you from having to throw out bad food that was hidden in the packaging.
When buying pantry items, such as rice, beans or nuts. Try to buy them in bulk. Not only, is this often cheaper, it also uses less packaging. However, keep an eye out for bulk items that are individually wrapped, as those produce a ton of unnecessary trash.
4. Use a reusable lunchbox
Another useful tip for on the go is getting a reusable lunchbox. If you aren’t taking your own lunch to work/school, I highly recommend considering it. It can save you a good amount of money and makes it easy to improve the way you eat. If you are bringing your own lunch, consider getting a reusable lunch box. Once again, I am not referring to plastic when I say reusable, but instead glass or stainless steel.
Stainless steel is the lightest and most durable option. There are many stainless steel lunchboxes already on the market. They are available in different sizes, shapes and with various compartments. You can get exactly what your lunch-needs require. I personally really like this one, because it has a good size and is divided in two compartments allowing me to bring two different things.
5. Make things at home
Making products at home often creates less waste than buying them. For instance, by making my own lotion bars (learn how to make them here). They not only save money, they also eliminate both the packaging trash and the chemical trash created by store-bought lotion.
The same is true for home cooking. Especially takeout containers are a huge source of trash. Moreover, cooking together can be a wonderful way of spending time with the family.
6. Eliminate paper towels
This is a tough one for many. Paper towels have become a kitchen necessity and staple in the last years. I must confess I still have them at home from time to time. But it takes me a long time to go through a roll because the only thing I use them for is soaking up grease or other cooking related things that would ruin a cloth.
The best way to eliminate paper towels is to replace them with cloth. Use kitchen towels for drying your hands and produce. Use a microfiber or cotton cloths to wipe the kitchen counter and for cleaning.
7. Make a meal plan
Be honest, how often do you throw out food because you forgot it was in the fridge? I used to do it quite often, but now I meal plan. I’m working my way up to doing it a whole week in advance, but most of the time I do 3 days. The point of meal planning is to reduce food waste by taking the time to make a plan for everything you buy. For example if I buy squash, but I only need to use half for one meal, I try to plan a second meal for the other half ahead of time so I know exactly where the leftovers go.
Meal planning is also great to reduce your grocery spending because when you go to the store with a plan, you spend less. Finally, the biggest reason I do it is because that way I never feel stressed when dinner comes around because I have no idea what to cook. The little extra time you spend planning will pay off super quickly, I promise.
8. Give away things you no longer use
Eliminating clutter is one of my favorite things to do (i know, I’m weird). Empty spaces make my mind feel at ease, which is why I am always trying to remove clutter wherever I can.
When you no longer use something or get a newer version of something, consider giving the older things away instead of throwing them in the trash. You never know, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could either resell your old things or give them away for free. I find facebook a great tool for this. Almost every city has a group where people give away free things or sell their used items. Oftentimes, you don’t even have to do anything, the person will come to you to pick it up.
9. Buy second hand
I love going to flea markets and second hand stores. It is like an adventure or a treasure hunt. You never know what you may find and the items have a history unlike new things. Buying second hand gives things that would otherwise go in the trash, new life. It can also save you money. Second hand stores are especially great for clothing, jewelry and furniture. I also frequently buy gifts in second hand shops. You can also find many used items in facebook groups. Whenever I need to make a bigger purchase, I always take a quick look on the internet for a used version before I invest the money in something new.
10. Opt for long lasting products
My final tip for you is to buy long lasting products. This applies to EVERYTHING. Too often do we choose instant price savings over quality. The thing we don’t realize is that our cheap, low quality products are breaking left and right and creating heaps of trash and constantly demanding further investments. Oftentimes, cheap products are also unhealthy and considerably less safe.
Bottom line: If you need to buy something, take the time to do the research. Choose something high-quality that will last. Save up for it if necessary. If you take any of the 10 easy steps to reduce your waste to heart, make it this one.
For instance, our hand mixer broke. So instead of running to the store and buying a cheap hand mixer, I decided it was time to invest in a kitchenaid. So I have been saving up, while scouring online sales pages for a good deal on a used one. It takes time, but I know that when I get it I will have it for much longer than the cheap hand mixer. And I will never feel buyer’s remorse.
I hope these 10 easy steps to reduce your waste help you make a difference in your life. Let me know if you have any further suggestions/tips in the comments below.