The world is awash in garbage. The average American throws away more than 4 pounds of stuff every single day. That comes out to over 200 million tons of trash per year in America? With landfills overflowing all over the globe, it’s not difficult to see how this in turn affects human health, it’s up to us to find solutions. When we make an effort to improve our environment, we are ultimately improving our health in the long run. Each and every one of us can do our part to keep the planet clean and healthy. From using stainless steel food containers to shopping with reusable bags, here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your garbage footprint.
- Use Less Plastic
Plastic is one of the most harmful, unsustainable, and yet prolific materials on the planet. It never degrades, never dissolves, and never disappears. Unfortunately, plastic waste products are filling up the planet’s landfills, polluting its oceans and waterways, and killing millions of marine animals every year, Research shows that much of the fish that we consume also contains remnants of plastic which ultimately damages the human body. The less plastic you use, the better. Watch this short video to learn more about how our planet is drowning in plastic.
- Shop with Reusable Bags
Shoppers have been transitioning to reusable bags for a while now. With more and more grocery stores starting to charge customers for using their bags, this one is a no-brainer, environmentally and financially speaking.
- Put Produce in Reusable containers
Some people carry a large tote bag with them to the grocery store, and then put their produce in the little plastic bags provided by the store. Consider getting smaller reusable containers to lower your plastic usage even more, or shopping with a vendor that offers reusable containers.
- Carry a Stainless Steel Lunch Box
Instead of grabbing takeout or using plastic containers, take a reusable, stainless steel lunchbox to work with you. It’s cheaper; it’s healthier, and it’s easier on the environment. While you’re at it, pack a kid’s stainless steel lunchbox in Junior’s backpack to get the whole family on the eco-friendly bandwagon.
- Throw Out the Plastic Wrap
As long as you’re trying to reduce your plastic footprint, plastic wrap should be one of the first things to go. With so many superior products now on the market (like these reusable beeswax wraps from abeego), there’s no reason to cling tightly to old solutions.
- Skip the Packaged Foods
Packaged foods are some of the worst offenders, particularly when they come in individual wrappers. Of course, we all love the cookies, crackers, snack packs, and juice drinks that come in single packs. Unfortunately, the planet doesn’t love the extra trash. Bulk containers are far more efficient.
- Trade Disposable Containers for Reusable Jars
Buy your delicacies—syrup, butter, nut butter, pickled goods, honey—in reusable glass jars instead of disposable containers. Some specialty markets or individual merchants will even refill your jars for you.
- Make Your Own Goodies
If you have the time, spend a few weekends making your own salad dressings, soups, ice creams, etc. Less prepackaged foods equal less waste. Your body, your wallet, and the planet will thank you.
- Embrace Reusable Water Bottles
When it comes to the environment, glass is better than plastic. It’s also better for your health. Ditch the plastic water bottles and get yourself a reusable one instead. High-quality stainless steel bottles remain the most popular option. Of course, something as simple as a mason jar will work in a pinch.
- Get Your Coffee the Eco-Friendly Way
Don’t stop with the reusable water bottles. Reusable coffee mugs are just as important. Either make your coffee at home or carry your own travel mug to the nearest coffee shop. The local barista will be happy to oblige. These stainless steel cups from Dalcini are also a great idea for patio dining and BBQs.
- Bring Your Own Doggy Containers
Those little doggy bags restaurants send you home with are usually made of plastic or Styrofoam. Next time you eat out, bring your own reusable, stainless steel food containers. These days, most restaurant servers simply give you the containers to pack up anyway. Even if the waiter tries to wrap up the food for you, politely hand over the containers, and you should have no problem.
- Get Your Milk the Old-Fashioned Way
Once upon a time, the milk man showed up daily or weekly to deliver glass bottles filled with milk. The bottles were then cleaned and reused, rather than thrown away. The service nearly disappeared from the developing world in the late 20th Century as people switched to the disposable cartons and plastic containers available from the local grocery store. As we enter a more eco-conscious era, however, milk delivery seems to be making something of a comeback. Even if delivery is out of the question, buying your milk in glass bottles is an improvement.
- Head to the Farmer’s Market
Buy unpackaged goods and produce from the local farmer’s market to decrease your garbage output. You can also join a CSA to get fresh, unpackaged food from local growers.
- Eat in More Often
Eat out less often to save both money and landfill space. When you cook a meal at home, you know exactly what ingredients you’re putting into your food. You can also control how many disposable products you use. Invite your friends and family over for weekend cooking sessions to prepare food in batches for the week.
- Forget the Straws
Ditch the plastic straws when eating out. You don’t need them. Actually, it’s far more enjoyable to let the liquid pass through your mouth (that is where your taste buds are located, after all) than to send it directly to the back of your throat. If you can’t forsake the straw, buy a reusable stainless steel one and carry it with you wherever you go.
- Use a Compost Bin
Synthetic products aren’t the only culprits that clog the planet’s landfills. Food and yard waste also contribute to the world’s overall garbage load. Of course, food is biodegradable. That makes it less harmful to the environment. It also makes it more useful. Simply put your food scraps and yard waste in one compost bin, and then use the resulting material to fertilize your soil.
- Buy Quality Clothes
Purchase clothes that will last. High-quality apparel may cost more upfront, but it will save you money in the long run. It will also save a trip to the landfill. One sweater or coat that can be handed down through the generations is worth five wearables that you throw away after a year or two.
- Avoid Microbeads
Avoid beauty and hygiene products that contain these tiny additives. Microbeads are made of plastic. They may be small, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Researchers say it’s already having a negative impact on the world’s freshwater lakes. Recent studies revealed that Lake Michigan already contains up to 17,000 bits of plastic microbeads per square kilometer, and the other Great Lakes may have higher concentrations.
- Reduce Your Paper Footprint
Although you’re not responsible for the junk mail that arrives on your doorstep, there are things you can do to reduce the amount you receive. Be wary of giving out your contact info, opt out of mailing lists where you can, and contact the worst offenders to get off their lists.
- Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle
We’ve been hearing about reusing, recycling, and repurposing for decades now. No matter how many times we hear it, the old adage still applies. We throw away far too many things. You’d be amazed how much “junk” still has life in it, and how many seemingly obsolete items such as old electronics can be broken down and repurposed.
- Consume Less
The last strategy for reducing waste is perhaps the most obvious but also the most difficult to carry out. Consuming less is easier said than done, but it’s essential if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the same benefits we have enjoyed, including nature’s beauty.
Take the first step to improving the environment by simply using reusable containers.