The average American produces a shocking 4.9 pounds of trash every day, destined to sit in a landfill.
Much of this waste is food and food scraps, which not only take up space in the landfill (when they could be decomposing in a compost pile), but they create methane gas which is far more potent than CO2 (greenhouse gas).
The rest is usually made up of plastic and other synthetic materials.
And this is not even accounting for the waste put in the recycling bin, most of which doesn’t actually get recycled and ends up in a landfill or washed into the ocean anyway.
So what’s a conscious yogin to do to produce less waste?
Here are the ways we have reduced waste drastically in our home:
1. Kick plastic wrap to the curb!
We got ourselves in the habit of covering food and leftovers with reusable Beeswax Wrap as an incredible alternative to plastic wrap.
This kind of wrap typically comes in an assortment of squares (small, medium, and large) – we love having several sets of them in our drawer at any time.
At room temperature the wrap molds easily around the rims of bowls or dishes, avocados, veggies, apple halves, etc. and keeps what’s inside it 10x more fresh than plastic because it breathes. When it’s done its job, clean it with soap and cold water, then set it to dry on your dish rack and it’s ready to use again.
Simply keep plastic wrap out of your drawers and turn to this alternative instead. After a year or two of constant use, the beeswax wrap will wear down and then can be disposed of in your compost and replaced.
2. Move over plastic zip locks…
Open up the average kitchen drawer and you will find it loaded with 3 or 4 different varieties of plastic zip lock bags to store everything from snacks, to left overs, to toiletries for trips.
We were able to eliminate the use of plastic zip locks entirely by stocking our kitchen with two kinds of sustainable products: Compostable zip lock bags and silicone reusable Stasher Bags.
But honestly? We use the Stasher Bags almost exclusively because they work so well. You can also cook inside them!
They wash up super easily by hand or dishwasher and you can air them to dry on your dish rack or a bamboo bag dryer.
3. Eliminate paper from mail, receipts, and magazines
With so much in the world now moving to digital, most companies offer online billing, digital magazine subscriptions, and e-receipts at stores (bonus: if you need to make a return, they’re much harder to lose!).
Make sure you’ve opted out of paper bank statements and call to get off catalog mailing lists whenever a catalog arrives.
4. Real talk about toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels
Most of the common commercial brands of toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels we use around the house source their fiber from logging virgin forests vital to our planet’s ecosystem. Were these forests to disappear (which they’re currently on track for), it would be catastrophic for life on Earth.
Clearing forests releases carbon into the atmosphere, negatively impacts Indigenous communities, disrupts the habitats of many critters, and flushing the toilet paper made from these practices (like Bounty, Charmin, and Puffs brands) emits even more carbon as it decomposes. Read more in the NRDC’s report: The Issue With Tissue: How Americans Are Flushing Our Forests Down the Toilet.
To avoid being part of the destruction, source your paper products intentionally:
- Use this shopper’s guide to home tissue products from NRDC which use recycled fibers rather than virgin fibers.
- The best option for paper towels is to use washable products like Marley’s Monsters UnPaper Towels
- Instead of disposable tissues, try LastTissue Reusable Tissue Pack
5. Bring your own bags!
You’re probably already in the habit of loading your car, backpack, or bike with shopping tote bags when you go food shopping so you don’t have to use the plastic or paper bags provided. And if you’re not, find ways to habitualize having bags with you when you shop.
Then take that one step further by getting yourself an ample set of reusable produce and bulk bags so you don’t have to take the plastic baggies provided by the store.
Get in the habit of storing these bags by the door or in your car where you’re sure to take them with you to the store.
Shop for produce bags and avoid bringing home heaps of plastic every year!
6. Shop local farmers’ markets and buy in bulk to reduce packaging
Carving out time in your schedule to make it to the farmer’s market is a win-win. You’re supporting local farmers, while also getting access to fresher, more nutrient-dense foods (hopefully organic too!). Not only does this save on fuel from shipping, but it also eliminates packaging, especially when you bring your own produce bags. Most farmers will gladly take back your egg carton or berry basket from the week before to reuse.
Another way to significantly reduce packaging waste is by shopping at stores that sell food and cleaning supplies in bulk. These stores usually sell reusable containers and bags, but you can also bring your own.
We have a Zero Waste store here in Boulder that uses glass jars for all their products. You pay a $1 deposit for each container and bring them back with you to put those $1 credits toward your next purchase. It’s a great way to eliminate packaging waste and reuse resources.
7. Compost it!
After composting for most of my adult life, I physically can’t stand to see food scraps mixed into a garbage bag destined for the landfill!
Particularly after witnessing the process of how food scraps turn into rich, alive soil, I long to help every particle of food waste be turned into the black gold that will help us regenerate our topsoil.
If you’re not yet composting, or don’t have a pick up service where you live yet, I wrote an article last year full of ideas on everything you need to know to compost.
8. Dispose of household waste responsibly
Hopefully you’re already avoiding harmful aerosol cleaners like RoundUp Weed Killer and other toxic cleaning supplies in favor of more biodegradable, earth-safe cleaners. But if you do have things like chemicals, har-to-recycle materials like styrofoam, plastic wrap from furniture/moving, batteries, etc. in the house, make sure to research responsible ways of disposing of them. Check with your local waste collection service – they often host household hazardous waste disposal days where everyone can bring their waste all at once.
If you’re doing any demolition, purging, or remodeling, be sure to research ways you can repurpose the debris, appliances, or electronics you’re removing from the house so they don’t end up in landfills. Try websites like Freecycle.org, or other local recycling centers. Some may even come and pick them up for you.
This list is just a start. Do you have other methods of reducing waste in your home? Share with us on social!