How you can reduce your waste

How you can reduce your waste

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. You’ve heard the jingle time and time again. Take stock of what you use at home and what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. There are many ways you can help keep our home planet healthy and combat climate change. Here are just a few.

Cut down on buying plastic items and packaging

According to the UN's Environmental Programme, single-use products are easy and convenient — especially nice when you’re on the go — but comprise half of all plastic produced and are environmentally hazardous.

Though they are technically non-biodegradable, they do degrade into microplastics which work their way into wildlife, oceans, and even our own bodies, and can lead to a variety  of health issues. UNEP estimates that the current amount of plastic in the ocean ranges from 75 to 199 million tons with another 11 million tons making its way to the ocean every year.

Limit your use of single-use products such as water bottles and plastic cutlery. Opt instead for non-plastics or higher-grade plastics that are made for long-term usage, such as metal water bottles and straws and silicone containers.

On your way to your favorite coffee shop to grab some much-needed caffeine before your day starts? If you can’t bring your own cup, decline the straw and use their cup throughout the day as you refill and refuel.

Avoiding food waste

Be realistic when you buy groceries and don’t overbuy short shelf-life goods. Take inventory of what gets consumed and what gets thrown out each time. If you are never getting to that artichoke before it goes bad, don’t buy it.

In 2010, the FDA estimated that 218.9 pounds of food waste per person in the U.S. goes to landfills. The FDA’s 2030 goal is to have reduced that amount by 50 percent to 109.45 pounds.

If you still tend to overbuy, think of donating excess food to shelters and foodbanks. Inedible food can be used as animal feed or compost, or used to create biofuel, bioplastics, and clothing.

When you go to the store, opt for paper bags or bring your own. Paper bags can be reused multiple times before they start to degrade. Canvas bags are readily available — frequently given out at events and inexpensive to purchase.

Recycling hazardous materials

That car battery doesn’t belong in the trash. It may be a hassle but a trip to the local auto shop or designated space to turn in hazardous materials that contain high amounts of lead, acids, or chemicals can prevent hazardous waste from running off into ecosystems.

Electronics are no different. Take your phone to a kiosk or sell it back to your phone provider. They will strip the parts for reuse and you can make a few bucks out of it. A win-win for everyone.

Other things you can do

Every effort counts.

  • Think about carpooling occasionally. If you and a few other people are going to the same place, why not share a ride? Carpooling is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for each individual by 4 to 5 percent, according to a study from the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Ride your bike. Bikes not only don’t pollute, they’re a good way to work some exercise into your day.
  • A cold rinse goes a long way. Try using a cold rinse at least once a month when you do laundry. It uses less energy overall and reduces the likelihood of shrinkage and colors fading. About 90 percent of energy usage in washing machines goes to heating water. Keep your clothes in pristine condition and reduce your energy bill at the same time. 
  • Don’t be fooled by e-readers. E-readers use more resources to produce than the average freshly printed book. Books only require about 2 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and produce 16 pounds of carbon dioxide compared to e-readers, which require 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuels and produce 65 pounds of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, buying used books can help prevent books from ending up in landfills.
  • Go vegetarian a couple days a week. Research has shown that reducing the consumption of animal products can reduce consumer greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent by 2050.

Mindfulness about your everyday habits can go a long way. Make the Earth a little greener and last a little longer by doing your part in protecting the environment.