The average American sends three pounds of garbage to the landfill each day. I dare you to defy this statistic. I dare you to stop creating trash.
Think this sounds impossible? I’m living proof that it’s not. Three years ago, my husband and I decided to eliminate garbage from our lives through a combination of strategies: reducing, reusing, recycling and composting, to name a few. At the end of our first trash-free year, all our trash from the past 365 days fit into a shoebox. It weighed three pounds.
Reducing your trash not only saves the planet, it saves you money, supports your local economy, leads to healthier eating and reduces your exposure to artificial foods and nasty chemicals. With nothing to lose and so much to gain, why not make reducing your trash one of your New Year’s resolutions? Here to help are 10 tips for waste reduction, taken from my new book The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less.
1. Stop buying single-serve products: Single-serve products might be convenient, but they are terrible for the environment. Instead of buying single-serve bags of chips, buy the big bag instead and eat a handful at a time. The same rule of thumb applies to everything from pudding and yogurt to disposable razors, apple slices and juice boxes.
2. Replace plastic baggies with reusable plastic or glass containers: Packing zero-waste lunches for you and your kids is as easy as putting food in reusable containers instead of plastic baggies.
3. Use loofas: Did you know that loofa sponges come from a vegetable in the gourd family? The gourd is plucked from its vine, cleaned and dried, and voila! You now have a sponge that is completely compostable.
4. Wrap gifts in reusable or recyclable materials: Gift bags are a great choice for wrapping, because the recipient can reuse them. Regular wrapping paper is recyclable, too, as long as it tears like regular paper.
5. Bring reusable bags to the store: Many of us remember the green bags when going to the grocery store, but they are great for more than just groceries. Bring them to the department store, hardware store and library, too.
6. Donate materials to a local elementary school: Elementary school teachers often need craft materials such as oatmeal containers, fabric scraps, empty egg cartons and plastic bags for class projects.
7. Use bar soap: Replacing liquid hand and body soap with bar soap is an easy change to make around the home. Look for bar soap wrapped in paper, and be sure to recycle the paper for a completely zero-waste choice.
8. Make your own butter: Buy heaving whipping cream (the carton is recyclable) and pour into a stand mixer. Beat on high until butter forms, which takes about 10 minutes. Rinse the butter under cold water until the water runs clear, and store in a glass jar in the fridge.
9. Invest in mesh produce bags: These bags, made from a fine, see-through mesh, are great for both bulk foods and loose produce. Instead of filling up the grocery cart with plastic bags of apples, bananas, tomatoes and broccoli, place these items in reusable produce bags. Check out etsy.com, blueavocado.com or chicobag.com.
10. Donate packing peanuts: Visit loosefillpackaging.com to find a shipping store near you that can take those peanuts off your hands and give them a second life.
Learn more about Korst’s zero-waste lifestyle.