Today’s post was written by Erin Vaughan, writer for Modernize.com, and is published with permission from Modernize.com.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably already thrown away a good deal of trash by the time you get to work — your morning coffee cup, a banana peel, a yogurt container, a paper towel — it all adds up. In fact, on an average day, most of us toss about 4.4 pounds of waste, according to the Duke University Center for Sustainability & Commerce.
4.4 pounds of waste per day — that means that in a year, we’re each throwing out over 1,500 pounds of trash. That’s a lot of junk! Americans, with our busy schedules and on-the-go lifestyles, generate more than our fair share of the world’s waste. While we make up just five percent of the population, we throw away around 30 percent of the trash on Earth.
Fortunately, we’re starting to make real progress. Of the 4.4 pounds of waste we create each day, we now recycle 1.12 pounds and compost .39 pounds. We’re now composting almost 10 times the material we were in 1990, and since then, recycling has increased almost 115%, a sure sign that attitudes are starting to shift. There’s still lots to do, but a little bit of effort can go a long way, and there are tons of items all throughout the home that can make a difference in our waste footprint. Here’s how you can lighten your landfill load in each room of your house.
In the Kitchen
Kitchens may be the heart of the home, but they’re also a place where we generate lots of waste. Discarded food packaging, food scraps, paper products — the list goes on and on. That means there’s plenty of opportunity for a kitchen waste makeover. Try taking the following steps to waste less in your kitchen:
- Purchase reusable napkins and paper towels. Paper is a huge source of waste in landfills, and because paper towels and napkins are often soiled, they can’t be recycled. Cut back on this wasteful material by purchasing reusable towels and napkins for your home. Try finding cloth that’s sustainably sourced too, like these napkins made from organic cotton.
- Save bread bags and use them to store vegetables. Maybe you’ve already cut out plastic grocery bags from your shopping, and if so, good for you! But plastic waste is still high, especially if you’re loading cloth bags full of the disposable plastic you use to weigh and store produce. Instead, carefully place fruits and vegetables into your reusable bags while skipping the plastic. When you get home, transfer the produce to any leftover plastic bread bags before storing them in the fridge.
- Buy in bulk. Individually portioned foods come with unnecessary extra packaging, like plastic bags within cardboard boxes. Purchase cereals, rice, beans, and other goods in bulk and store them in reusable containers.
In the Bedroom
We tend to be clutter collectors in our bedrooms, and that extra stuff usually finds its way to the waste bin when we decide to do a little spring cleaning. Instead, follow this step to keep your room clean, and feel less cluttered overall:
- Embrace minimalism. There’ll be less to throw away if you never buy it in the first place. Try not to collect clothing, books, or crafts you know you’ll never use. If you can’t kick the habit, donate it instead, to a neighbor or a reuse store.
In the Bathroom
Obviously, some bathroom products are meant to be flushed, but there are still a few sneaky items in the restroom that are creating waste, probably without you even realizing it. Here are some ideas to cut back on trash in this area:
- Ditch wet mops that use replaceable pads. Sometimes the good old-fashioned way is best. A sponge or string mop doesn’t contain paper that needs to be thrown away every time you clean. Or, if you can’t bear to ditch the Swiffer, consider purchasing reusable mop pads that can be washed with the rest of your laundry.
- Check your plastic content. Recyclable plastic bottles and containers are one thing, but some facial washes, toothpastes, and scrubs contain microbeads that are supposed to serve as exfoliators, but are really just another pollutant. These tiny bits of plastic are washed in our rivers and oceans every time you wash your face, adding to the amount of plastic in our waters. Avoid beauty purchases with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” listed in the ingredients, since that’s a sure sign that they contain harmful plastic.
- Create your own cleaners. Why purchase an endless supply of cleaners and scouring powders when a few basic ingredients can do the same thing for less money and with a less harmful environmental impact? White vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are all you need to recreate most household cleaners.
According to the EPA, Americans now recover at least 60 percent of yard trimmings, a good effort on our part. Still, there are some other ways to reuse, recycle, and cut back on waste, inside and outside your home.
- Garden. There’s no wasted plastic or paper when you get food straight from the source! Gardening at home reduces waste, and it provides fresh, delicious food for your plate, too. Plus, since vegetables won’t have to be transported long distances, you’ll shrink your dinner’s carbon footprint as well!
- Compost food waste. In 2012, the NRDC found that 40 percent of the food in the U.S. went to waste — that’s about 20 pounds of food, per person, monthly. Divert this waste from the landfill by creating and maintaining your own compost pile. Composting rewards you with nutritious fertilizer for your gardens. That’ll make your home, along with the Earth, more beautiful, healthy, and appealing.
Being a homeowner comes with tons of responsibility and reducing waste is an important yet often overlooked aspect. Hopefully these tips will help you do your part to protect our planet.
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX, where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.