In the popular phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” have you ever thought about the significance in the order of the Three R’s? There is a reason that these words are in this order. Reducing our waste is the first step in the cycle.
The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year. The EPA estimates that 75% of our waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30%. This is where the Three R’s come into play. 1.5 tons is a lot of waste.
Take a moment to reflect on the waste you produce. How often do you use paper plates, plastic cutlery, paper towels, plastic straws, or paper cups? How often do you find yourself making too much food and throwing away what you don’t finish or perhaps you throw away food from your fridge because it goes bad? These all play a roll in the waste you create. Let’s talk about 8 simple ways to reduce the waste you produce.
Plastic bottles take up to 700 years to dissolve. Americans use 1,500 water bottles per second. Instead of contributing to this growing number, get your own reusable bottle. Not only will you be helping the planet, but you’ll be saving yourself money. When you are at home, drink the water from your sink. If you don’t like the taste of it, invest in a water filter. There are many options out there to help filter water.
We need to stop using paper plates, plastic cutlery, paper bowls, plastic cups, and any other disposable item you could think of. As humans, we tend to take the easy way out for a lot of things in our life. For some people, not doing dishes is what is most convenient for them. While it may be convenient for you, it is not convenient for our environment. Over 100 million pieces of plastic utensils are used by Americans every day. These types of plastics can take up to 1,000 years to decompose while leaking harmful substances into the environment. Stick with reusable plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will also help reduce your waste.
Along with all of the other disposable kitchen items, straws are another huge thing to stop using. 500 million plastic straws are thrown away in the U.S. alone every day. This solution here is simple. Don’t use plastic straws, they suck. If you like using straws, there are many options for you to continue using them. Research which kind of straw works best for you and stick with it.
According to the EPA, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year. The average family in America takes home nearly 1,500 plastic bags a year. I want you to take a moment to think about how many places you go shopping throughout the year. Think about all of those plastic bags. Imagine if you were to use a reusable bag for every type of shopping you did. Reusable bags are very popular in grocery stores and select chain stores, but that isn’t enough. If we truly want to change the millennium curse of the plastic bag, we need to use them everywhere.
Single-use food and beverage packaging is a prime source of the estimated 269,000 tons of plastic pollution currently floating around in the world's oceans. There are a lot of different methods you can use to reduce single-use packaging waste. Do you pack your lunch for work or school? Instead of plastic sandwich bags, switch to reusable sandwich bags or reusable containers. The same method applies to how you take your lunch. Don’t use a paper or plastic bag. Utilize a lunch box or a reusable lunch bag.
According to the USDA, in the United States, we waste 30-40 percent of our food supply. That is on average 400 pounds of food per person every year. There are a lot of ways to correct our wastefulness when it comes to food. This starts with shopping smart and meal planning. When you only buy what you need for the week, it becomes less likely that you will waste food. Buying in bulk can be convenient sometimes, but don’t buy it if you aren’t going to use it before it goes bad.
The next thing to reduce food waste is to store food correctly. Improper food storage causes massive amounts of food waste. Learning the proper way to store fruits and vegetables is an important skill to have. If stored unproperly, it can cause premature ripening and lead to rotten produce.
Did you know that ethylene gas promotes ripening in foods? Some foods that produce this gas while ripening are pears, peaches, bananas, avocados, and tomatoes. You should keep these items away from ethylene-sensitive foods such as potatoes, apples, berries, and leafy greens to avoid premature spoilage.
We all have some food waste that we can't control having. That is ok. There is a way to handle the food waste you have left. Creating a compost bin is an excellent way to use organic waste in an environmentally friendly way. There are a lot of different options to do composting at home. You could do a worm compost bin (yes, this involves actual worms), an indoor composter, or an outdoor composter. There are hundreds of products available to fit the needs of any home. If all else fails, there are also DIY compost bins.
In order to compensate the 13 billion pounds of paper towels used every year in the US, we would have to cut down 51,000 trees per day. Now, what about sponges? Traditional sponges are created using polyester or cellulose. What happens when you throw it away? Well, nothing happens to the polyester sponges and that is the problem. It will sit in the landfill forever while the dyes and glues of cellulose sponges contaminate the environment. Instead of using paper towels, consider using rags and cloths that you simply have to wash and reuse.
Reducing your waste doesn’t have to be hard. There are a lot of simple ways to do it. Start doing these things one at a time. Tell your friends about it too. The more people you have making the change with you, the easier it will be. Once you have gone through the motions of reducing your waste, make sure you make the effort to reuse what you can. Finally, if you can’t reduce or reuse it, recycle it!