How to be less trashy
Humans make a lot of trash.
From our ever-expanding landfills, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s no secret that waste is a huge issue globally. We all need to play a part in creating a less wasteful future. And while we can’t all get a year’s worth of trash to fit into a mason jar like Lauren Singer (@trashisfortossers, founder of Package Free Shop and The Simply Co.), we can have a major impact just by being more purposeful.
One year’s worth of trash (credit: Lauren Singer via CNN)
CUT THE PLASTIC
If you only take one thing away from this post, PLEASE notice and cut back on the single use plastic that is all around us. This could be everything from takeout containers, to grocery packaging, to the cup you drink out of at a summer barbecue. Plastic NEVER decomposes. Once it has been created, it never goes away. Tiny particles of it even make their way up the food chain in to things that we eat, like fish, meaning we end up ingesting it. Nasty.
HOW TO START
- Say no to plastic bags. Use those extra totes you probably have laying around for your groceries. Rather than using produce bags, use a reusable bag to line your cart and let your veggies roam free – just make sure to wash your produce when you get home (or reuse produce bags and bring them every time). If you for get your reusable bags, use paper. What should you do with your old plastic bags? Places like Giant Eagle recycle them!
- Ditch straws – they suck. But if you need a straw, drop a few bucks on a glass or metal reuseable set. You can find them for super cheap from Green Heart at Smile.Amazon.com and support POINT App at the same time! (Shameless plug, just choose us to be your charity).
- Opt for glass. Some things you can’t help but buy encased in plastic. But where there is an option for glass (i.e. with honey, jam, oils, spices, etc.) go for that. Plus, if you soak your empty glass container in hot soapy water, you can peel off the label and reuse as a pot for your succulents, a vase, a toothbrush cup, candle votive… The options are endless! If you want a challenge, read the “Going Zero Waste” Blog and go all in!
- Reuse reuse reuse! Takeout containers can be used more than once. I reuse salad dressing containers from restaurants for the meals that I pack and take to work. When I store my produce, I use the few plastic bags that I own to keep them fresh in the fridge, then I wash and drip-dry, and voila! Good for the next round!
- Be conscious. Try your best to avoid things with packaging all together. Believe it or not, shampoo and conditioner don’t always come in plastic. Companies like Lush sell solid shampoo and conditioner that work just as well but don’t require any packaging.
Putting food waste in the trash is problematic for two reasons. 1) It requires energy to transport to the landfill, and 2) when compressed in the landfill, it will breakdown without much oxygen and produce methane, which is about 20x worse for the environment than CO2. Instead, try compost – plus, it makes a great fertilizer without mass production of harmful chemicals. If you have a yard then you’re already off to a great start. Just pick a patch to be your compost pile and dig around a little to loosen up the dirt. Apartment folks with balconies or any type of porch can also join in the fun by filling a storage container with topsoil and buying some worms online to add. (Just make sure you use Amazon Smile!)
HOW TO START
- Cook. Set your food scraps in a bowl or covered pail off to the side rather than throwing them away. Here’s a small compost container you can buy for your kitchen or you use a bin you might already have like I did.
- Dump and cover. Take your food scraps and dig a small hole, then cover them with dirt. The worms will speed up decomposition, and you will be creating super nutrient rich soil that is great for gardening!
- That’s it!
Compost – it’s doable even in an apartment
Fast fashion companies thrive on mass producing low-quality goods that capture fast-changing trends, and they can face billions of dollars worth of unsold clothes at the end of each quarter. These clothes required tons of energy and resources to produce, and end up as garbage. For instance, in March H&M reported over $4 billion in unsold clothes that are now out of style. Rather than supporting wasteful companies, look for brands that have sustainable production processes and use ethically-sourced materials. Fashionistas might know this trend as slow-fashion.
HOW TO START
- Be choosy. We like Cuyana‘s moto to have “Fewer, better things”.Only buy from brands that are transparent and sustainable. Some brands we love are Everlane, Nisolo and People Tree. And support brands that have options to turn in old clothes for a discount. For example, at Madewell you can turn in a pair of jeans from any brand or style, and they will turn that into insulation for low-income housing plus give you $20 off a new pair.
- Get thrifty. The best way to reduce your personal waste is by reusing things that have already been produced! Maybe set a goal that for the next year, you will go to consignment stores first, and only buy new clothing if you can’t find what you need there. You can ball on a budget and save the planet.
- Host clothing swaps. We all have those tops that are still good, but we just wore them too many times and we’re bored of them. Switch things up and host a clothing swap with your friends! Make a night of it, and donate whatever is left over.
There are many other ways to reduce your waste, but these are a few that I think are some easily manageable first steps. Do you have any tried and true tips? Leave a comment! We love to hear from you!
To keeping Planet Earth awesome,
Media Communications Manager
Cover image via the inspiring Lauren Singer