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How to Reduce Waste: 21 Ideas for Zero Waste Living

by Meaghan Weeden January 16, 2024 5 min read

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Easy Ways to Reduce Your Waste

According to municipal solid waste data collected by the EPA over a 35 year period, the average American generates about 4.9 pounds of waste every day. Reducing waste may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You may not have the time or resources to do it perfectly, but don’t let that stop you! 

From taking sustainable actions to purchasing eco friendly gifts, there are countless ways, big and small, to reduce your waste in a way that fits your lifestyle. To help you get started, we’re sharing a collection of 21 easy zero waste tips. No pressure or judgment — just try a few and see what works for you!

And remember: don't let perfect be the enemy of good. The world needs millions of environmentally conscious people doing zero-waste imperfectly, not a handful doing it perfectly.

Reduce Reuse Recycle: 21 Ideas to Help You Reduce Waste at Home

1. Bulk Goods are the ULTIMATE Eco friendly products

Consider buying staples in bulk and storing them in reusable containers like mason jars or cloth bags. Because you can control the amount, you'll be able to get exactly what you need. And as an added bonus, you should notice a difference at the grocery store checkout, since pre-packaged goods tend to come with a higher price tag. To save even more, consider joining a food buying club (or start one)!

2. NO Plastic Bottles

Approximately 40% of bottled water sold is actually tap water. Instead of falling for clever marketing, invest in a quality water filter and a sweet reusable water bottle. We love glass, but there are plenty of other sustainable options! And while you’re at it, grab a thermos for your coffee or tea on the go. You’ll be able to make it exactly the way you like it — and save money, too.

3. Invest In a Set of Cloth Produce Bags

You know those flimsy plastic bags they offer in the produce department? Super wasteful. Investing in (and remembering to bring) a set of cloth produce bags will protect your purchases and prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean. These bags are great for transporting bulk goods, too. Plus, your produce will never be cuter!

4. Avoid Produce That's Wrapped in Plastic

This is a tough one, because many supermarkets go heavy on the shrink wrap, even those that naturally have biodegradable "packaging". Shrink-wrapped bananas, anyone? But, that brings us to our next tip!

5. Support Your Local Farmer

The food will be fresher, tastier, more sustainable, and way more nutritious. Besides, by supporting local farmers, you’ll cycle your dollars right back into your local economy. Alternatively, you can join a CSA or sign up for a local food delivery service.

6. Avoid Single-Use Plastics

Plastic cutlery, straws, plates, and cups clog our landfills and can be very damaging to aquatic life. To make it simple, get yourself a cute set of reusable cutlery, stainless steel straws, and reusable containers to keep in your car or bag while you’re out and about.

8. Ditch the Tea Bags

Most tea bags are loaded with micro plastics that are bad for you and the environment. But have no fear: loose-leaf tea is here!  Pick up an in-mug strainer or a set of reusable cloth tea bags and you’ll be on your way to a delicious, sustainable brew in no time! And if you’re feeling adventurous, try creating your own tea blends.

9. Green Up Your Closet

Buy exclusively from sustainable clothing brands or hit up your local thrift or consignment shop. Often, you'll find unique, gently worn (or even brand new) garments at a fraction of the original price. Get used to people asking “where did you get that?” And while you’re there, donate that pair of jeans you haven't been able to squeeze into in 10 years. As Marie Kondo says, "To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."

10. Plan Your Meals

Meal planning can really help to streamline your grocery trips, trim food costs, and reduce waste by ensuring that you'll use everything you purchase. It will also save you from the question that we all dread after a long day of work: “what’s for dinner tonight?” And who knows? You might just score a little more "you" time on busy weeknights. You can also read up on how to adopt a more sustainable diet!

11. Give Veggies a Chance

In a perfect zero-waste world, everyone would go vegan and consign environmentally destructive factory farming to history. But if you aren’t ready or able to give up your carnivore ways, choose local, humanely raised meat. And consider making Meatless Monday a new tradition at your house. You might just be pleasantly surprised by how satisfying and delicious plant-based meals can be.

12. Compost Your Food Scraps

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of the waste Americans produce is made up of yard waste and food scraps, which can be composted instead. By diverting that waste away from the dump we can shrink the size of landfills and reduce methane production, a volatile greenhouse gas and major contributor to global warming. Getting started is easy. You can create your own compost heap or take advantage of your city’s compost pick-up service. 

13. Replace Plastic Wrap With Bees Wrap

Made with beeswax, cloth, oil, and pine resin, bees wrap is like plastic wrap’s fun, eco-friendly cousin. Sold in a variety of shapes, sizes, and patterns, you’ll be sure to find one you like. It's reusable, works surprisingly well, and saves a heck of a lot of plastic waste. Bees wraps are also relatively easy to make and can be a great gift!

14. Green Up Your Period

Yes, that one! Give (BPA-free) menstrual cups, period underwear, and reusable cotton pads a try. Using them can help to reduce the 10,000 tampons (and plastic applicators) that the average woman uses in her lifetime, out of our landfills. And think of all the things you can buy with the money you’ll save. Fair trade, heavy metal-free chocolate, anyone?

15. Give Ugly Veggies and Dented Cans a Chance

When shopping for produce, we tend to expect that everything will be shiny and unblemished — which happens to create a LOT of waste. Check out the “last chance” shelf at your local supermarket (to make this easier, check out the TooGoodToGo app!). You’ll save these items from the dumpster and get great deals on what you need. Also worth exploring are ugly vegetable delivery services like Misfits Market!

16. Reuse Old Clothes

Make cloth rags out of old, un-donateable clothes and use them in place of paper towels for deep cleaning projects around the house.  If you go through a lot, check with your local thrift store — they may sell bulk rags created from un-salable donations. Or if a t-shirt just doesn't fit you anymore, turn it into a reusable bag! 

17. Replace Your Soap Bottles With Bars

Not that kind! Give plastic shampoo, conditioner, and soap bottles the boot. Bars are concentrated and last longer than bottled products, so you’ll save money, too. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, try handcrafting your own homemade beauty products. 

18. Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Did you know that conventional cleaning products are full of harmful endocrine disruptors and other chemicals that leach into our sewage systems, waterways, and bodies? Fortunately, it's pretty easy to make your own eco friendly cleaning products: try combining baking soda with lemon juice and vinegar to clean your counter-tops, showers, toilets, and floors.

19. Check the Air Filter in Your Car

A dirty air filter can reduce your vehicle's fuel economy by up to 10%. Read your car’s user manual to figure out what type of filter you need, and how to change it out. And don’t be intimidated! This is a quick fix that anyone can do!

20. Recycle Spare Tires

Most landfills won’t accept tires, but retailers that recycle them will be happy to take 'em off your hands. Some tire shops will also recycle them for a fee. You could also get creative and upcycle them into tire swings, dog beds, and more.

21. Use Digital Instead of Print

Switch to digital documents to save on paper and ink. And while you’re at it, get yourself off of those junk mail lists, ask for paperless bills, and always opt for digital receipts. Receipt paper is often coated with toxic BPA and BPS, so this is a good way to avoid unnecessary chemical exposure, too.

So there you have it! By no means are we suggesting that you do everything on this list. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with a little time and patience, you can absolutely reduce your impact. We hope that after reading this, you’re feeling inspired to create less waste and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Want to do more? Consider planting a tree with us today!

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Meaghan Weeden
Meaghan Weeden

Meaghan works to share our story far and wide, manages our blog calendar, coordinates with the team on projects + campaigns, and ensures our brand voice is reflected across channels. With a background in communications and an education in environmental conservation, she is passionate about leveraging her creativity to help the environment!