How to Reduce Waste:

21 Ideas for Zero Waste Living

Meaghan Weeden | November 10, 2022 | 5 min read

easy ways to reduce your waste

Every day, Americans collectively generate 700,000 tons of trash. Reducing waste may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need 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 with 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

Bulk grains

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 in your bank account, since pre-packaged goods tend to come with a hefty price tag. To save even more, consider joining a food buying club (or start one)!

discarded plastic waster bottle on the beach

2. NO Plastic Bottles

Approximately 40% of bottled water sold is actually tap water. Instead of being duped by 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 a money, too.

Reusable cloth bag for fruits and vegetables

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 and the bodies of aquatic wildlife. These bags are great for transporting bulk goods, too. Plus, your produce will never be cuter!

Fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic

4. Avoid produce wrapped in plastic

This is a tough one, because many supermarkets shrink-wrap every loose piece of produce they can get their hands on, even those that naturally have biodegradable packaging. Shrink-wrapped bananas, anyone? But, that brings us to our next tip!

Farmer's market

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.

Disposable plastic utensils

6. Avoid Single-Use Plastics

Plastic cutlery, straws, plates, and cups clog our landfills and end up filling the bellies of sea turtles. So get yourself a set of reusable cutlery, stainless steel straws, and reusable containers to keep in your car or bag while you’re out and about.

recycling bins color coded

7. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

Let's face it: despite our best intentions, waste happens. Perhaps you forgot to pack lunch and had to grab food to go. Or maybe your local store doesn’t yet offer bulk bins. Whatever the reason, if you do end up with recyclables, try your best to recycle properly.Check in with your municipal waste treatment facility and follow their guidelines so that everything gets sorted correctly. 

Single use teabags

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 blending up your own teas — you’ll be able to have your cuppa exactly how you like it — and as a bonus, custom blends make wonderful gifts.

Closet

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) stuff 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."

Meal planning containers

10. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Meal planning can really help 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 pretty much everyone dreads 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!

hearty vegetarian salad

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 meat, choose local, humanely raised meat. And consider making Meatless Monday a new tradition at your house. You might just be pleasantly surprised at how satisfying and delicious plant-based meals can be.

Compost bin

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 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. 

Plastic wrap

13. Replace Plastic Wrap With Bees Wrap

Made with beeswax, cloth, oil, and pine resin, they’re 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. They’re reusable, work surprisingly well, and save a heck of a lot of plastic waste. They’re also relatively easy to make and can be a great gift!

Menstrual cups

14. Green Up Your Period

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

Menstrual cups

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. 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!

GET OUR SUSTAINABILITY GUIDE
Box of old clothes

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! 

Soap bar

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. 

Homemade lemon cleaning spray

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.

Air pollution from cars

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!

Pile of used tires for recycling

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.

paper waste

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 right away. 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!

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. For Treecember, we're planting trees that support a global forest fire recovery fund. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Reforest lands damaged by record-setting fires
  • Support healthy habitat for iconic biodiversity
  • Plant tree species that will help reduce future fire impact
  • This holiday season, we’re planting trees in areas around the world that have been severely affected by forest fires and aren't able to recover a healthy ecosystem on their own. The most common naturally-caused wildfires occur during droughts or dry weather, and under these circumstances, trees and other vegetation are converted to flammable fuel. Human-caused forest fires can be a result of various activities like unregulated slash and burn agriculture, equipment failure or engine sparks, and discarded cigarettes.

    After wildfires, reforestation is essential in areas where the fire intensity burned off available seed supply within the soil, and/or where there are not enough healthy trees still growing and producing new seeds nearby. Reforestation starts once professional assessments have been made to determine where human intervention would be the most ecologically beneficial. Help restore these vital ecosystems by planting a tree. 🌿
  • Every year, forest fires are increasing in size and severity, damaging vital ecosystems and creating a need for millions of trees. Some major consequences of forest fires include significant loss of wildlife, loss of vegetation, soil erosion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    With so much fire damage, reforestation is essential to catalyze the environmental recovery process. The trees are carefully planted to prevent invasive species from colonizing burn scars and restore quality habitat for native biodiversity. One Tree Planted is connecting with on-the-ground partners to establish viable reforestation projects when the recently affected regions are ready for planting. This fund will contribute to planting projects in British Columbia, Idaho, Ghana, Portugal, and beyond. Let's get to work! 🌲
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • To maximize the impact of your donation, our partners on the ground will determine the most appropriate species of tree and shrubs. We only plant native tree species that will restore the local ecosystem, re-establish wildlife habitat, and reduce the likelihood of future fires.

Sign Up to our Newsletter

Get good news, reforestation updates, planting event information, and more delivered right to your inbox.