25+ Best Ways to Reduce Waste
Updated: Mar 21
Initially, it can be a big step to reduce your waste production. But, if you take small steps, it becomes much more manageable while you can still make an impact on the environment. Therefore, I would like to share the 25 best ways to reduce your waste. Most of these tips are very easy and manageable even if you are a beginner to a zero waste lifestyle.
Eat less Meat
The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat meat-free more often. The meat industry is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses and is responsible for a lot of deforestation in the Amazon. Not only that, animals are often given hormones to make them grow faster (so you can have your steak faster and cheaper). According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), since the 1950s, they have approved some steroid hormone drugs for use in beef cattle and sheep. These include natural estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions. These drugs increase the animals’ growth rate and the efficiency by which they convert the feed they eat into meat.
Research has shown that the consumption of red meat at a young age could increase the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.
So, if the environment is not a good reason to reduce your meat intake, your health might be.
One of the best ways to reduce your waste production is to simply buy less. Nowadays we see lots of sales saying ‘buy one, get one free’. For most of us, this is a major trigger to buy more than we need. This makes us eat more than we should so, don’t buy 2 for 1 because it is not a good deal if you don’t need it. You might even end up throwing one way or eating the second one because the expiration date is closing in. This could result in you eating more than you wanted to and could even cause weight gain when you do this too frequently so overall, don’t buy what you don’t need, even if it is free.
Did you know that the average US household wastes over 30% of the food that they buy? Even worse is that more than two-thirds of the US households in this study have food waste estimates of between 20% and 50%.
Cooking the exact amount of food everyone is in the mood for can be hard. This means you are always left with some leftovers because eating more than your body needs is not a healthy thing. So, what to do with the leftovers? We freeze our leftovers. Even when it is only a little bit I store these leftovers in our freezer. Every once in two weeks there will be a day where we don’t cook but we eat all leftovers present in our freezer saving us a lot of food waste.
Make a shopping list
Plan your meals and make a shopping list before you do your grocery shopping. If you know beforehand what you are going to eat, you won’t buy stuff you might not need and you also prevent impulse buys simply because those items are not on your list. By planning your meals, you also make sure you don’t buy stuff you still have in stock, preventing you from wasting food.
At least one of my meals each day is a bread meal. Usually, this is my lunch. When I purchase a loaf of bread I put it in the freezer immediately after I get home. This way I prevent having to throw away slices of bread because they turned moldy and I have fresh a fresh slice of bread each time I take one or two from the freezer.
When grocery shopping, go to your local farmers market first. This not only supports the local economy, but you most likely will also find your food without a package. Food packaging is one of the biggest contributors to landfills and when you shop on a farmers market you will have no food package waste. Also, your carbon footprint will be lower as our food often comes from far away (blueberries from Chili, pineapples from Costa Rica) contributing to a large carbon footprint. On a farmers market, only locally-produced foods are offered meaning you can lower your carbon footprint by purchasing your fruits and veggies here.
Sometimes you have food waste that just isn’t edible. To avoid this food waste ending up in landfills, you can compost it. Composting is not only beneficial to reduce the amount of waste you produce, but you will also end up with amazing fertilizer for your garden! Growing your fruits and veggies in your garden with the compost you have made is a great benefit of composting.
Disposable straws are a big problem for the environment because they are rather small. When they end up in our environment, animals might mistake them for food and eat them. So, it is better to not use a straw at all. However, if you must use a straw, choose a reusable one made from stainless steel or bamboo. Even a disposable paper straw is a better option compared to a disposable plastic straw. It should be no surprise that research has shown that paper straws are a much more eco-friendly option if you must use a straw compared to a plastic one.
Did you know that a bottle of shampoo contains 80-85% water? This means that when we purchase shampoo, we purchase lots of water. As water is rather heavy and this all needs to be transported, this adds up to a huge carbon footprint. Not only that a shampoo bottle also is made out of plastic which is hard to recycle and will most likely end up in landfills. By switching to a shampoo bar, you avoid both water transportation and the use of a plastic bottle. What is even better is that a shampoo bar lasts much longer compared to a bottle of shampoo saving you lots of money in the long run.
The average lifespan of humans is 80 years. As we should replace our toothbrushes every 3 months, this means that in our lifetime, we use over 300 toothbrushes per person. We are closing in on 8 billion people in the world who all brush their teeth with a plastic toothbrush that is thrown away after a couple of months. This adds up to a huge amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. By switching to a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush you take a little step to reducing the amount of waste you produce.
Recycled toilet paper
We all use the toilet multiple times during the day. Each time we visit the bathroom we flush paper down the drain. But did you know that making paper is a very energy-intensive process? Not only the chopping of the trees but also turning the wood into paper is a not so eco-friendly process. We could stop using toilet paper and opt to go for a bidet but this does not appeal to everyone. But, most people are more open switches to a more sustainable brand for their toilet paper. When purchasing toilet paper go for recycled toilet paper.
Line dry clothes
Line dry clothes instead of using a dryer. A dryer typically uses somewhere in the range of 2,000 to 6,000 watts per use. To give you an estimation of how much energy this is, the average laptop consumes between about 60 watts per hour.
Next to causing an increase in the utility bill, the use of a drier has more disadvantages. Your clothes will deteriorate faster meaning you need new clothes more frequently. This is not only bad for the environment but it could also be prevented by line drying your clothes. A dryer also needs maintenance. If you don’t keep up with proper maintenance of your drier it will become increasingly energy inefficient, taking more time to dry your clothes and increasing your energy bill even further.
Colder shorting washing cycle
Not only does your dryer consume lots of energy, but your washer demands a lot of electricity input. To lower the utility bill even further, wash your clothes at a lower temperature and choose a shorter washing cycle. Washing machines nowadays are very efficient and can get your laundry clean faster and detergents are also better compared to a few decades ago meaning a shorter, cooler washing cycle will work just fine to make your clothes clean. Most of the time your clothes don’t get very dirty anyway. Maybe a little dusty or sweaty which is another reason to switch to a shorter less warm washing routine.
Avoid fast fashion
One of the best ways to reduce waste is to choose quality. The best way to do this is by avoiding fast fashion. The fast fashion industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses. Not only because the production of cotton is so demanding, but also because the process of bleaching and dyeing the cotton is very polluting. So by buying quality clothes and avoiding fast fashion you not only help the planet, but you also protect your skin from lots of chemicals that could remain on the clothes produced in the fast fashion industry.
Upcycle clothes that no longer fit or no longer suit your style. This is another great way to reduce your waste while giving your old clothes a new life. A while ago I ripped my favorite jeans which I turned into my favorite skirt. It is convenient if you know your way around a sewing machine but YouTube also has lots of tutorials for upcycling clothes without the use of a sewing machine.
Borrow or swap
Another option is to borrow or swap clothes with friends. You are not the only one who wants something new to wear every once in a while. Your friends want to switch it up too. So, have a swap party with friends and trade the clothes you are no longer into.
Did you know that even tough paper can be recycled, less than 70% of all paper is actually recycled. This percentage is even lower for nondurable goods made of paper like magazines. In this case the recycle rate is only about 45%. So there is a big amount of paper that ends up in landfills even tough is could be recycled. To avoid contributing to this, we could stop using paper. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid printing on paper when it is not necessary. If it is possible to keep your files digital. Please do so.
While working (or even in our private time) there is sometimes a need to take notes. A paper notebook might be the first choice but in current are your phone is also a great device to take notes on. If you however prefer to take notes with pen and paper, opt to go for a reusable notebook. This way you can write everything you want and when you have no need for the notes anymore, you can simple erase them and reuse the pages for different notes.
I love to read but it has been years since I purchased a new physical book. That is because I when I want to read a physical book I go to the library. This saves an enormous amount of paper that is usually used when a new book is made. However, the selection our library has is rather limited. Therefore, I also have an e-book. An ebook is great as it is very small and lightweight while it can hold many books making it great to carry with you.
On the go
Bring a bag
Another great way to reduce waste is to be prepared for anything. Whenever I leave the house, no matter how long my trip will be, I always carry a reusable shopping bag with me for those surprise shop visits. I want to avoid purchasing a plastic bag in the supermarket at all costs therefore I always bring a reusable cotton bag with me.
Avoid car use
Transportation by car severely increases your carbon footprint. I have sold my car a while ago and I have never regretted it. When I need to go somewhere, I either use public transport, bike or go on foot. This is not only great for the environment, but it is also a great exercise.
Pack your lunch
Most of us need to eat a meal at work. If you are used to going to the cafeteria for your daily lunch, try preparing your lunch at home and bringing it with you. This way you not only save money, as buying daily lunches can get expensive in the long run, it is also healthier as you are not tempted every day by those deep-fried snacks.
One of the best ways to prevent waste is to prevent it from being created. Therefore it is best to refuse receipts even before they are printed. The bad thing about receipts is that they appear to be paper but they are a special kind of paper that is not recyclable so it is better to avoid it.
The same goes for other freebies and bags. Refuse them if you don’t need them. Saying no to free stuff that you don’t need might be a bit challenging in the beginning. But if you think like ‘I am don’t want something I will throw away in a couple of minutes it makes much more sense and you make it easier on yourself.
Avoid single-use products
Whether it is the single-use coffee cup from your local cafe or disposable plates for a party. Avoid them as much as possible. For your coffee to go, you could bring your own reusable (insulated) coffee mug while for a party you could just use the plates you already have. If you plan on inviting lots of people you could also borrow those extra plates or even rent them.
Giving gifts is great but most of us already have lots of stuff and we don’t need more of it. Instead of giving a physical birthday gift, give an experience as a gift. A few examples of amazing experience gifts are a cooking class, a wine tasting, or a day at a spa. All are amazing experience gifts and the memory of this experiencing gift (maybe even together with you) will last much longer compared to a physical gift.
When you are in the market for something new, whether it is clothes, electronics, or kitchen utensils, first check other options instead of buying new ones. If you only need it for a short time (like a wedding dress) you could opt to borrow or rent it. If you need to use it regularly, check if you can buy it secondhand first. Whether this is online or in a physical thrift store doesn’t matter, the most important part is that no new materials have to be resourced for the items you are looking for.