The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American creates about 1,600 pounds of trash per year. That's nearly half a trillion pounds of garbage turning our Purple Mountain Majesties into Festering Piles of Filth every year! Recycling is not enough… we can do more, and it's easier than you think to reframe the problem of waste, making choices that support a low-impact, cost-saving way of life. See how much you can reduce your wasteprint and take the One-Week Trash Test using these tips.
Whether or not your local trash removal service takes every recyclable item, there are recycling centers in most every major city that will take a good chunk of what we otherwise call trash. If you can't put all of these items to the curb, then do a little research to see where you can recycle your junk mail, paper bags, boxes, cartons, plastic, glass, aluminum, batteries, electronics, light bulbs, old furniture and appliances. Donate clothing, kitchen items, books and toys to shelters, Salvation Army or Goodwill.
Recycling is important and helpful, but it's not a free ticket to buy/make/use more stuff. Reducing and reusing items keeps them out of landfills and conserves energy used in the recycling process. See how many uses you can get out of plastic bags, glass bottles like pasta sauce, juice bottles, condiment and nut butter jars, paper bags and envelopes before you kick them to the curb.
More than just food scraps can be composted; and like recycling, if you don't have a compost setup in your home, there are local places that will gladly take compostables off your hands including paper napkins, lint, matches, coffee grounds, cotton swabs, movie ticket stubs, finger and toenail clippings, teabags, store receipts and shredded cereal boxes.
Perhaps the best way to eliminate trash is by not making any in the first place. Items that will lead to trash can be avoided with a little mindfulness when shopping, especially for food.
- Skip anything that comes in a package that isn't recyclable, especially single-serve individually wrapped items such as snack or candy bars.
- Buy in bulk: Grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, etc. And bring your own container, too. Same with fruits and veggies—avoid canned or frozen, and bring your own bag to the market.
- Opt for a handkerchief instead of using paper towels or facial tissues. Carry several with you wherever you go.
- Bring your own containers to restaurants when you know you're going to have leftovers.
- Ask yourself if you really need every item you're about to purchase during the week, and see if you can't simply make do with something else you already have.
On day seven, ask yourself, did the week fly by with little hassle? Then keep going and share your success!
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger