When it comes to your day-to-day life, how often do you use something once before throwing it away?
Not sure of the exact amount? That’s perfectly normal.
From soda cans to detergent bottles, it’s hard to keep track of everything you dispose of. It’s even harder to think about the impact your trash has on the environment. Once you discard something, you never have to worry about it again.
Nonetheless, the waste you produce can take years to decompose, kill thousands of marine animals and release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This contamination not only causes harm to our planet, but it can directly affect your quality of life.
Take greenhouse gasses. When these gasses are released, they get trapped in the atmosphere and cause the global temperature to increase. As the temperature rises, this change will either have a positive or negative affect on our crops.
For some, the high temperatures mean longer growing seasons and more carbon dioxide, but for others this could lead to drier soil and less crop production. If essential crops such as corn and potatoes become less available, we’re looking at higher prices for these vegetables and more people going hungry.
To prevent this outcome, we need to become more conscious of the waste we produce and educate ourselves about the products we buy. In a perfect world, everyone would stop producing trash, but that’s not realistic. However, there are a few ways we can embrace a less wasteful lifestyle without it being time-consuming or expensive.
The first way is to reduce the amount of waste you produce daily. At first glance, that might seem daunting, but it’s an achievable goal. To start, you can think about the single-use items you dispose of everyday such as the plastic straw for your iced coffee or the plastic utensils that come with your lunch. Then, pick one of them to remove from your life and find an eco-friendly alternative for it. It’s as simple as that.
Reusables are an excellent and cost-effective alternative to single-use items. From straws to travel mugs, purchasing a reusable item gives you the opportunity to help the environment without giving up the things you love. You can bring these products with you wherever you go, and they can even save you money.
It’s going to take a while to adjust to this new lifestyle change, so don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally use an item once before throwing it away or forget to bring your reusable item with you. Once you get used to it, it will become a habit and you’ll be able to slowly reduce the amount of trash you produce daily.
Another way to embrace a sustainable lifestyle is to repurpose common household items. Within the U.S., each year we throw away about $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging. So, before you throw something out, think about whether you can repurpose it.
Those empty candles or sauce jars can be given a new life. You can wash them out and use them to hold cotton balls, cotton swabs, pens, or small trinkets. You can do the same with any glass container, vegetable can or plastic bottle. You can even use them as storage, decoration, or for presents. So, get creative and get as much value as possible from your household items.
When you repurpose your trash, you’re opening yourself up to a whole a new mindset. This attitude allows you see that almost everything around you can be used more than once before being discarded. It also opens your eyes to how much unnecessary waste we produce daily.
Along with repurposing, being aware of the products you purchase is vital to reducing your trash. When you go shopping, how often do you buy things you don’t need? If you do this frequently, try to reduce trips and donate what you don’t need.
Before you go food shopping, make a list of what you have and what you need. When you’re aware of what you need, you’re less likely to buy food you’ll never eat. Also, keep track of all the food that is close to expiring so you know exactly what you need to consume first.
Each year, “consumers in well-developed countries waste as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes)”, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. We can become smarter about the food waste we produce by practicing portion control, donating food and composting.
When you cook or order food, get enough for the day. If there is food leftover, you can eat it another time. If you have too much food to eat before it goes bad, you can pack it up and give to someone in need or bring it to work to share with your co-workers.
If your food is spoiled and you have extra time, you can practice composting. Compost is organic material such as food scraps and yard waste that can be added to soil to help plants grow. You can compost both outdoors and indoors, so it can be adjustable to your lifestyle.
Besides for food, you should also be aware of what items are recyclable and which ones aren’t. This knowledge will help you see how much of your trash should be thrown away versus how much of it can be used to make something entirely new. It will also help you properly dispose of things when they’re no longer useful.
With gradual, simple steps, you can develop a better relationship with the waste you produce and become more aware of the impact you have on the environment. These steps might seem intimidating at first, but once you practice them enough, you’ll be able to make them a part of your day-to-day life.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.