Have you seen the show ‘Hoarders’? It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me and even though I know that most of these people suffer from a disorder (and I am very sympathetic to that), I can’t help but still judge them a little bit. It’s mind-boggling to say the least how much stuff people accumulate. What gets me most is when they hold on to obvious trash in their homes. It’s always a good reminder to be more mindful of the things that we bring into our homes and the things we subsequently dispose of.
Here’s a question for you: do you know how many trash bags full of garbage you produce in a week?
J and I have been paying attention and are proud to say that in recent months, we’ve only produced one 13-gallon bag of trash every two weeks and maybe one trash bag of recyclables (I am not exactly sure because we take them directly out to the recycle bin, which is usually about half full every two weeks and it’s mostly milk containers, plastic containers and wrapping).
According to the EPA, Americans produce 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day! We weighed one of our (regular) trash bags recently and at 14 lbs, it puts us at 0.5 lbs/person/day. I’d say that is pretty darn good!
Sustainability and minimalism are terms that I constantly have on my mind. I cringe when we produce a lot of trash or if I go through my home and there is so much stuff that I don’t use and should get rid off, but hesitate to just throw out because it’s not broken. It’s more the uncomfortable feeling of being wasteful that gets to me than the concept of frugality (which I guess ultimately do go hand in hand though).
We’ve been trying to be more mindful of the things we buy and how to leave an overall smaller footprint. Here are 12 – relatively easy, IMHO – things you can do:
1. Meal plan. No, really. It will not only save you money on groceries, you’ll also end up throwing out less food and therefore producing less trash.
2. Bring your own reusable produce bags and shopping bags. That should be a no-brainer in this day and age, but it still something people apparently struggle with. I always have one of these small foldable grocery bags in my purse (and they’re pretty, too!), so even when I stop at a store unexpectedly, I always have a shopping bag with me. I also try to buy loose produce when I can (unfortunately, Trader Joe’s still has a lot of stuff wrapped) and bring my own produce bags (like these).
3. Buy things in bulk (oats, flour, grains, nuts, etc.) and bring containers, when possible. It doesn’t always work out that way, but every time you remember to bring your containers or pouches counts.
4. Avoid individually wrapped items. Of course that is not always possible, but I usually go for the items that are not wrapped twice. Also, don’t get your meat package wrapped in extra plastic (why?), unless it’s leaking all over the place already; in which case, you probably don’t want to buy that package anyway.
5. Use reusable containers for your sandwiches, lunches, and snacks. There is really no need to use plastic bags when there are so many pretty options these days.
6. Switch to paperless bills when possible. I have most of my bills automated and just check my accounts online. There really is no need to get photocopies of most bills, file them, only to shred and throw them out later. I make exceptions for certain things (like some medical bills).
7. Ask places where you get take-out to NOT give you napkins and plastic utensils (unless you eat on the go and really need them). I noticed that restaurants will give you a huge stack of napkins and utensils for take-out food, usually more than you need, which most likely end up in the trash if you’re taking that food home.
8. Use washable kitchen cloths (I use these from Trader Joe’s) instead of paper towels to clean up kitchen messes. I have to admit that we haven’t completely eliminated our use of paper towels, but I am trying to actively reduce the occasions when I’ll use them.
9. Use a washable microfiber cleaning-mop and dust-mop (like this one). Yes, I know, these disposable Swiffer pads are convenient, but so bad for the environment.
10. Purchase items such as dish soap and laundry detergents in concentrate forms or buy refills. This is a no-brainer for me. The bottles are smaller, usually last longer, and produce less trash. Win-win.
11. Don’t buy plastic bottles. I know, sometimes you can’t avoid it, very few juice brands offer their products in glass bottles, but we bought a good water filter (review of our Berkey here) and have not bought any bottled water since.
12. Leave wrapping and unnecessary boxes at the store. People have looked at me strange when I requested that, but it’s a common thing in German supermarkets that you can leave extra wrappings, boxes, etc. at the store. Overall, it encourages people to take less wrapping home and maybe subsequently reduce unnecessary wrapping of products in the first place.
Bonus tip (which shouldn’t be a tip at all, but just plain common sense): RECYCLE and REUSE whenever you can.
What do you do to help the environment and live more green?
This post does NOT contain any affiliate links. I only linked items, so you can easily access more information about these items or similar items that I have used.