31 Ways To Reduce Waste and Help the Environment

With plastic polluting our planet more by the day, we’re in the midst of significant waste crisis. We have the power to come together as individuals change things.

As I’ve spent the last few years learning about environmentalism, minimalism, and veganism, I’m more aware of how our actions impact the earth.

Fortunately, all it takes is some small changes to our lifestyle to make some big improvements to the environment.

You’ll never be perfect at this and you will fail at times, but just putting in the effort makes a difference.

Our combined efforts can take on the larger system of corporations that tends to care more about profit than the planet. Here are few things you can do to reduce your waste.

Related: 12 Ways To Conserve Energy in 2022

pile of plastic water bottles 31 ways to reduce waste and help the environment

1. Stop buying stuff you don’t need

We buy a lot more items than we need most of the time. Demand is what leads businesses to excessively create products to the point of causing waste.

The less we buy, the less demand there is. With less demand, corporations would produce less products to save money.

As a result, that helps to preserve more of the earth’s resources. Additionally, with corporations doing less irresponsible production of products, there’s less waste on the planet.

Learn to appreciate what you already have and being more conscious about your purchases. Knowing when to say no to something that you don’t really need.

2. No more food wrapped in plastic

In an article about how plastic wrap pollutes the planet, a research group concluded in the first half of 2019, 80 million Americans had used at least one roll of plastic.

It’s something we seem to do every day. Just wrap up a sandwich for lunch or wrap up some unfinished dinner and stick it in the fridge.

Supermarkets of course don’t make it any easier with a lot of their items being wrapped in plastic.

A Harvard Medical school article notes there can be potential harmful effects with heating items in plastic.

If you aren’t sure where to start with find stores that sell plastic free food items, read this plastic free grocery shopping guide.

While avoiding plastics may not be possible for you to do all time, do as best as you can.

3. Carry items with your own bag

My partner does this all the time whenever we go shopping. She’ll put fruits, vegetables, and whatever she can in her reusable bag.

We’ll also bring bags that were used on previous shopping trips. Additionally, you could bring a bag pack with you to help carry your items

When you get to the checkout line, simply tell the cashier you won’t be needing any plastic bags.

You can read these facts about single-use plastic bags to better understand the significant harm they do to our planet.

4. Do more local shopping

You’ll find that some of the stores that sell locally may choose to avoid using plastic wraps for their foods.

You not only avoid contributing to plastic waste on the planet, you also help support your local businesses.

There’s a national farmers market directory where you can find a farmer’s market in your town.

You can also research to see if there are local shops in your area that provide zero waste options.

5. Buy in bulk

More than likely there’s probably a store like Costco where you can buy a variety of foods in bulk.

You can bring your own bags and containers to stock up on what you need without using any extra packaging.

It can also help you save money too. Learn about 10 items you can buy in bulk that will help keep plastic trash out of the ocean.

6. Use a reusable bottle

I never really thought much about reusable bottles until I noticed my partner used one often.

She also told me about the dangers of reusing plastic water bottles. You’ll find with many of the ways you can limit your waste will actually help your well-being in the long run.

It can take plastic bottles as much as 450 years to decompose. You can try looking for a stainless steel reusable water bottle like what my partner has.

Good Housekeeping has a list of some other kinds you might find worth considering.

7. Don’t use straws

Nowadays more states, cites, and restaurants are banning plastic straws or greatly limiting their use.

Ultimately, it’s going to be all of us to decide that we’re no longer going to use them. Try to use reusable straws instead or just simply drink straight from the cup.

You can take time to learn more about how straws hurt the environment.

8. Limit using single use items and foods

Here’s a list of different types of single use items you can be mindful of avoiding:

  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic cutlerly
  • Plastic straws
  • Pre-packaged sandwiches
  • Pre-packaged dressing
  • Pre-packaged yogurt

These are just a few of many types of single use items to avoid. Consider looking for cheap replacements that are reusable.

9. Buy reusable cutlery and storage containers

Continuing on the theme of replacing single use items with reusable ones, reusable cutlery and storage containers would be great items to own.

You can have your own spoons and forks with you to having to use plastic ones. If you’ll be eating out at a restaurant that might use plastic packaging, you can politely ask the server to place t in your container.

10. Try thrift shopping

One great benefit of buying vintage and secondhand clothes at a thrift store is it saves you money.

Fast fashion brands are causing some of the most harmful environmental damage to our planet.

Our continued purchasing of new clothes from these brands is a part of the problem. 80 billion clothes a year is just not necessary.

There are plenty of clothes that have already been made that can be purchased. As mentioned earlier, less demand means these corporations will produce less, and it can help decrease the pollution in our environment.

You can look at this list of online thrift stores to see if you can find some clothing options you like.

11. Compost your food waste

Food scraps can make up a good amount of weight in your trash can. When food waste ends up in landfills, it releases methane which heats up the earth’s atmosphere, thus causing global warming.

Composting helps to reduce the emissions that end up going into the environment.

If you’re unfamiliar with what to do, here’s a good guide you can read on how to start composting.

If you’re unable to do it at your living space, you can see if your community as a local garden where your food waste can be composted.

12. Drink some loose leaf tea

Believe it or not, tea bags can have plastic in them. Loose leaf tea helps you to avoid harmful plastic and do good for the earth.

Among the brands that offer loose leaf tea include T2, Nerada, and Harney & Sons.

13. Buy secondhand electronics

While it’s understandable to purchase new electronics to make sure it works, there are still good deals out there for secondhand ones.

Many laptops, phones, cameras, and other devices can be used for years and still have few issues.

The electronic I’m currently using has lasted me nearly 10 years. Getting a secondhand electronic can also of course be a lot cheaper too.

The good you do for the environment is you help reduce the resources used to make new ones. You also prevent old electronics from filling up landfills and increasing our environmental waste.

14. Meal plan

Planning your meals out can help you to manage the amount food you plan to use so none of it goes to waste.

You can write down what you’ll eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week. After you do that, create a shopping list of the items you’ll need.

Be sure to plan to buy as little plastic-packaged foods as possible.

15. Avoid throwing food away

It’s estimated that Americans throw away 40 million tons of food a year. That’s far too much that could have been used to feed the hungry and saved us having to use more resources.

If the food is still good, store it away in a container and put it in the fridge. If you don’t anticipate wanting to eat the food for a while, put it in the freezers.

Some types of meals can last up to 3 months frozen. The previous tip about the meal plan should help you avoid over-purchasing foods you don’t end up eating.

You could also use the unfinished foods you have to put together a new meal. There are a variety of ideas.

Here’s more tips you can use to waste less food.

16. Shop at a food bank

There’s two ways you can help the environment by going to your local food bank. The first way you can help is getting food from one.

The items there are usually given at a reduced price or they’re even free. You can save a ton of money and keep the food from going to waste.

The second way you can help is donating food. If there are cans or other items in your kitchen that’s just been sitting there, then give it away.

You can contact your local food bank to find out what kind of foods are acceptable.

17. Learn to cook

Most takeout food will generally be given to you in plastic packaging. You can help curb the waste from that by just cooking your own food most nights.

Cooking might not be as difficult or time consuming as you think. Here are some simple vegan comfort food recipes you can try making.

18. Try going vegan

Speaking of veganism, that’s another excellent way you can help decrease the amount of waste in our environment.

The Independent published an article describing veganism as the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the planet.

The article cited research from the University of Oxford that concludes cutting meat and dairy out of our diets could potentially reduce our carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent.

The large amount of resources required for animal agriculture is what makes it one of leading causes of global greenhouse emissions.

19. Avoid trends

Corporations continually pump out new trends in fashion, technology, and other industries to make us spend more money.

If we bought less into them, it would potentially influence them to stop constantly using up resources to create new trendy items.

Think about whether you need the item. You may not really need it, or perhaps you can find an acceptable cheaper alternative.

20. Recycle

Recycling is one of the easiest choices we can make, but it’s still something only 32 percent of Americans do. Find out which days your community does its recycling pickup.

21. Try building furniture

You’d be surprised how many easy ways there are to build your own furniture. You can just a couple of pieces of wood and have your own desk in no time.

It’s a good chance to develop your handy skills and make sure that old pieces of furniture don’t go to waste.

22. Try Repairing items

You don’t necessarily have to go out and replace what you have with something new. Always try to find a way to repair what you already have.

In some cases, it may save you a lot of money. You can try sewing up old clothes or purchasing replacement parts for gadgets.

23. Look into menstrual cups or cotton pads

National Geographic wrote an article on menstrual products that noted women use 5,000 to 15,000 of these items in a lifetime.

The majority of these items unfortunately end up as waste in landfills. Ladies can consider using menstrual cups or reusable cotton pads as an alternative.

24. Use the items you already own

As expressed in most of this article, we really don’t intentionally use the items we have that well. Some of what minimalism teaches is to take the most use of what you already own.

That means using up items like shoes or clothing until they wear out.

25. Grow food

Growing food can be something fun for your whole family to do. There’s lots fruits, vegetables, and herbs you can plant and grow and use to make your meals.

Here’s a good resource on growing your own food.

26. Budget

If we’re choosing not to spend so much money to begin with, that means we’ll be buying less of the excessive amount of products corporations produce.

Be intentional about what you choose to spend your money on. Make sure it’s mostly on what you need. Do your best to purchase items that do good for the environment.

27. Pick up after yourself

Litter can do a lot of harm to our physical habitats, threaten aquatic life, and even transport chemical pollutants.

Needless to say, it’s important that we always properly dispose our trash. Encourage all of your friends and family to be as responsible as possible with their waste.

28. Consider joining a vegetable box scheme

A Veg box scheme is where people deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to you that are locally grown and organic.

While this is primarily a UK thing right now, Americans can still try using food delivery apps to get locally grown food delivered to them.

29. Reuse and recycle food jars

Jars can be re-used for many different functions. When you’ve used up whatever item is in it, clean it up inside.

You can store coins, beauty products, candles, and many other items.

30. Purchase reduced items

Supermarkets may occasionally have reduced items that no one has bought yet in the evening hours. It might be something that you needed, and it saves the food from going to waste.

31. Buy something at a garage sale

You never know if you might discover a hidden gem in a garage sale. You can help out your fellow neighbor by taking it off their hands and keeping the item from being thrown away.

Final thoughts on reducing waste

Any of these tips can be very helpful to reducing the amount of waste in our environment. Don’t feel you need to do all of them.

Just take it slow try one at a time. Work your way up to doing most of these tips regularly. We can all make a difference in limiting the waste on our planet.

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