15 easy ways to reduce your household waste
It’s estimated that the world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of household waste every year and at least 33% of that is not managed in an environmentally safe manner.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the wealthiest countries that create the highest percentage of waste.
If global waste grows with the population at its current rate, we’ll be producing over 3.4 billion tonnes of waste annually by 2050.
Generating this amount of waste is unsustainable.
Landfills directly contribute to air pollution, climate change, soil and water pollution. If we’re going to have any hope of reversing the climate crisis, we will all need to significantly reduce the amount of waste we create.
In today’s blog, we’ve put together a list of 15 easy ways you can start to reduce your household waste today:
1. First in, first out (FIFO)
How often do you happen upon a food item at the back of the fridge or cupboard, only to realise that it went out of date months ago?
We’ve all done it.
The next time you do a food shop, remember FIFO – first in, first out. This means putting the new items you’ve bought to the back of the fridge or food cupboard and bringing the older items already there to the front.
This should help you to ensure that everything gets eaten and that you don’t buy duplicates of items you already have.
2. Choose products with minimal packaging
Most of us are used to seeing everyday items tightly wrapped in single-use plastics and excessive amounts of packaging in the name of preventing contamination and preserving goods for longer.
But the reality is that a fifth of the UK’s household waste is packaging, a trend that’s echoed throughout much of the world.
A growing number of brands are looking at ways to reduce the amount of packaging they use and how to use more sustainable materials.
You can help encourage businesses to reduce their packaging by buying minimally or sustainable packaged products – or products that aren’t packaged at all – whenever possible. This sends a clear message about the companies you want to invest in.
Also, it’s worth investigating whether there are any zero waste shops in your local area. These shops encourage you to bring your own containers to buy household supplies such as grains, lentils, washing up liquid, soap, shampoo and more in whatever quantities you need.
3. Buy in bulk
Although you won’t want to buy perishable items in bulk, unless you know you will use them or can freeze them, you can reduce the amount of waste packaging you produce by bulk-buying non-perishables.
Products such as toilet rolls, shampoo, cleaning supplies, washing up liquids and cooking oils are all available in larger quantities and tend to have less packaging than single wrapped items.
As mentioned above, there are also a growing number of zero-waste or “scoop and weigh” style shops where you can take your own containers and bulk buy dried foods such as coffee beans, lentils, pasta or rice.
One thing to look out for is individually-wrapped items masquerading as bulk buy – for example, five individual drink cartons in shrink-wrapped plastic or a multi-pack of shampoo bottles. These can end up having more packaging than if you bought these items separately.
4. Plan your meals
How often do you buy food that ends up in the bin? Do you settle on meal ideas when you’re shopping, only to come home and realise you’ve bought duplicates of multiple ingredients?
Meal planning is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your household waste.
By planning out what you intend to eat for each meal, you can ensure that you only buy what you need.
Before you head out for your weekly food shop, double-check what ingredients you already have at home. Buying with intention for an entire week’s meals will also stop you from having to pop to the shops for emergencies, something that should reduce your food spend because we all know how easy it is to impulse buy when you’re shopping mid-week for essentials.
5. Buy reusable food containers
If you’re someone who regularly takes a packed lunch to work or you cook enough food to have leftovers, then a great way to reduce waste is to have reusable food containers rather than single-use sandwich bags, cling film or tin foil.
Eco-friendly options include mason jars, glass jars with bamboo lids, compostable cling film, paper sandwich bags, metal lunchboxes, cloth bread bags and more.
6. Invest in other reusable household items
It’s not just reusable food containers that can help you to reduce your household waste. Look for other reusable household items such as reusable shopping bags, travel coffee mugs, rechargeable batteries, silicone baking trays, metal straws, cloth napkins, bamboo toothbrushes and many other options.
7. Freeze fresh produce before it expires
A fifth of the food we buy ends up in the bin. Produce most likely to be thrown away includes salad leaves, bread, bananas, cucumbers, strawberries and potatoes.
If you think you’ll be unlikely to use fresh produce before it goes off (something you can reduce with meal planning), then think about freezing it for use at a later date. You could always cook and mash then freeze your potatoes or blanche veg to use in soups, or chop up and freeze fresh fruit for your smoothies.
8. Start composting
Although you might assume that any food or organic waste you throw in the bin just rots and disappears even if it’s in a landfill, this isn’t the case. When organic waste is trapped within non-organic waste, it can generate large volumes of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is contributing to climate change.
Composting organic waste in your garden or at an allotment significantly reduces these methane emissions.
In addition, composting can improve soil quality, help with water retention and reforestation, and even replace chemical fertilisers.
9. Stop buying single-use water bottles
A million single-use plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. However, it’s estimated that fewer than 50% of these bottles end up in recycling and that just 7% are converted into new bottles. The rest find their way into landfills.
Worse still, research shows that single-use plastics leach toxic chemicals associated with various cancers, decreased testosterone levels and an increased risk of miscarriage.
Reducing the number of single-use water bottles isn’t just about cutting back on household waste. It will also help to address a growing health crisis and the catastrophic damage being wrought on the world’s oceans.
Instead of buying water in single-use bottles, try investing in a reusable bottle made of materials such as stainless steel or glass. You can then top up your water as often as you like during the day.
10. Donate supplies to local schools
Before you throw a cereal box or toilet roll into your recycling bin, it’s worth checking whether any local schools or charities collect packaging items and other materials to use for arts and crafts activities.
They might also welcome donations of other art supplies, books, dressing up clothes, second-hand school uniforms and more.
11. Buy second-hand clothes
Shockingly, the average item of clothing is worn just seven times before being thrown away. Most items end up in landfills.
To create a never-ending cycle of throwaway garments, the fashion industry is directly polluting our rivers and oceans, introducing plastic into the food chain, creating greenhouse gas emissions, using toxic chemicals and synthetic materials that will take more than 200 years to decompose.
Something has to change.
One of the best ways to reduce your household waste and to send a message against fast fashion is to buy second-hand clothes and to donate or sell your own unwanted clothes rather than binning them.
12. Join buy and sell groups
Related to point 11 above, one way to buy or sell second-hand clothes – and other items such as kids’ toys, furniture and electronics – is to join buy and sell groups on social media.
Does your local community have an online recycling or swapping group on Facebook, for example?
Another option is to trade or donate your used books, DVDs, CDs and computer games to a sustainable company like Ziffit who promise to keep all items they handle out of landfill.
13. Use up what you already have
When was the last time you had a good look through all of the cupboards and wardrobes in your house?
You may be shocked by the amount of food, toiletries, make-up and other items you find.
Look at how you can use all of the consumables you already have before you buy anything new.
The BBC Good Food site has many recipe ideas. On the Tesco Real Food site, you can enter ingredients you want to cook with to find recipe suggestions. Food Combo and Supercook can also give you cooking inspiration based on the ingredients you have to hand.
14. Switch to paperless billing
These days, most companies offer a paperless billing option. This means you can keep control of your finances while cutting down on the amount of paper that needs to be recycled or envelopes that end up in landfills.
In addition, many brands will now give you a choice between receiving a catalogue or other marketing communications in the post or via text or email. Every time you choose a paperless option, it helps to reduce unnecessary household waste.
15. Shop local
Shopping locally can cut down the number of phases food has to go through from production to your plate.
This means that fruit and veg grown locally, for example, might not need to be packaged to be sold through a nearby grocer or farmers’ market compared to the packaging needed to transport it to another country.
In fact, you may be able to bring your own reusable bags or containers and buy the exact number of consumable items you need from a local shop.
Not only does shopping locally reduce household waste, it can also help to support the local economy by creating jobs and keeping money circulating within the community.
So, there we have it! Fifteen easy ways you can start to reduce your household waste today. Which do you already do? Which might you start doing after reading this list?
Do you run a vegan business that focuses on reducing waste? We’d love to feature your business in the Ethical Globe Directory.
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