In the past few months we have reduced our trash from 2 big bags a week to 1/2 a bag a week. I'd like to do more, but this is still a big improvement.
Here are some of the ideas I gathered from various sources and implemented in our household:
1) Recycle -
Of course this is an important step. I don't have curbside pickup but there are bins at the local Walmart parking lot for plastic 1&2, mixed paper (including paperboard - cereal boxes etc...), aluminum cans, tin cans, and cardboard. I'm there every week so it's easy. Our local natural food store collects glass. Sorting out just these things made a big difference. It made no sense to put this usable stuff in a hole in the ground (landfill.)
However, I learned that it takes energy and money to turn these types of trash into usable items again. Also, many materials eventually degrade to the point that the can no longer be recycled. To top it off, some items are putting a lot of carbon in the air traveling around the world to get recycled.
This brings me to the other parts of the recycle mantra - reduce and reuse - which are even more important in the long run.
2) Reuse -
I now wash plastic bags and containers that I can use again. Since my area doesn't recycle plastics 3-5, I reuse those containers to store leftovers. (However, I put the food on a plate to reheat. I'm beginning not to trust plastic.) I also wash and reuse glass bottles and jars. These items are starting to collect on my shelves now, so I donated some of my old Tupperware type stuff to make room.
3) Reduce (also known as refuse) -
This is really the big one. It's based on a mindset that we are wasting resources by just throwing them away and the best way to avoid this is not to bring trash into your house in the first place. How is that possible? There are three major ways ---
3A) Replace disposable items with reusable ones
- use cloth bags for shopping (not just groceries)
- use cloth napkins
- I found reusable straws in picnic supplies
- use patches of cloth instead of cotton balls for makeup removal (wash in a mesh bag)
3B) Eliminate single use and disposable items
- avoid paper plates and plastic silverware
- no plastic bags
- find alternatives to Saran Wrap (I use an Abeego wrap made from beeswax)
- no single serve foods - eg. get a big container of yogurt instead of multiple mini-cups
3C) Reduce packaging
- purchase from the bulk food isle and reuse bags or bring your own containers
- use razor with replaceable blade instead of throwing the whole thing away
- (Ladies) tampons without applicators
- buy large sizes of food items as long as you will use it before it goes bad. This way you have one container to deal with instead of multiples
- Look for glass containers when possible - easier to wash and reuse and they do not degrade when they recycle
- buy used - my kids love toys from thrift stores and they don't come with tons of useless packaging
Oh - there is one more way, but I have not implemented this myself yet.
4) Rot --
Create a compost pile or worm farm to deal with food scraps.