Is your household looking to reduce waste? While there are some obvious items that you and your family may have taken action to avoid wasting, there are a lot of “hidden” (or lesser-known) ways we are generating waste. A lot of these lesser-known waste products can even be reused.
Ways You are Increasing Waste
Most of us don’t actively see the amount of waste we create, so before we dive into these common yet less recognized products, it’s important to understand why we tend to generate excess waste, to begin with. One can speculate that our thoughtless waste habits are attributed to two primary factors: we tend to buy more than we need, and we shop mindlessly or irresponsibly (i.e., not paying much mind to how an item is packaged, where it comes from, how it gets to us, and so on).
This is particularly true when it comes to household groceries and other supplies. For example, consider the following:
- How much planning (or research) you do prior to shopping
- How many times you have purchased an ingredient for a recipe that you already had in the fridge or pantry, or that you purchased something at the grocery store just because it was on sale
- How much waste is generated from plastic bags
- Where products come from, how they are produced, and how they get to our grocery shelves
- How products are packaged
How to Avoid Excess Waste
Luckily, there are some simple things we can do to avoid excessive/impulsive and irresponsible shopping:
- Shop locally
- Research and recognize any environmental implications of your purchases
- Take inventory of what you already have
- Make a list and stick to it
- Bring your own shopping bags
- Try not to buy products that come in plastic packaging (an idea is to bring your own containers from home)
- Donate/freeze leftovers
- Compost food scraps
You are now hopefully a little more aware of your purchasing habits and are ready to take a closer look at some of the ways your household may be generating unnecessary waste when there are ways to avoid it. You’ll notice a trend here — a lot of these items you may be throwing out can be upcycled/reused for a different purpose, donated, or even sold.
Socks with holes or a sock without a partner — Old socks make for great cleaning/dusting rags.
Clothing or shoes you no longer wear — Clothing takes many resources to produce and distribute. Synthetic clothing and vinyl, in particular, use oil byproducts, increasing our dependence on fossil fuels. Similarly, leather production involves the use of strong and toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s important not only to shop sustainably avoiding purchasing apparel that contains such substances, but that you never simply discard of your clothing. Donating unused pieces is always a good idea, and if it’s a higher-end item, you can even sell it. If it’s damaged (such as a t-shirt with wholes, for instance) you can (like you did with a sock) turn it into a cleaning rag.
Old electronics — Did you know that simply throwing away electronics in the curbside bin is illegal in most states? In fact, in the U.S., over 25 states have mandated electronic recycling. Laws regarding the is illegal in most states? In fact, in the U.S., over 25 states have mandated electronic recycling. Laws regarding the disposal of e-waste, but in general, there are several things you can do with unwanted electronic waste:
- Take it to a designated drop off location or event or recycler
- Donate it to a local charity or non-profit; or you can seek after programs to help get your old devices to people who may need them such as Dell Reconnect, AmericanCellPhoneDrive.Org, or The World Computer Exchange
- Bring it or mail it to a tech manufacturer or retailer. In many states, including New York, manufacturers of computers, televisions, etc. are actually required by law to accept their products for recycling. Many of them even have great recycling programs or take-back options
Old toothbrushes — Retiring your toothbrush? Don’t just throw it away. Toothbrushes make for great cleaning tools! They are ideal for scrubbing hard-to-reach places.
Household cleaner bottles — Multi-purpose spray, laundry detergent, liquid soap…most of these items come in packaging that you’re more than likely throwing away. Small cleaner containers are handy to reuse and they’re easy to store beneath bathroom and kitchen sinks. But, as you may have learned by now, cleansers and liquid soap have the tendency to be less expensive when you buy larger containers. Get the big, inexpensive sizes and use them to refill your smaller bottles.
By managing your consumption and purchasing habits, you will simultaneously be reducing your individual waste. Not only will this help you save time and money, but it will also help reduce emissions and conserve energy and precious natural resources. By taking a closer look at how your household may be mindfully creating waste, you can contribute to a more sustainable future.
These are only some of the many less obvious ways we tend to generate waste, but there are countless more! If you’re interested in finding other ways that you can help work towards a more sustainable future, check out our site page to learn about our innovative energy and natural gas solutions.