Many people are starting to grow up learning the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”. In fact, many students on this campus have adapted to these practices and adhere to putting our stuff in the right “slots”. It has become second nature, and yet there is so much more that we can all be doing to reduce how much waste we produce. So here is your handy guide on what you can do to reduce your waste (and, by cause-and-effect, help the environment):
1. Recycle old and used clothes: Yes, you can donate some clothes to shelters like Sarah’s…An Oasis for Women or other clothing donation centers. But what about those jeans that have a hole in them the size of a fist? Sometimes, clothes are beyond repair. But, did you know that most places will let you recycle your clothes and that some cities have designated drop off sites just for clothing recycle? You can also choose to recycle it in your own home as well. Old t-shirts make great cleaning rags.
2. Reconsider your brand of toilet paper: Have you noticed that toilet paper is always wrapped in a ton of plastic? Unfortunately, there’s only one brand (that I could find) that doesn’t sell toilet paper wrapped in plastic: Natural Value. Their individual rolls are sold in recyclable paper wrap and the bulk packs usually come in a cardboard box. Their 12 packs do come in plastic though – so stay clear of that.
3. Be a conscious grocery shopper: Speaking of plastic wrapped stuff, have you ever noticed a lot of your groceries come wrapped in plastic? I’m a huge fan of cheese and it always comes wrapped in plastic regardless of what form it’s in: block, slice, shredded, etc. Opting to go to a deli at a co-op and asking the deli to put the cheese you want in a plastic container (such as an old piece of Tupperware to be reused for this purpose only) or even a glass bowl is a solution to this. You’re going to get odd looks at first, but eventually the deli will get used to it and expect it. You can also do the same with meats, nuts, and fresh produce. Also, many suggest that you buy in bulk to reduce how much packaging you go through.
4. Invest in a reusable water bottle: Join the club and buy a refillable water bottle! Instead of buying plastic water bottles by the 24 pack (which inevitably come wrapped in more plastic), you can refill a single bottle and reduce waste. If you are buying a reusable plastic water bottle, be sure that it is BPA free – most bottles currently are but will say on the bottom of the bottle or on the label.
5. Use silverware: When you eat in the cafe, do your best to eat with the silverware and not the plastic. When you eat at home as well, avoid buying disposable plastic cutlery.
6. Consider reusable feminine products: So, the average woman has around 450 periods in her lifetime. That is a LOT. And there is no way of estimating how many tampons, pads or liners are used in that process given that it changes for every period based on flow. I know it is an uncomfortable subject but it has to be talked about! There are two ways to reduce the waste we make as women: menstrual cups or reusable pads. Not only is it good for the environment, but it saves you money. There is a lot more information out there, so do some research and see if this could be an option for you.
7. Avoid buying jugs of detergent: We need soap to clean our clothes. What we don’t need are giant plastic jugs with plastic caps which cannot be recycled. It is really easy to make your own powder laundry detergent (and yes, it works in high-efficiency washers). Most recipes call for some borax, castille soap, and washing soda. All of which come fairly cheap. There are other recipes available online from zero-waste communities, so do some research and to determine what works best for your clothes.
This is not meant to be a guide on how to live zero-waste or low-waste. It is just a basic guide for adjusting seven daily habits just enough to massively impact the environment. Following any of these steps will help reduce how much waste you produce, and in turn reduce your carbon footprint. The average American produces approximately 1 ton of waste in just a year. Imagine that spread across an entire lifetime. Making these small changes can dramatically reduce how much waste you put into the earth.