We’re all works-in-progress when it comes to developing and maintaining low-waste behaviors. And being able to reevaluate your choices on a regular basis is one of the most crucial elements in living more sustainably. Every decision has an impact, from the minor (such as avoiding single-use plastics) to the more significant (like starting a compost pile in your backyard).
It’s also vital to consider a low-waste lifestyle from all angles—we can reduce waste, but we can also reuse what we have, shop secondhand, and be conscious of our water and energy consumption.
Here are some pointers on how to enhance your low-waste game, no matter where you live or what stage of life you’re in.
Low-waste habits for students
- A reusable kit goes above and beyond a reusable cup. While filling your reusable water bottle at campus water fountains, consider buying a reusable coffee cup, straw, cloth napkin, cutlery, and grocery tote bag.
- Employ environmentally friendly textbooks, calendars, and notebooks. If feasible, acquire used or digital books (these sites are best for buying used textbooks). Take notes electronically or buy recycled paper notebooks. Sell used textbooks. Consider using your campus library for note-taking and studying instead of buying textbooks.
- Cook with housemates. When schedules align, cooking one meal a night instead of three or four saves energy and reduces trash from take-out.
- Set a good example. Living sustainably can influence roommates and friends.
Low-waste habits for city-dwellers
- City living offers several transit options. If possible, walk or cycle to work, restaurants, and stores. Instead of Uber or your car, use the bus or subway in bad weather. If you need a car for a short journey, choose car-share services like Zipcar or Turo.
- Shop at your local zero-waste retailer. Zero-waste stores are more likely to be in cities, where you may buy hair and body products, wooden and reusable tools, cleaning supplies, tissues, coffee filters, and more. You can also buy dried beans, rice, almonds, and coffee in empty jars from zero-waste supermarket stores. Litterless is a great resource that lists zero-waste shops by state.
- Compost! Your city may offer curbside food waste pickup along with trash. If not, consider local food trash pickup services for a low monthly cost. Keep a little food waste bin in your kitchen, and you’ll be astonished how much may be diverted from landfills and composted. Urbanites can also take advantage of countertop composters!
Low-waste habits for those in rural areas
- Rural places make waste reduction harder due to increased driving and fewer in-person shopping options. While internet shopping is required for many things, try to shop in bulk for groceries, personal care, and home supplies.
- If you have a yard, compost! Check out this article we wrote about kick-starting your own composting system. If you don’t garden, neighbors or farms may use your compost.
- Grow food in your yard! Eating vegetables grown in your backyard reduces food packaging, transportation emissions, water waste, and pesticide use.
- Determine your town’s recyclables. In rural places, some municipalities can’t recycle glass or #5 plastics, thus reuse non-recyclable products.
Low-waste habits for parents
- Since babies grow quickly, buy used clothes from friends, relatives, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and buy nothing groups.
- Toys outgrow clothes almost as fast. Find local toy libraries and share toys with friends and family.
- Reuse diapers. It’s scary, but it’s undeniably effective at reducing waste. See this Parents‘ modern cloth diaper guide for some inspiration.
General low-waste tips
- Use a little trash bin to become more mindful of your waste.
- Create your own kitchen basics. Pickles, salad dressing, yogurt, veggie or chicken stock, bread, non-dairy milks, broccoli sprouts, microgreens, tortillas, and pasta can be made easily at home. If you have the time and interest, then carve out time to spend in the kitchen each week!
- For home products, check Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. It’s a terrific way to recycle and get excellent offers like free furniture.
- Limit food waste! To avoid wasting older food, keep new and ready-to-use ingredients in separate fridge compartments.
- Keep shipping materials like small boxes, bags, and bubble wrap. These frequently come in handy, saving you money on packing materials.