Many families are looking into ways that they can change their habits to prevent waste and be more Earth-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started on a path towards zero waste and a healthier planet!
A couple of notes – I recognize that accessibility is an issue for many when it comes to affordability and access to products and that each family has different priorities. Some of these options may not be available (or desirable) for everyone, and that is okay. I encourage each family to look at their own habits and lives and choose what works for them. I also recognize that a large part of the responsibility for the state of our planet lies on corporations. Some believe that changes put into place by individuals don’t matter. But I personally believe that anything I can do to reduce my waste, no matter how small, is worth it. Do what is comfortable and sustainable for you.
Reduce food waste.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most accessible and important steps for anyone to take. In America, 40% of the food produced is wasted. Are you shocked? I know I was when I heard that number! In my area, food waste is the single largest category of items thrown in the trash. This is one of the best Earth-friendly habits to begin.
Here are some ways to reduce food waste:
Meal plan and use a shopping list.
Compost – in your backyard, or through other options available in your area. In my city, we have drop-off locations for organics recycling, as well as weekly curbside pickup.
Use or freeze your leftovers.
Keep an inventory of the food in your fridge, pantry, and freezer.
Eat what you have first before buying more food.
Come up with ways to use up the “bits and pieces” that you may have at the end of the week. Soup? Casserole? Pizza?
Plan to use up perishable items quickly, such as berries and greens.
Reduce packaging waste.
Along with food waste, this is a big category of waste for many families. Reducing food waste and packaging are my two biggest goals on my journey towards less waste. Take a look in your trash and/or recycling bin – how many packages do you see? My guess is that there is a lot. There certainly is for my family!
Some ways to reduce packaging waste:
Buy in bulk. This can be done at grocery stores, warehouse stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club, or at local food co-ops.
Bring your own containers to buy items from bulk bins. At many food co-ops, you can buy items such as nuts, grains, coffee, and even maple syrup or liquid soap!
Cut down on single-use packaging. Although these are easy, they can create so much waste! It’s a lot better to buy in larger quantities and divide on your own. Oatmeal packages, applesauce pouches, individually wrapped snacks, etc all add up. This is a big one for us!
Choose recyclable or compostable packaging when possible. At least this way it won’t stay in the landfill forever, it can be broken down and reused.
Buy less packaged, processed foods and make your own at home.
Know the options and rules in your area.
Do you know what is recyclable in your area? Do you need to sort your recycling individually or can you put it all together? Is there an option to compost food scraps? How should you dispose of paint, medicine, batteries, old furniture, etc? You might learn a lot by googling or looking these things up on your city/county website! There are so many Earth-friendly products out there now, but it’s also great to use what you have!
Use reusable options whenever possible.
There are a lot of reusable alternatives out there these days! If you can think of a product, there is probably someone selling a reusable variety. For these I suggest you don’t jump in and buy 20 different products at once, but start slow and choose a few that you think will work for your family. You can always add more later! Decide what you’re comfortable with and go from there.
Some popular reusable options:
Reusable food storage, such as glass containers.
Non-disposable “Ziploc” bags for lunches or snacks.
Reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles.
Refillable applesauce pouches that you fill at home.
Reusable menstrual products – period underwear, cloth pads, menstrual cup.
Washable cloth breast pads instead of disposable.
Cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposable.
Breastfeed instead of formula feed.
Cloth napkins and towels/rags instead of paper.
Reusable coffee cups for both hot and cold drinks on the go.
Reusable shopping bags and produce bags.
Avoid buying things new.
We live in a very waste-driven, consumer-based society where the ideal products are fast and cheap. It can be really easy to order something on Amazon or grab it from Target. Moving away from that can require intentional effort. If we avoid buying something new (or at all), we are cutting a lot of steps out of that product’s timeline. This is a great Earth-friendly habit to start with!
Some ways we can avoid buying things new:
Borrow from a family, friend, or neighbor.
Join a library for books, toys, or tools.
Buy items secondhand. This is especially easy for babies and kids, as there are many parents selling their kids’ too small clothes, abandoned but like new toys, and furniture they’ve outgrown.
Think about it before you buy. Do you have a plan for it? Do you already have something that can serve that purpose? Will you actually use it?
Fix, repair, and mend items when possible.
Donate or sell your items when done with them, instead of just throwing them away.
Drive as little as possible.
Driving is one of the worst things for the Earth, and yet most of us do it every day. In order to be more Earth-friendly, we will often have to make a sacrifice or change how we’ve been doing things. What can you do to reduce the amount you drive? What changes can you make in your life?
Carpool. Can you ride with your friends to the movies? Can you take turns driving the kids to school with your neighbor, or soccer practice with a teammate?
Walk, ride bikes, or take public transportation. These are all great ways to help the Earth and give yourself a boost as well. More time outside and connecting with others can’t be a bad thing, right?! Walking has the smallest carbon footprint, unsurprisingly. But the other options are great too! Replace your usual drive to the local park or library with a nice family walk or bike ride!
Do any of these sound doable for your family? How do you plan to change your habits to be more Earth-friendly? Let me know in the comments! The Earth thanks you!
Learn more about me!