Featured, Tips/Articles,

Green Resolution: Reduce the Size of Your Waste

Dec 21 2017

Share on Social Media


A new year marks a time for many of us to set a goal for the upcoming 12 months. A focus on a new or revitalized effort to better ourselves in some way or another. While many folks are sweating it out at the gym trying to lose a few pounds, consider focusing on a different kind of waste.

The Most Important “R”

Rob Greenfield wore every piece of trash he made for 30 days to build awareness around our culture of disposables.

The average American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. While the knee-jerk reaction may be to recycle more, and donate items for reuse, that isn’t the focus of this goal. This year, we urge you to focus on the first, and most important, of the 3Rs: Reduce.

Reducing your waste is not just about keeping resources out of landfills. While recycling is a vital component of sustainable resource use, it isn’t the silver bullet to our resource consumption woes. Recycling is a process that requires resources to transport, break down and remake a product,  albeit fewer than something made from virgin materials. Consider all the infrastructure that must be in place for a recycling system to work – trucks, massive sorting equipment, shipping containers traveling overseas and back – it’s a complex chain.

Reduce: Your Choices Matter

What does reducing look like? Purchasing a high-quality item that only need be produced once and using it indefinitely like a reusable water bottle or bag, a cloth napkin, or durable shoes. Reducing means avoiding unnecessary items such as disposable straws or plastic cutlery and pausing to consider a purchase before buying — Is there an option with less packaging? Do I really need it? How durable is it? Is it something I could borrow? Reducing entails buying only the food you’ll realistically be able to eat before it spoils. It doesn’t log nearly as many miles as recycling. It may sound like a very limiting practice but it can also be empowering. It’s a reminder that every choice you make is important and matters.


Moving Towards Zero-Waste

Luckily, there’s a growing movement towards zero-waste to support you in your efforts. There’s no shortage of inspiration or community online for anyone looking to reduce their waste. While you may not ever be able to fit years’ worth of trash in a mason jar, building habits towards lighter living has huge potential to reduce your impact on the planet and the people and creatures that call it home. In the end it isn’t about perfection, but progress.

The 5Rs of Zero Waste

10 Zero-Waste Habits to Reduce Your Impact

Basic zero-waste swaps.

You don’t need to tackle these all at once. Take on one or two and work on those until they are second nature – then tackle a few more. Before you know it, your waste will be slashed.

  1. BYO Reusable Water Bottle – use your bottle when traveling, to replace take-out cups and more.
  2. BYO Coffee Mug
  3. BYO Bag: reuse bags from the store, DIY, or get some high quality bags that you can use forever.
  4. BYO Produce Bags: same as above.
  5. Choose items with less packaging when making a purchase (e.g. buy loose produce rather than those in bags/containers)
  6. BYO Container to the restaurant for leftovers.
  7. Use Reusable Cloth Napkins & Towels
  8. Buy in Bulk (and BYO container, of course)
  9. Repair before you replace – shoes, appliances, and clothing can all have a lot of life left after you fix them
  10. Refuse: straws, plastic silverware, condiment packets, freebies

Reduce where you can but of course keep up your recycling and composting efforts. If you’re looking for more of a total revamp, google “30 Days to Zero-Waste” for a month-long daily dose of zero-waste challenges.

Helpful Links:

Zero-Waste Home

Zero-Waste Chicago

The Story of Stuff

Zero Waste Chef

Why Zero Waste Matters. Litterless.

Facebook Group: Journey to Zero-Waste

Are You Ready To Do Your Part?

Volunteer Donate