“Out of sight, out of mind” all but sums up today’s approach to waste management.
Each week, we dutifully place our trash cans on the sidewalk and watch as they’re magically taken away to some far-off place we’ve never seen. Since we don’t live with our trash, it’s easy to pretend like it isn’t a problem.
But it is a problem. A big one, actually. According to the World Bank, the world generates more than two billion metric tons of municipal solid waste each year.
Most of this garbage is dumped in a landfill, where it produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Adopting a low-waste lifestyle can go a long way in helping to reduce our growing garbage problem.
Unlike a zero-waste lifestyle, in which people completely eliminate their trash output, low-wasters focus on reducing their trash in more realistic ways — like shopping with reusable grocery bags and ditching liquid shampoo for plastic-free shampoo bars.
Going low-waste isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Don’t believe us? Here are 10 simple, sustainable ways you can reduce your trash output and embrace a low-waste lifestyle.
Try a shampoo bar
Shampoo bars are getting a lot of positive attention lately, and rightfully so. These solid sudsers are great for your hair, wallet and the planet.
Unlike liquid shampoos that come packaged in lots of unnecessary plastic, shampoo bars are often wrapped in easily compostable or recyclable paper packaging. Plus, they last longer than liquid shampoo and are typically made without sulfates, parabens and other controversial ingredients.
Want to eliminate another plastic bottle from your shower? Follow your shampoo with a plastic-free conditioner bar.
Stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle
Staying hydrated is obviously important, but who says that your water has to come from a single-use plastic bottle?
Ditch the single-use plastics for a reusable water bottle that you can refill at home, work or the gym. Just a heads up, though: Reusable water bottles can get gross if you don’t wash them regularly.
If you’re not a fan of handwashing, make sure you get one that’s dishwasher safe!
Avoid plastic bags
Several states and jurisdictions around the country have enacted single-use plastic bag bans and, frankly, more states need to follow suit.
Like all single-use plastics, plastic shopping bags are terrible for the environment. They pollute our waterways, clog up landfills and generate greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of their life cycle.
(All that waste for a bag that’s used for, what — 15 minutes, maybe?) Kick the plastic bag habit for good by keeping a couple of reusable grocery bags in your car at all times. By keeping them in your car, you’ll never forget your bags at home.
Stop buying takeout
We know, we know — takeout is super convenient and delicious. But like most convenient things, takeout simply isn’t good for our planet.
All of those disposable cups, utensils, lids, condiment packets — they’re destined for a landfill. And then there’s the plastic to-go container itself, which is often placed inside another plastic bag.
To lower your waste, consider eating at the restaurant. Alternatively, you could package the food at your table in a reusable container and take it to go.
Buy in bulk
If you’re lucky enough to have a bulk bin aisle at your local grocery store, take advantage and stock up on package-free foods whenever possible.
Not only will this lower your household waste, but you’ll also save money in the process! Don’t have any bulk bins where you live? You can still buy the product in bulk sizing.
In addition to reducing plastic waste, buying in bulk also reduces the number of trips you need to make to the grocery store.
Embrace secondhand style
Got a passion for fashion? Rather than buying brand-new clothing from fast fashion stores, shop for secondhand clothing at local resale stores.
Shopping at thrift stores is a fun way to discover cool and unique pieces. You’re also buying clothes that are already in circulation, which is better for the environment.
Integrate low-waste products into your beauty routine
When it comes to being low-waste, chances are your beauty routine could use some improvement. Each year, the beauty industry produces 77 billion units of plastic packaging, most of which ends up in a landfill.
Why not switch to low-waste products that help reduce your carbon footprint? If you use cotton rounds to apply toner or remove your makeup, switch to reusable cotton rounds that can be washed and reused.
Shopping for new makeup? Opt for refillable products that help reduce single-use packaging.
Not-so-fun fact: The EPA once estimated that Americans throw away two billion plastic razors each year. This number is likely even higher today. But don’t worry!
You don’t need to give up your preference for buttery-smooth skin — just switch to a more sustainable option, such as a safety razor.
Made from quality materials like brass and stainless steel, these old-school razors are built to last and feature refillable blades that are typically recyclable.
Tap into your DIY-side
From wooden dish scrubs to reusable cotton swabs, low-waste products seem to be everywhere these days. But on the off chance you can’t find a suitable low-waste alternative, consider making your own.
Everyday household products such as toothpaste, cleaners and makeup remover are relatively easy to whip up at home and can help you save money in the long run.
Reduce food waste at home
Food waste is a big contributor to climate change, producing six times more greenhouse gas emissions than the global aviation industry. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to reduce your food waste at home.
Make a grocery list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that isn’t on the list. If you make too much food and can’t get through your leftovers before they go bad, store them in the freezer.
Also, shop local! Not only does locally-produced food have a lower carbon footprint, but it also tends to stay fresher for longer. There are also better ways to store your snacks than traditional Ziploc bags, which means you can still bring your food on the go without producing plastic waste in the process.
See? Embracing a low-waste lifestyle isn’t as hard as you probably thought! Start putting a few of these tips into practice and you’ll be well on your way to low-waste living.