Of the three R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle), reducing waste is by far the most important. The average American produces around 4.8 pounds of waste each day and while some of this will eventually degrade back into the earth, most trash will just sit in landfills for hundreds of thousands of years. Here are five ways you can take better care of the environment and reduce waste around the home.
1. Replace chemical cleaners with homemade ones
Instead of stocking up on multiple home cleaners for the bathroom, kitchen, and living room, make your own natural cleaners from ingredients you have at home. Try these three solutions for all-around home cleaning:
Baking soda—Mix four tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of warm water. Pour the solution on a clean sponge and wipe down stainless steel sinks and appliances.
Dishwashing liquid—Combine a drop or two of mild dishwashing soap with two cups of warm water for cleaning natural stone countertops. Avoid using citrus-scented dish soap as the acidity of the soap could eat into the stone.
White vinegar—Add one part white vinegar, one part water, and a lemon rind into a spray bottle and shake the solution. Let it sit for a few minutes before using it to freshen laundry and remove stubborn carpet stains.
2. Cut down on plastic use
On average, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour and produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year. You can reduce plastic use in the home by considering these eco-friendly alternatives:
Take a reusable shopping bag with you to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Stop buying plastic water bottles and use a stainless steel water bottle.
Buy a set of reusable napkins instead of using paper towels that come wrapped in plastic.
Use a bamboo toothbrush—these brushes need to be replaced about every three months and can biodegrade back into the soil.
3. Repair your appliances instead of replacing them
If you have an appliance that’s starting to break down, try to make repairs before throwing the appliance away and getting a replacement. Making repairs may be more time-consuming, but electronic waste can have negative impacts on the environment and your health when improperly disposed in regular landfills or illegally dumped.
If you really need to get rid of your appliance, check to see if it’s covered by a home warranty or a product insurance plan. Most warranties will cover repairs for appliances that have broken down due to normal wear and tear—if this is the situation you find yourself in, you’ll be able to fix your appliance, prevent material waste, and save hundreds of dollars in the process.
4. Switch to paperless subscriptions
If you have piles of magazines and newspapers that just sit by your door once you’re done reading them, consider canceling your subscription. If you still want to keep your favorite editorials, opt for an online subscription—this will reduce the amount of paper waste you create and still allow you to enjoy your news. You can also go paperless by signing up for electronic bill statements.
5. Learn to compost at home
Compost enriches the soil, increases water retention, decreases erosion, suppresses plant diseases, deters pests, and reduces the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Use food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste to create a compost pile in your backyard. Add your materials to a plastic bin. When the material at the bottom of the bin gets dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use.