We do the best we can - we dutifully sort and recycle our trash each week don't we? It seems there's still too much being hauled into the mammoth trash cans each week. You scratch your head and wonder where it all comes from!
Have you ever wished to reduce that landfill-bound trash and lower what's in your recycling bin, too? Here are 6 simple ways to live a more zero-waste life.
1. Ditch the Disposables at Your Table
From paper plates to paper napkins, it's easy to ditch the disposables. Opt for real, honest-to-goodness plates and flatware when serving your meals. Not only will it give a more rich dining experience, but it will cut the cost of buying those things just to throw them away. Add a cloth napkin and you've really got a nice dining experience. Cloth napkins are very inexpensive to buy but they can be made quickly with fabric scraps or even purchased for pennies on the dollar at thrift stores.
2. Paper or Plastic? Neither!
Many people are becoming very aware of the environmental cost of those single-use plastic shopping bags, but are those paper ones really any better? Some people complain that they need those plastic and/or paper bags because they reuse them for one thing or the other.
If you reuse them, then great! But more times than not, you find them accumulating at an alarming rate, many more than you could ever use. So even if you reuse those plastic bags, consider only accepting a small amount of them with your shopping.
What to use instead? I use reusable canvas bags — they're easy for me to remember to bring with me when I go shopping since I unload the groceries from them and then drop them back into my car when I'm done. What about those unscheduled trips for just a few things? I keep a fabric bag rolled into a heavy plastic sleeve (to keep it clean) tucked just beside my car seat. When we make an unscheduled stop, I reach down and grab that bag.
3. Repurpose Items to a New Life
Sometimes just by thinking outside the box you can repurpose things that have outlived their useful life into a new thing with lots of useful possibilities. I've already mentioned turning fabric remnants into cloth napkins — that's a two-fer environmental win: You're using small remnants of fabric instead of throwing them away plus you're replacing those disposable crinkly paper napkins with fancy-schmancy fabric ones.
Turn that empty coffee canister into a storage for small toys like Legos or Barbie clothes. Turn those glass jars into pretty pantry storage for pasta or dehydrated veggies. You can even use glass jars to store your leftovers in the fridge. Leftovers that can be seen are much less likely to be forgotten!
The possibilities are endless, and you've delayed some materials' fast-track to the trash and perhaps delayed or even eliminated a purchase by using what you've already got.
4. Learn to Make It Yourself
Now I know what you're thinking: "It's too complicated" or "I don't have time." Well, I'm here to tell you it's not as complicated as the commercial-product 'powers that be' would have you believe. And if you start small and gain speed, as you gain confidence, you'll find it really doesn't take much time at all.
Start with something quick and easy like making your own spice mix. Take an empty spice jar and mix up your own seasoning mix or taco seasoning and boom! You're on your way. Soon you'll want to try making your own desserts or homemade yogurt. Just start small and expand as you go along.
5. Cook From Scratch
When you buy convenience foods or take-out, you're bringing lots of packaging waste into your home. Learn to cook your meals from scratch and save yourself tons of money in your food budget as well as landfill-bound waste. Don't have time to cook? What about batch-cooking such as Cook-Once Eat twice? Once you get a supply of pre-cooked suppers in your freezer, a homemade meal is heat-n-eat convenient!
6. Compost, Compost, COMPOST!
If you're doing all you can to reduce food waste, GOOD FOR YOU! But there's still one more step you can take for an environmental win — composting. Take those peels and cores, add them to your grass clippings and yard trimmings and toss it all into a compost pile. Properly prepared compost is a power-house in your veggie or flower garden, allowing those plants to capture some of those previously-wasted nutrients while also helping water retention and plant health.
Compost containers can be something purchased such as a tumbling composter or as simplistic as a heap on the ground — it's all up to you. Just mix your compost and keep it turned periodically and Mother Nature will break down those scraps into black gold for your garden for FREE!
These six tips are a quick way to get started but I think you'll find that once you take those first simple steps, the next steps are easier and even more fun — it's addictive.
Tammy Taylor lives and works on a Northeast Texas ranch, where she writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, and DIY living on her ~Texas Homesteader~ blog. Connect with Tammy on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Read all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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