Waste is one of the most pressing problems that humanity needs to tackle. With more and more people getting out of poverty, waste will continue increasing if we don’t find ways to change how it is currently managed. In this post, we are going to talk about how we can reduce solid waste.
So, how can we reduce solid waste? The famous 3 words are important here: reduce, reuse, and recycle. It is estimated that the United States creates 4.51 lbs. of solid waste every day, so it’s so important that everyone does their part in reducing solid waste.
Depending on the setting, there are plenty of different things that we can do to reduce our waste and help the environment.
How Can We Reduce Solid Waste?
The unfortunate reality is that there the average American sends over 1,000 lbs. of waste over to landfills or incinerators, which can have a significant impact on the environment. The good news is that there are some basic things that we can do to help reduce our waste and protect our environment.
Reduce food waste
One of the biggest things that you can do is to reduce the solid waste that you create is to reduce your food waste. Food waste is arguably one of the most common types of solid waste found in landfills. There are some things that you can do about reducing food waste.
First, do your groceries with a purpose to only buy what you actually need, avoiding buying duplicates of items. This way, you will not buy items that you don’t need and that might end up getting bad before you use them. While this might seem like a very silly tip, it does really help. This way you will not only reduce the waste you create, but you will also save money because you will only buy what you need.
The best way to do this is to prepare a list beforehand. If you are tech-savvy, there are a lot of apps available that will help you create, manage, and share your grocery lists. If you want to go a step further, you can even plan what you are going to be eating for the whole week (if you shop weekly), so you can make your shopping even more precise.
No matter how much you prepare in advance, you will have leftovers sometimes. Maybe one day you are not too hungry or life gets in the way. To solve this, try to find creative ways to use your leftovers. They could be added to the following meal, for example.
It’s also important that you store the food properly so that you can keep it longer. For example, make sure you keep in the fridge things that are supposed to go in the fridge. Also, look for ways to store other items in order to make them last longer. For example, this article explains how to keep the bananas from going brown.
Lastly, you can try composting the leftover foods for your garden, grass, or plants. Composting is getting more and more popular. An even more interesting option is vermicomposting, which basically uses worms to transform your food waste into excellent soil for plants.
Utilize reusable products
In addition to food waste, another big source of solid waste is using one-use products. By changing these to reusable products, you can significantly reduce the amount of solid waste you produce.
A small but significant thing that you can do is use reusable shopping bags when you go shopping. This will reduce the plastic and paper bags that you use. Reusable product bags should be easy to find no matter where you live, in-store, or online. This can actually have a major impact on the amount of waste caused by grocery shopping.
Another major way to reduce waste is by skipping bottled water if the place where you live has drinkable tap water. If that is the case, get a nice reusable water bottle to hydrate on the go.
Another tip is to use reusable storage options for food. You can, for example, buy options like reusable sandwich and freezer bags for storage or silicone baking mats instead of aluminum foil. You should also try to buy foods that have little or no packaging, which is also a great step to reducing waste.
These are just some of the biggest ways that you can help to reduce solid waste. Let’s have a look now at how can we reduce waste in specific environments in our daily lives.
How Can We Reduce Solid Waste at Home?
When you are trying to reduce the amount of waste that you create, one of the easiest and best places to start is right in your own home. You can reduce the waste you use in your home and garden by following these tips:
- By composting, you can add nutrients into your soil that will help your garden, plants, and even your grass grow better. You can compose yard waste, food scraps, and various other types of organic waste to help your lawn and garden look much better.
- Leaving the grass clippings on your lawn when you mow. This can reduce waste in a landfill and return some nutrients back to the soil after you mow.
- Turn off the lights during the day when you don’t need them and even unplug them. You could also consider using smart lights to control the brightness to save energy or lights that are motion sensor so that they will only turn on if people enter the space.
- Have a tag sale to get rid of old clothes, toys, or other items. This can prevent the amount that you need to throw out while also getting you some extra money.
- You can donate items as well if you don’t feel like having a tag sale. This can help you give back to those in need and you can even get a tax deduction for the items you donated.
- If you are moving, try using old newspaper to wrap your fragile items.
- Use reusable cloths, mops, and sponges when cleaning to reduce the items that you need to throw out. You can also reduce waste when cleaning by using only the amount of cleaning products that you need.
As you can see, you can start making a difference in waste by reducing the waste you use at home. Some of these things can also save you money.
For instance, if you use reusable cloths to clean, you won’t spend as much on items like paper towels. You and your wallet can feel good about reducing solid waste around the house.
How Can We Reduce Solid Waste at Schools?
Just like anything else, teaching things to kids while they are younger can really help them develop good habits in their future. This means that by having programs in place to reduce waste at school, you are inspiring and teaching the kids how important it is to reduce waste.
You can also teach them habits that they can take home with them to reduce waste both inside and outside the school. Here are some ways that schools and their parents and students can reduce waste:
- Rather than spend money on new school supplies, see what can be reused from last year. This will save you money, especially when you see items that were barely used.
- Look carefully at the items that you are purchasing for back to school as many are made from recycled items.
- Save any items that you can around the house to use for school projects, like shoe boxes or egg cartons. These items often do come in handy and will save you money from buying supplies for these projects.
- If students bring lunch to school, they should use reusable items. This includes using a reusable lunchbox, thermos/water bottle, and any packaging for the food.
- When students grab their lunch, encourage them to only get the napkins and utensils that they need, not any more than that.
- Recycle, cans, milk cartons, and bottles after that have been used.
- Encourage recycling in the classroom, such as recycling bins for paper waste instead of using the trash for paper.
Schools can be a major source of waste, which is why creating programs that encourage recycling can be a great idea. These programs include a composting program and recycling program in the school.
You can also consider school events like a uniform swap so that parents can donate used uniforms and other parents can get the uniforms that their child needs without spending a fortune.
If you would like to know a bit more about how can reduce waste (not only solid) in schools, be sure to have a look at our post “How Can We Reduce Waste In Schools?“.
How Can We Reduce Solid Waste at the Workplace?
The workplace is another massive source of solid waste. Whether you are an employee that wants to make a difference or a boss trying to figure out how to be greener, the following tips can get you started with reducing your business’ solid waste:
- Instead of printing documents, email them to yourself or save them so that you can read them later on.
- Set the settings on your printer to print double sided pages. This will save you money on the amount of paper that you need for your printing. You can also set the printer to “fast draft” and use a smaller font as a way to save ink.
- Try to use online payment options wherever possible to pay your invoices.
- Consider using paper clips rather than using staples.
- Reuse any envelopes with the metal clasp, putting a new label over the old one.
- Reuse paper folders by putting new labels over the old ones.
- Have a recycling bin by each desk or in a convenient and central location to encourage staff to recycle items.
- Try to purchase recycled paper.
- Buy equipment that have the Energy Star logo to save on your energy costs and conserve energy.
- Buy used or recycled items for the office.
When you start green initiatives in the office, this can not only help you reduce the waste within your workplace but it can also help inspire your workers to take these habits home with them. The ultimate goal is to spread awareness of how we can reduce solid waste and do our part to help the environment.
How Can We Reduce Solid Waste in Your Community?
What better way to come together as a community than to reduce waste? Everyone in the community can do their part to reduce waste, which can not only help the environment but can help make your neighborhood look better. You can start programs and activities in your community to encourage your neighbors to do their part. Some ways to help reduce solid waste in your community include:
- Donating your old technology like tablets and computers to the local schools. This helps the schools provide technology that they may not have been able to afford without these donations.
- Donate any used but still working items like televisions.
- Have a drive to donate smartphones.
- Start an event on Earth Day to clean up the community.
- Run a recycling drive at a local center. Redeem the bottles and cans to donate money to charity and donate items like books to local schools and other organizations for those in need.
- Create a composting program for the neighborhood. The compost can be used by community members for their gardens or it can be sold to give the money back to the community.
The community can each do their part to give back to the community while reducing their own solid waste.
Can We Reduce Solid Waste When Traveling?
When you are traveling, you may be creating waste that you aren’t even considering. Understanding how to reduce solid waste when traveling can make you more aware of the waste that you are creating. Some things that you can do to reduce waste when traveling include:
- Use reusable bottles of water to drink from.
- Consider using public transportation when possible.
- Make sure that you clean up after yourself when visiting a park or beach.
- If you need to replace your car battery, take it to an auto store to recycle it or dispose of it. This is better for the environment and necessary to ensure the items are safely disposed of.
- Make sure the air filter in the car is clean as this can impact your car’s fuel consumption. Saving fuel can help your wallet and the environment on your next trip.
- If you need to travel for work a lot in your area, consider purchasing an electric car and try charging it from renewable sources.
Why is it Important to Reduce Solid Waste?
What you may not know is that there are financial benefits to reducing waste in addition to the many environmental benefits. When you shop with a purpose, only buying the items you need instead of duplicate items that lead to waste, you can actually save money on your grocery bills.
You can also earn a little extra money when you recycle cans and bottles at redemption centers. There are a couple of ways on how you can financially benefit from reducing waste.
Then, there is the environmental side of things. You are reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and incinerators, which is better for the environment.
Landfills are a huge source of water and air pollution, so reducing the waste that goes to landfills will help the planet. You are also helping to reduce the need to manufacture new materials when you recycle, so there is less energy used in the manufacturing process. When you recycle things like plastic and aluminum, these items can be recycled and reused to make other plastic and aluminum goods and you can conserve our precious resources.
Reducing solid waste is so beneficial to yourself and the world, which is why it is so important to make it a priority.
What are Some Problems with Reducing Solid Waste?
As great as reducing solid waste can be, there are some problems that people face when dealing with this. One of the biggest problems that people deal with when it comes to reducing solid waste is the fact that recycling can be a more expensive option than just throwing items out. There are extra costs for recycling to pay for labor, transportation, and production.
This leads to recycled products costing consumers more money. You also have to spend more money on things like reusable shopping bags, rather than the free plastic bags you get in stores (if your stores still offer them).
The easiest way to promote change for this would be to have an environmental tax on items that are damaging to our surroundings. This idea has been discussed for a few years already, and some countries have started to implement it.
Despite the problems that may be caused by reducing solid waste, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Reducing waste is one of the biggest challenges that we have in the next years. Solid waste is a big part of that problem and, with the tips we have given above, you can start helping to solve the problem.