Did you know that the United States has the highest amount of waste generated per person of any country at an average of 4.6 pounds per day? Or that there is 8 million tons of plastic into seas each year? There is even a “Plastic Island” twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean created by dumping waste into the ocean and over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic ingestion. It’s absolutely horrible.
Of the estimated 251 million tons of consumer solid waste generated each year in the U.S., approximately 32.5 percent of the trash is recycled or composted, 12.5 percent is burned and the remaining 55 percent is buried in landfills. Landfills are reaching capacity on a regular basis, which leaves towns and countries to find new ways to deal with the growing waste problem.
We can make a difference, every single of us, and even by doing little changes. Everything you do matters. Start making changes today.
Here are 14 ways on how you can reduce kitchen and plastic waste, and help to make a difference in the world.
- Bring your own bags
Bringing your own reusable bag at the grocery store is one of the first steps you can do. Each year, around 100.2 billion plastic bags are used by Americans. This is absolutely inacceptable. Make a conscious effort to bring your own bags every time. Get a few and always leave some in your car.
- Reusable food wrap
For food storage, reduce or eliminate the use of plastic wrap by opting for reusable beeswax wraps. You can find them in most health stores nowadays, or online like on Amazon. Bee’s Wrap is also a great company that sells those. Reusable food wraps come in many sizes and they look pretty. If you are a DIY kind of people, you can even make your own.
- Reusable sandwich and snack bags
Instead of using plastic bags like Ziploc for every snack and sandwiches you make, get reusable ones. Again, they can be found on Amazon, Target, Walmart and most health food stores. There are many companies that make them, and they look super pretty. Kids love them.
- Glass jars and containers
Glass jars are staples in every zero-waster’s toolkit. They’re washable, reusable, and recyclable. Use them instead of plastic containers.
- Reusable water bottles
Plastic bottles take thousands of years to decompose. Avoid buying water bottles, especially the small ones, and make a difference by using your own reusable water bottle. Nowadays, you can get gorgeous bottles made with material like stainless steel, glass and copper. You can even use it for juices and smoothies.
- Reusable coffee cups
Did you know that 5 billion of cups are thrown away every year? Paper cups are unfortunately not recyclable because of the plastic liner and coffee contamination. Get yourself a nice reusable coffee mug. It will keep your coffee (or tea) warm longer too. It also makes a great gift.
- Reusable straws
It’s really time to say goodbye to plastic straws and welcome reusable straws made in material like stainless steel and bamboo. They are a terrific way to reduce plastic use. Plastic straws can’t be recycled and it’s one of the most common items found in ocean trash, which harm the environment and kill aquatic sea life. In the US, there is an estimate of 500 million straws used per day.
Recycle as much as you can – paper, plastic, juice and milk cartons, glass, cardboard, aluminum and steel. You simply need to rinse them so there is no food residue on them. Note that products like plastic bags, toys, clothes, coffee cups, ceramics, light bulbs, bubble wrap and shiny wrapping paper cannot be recycled so you may want to be conscious about your purchases.
Did you know that a single American consumes roughly two trees annually in paper products only?
- Reduce paper towel use
Instead of reaching for paper towels all the time, learn to use a cloth or a sponge. They have really good ones out there that will do the same job without the waste. Paper towels are made from trees and most of it ends up in the landfills. If you need paper towels, get the recycled ones and know that it can be composted.
10. Grow your own food
Growing your own food produces almost no waste and is one of the best ways to have fresh, nutritious food easily accessed from home. If you have limited space, try square box gardening. You can even join a local community garden. It’s also a lovely activity to do with children of all ages.
Learn to compost. Educate yourself. You can compost vegetables and most fruits, but also corn on the cob, egg shells, olive pits, onions skins, crusts from bread, lobster shells, seaweed, coffee bags, coffee filters, coffee grounds, tea and loose tea leaves, paper napkins, hay, old herbs and spices, pet hair, wood chippings, leaves, grass cutting, weeds, old flower arrangements, kitchen rolls, and paper towels and tissues.
12. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk reduces packaging and saves you money. You can even bring your own bags and jars to produce no waste at all.
13. Only buy what you need
We have a tendency to over consume but the truth is that you can always go to the store and get whatever you need so try to buy consciously and get only what you know you will really use. Otherwise, try to wait and see if you will need later.
14. Donate what you don’t need anymore
Get creative and give to others what you don’t need, whether it’s excess food from your garden, clothes you don’t use, toys your kids don’t play with anymore. Share with your neighbors, schools, communities, etc. Help to make a difference.
Am I missing any other ones? Please comment below with any other suggestions.