There are millions of different ways to reuse products or materials that we might normally think of as waste. And even when you don’t have the time or motivation to reuse something, recycling makes it easy to avoid sending this waste to the landfill. What many people forget is that reducing waste comes before reusing or recycling on the continuum of truly green behavior. In 2011, resolve to implement at least one of these ideas about reducing the amount of potential waste you bring into your home.
- Pack a zero-waste lunch: Going out to eat or preparing a sack lunch that involves packaged foods costs money and creates waste. Why not avoid the paper, plastic and metal waste altogether by packing your own healthy lunch with reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins? You’ll enjoy cheaper, better-tasting meals, and you won’t need to search for the recycling bin in restaurants and cafeterias.
- Opt for reusable office supplies: Even if you’re careful to buy bamboo pencils and notebooks with recycled content, you’re still bringing something into your home that will have to be disposed of at some point. Think about switching to refillable binders or mechanical pencils that can be refilled with lead. Also, consider ending your office paper addiction once and for all by switching to an all-digital filing system.
- Buy in bulk or concentrates: Think about joining a local food co-op or CSA so that you can take advantage of bulk and package-less buying. When you shop at a co-op or get deliveries from a CSA, you’ll have the ability to use your own reusable bags and containers, eliminating the need to recycle single-use food packaging. Also, look for dehydrated products or concentrates, like juice or cleaning supplies that you can purchase in a much smaller package and then mix with water in a reusable container.
- Share when possible: There are lots of things that we only use once or twice a year. It doesn’t make sense to purchase new versions of these products that will only have to be replaced or recycled. If you need a yard tool, piece of clothing or mode of transportation, think of ways that you can find it without buying it. Consider arranging a clothing swap, a neighborhood tool, book or movie-sharing program, or buying a membership in a car-sharing program like Zipcar.