Unfortunately for me, I am far from perfect in any aspect of my life. When it comes to consumerism, I have my lapses. I get the urge to shop and buy stuff just like anyone else. Thankfully, my diminished bank account limits my purchases, but I also usually have my wits about me to remind me that much of what is marketed out there is unnecessary for me and my family, despite how beautiful some of those things are. When I look around me, I see that I really do have most of what I need. Everything else is a cherry on top.
With most purchases that people make, there comes an additional cost other than the one on the price tag. The additional cost we all pay is the one of waste in the form of garbage from packaging and end-of-life disposal. Waste, and how we deal with it, is costing us the health and future of our communities globally and locally.
Because I care about the earth, the people, animals and plants on it, and the future of our kids, my family and I have developed some useful habits which we have incorporated into our daily routines. Here are the top ten things we do to keep the amount of waste my family creates, including recyclables and garbage, to a minimum.
10 Ways to Reduce Waste
- We take care of our things so they last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often.
- We gratefully accept hand-me down toys, clothes, sports equipment and house-hold items. These come with no packaging but do come with their own stories to tell, if only they could talk.
- We avoid malls, which are full of tantalizing products for us to purchase.
- Before I make a purchase, I ask myself, “Do I/we really need this? Is it biodegradable, reusable or recyclable? What will I do with it when it is no longer useful to me/us?”
- We buy used, if practical. Craigslist and similar sites are great for this.
- I carry cloth shopping bags with me in my purse and in my car. In the same vein, I reuse my washed plastic produce bags at the fruit and veggie market.
- I purchase and cook whole foods when possible, and keep processed food purchases, which come packaged, to an as-needed basis.
- For the kids’ school lunches, I reheat leftovers from dinner and put them in thermoses to keep the food hot, creating zero waste.
- We also carry our own re-usable water bottles and coffee mugs with us wherever we go. If I’ve forgotten to bring my own mug and I’m at a coffee shop, I order my coffee in a ceramic mug and stay to drink my coffee.
- Even when not at home, don’t be shy about recycling and reusing. Kid’s team BBQ’s and parties can generate so much waste! We now bring compost bags and recycling bins to all team parties and everyone is fine with sorting and recycling .
I try not to get depressed thinking that the earth gets a little sicker with all the celebrations that must go on every day. Instead, I focus on the positive difference I am making, and get emotional encouragement from seeing zero-waste events.
I have come to the reluctant realization that I can’t change people’s environmentally damaging habits, but I can lead by example and create awareness.
What are your top 10?