20 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste—And Save Money Every Month
Adapting a waste-free lifestyle not only has the power to save the planet, but also save the money in your wallet.
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Save cash—and the planet
The modern lifestyle requires a lot of stuff...and a great big budget to afford all of that stuff. But even after we acquire all of the things we use on a daily basis—food, clothing, accessories, household items, beauty products—our planet has to deal with all of the consumer waste it produces. The EPA reports that Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash in 2015, contributing to pollution in the short term and speeding up climate change in the long term. The good news is that adopting sustainable practices and preserving resources can help remedy and even reverse the damage done. Here are 20 easy and impactful ways to start cutting waste today.
Put an end to the plastic pen madness
Take a look inside your junk drawer, rifle around your desk, or reach into your kid's book bag. Have you ever wondered how you managed to accumulate so many pens—or where they all go when they're dried up and tossed? With much of the focus on straws, bags, and water bottles, it's easy to forget that disposable pens are quietly contributing to the 8 million metric tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year. The solution? A refillable pen that's too cool to throw away—or even lose. Go ahead and invest in one for each room in the house—you'll still be saving money (and trips to Staples) in the long run. These 50 sobering facts will make you stop using plastic right now.
Trade tampons and pads for period-proof panties
Starting at $34
Your period is practically inevitable. But the 11,000 to 15,000 tampons and pads you'll buy, use, and throw away in your lifetime—and all of the plastic packaging and applicators they're made with—are actually pretty easy to avoid these days. Your easiest option is to invest in machine-washable, reusable undergarments that are designed to soak up your period better than any single tampon could. Thinx panties look and feel like regular women's underwear, but each pair is made with layers of ultra-absorbent materials that can hold even the heaviest flow without leaking (or your money back).
Give makeup wipes and cotton balls the boot
Skincare is crucial, and gently removing every trace of makeup and dirt from your face each day is one of the most obvious ways to maintain your complexion (moisturizing daily is the other). But there's a more Earth-friendly way to wash up, and it doesn't involve tossing tons of single-use wet wipes, which contain non-biodegradable plastic and tend to clog sewers. (Non-organic cotton balls and pads aren't doing the environment any favors, either). The Original MakeUp Eraser is a super soft cloth that's designed to completely cleanse eye makeup, foundation, blush, and more. It can be washed up to 1,000 times and typically lasts three to five years. These are the only items you use every day that have a better, reusable alternative.
Cut plastic pod waste by switching to a sustainable single-brew coffee pot
Bad news for coffee lovers. Those plastic pods that make it so convenient to enjoy your morning brew in an assortment of flavors are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. So after you use them once and ditch them, they stagnate in landfills and waterways. Collectively, we're disposing of billions of these capsules per year, and they're posing a serious threat to the planet. Luckily, appliance brands are rising to the challenge of quenching our thirst for single-serve java by making pod-free coffee pots. Mr. Coffee's HotCup coffee maker—which uses a washable brew basket—is one of the best on the market. These 22 major companies are getting rid of plastic for good.
Curb your sticky note addiction
Sticky notes serve an important purpose: helping you to remember all the little tasks, chores, and appointments you deal with on a regular basis. It's tempting to adhere them to every bare surface available so nothing ever slips through the cracks—but those tiny squares of paper add up to some serious waste (not to mention the damage done to our forests). McSquares Stickies serve the same purpose logistically, but since they're dry-erase sticky notes with a magnetic backing, they stand up to repeated use. The company claims that a six-pack of their product can replace 12,000 single-use sticky notes—and the costs incurred. How were Post-It notes invented, anyway?
End water waste with an excellent low-flow showerhead
Practicing good hygiene comes at a hefty cost to the environment. The average 8-minute shower uses a staggering 17.2 gallons of water—and we're already using about 88 gallons of water per day at home. Installing a low-flow showerhead, which typically pumps out half the amount of water of a standard model, can make a huge difference. The EPA suggests it can cut water waste by 2,700 gallons and $70 per year. High Sierra's bestselling, solid-metal low-flow showerhead saves 40 percent of the water and electricity used in a typical shower without sacrificing water pressure, and the company promises to repair any defects up to two years after purchase.
Mend your clothes instead of buying new ones
When you think of household waste, your wardrobe might be the last thing that comes to mind. But the average American unloads about 80 pounds of old clothes a year—and some of it can take hundreds of years to decompose. To make matters worse, we're investing more and more in fast fashion and shopping a lot more frequently than we used to. It's a wasteful cycle that you can break by buying secondhand clothing and taking steps to increase the shelf life of each item you own by mending instead of replacing. Start with these easy ways to tailor your own clothes.
Stop letting excess food spoil in your kitchen
Starting at $36 per week
About a third of the world's food goes to waste each year. Food suppliers and eating establishments are responsible for some of that waste, but the rest of the responsibility falls into the hands of consumers. Adopting more conscious consumer habits is the first step toward preserving food—and, of course, your grocery budget. Subscribing to a meal planning and delivery service like Plated helps busy families only spend money on the meals they're going to eat, preventing meat, dairy, and produce from expiring before you have a chance to prepare it. Plated works with sustainable farmers and suppliers, too, so you're helping to prevent food waste right at the source. In this country, it's actually illegal for grocery stores to waste food.
Get rid of paper in the kitchen
Paper plates, napkins, and towels—they all need to go. The average family uses two rolls of paper towels a week, which can add up to about $15 monthly. They also go through about 230 paper plates per year. Replacing paper plates and towels is simple: Use plates that are made from reusable materials such as glass and use cotton towels for messes. It just requires a bit more washing. Here are more tips on how to keep a zero-waste kitchen.