by Katie LaFond
Step 3: Get Serious About Reducing
- When you throw things “away,” remember that there is no such thing as “away.” Where does it go?
- Rinse the trash you DO throw away, so that your barrel does not smell, and you can go longer between using a new (often plastic) trash bag.
- When possible, buy things in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging you’re also buying with the desired product. You can bring a cotton produce bag for bulk items.
- Make a list of everything that goes in your trash and recycling, and determine one thing each week you can stop buying that makes trash. Packaging accounted for much of my
waste. Buying things in bulk and at the local farmers’ markets (I’m lucky enough to have both summer and winter farmers’ markets) cut down on much of the packaging I brought home and immediately threw away.
- It often seems cheaper and easier to just “buy a new one” for example, the drip trays underneath the burners on your stove. They can get really gross! It’s tempting to throw them away and put new ones in, but be aware of the hidden costs to yourself and the world… Soak them in baking soda and water overnight, and clean them. The more often you wash them, the less work it is.
- Water usage: turn it off! Even in water-rich areas like the Northeastern US, using water requires energy to run the pump, the water heater, etc. When you brush your teeth, don’t let the water run. I like to fill up a glass which I use to wet and rinse my toothbrush. Using a cup of water, as opposed to a gallon, makes a difference. When shaving, put a little water in the bottom of the sink instead of letting the water run.
- Consider showering by running the water just long enough to get wet. Turn it off, soap up, and then turn it back on for just long enough to rinse. If you enjoy the feeling of soaking in warm water, consider a long bath. (If you’re indulging in a bath, make it worth the water usage: relax for a half hour or more.)
- Make sure when you are doing laundry, do a full load. Doing half a load of laundry uses almost as much water and energy, but be aware; overstuffing your washer is also inefficient.
- Get into “shabby chic.” Freecycle and craigslist are a great way to make sure your unwanted items stay out of trash heaps. Acquiring the things you want and need using Freecycle or similar is also a good way to support the reusing effort. Older items can work just as well, and can add a rustic look to your house.
This is part four of a thirteen-part series by Katie on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth. You can read more here: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse).