Waste Reduction Household Tips

The average Washingtonian tosses about eight pounds of trash each day. Packaging alone makes up about 33% of all our garbage and about 20% is compostable. The family that reduces waste in the home helps protect the environment. Waste reduction is as important as recycling in saving natural resources, energy, disposal space, costs; and in reducing pollution risks.

Organic kitchen food and yard waste can be composted outdoors, or indoors using a worm bin. Items grown by nature and not changed by man can be composting, even coffee grounds (include the filter) tea bags and eggshells. 

Use a mulching lawnmower when mowing the lawn. Use it to shred leaves and other lightweight yard debris too, simply layer on grass and mow over it!  Leaves and grass clippings can also be placed on the garden or around the roots of trees and plants.

  • Use reusable sponges, rags and cloth towels. Put paper towels out of reach to reduce use. Set up a countertop or wall holder for those reusable items. Be sure to allow them to dry between uses and wash regularly.   
  • Repair/restore used items before replacing them with new ones.
  • Too much junk mail? Contact the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 11 W. 42nd St., P.O. Box 3861, New York, NY 10163-3861. Request your name be removed from commercial lists, non-profit lists, or both.
  • Cancel subscriptions to magazines that you don’t actually read, especially if you could read them at the local library. Give old issues to friends, coworkers, nursing homes, laundromats or libraries.
  • Hold a yard sale or donate the items to charitable organizations.  Don’t throw away usable clothing, household items or toys.
  • Use re-usable bags. Keep re-usable bags in your car so they are available when you need them. Shoppers use over 40 million plastic or paper bags a year. Even better, avoid using one for small purchases. You can carry it and feel good knowing you did your part!
  • Borrow. If you only need to use something a few times a year (carpet cleaner, chain saw, etc.) simply borrow or rent it and save money, storage space and maintenance costs.
  • Give items away. When you are done with items, give them to charity or friends. Not-for-profit groups are always in need of books, sporting goods, toys, clothing and furniture in good condition. 
  • Is it reusable? Schools, children’s programs and other organizations can often use your unneeded items for craft projects or plays. Call them to check or post items for free on  Freecycle Tri-Cities or http://kpr.craigslist.org.
  • Use durable tableware. Reducing the amount of paper and plastic tableware you use can greatly reduce the amount of trash you generate. Use durable (washable) dishes, or rethink the party menu to avoid too many disposables.
  • Reuse disposable cups and tableware. Do you already have plastic cups and utensils on hand and want to use?  Simply wash and re-use until no longer usable.  Make it easy to collect them during a party by placing a clearly labeled wastebasket out as a reminder. Put names on plastic or paper cups so people know which is theirs. This helps reduce the number of cups used or misplaced.
  • Having a large event or reunion?  Set out recycling containers; label clearly and place near garbage cans. You can use empty waste containers, buckets, pails or paper bags. Get the kids involved to encourage their use.
  • Avoid excess packaging when choosing products. Buy products in bulk and only the amount you need. Larger sizes can reduce excess packaging, but smaller sizes reduce leftover waste. Concentrated products also reduce waste, so choose those and add your own water.
  • Reduce toxic waste by purchasing paints, pesticides and other hazardous materials only in the quantities needed or by sharing leftovers.
  • Avoid toxic waste by purchasing eco-safe alternatives or making your own. Products labeled with “warning” “caution” or “dangerous” means they contain toxic material and must be handled and disposed of with extra care
  • Return reusable items.  Wire hangers in good condition can be given back to your dry cleaners for reuse.  Packing peanuts to shipping and mailing businesses, moving boxes back to the mover, etc. Before tossing, simply call the business you received it from or who can use them and ask.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch in a reusable or recyclable container. Be creative – think outside the “box”. Apples, cloth napkins a reusable thermos or container adds little or no extra disposable packaging!
  • Print on both sides of paper.
  • Recycle all that you can from your home or place of business.  If you don’t know what to recycle, call your trash collector or go to their web page.
  • Use a carpool, public transit, walk or bike to extend the wear of cars and tires and reduce car maintenance costs and fluids like gas and oil. 
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
  •  Use an electric shaver or a quality razor with replaceable blades. Americans throw away about 2.5 billion disposable razors every year.