Waste Not, Want Not – A modern Guide to Reducing Your Waste

I was scrolling through Instagram the other day. I scrolled over a former college classmate’s picture, where she had recently been in Italy, and she snapped a photo with those strange, Velcro-hooved-ballerina-goats climbing up a near vertical wall. She talked about how fulfilling it was to travel so light, as she was actually *knitting* her clothes for the subsequent week’s travel. If memory serves me correctly, she was recently in Thailand and wrapped her snacks up in some sort of edible leaf as a baggie as she hiked.

Ok. Let’s unpack this for a minute.

My lovely friend has a motivation that I… don’t know that I’ll ever have, ripping leaves off trees to hold my cashews. Also, I don’t know that I’ll ever be in a situation where I need to knit my clothes as I go. Did they teach knitting at PSU?  I know they taught beerbrewing and tennis as extras. Not sure about knitting. Having said that, now more than ever, I think people are starting to ask themselves what we can do to reduce the waste we produce and how we can take small steps to cumulatively make a difference. If you’re out there thinking that you alone can’t impact a major reduction in producing waste, consider these facts (found at EPA.gov):

  • The US generated 262.4MM tons of municipal solid waste in 2015, which averaged nearly 4.5lbs of waste, per person, per day.
  • Paper and paperboard products are the largest % of things discarded, totaling about 25.9% of that
  • 137.7MM tons of waste were landfilled, with food making up  about 22% of that
  • In 2015, 34.5MM tons of plastic products were generated, coming from packaging and other containers

What can we do about this? To start, there’s a few substitutions you can make around your home that, over time, can greatly reduce these numbers.

 

Reusable straws

If you haven’t seen the video of that person pulling a green Starbucks straw out of a sea turtle’s nose, you’re likely not as bothered by the rest of the world. I don’t particularly care about needing to use straws, but I do love the metal straw I bought from a local natural foods grocer a few years ago. For those that think that sipping coffee through a straw helps prevent your teeth from yellowing…. This is also a myth. If you’re not looking to haul around a pointy metal straw, Amazon also sells collapsible straws that fit just about anywhere. Happy sipping!

 

VEHHE Stainless Steel Straws, 4 Pack – Brush and Storage Bag – $3.99 Amazon

Collapsible BPA-Free Silicone Folding Straws with Case – 2 pack – $4.99 Amazon

 

Reusable Shopping Bags

This is one of the seemingly easy but also difficult things to stick with. Over the years, I’ve accumulated likely two dozen of those reusable bags from Whole Foods that I shove in my pantry, my car trunk, my coat closet. I have fold-up bags I make sure I keep in every purse. This is a habit that’s hard to break, but if you put into perspective how many plastic bags you use when you shop, it really adds up. Here are some of my favorites.

 

Foldable Reusable Shopping Tote Bags – 10 pack – $14.99 Amazon

 

Baggu Reusable Bags – 3 pack set, $36 – Baggu.com

 

Replacement bags for Ziplocs 

I used to use Ziploc bags for marinating, storing food to go, or bringing snacks to work. I would try to save them and reuse them every few days, but then I couldn’t remember what was in which bag, and it started to get kind of gross. Cue these bags…. They’re BPA free, wash and dry easily, and they don’t take up much space. I love them.

 

Scouts Silicone Reusable Storage Bags – BPA Free $20.95, set of 4 Amazon

 

Beeswax Kitchen Wraps 

I’m in the kitchen a LOT. I often make larger quantities of food than I can eat in a day, so I’m loading up bowls or baking dishes and putting them in the freezer. A few months ago, I started using beeswax wraps for my cold storage. Beeswax is antimicrobial, can be washed with cool water and an eco-friendly dish soap, and can be reused for up to 2 years if cared for properly. I bought my wraps locally from the farmers market, but she has an online store. Other vendors I’ve found are women-owned or Fair Trade certified or tied to another NGO/non profit in support of environmental or humanitarian initiatives.

 

Bee Our Guest beeswax food wraps – multi-size 3 pack, $20 Etsy

 

SuperBee Food Wraps – $14.99 and up Amazon

 

Reusable Keurig Filter

OK… I boycotted getting a Keurig for a long time – it was easy to blame my non-coffee-drinking ways before, but I was met with an eye roll each time I’d mention that it was insult to injury that something so expensive also produce so much waste. Also, I’m not entirely sure what goes into manufacturing each plastic cup, but I knew I’d be drinking it. Cue this glorious little filter! It’s a BPA-free plastic and is made by Keurig, so you won’t run into any “this is not a real K-Cup so it doesn’t work, sucks to be you” message on your coffee maker. It’s foolproof for people like me who can’t make coffee properly – all you do is scoop roughly 2 tbsp into the pod, plop and brew as normal.

 

My K-Cup Universal Reusable Pod Coffee Filter – $8.79 – Amazon

 

There you have it! This is a great start to reducing your waste from your kitchen and every day life. Taking extra steps to reduce, reuse and recycle is a great way to help keep your environment clean, use less resources and reduce your carbon footprint. Cheers!

-S

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