At the beginning of January, I was starting to feel irritated by how many times A WEEK I was taking the trash out. How can a family of four generate this much waste? I asked myself. We hadn’t been recycling (I didn’t think my apartment had a recycling dumpster, but I was wrong), and in our third floor apartment, I figured composting wasn’t an option, and I was getting discouraged.
I love the earth. As a Christian (and as a human), I believe we should be much more concerned about our earth than we are. I believe God gave humans the earth to steward well, and I think we’ve done a really terrible job, don’t you? In recent years, I lost my focus on sustainability amidst a sea of disposable diapers, plastic snack bags, and trash sacks.
I watched this video from Buzzfeed and it was a source of inspiration to me. I decided my family needed to change, and there wasn’t a single good reason not to make a more concerted effort to reduce our waste.
Three solid reasons WHY you should reduce waste at home::
1. Reduce waste to save money
Any up-front cost on reusable items will eventually save you money. For a couple minutes, think about all the money you spend each year on trash bags, Ziplocs, cling film, tin foil, paper plates, plastic silverware, diapers, paper napkins, freezer bags, etc. These are things that we buy with the end purpose of throwing it away. For someone who likes to live frugally, when I realized that throwing these things away = throwing money away… I could not stay on board with that.
2. Reduce waste to do your part
I try to abide by the campsite rule: to leave everything better than I found it. While I know for a fact the earth will not be better off overall when I die than when I arrived, as much as I can, I can try to do my part. Our kids need to see us doing our part, as well. The average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day! This is 1.6 pounds more than most produced back in 1960. Where does it all go? Approximately 55% of 220 million tons of waste generated each year in the United States ends up in one of the over 3,500 landfills (read more). Anything less than trying my best would be irresponsible.
3. Reduce waste and involve your children
There are a lot of great ways you can get your children involved in your sustainability efforts. Check to see if your local recycling center offers tours. Take them to the dump. Make a worm farm to show your children about vermicompost. Help them learn that all of our STUFF has a lifecycle.
Here’s HOW my family is reducing waste
1. Recycle everything we can.
- We use the recycling dumpster provided by my apartment complex. My girls’ school also started “tinker Tuesdays”–a fun new way to approach learning through open-ended play and creation with tinker boxes. They called out to parents for donations of toilet paper tubes, containers, egg cartons, milk jugs, which was PERFECT for me because I got to give up some of my recyclables so that kids can learn. Win win win
2. Cloth diapering.
We’ve been happily cloth diapering since Iris was 3 months old, and we love it. For me, the #1 reason I cloth diaper is to save money (but the added bonus of being more sustainable is wonderful). I get a big kick out of washing a week’s worth of diapers and knowing I’ve saved $7, give or take. There are lots of resources out there about starting cloth, but I recommend Fluff Love and Cloth Diaper Science on Facebook, or the Fluff Love University website.
3. Reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags.
You can get reusable shopping bags pretty much anywhere, and they’re great for everything: road trips, packing kids clothes to stay overnight at grandma’s, going to the pool or beach, getting books from the library, whatever! I also bought some reusable produce bags from purifyou on Amazon. They are SO MUCH BETTER than those flimsy plastic bags you get at the grocery store. They make my produce last so much longer in the fridge, and you can toss them in the washer with the rest of your laundry. You can also use them to wash your delicates/kids socks to keep them separate from the rest of your laundry.
4. Reusable napkins and cloth paper towels.
I have napkins from World Market that work with the aesthetic of my kitchen. A few years ago, I sewed some “unpaper towels” that we still use to clean, polish, and wipe up spills. Imagine if your paper towels lasted multiple years instead of ending up in a landfill after a couple weeks.
5. Use a menstrual cup.
I bit the bullet and got a DivaCup. I haven’t used it yet but I am excited about NEVER BUYING FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS AGAIN!
6. Buy in bulk.
A great way to reduce waste is by avoiding as much product packaging as possible. If your grocery store has a bulk section, use it to buy pasta, beans, rice, nuts, snacks, and more. Save your old pasta sauce jars or buy some mason jars to fill them up at the store.
This is a fancy word that just means “worms eat my garbage.” It was incredibly simple to make a small worm farm in a plastic tub that sits out of sight in my living room. I bought a pound of worms from Texas Worm Ranch and made them a little home with some soil, newspaper, and egg carton. Every couple days, I give them some compostable food bits that include egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and more. And you know what? They eat it, and they love it. The worms’ waste from this diet creates an incredibly nutrient dense soil material I can sprinkle over my potted plants and everybody wins.
8. Reusable pouches.
If your kids are like mine, they probably thrive on those little fruit pouches you can buy at the supermarket. We bought a set of reusable food pouches from Squooshi. Not only are they 110% adorable, we save a lot of money by making our own purees that the kids love. They’re also great for yogurt or apple sauce, and you can save more money buying those in bulk as well.
9. Silicone freezer bags.
Yet another fantastic reusable option. Dishwasher safe silicone freezer bags will eliminate your need to buy freezer bags ever again. This is one where the up front cost is a more but you will save money in the long run.
10. Reusable snack and sandwich bags.
Yet another thing you can eliminate from your shopping list: ziploc bags for snacks or sandwiches. There are all sorts of brands that sell cloth bags, silicone bags, and other options. Check out (re)zip by Blue Avocado.
11. Make your coffee habit sustainable.
12. (BONUS) Washable trash bag.
Some people who are really hardcore let their trashcan go naked. I am not so brave, but by both recycling and composting, I’ve noticed our trash is much more manageable. We were already using a washable 13-gallon bag as our cloth diaper pail liner, and I thought “could I use one of these for my trash?” The answer is YES!
What are the ways that you reduce waste in your home? How do you teach your children about sustainability? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments!