Waste Not Want Not

I have been thinking a lot about waste lately and I am trying to cut down on household and personal waste as much as possible. Living in the desert, we think of water waste on a regular basis, but what else are we wasting that can be put to better use?

What are we wasting and why?

The average American creates 1600 pounds of trash annually, whereas other parts of the world create about 1000 pounds per person annually. One of the most shocking statistics I found was 22% of our household waste and what is in landfills is food waste. How do we cut down on this? It’s tough. I love to cook and we are a 2 person household now. Our son moved off to college and then out on his own 11 years ago and now it’s just the hubs and I. Learning to shop small, cook smaller batches, and use what I make has been an ongoing challenge.

Reducing food waste isn’t as complicated as you think

We can also eliminate waste by composting. Composting is a great way to reduce food waste. You can compost your fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, paper from the paper shredder, and lawn debris. I have been composting for several years. There are several options for composting bins in a wide ranges of sizes, configurations, and price points. Find one that meets your needs and try it! This is the one I own; it is an investment, but you’ll be using it for years. It’s not difficult and you end up with rich compost that is fantastic for your flower beds, vegetable garden, or herb garden. When my composter is full and I am waiting for it to do its magic, or when I have cooked food that can’t go in the composter*, I take that stuff over to my pal Kim. She has chickens that are eating machines! The hens repay me with eggs and we are all happy.

Reduce & Recycle

There is so much more to household waste than just food waste. Single use plastics, like grocery sacks, sandWISH bags, take out containers, junk mail, newspapers, and so much more all add up to massive piles in landfills. I am one of those lunatics that used cloth diapers. I started recycling in 1992. Back then, I had to remove all the labels from the cans & jars, wash all containers, tie newspapers into tidy bundles, and bring everything to the recycling center myself. Now with curbside pick up, it is so much easier. If you are drinking bottled water, think about all the plastic waste. Consider a water service for household use and refillable bottles to take with you when you are on the go.

Changes to the way I shop

Personally, I have been focused on reducing the amount of “single use plastics” that enter my home. This has been a challenge, because often times these items are more convenient. I have been bringing reusable bags to the store for groceries for more than 3 decades. I also use them in Target and when I am at the mall. In addition to not using plastic, they are stronger, can hold more, and are usually more comfortable to carry. Recently I have started bringing mesh bags for my produce. These are cool because you can wash the produce right in the bag, let it drain in the sink and store it in the fridge in the bags as well. When plastic bags do come into my home though, we reuse them whenever possible. They become liners for small trashcans and “poop patrol” when picking up after the pooches, etc.

Reuse

How else can we reduce our waste? One way to reduce waste is to reuse items. During COVID lockdowns we all did takeout when we tired of our own cooking. Styrofoam containers really piss me off. Thankfully a lot of restos are switching to recyclable or compostable paper containers, or reusable plastic containers. I call them “Take out Tupperware”. They aren’t perfect, BUT, if they can be reused (and they are in my house), they are a damn fine option compared to styrofoam. Reusable water bottles or coffee mugs are also great options, but during COVID, many people fell out of this habit. Many places wouldn’t allow you to refill your reusable cups & mugs. (7-11 has ceased allowing refills and Starbucks suspended using your refillable mugs for a time.)

Glass jars are always recyclable, but you can reuse them too. BIL Walt and I always have empty jars in the house for leftovers, storage, or any other use we can think of. It’s a bit of a joke how many glass jars we have. Something else to note, if you are into canning, some jars can be reused for that purpose with the correct lids.

How do you reduce, reuse, or recycle in your everyday life? Share your tips in the comments.

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*I only put raw veg, paper & lawn debris in my composter. In general, household composters do NOT get hot enough to break down meat or bones and they attract vermin. I choose not to put onion, garlic or any of the allium family in my composter because they give off substances that are deadly to worms which help in the breakdown process.