Look in your trash bin. C’mon, really look. What do you see? Knowing what your family is throwing out is key to reducing the amount you contribute to the landfill. Is there a lot of paper in your trash? Food scraps? Plastic? Here are a few tips on how to make a significant dent in what goes from your house into the hungry jaws of the garbage truck each week.
Clean Paper Waste
Don’t hit “print” if it’s not absolutely necessary. Use both sides of the paper. Donate magazines to hospitals, nursing homes, fitness facilities, and the like, so lots more people can read them before they are eventually recycled. Train your family to put newspapers, old school papers, and empty cereal or other boxes in the recycling bin.
Yucky Paper Waste
If you’ve done all the things mentioned above, you’ve already reduced your paper waste considerably, but what can you do about the paper that’s not wanted by recyclers, like used paper napkins, paper towels, dryer sheets, and facial tissues?
Napkins: Get out of the habit of setting the table for every meal with a fresh clean paper napkin for each person. Lots of unused but crumpled napkins end up in the trash at table clearing time that way. Instead, put a basket in the center of the table and let people grab for a napkin only when chins actually need wiping. Better yet, use cloth. Cloth napkins can be purchased cheaply and reused indefinitely. You can even make them inexpensively by hemming squares you cut from fabric remnants. They can be a fun, colorful addition to your table, and they won’t really add that much to your laundry.
Paper towels: Reduce waste by purchasing the kind that is perforated every 6 inches or so, rather than the standard 11 inches or so. This way you can take only as much as you need and reduce waste. Better yet, eliminate paper towel waste completely by setting aside your older, worse-for-wear dishtowels and hand towels to clean up messes with; then wash and reuse.
Paper plates: If your cupboards aren’t already full of microwave safe cookware and dinnerware, invest in some so you don’t have to use paper plates for this purpose. If you really hate doing dishes to the point where you often rely on paper plates, try reducing the amount of dishes you have to wash by eating your salad on your dinner plate instead of dirtying a separate salad bowl or plate. You can also “save your plate” and use it for dessert if it’s not too messy from dinner.
Try Some Hankie Panky
Grandma used hankies, laundered them and used them again–why can’t you? Of course, this suggestion is not for the germ phobic, chronic allergy sufferer, or for that one or two times a year when you are hit with an inordinately wet head cold. But for occasional sneezing, a cold weather runny nose, sad movie weeping, and laugh-until-you-cry nose blows, maybe a pretty hanky could replace that giant wad of tissues that’s going to end up in the trash.