Environmental Sustainability

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Waste Not: Reducing personal waste is an individual’s way to help our planet

Benefits 3

By Tricia Mirchandani

The health of our planet makes headlines every day in ways that, individually, we have little control over. The good news is that, policy changes aside, greening your little corner of the world can have a tremendous effect on the overall planet.

Haven’t thought about reducing your personal waste before? We’ve broken down a few ways to get started and a few more ways to really take things to the next level.

 

Beginners

If you’re not already doing these things, don’t fret but start now! Most of these can be incorporated into your life today.

  • Identify recyclables – Find out what your country recycles and then start doing it!
  • Switch to paperless billing – Most credit card, utility, and other bills you receive can be electronically delivered and paid. Login to each individual account and set your account to paperless billing to cut down on all of the envelopes, sheets of paper, paper checks and even stamps that cycle through your home. And, while you’re at it, unsubscribe from unwanted catalogs to cut down on your junk mail.
  • Keep an eye out for excessive packaging and avoid:
    • Individually wrapped items. Buy the large cereal box instead of the smaller individual boxes and, when possible, buy in bulk. Need smaller portions? Repackage into reusable containers once you get home.
    • Products wrapped up more than they need to be. That notebook doesn’t need all that shrink wrapping, does it?
    • Packaged items that don’t need packaging. Does a hammer really need to be wrapped up in plastic when you buy it?
  • Drink tap water – You know how we feel about bottled water!
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Advanced

Got the basics down? Up your waste-reduction game.

  • Think before you print, buy, write, and then, reuse – Write grocery lists on the pack of used paper (or go electronic!). Visit your local library or invest in an e-reader to keep up with your reading habit.
  • Invest in reusable – Just about everything you use regularly can be reused. Start by getting yourself a reusable water bottle and set of canvas shopping bags. Move onto silicone muffin tins for your baking and reusable mesh coffee filters for your morning caffeine. Replace paper towels with cloths and buy refillable pens and mechanical pencils for your office.
  • Green your kitchen – Be on the lookout for new ways to use the food and water flowing through your kitchen. Convert your leftovers into new meals before they go bad. Think of alternate uses for the water you use to boil pasta or wash vegetables, such as watering plants, before you pour it down the drain.

And Beyond

Ready for even bigger waste reduction? Here we go.

  • Start a compost heap – Enjoy the double benefit of keeping food waste out of the system and providing extra rich food for the plants around your home which, in turn, will create a healthier environment for you and your family.
  • Switch to reusable containers – Beyond reusable water bottles and lunch packaging, research options in your community for getting normal groceries, like milk, in containers that you can return for reuse.
  • Let this new perspective into every aspect of your life – Once you get going, you’ll likely realize that there are ways to green every area of your life, even spaces you never thought of. You could invest in a pressure cooker for shorter cooking times and less energy use. Switch to cloth gift bags for holidays and birthdays to reduce paper. Find place to recycle or donate unwanted clothes, toys, books, and even cell phones and gadgets so that those items don’t end up in landfills. The possibilities for reducing personal waste are truly endless.
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