Our family is pretty busy, and we have often found ourselves depending on convenience. This meant that, in our home, disposable products and plastic packaging were everywhere.
When George and I made the decision to try to reduce waste, it was pretty intimidating. Individually wrapped snacks, purse-sized packets of hand creams, and tiny bottles of baby “essentials” were all things I loved to hoard!
If you are aiming to reduce waste in your home, that’s great! It’s definitely a challenge, but keep reading to see my suggestions for easing the transition!
Figure out where you create waste in your home.
In order to reduce waste, you really need to know where it is all coming from! The easiest way to assess where and how your family is creating waste, is to go from room to room with a checklist. Take notes and create a small catalogue of any single-use products, products packaged in plastic, cheap items which frequently need to be replaced, and any other disposable products you currently use.
For example, in our home some of the biggest culprits were / are:
- individual snacks (granola bars, applesauce pouches, etc),
- “Swiffer” refills and disinfecting wipes, and
- all forms of kitchen packaging (sandwich baggies, tinfoil, plastic wrap,etc)
This process will give you a complete, and often shocking, picture of the waste being produced in your home. Another benefit with this step is the chance to see the amount of money you are tossing to the curb!
Use up what you have, then replace with a reusable option.
Once you have made the decision to drastically reduce your family’s waste, it can be hard not to jump right in. But if you’re like I was, and you’ve got an open box of tissues in each room, half-rolls of paper towels in five locations around your home, and a few open containers of those ever-convenient disinfecting wipes, it can seem like a step backwards to ditch them just to start the reduced-waste life!
My suggestion? Just use up what you have. Finish off any open boxes, containers, or rolls of disposables, and then look ahead to your reusable solutions. This gives you time to research your options, and to ask for opinions from those around you who may have already made some big changes. It also provides an oportunity to gradually build your arsenal of reusables. If you will be purchasing items second-hand, you will often need a bit of extra time to find what you need.
Whatever way you phrase it, whether it’s minimizing, decluttering, or simplifying, this step is crucial for success! This is an ongoing project for my family and the more progress we make here, the more success we have with our waste reduction.
There are many reasons why a cluttered home (and calendar) gets in the way when you are trying to reduce waste. The biggest hurdles for my family have been the following:
- If your home is overflowing with stuff, you really aren’t able to get a clear picture of what you have. This creates the cycle of buying items you don’t really need, not being able to find the items when you really do need them, and then heading back to the store to repurchase those items all over again.
- Being surrounded by clutter and chaos absolutely has an effect on both your motivation and on your energy level. For my family, a messy home often means we will be ordering pizza or other takeout. One of the major sources for garbage, for us, comes from food packaging. This could absolutely be reduced by cutting back on delivery!
- If you constantly find yourself rushing to get to appointments, play-dates, and practices, without the downtime needed to plan and prepare, you drastically increase the likelihood of reaching for those convenience items that are terrible for both you and the environment.
By creating the time, and space, needed to plan ahead, it becomes much simpler to bring along healthy snacks in your own reusable packaging. This will end up saving both money and the Earth while you go about your day!
Be conscious with all new purchases.
Now that you’ve put in the hard work assessing and simplifying your home, don’t let it all go to waste as soon as you get to a store! (see what I did there 😉)
Here is a list of a few key things to consider before making any new purchases:
- Do I really need this?
- Is this something I need to purchase new, or can I get it second-hand?
- How is this item packaged? Is there a way to get a similar item, but with less (or ideally no) plastic packaging?
- What is the environmental impact of this product? Is there a reusable option available?
- How, and where, was this item produced? Do the practices align with my values?
- Is this something that can be purchased locally, either handmade or by a local business?
- Can I make a similar product myself, or do I know someone who can?
One thing that has really helped curb my shopping has been to establish a clear set of values for myself. For example, I really want to avoid products that test on animals! So now, when I am shopping and I see a really beautiful nail polish, the first thing I look for is whether or not the company has the “Leaping bunny” symbol. If it doesn’t, I put the polish back on the shelf and walk away! Really, I would probably never have actually used it but, in the past, I still would have spent money I didn’t have on a product that would just end up in the garbage.
This doesn’t work every time, but being more conscious with your shopping can really help to reduce waste in your home. I wrote more here about being a conscious consumer!
Really, no matter where you are on your eco-journey, these steps can help you focus and move forward! Do you have any other tips for starting out? I’d love to hear how you are making out in your home! Leave a comment below or fire me an email ❤