Why Waste Minimization is Important:
Did you know that Americans makeup 5% of the world’s population but creates 30% of the world’s garbage? [1] With the rate at which we consume and throw things away, it’s no wonder how the United States fills up roughly 18,433,779,281 cubic feet of trash in landfills per year and why we are experiencing trash-littered beaches from the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. [2] In its current state, our throw-away society contributes to the seemingly never-ending waste problem. Our consumption of goods is a function of our society and inevitably can’t be avoided; however, there are many ways you can help minimize your waste output and be a part of the solution.

 By minimizing your use of single-use plastics and encouraging those around you to do the same, you will be helping to significantly reduce the amount of trash filling up our landfills and oceans.

10 Ways to Reduce the Use of Plastic

10 Ways to Reduce the Use of Plastic

1.  Bring a reusable shopping bag with you
It is estimated that 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually and only 1% of those plastics are returned for recycling at grocery stores and recycling centers. American throw away roughly 100 billion plastic bags annually which is 307 bags per person. [4]
Make the switch to reusable shopping bags to cut down on the amount of plastic bags being used. Reusable shopping bags aren’t just for groceries and most of them are only 99 cents.

2.  Refuse plastic straws

Half a billion plastic straws are used every single day. [3] Some restaurants have started not providing straws to customers unless requested. For restaurants that still provide straws, make sure to catch your waiter beforehand and let them know not to give you any straws. If you still prefer to use a straw, switch to reusable alternatives such as paper, steel and glass straws.

3.  Use a reusable water bottle
Using reusable water bottles seems like a no-brainer but 50 million plastic water bottles are purchased by Americans every year. By purchasing and using a reusable water bottle, you could be eliminating roughly 160 plastic water bottles annually. [4]

4.  Pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of plastic bags
Instead of packing your lunch with plastic bags, use reusable containers. You’ll save money in the long run, too!

5.  Avoid snacks/food with excess packaging
It’s hard to avoid when purchasing groceries but opt for items that don’t have individually wrapped items inside plastic packaging. Also, purchase reusable produce bags. Oftentimes, fruits or vegetables have a natural protectant, such as orange and banana peels, so skip the bag altogether.

6.  Cut out plastic cutlery
When ordering take-out, often times the restaurant will provide you with plastic cutlery. Make sure to ask for no plastic cutlery and use your reusable cutlery at home. Additionally, you can purchase a reusable travel cutlery set to take with you anywhere you go.

7.  Cardboard > plastic
A general rule of thumb is to choose cardboard over plastic. Cardboard can be more easily recycled, unlike plastic, and will biodegrade over time.

8.  Use a bamboo toothbrush
Jump on the bandwagon and switch to a bamboo toothbrush! It may not seem like it, but plastic toothbrushes adversely affect the environment. One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown out every year and will never biodegrade, remaining in the environment forever. Bamboo toothbrushes can be used as long as plastic ones, about 3 months, however, they are much better for the environment because they biodegrade within 6 months. [3]

9. Ditch microbeads
Microbeads are small pieces of plastic that are used in products to exfoliate and cleanse. These small plastics end up in the ocean and marine life mistakes them for particles of food. Switch to natural exfoliant alternatives such as salt or sugar scrubs and avoid purchasing products that contain microbeads.

10.  Switch to digital
In the age of digital media, it is more environmentally friendly to consume your news online, by watching TV or listening to the radio than by receiving a daily newspaper (wrapped in plastic) or printed magazine subscription. Also, ask your employer to send digital pay stubs and complete your banking online. The average American household can cut down on 6.6 pounds of paper each year by switching to digital. [3]

 Have you been dying to try out refurbishing old furniture like on those design shows or creating a Pinterest worthy do-it-yourself project? Well get started! Reusing and repurposing old furniture and materials not only is creative and decorative, but is beneficial for the environment and reduces the amount of waste being put in landfills.

Reuse & Repurpose

Here are some creative ways to reuse and repurpose items around your home:

1.  Glass Jars & Containers
Reuse those mason jars and clean empty food jars for bulk food items such as rice, noodles and cereal. Additionally, use those jars for office organization for items such as paper clips and pens as well as for bathroom organization. Get creative with it! Glass jars can also be a fun way to store leftovers or can be repurposed as hip drinkware.

2.  Newspapers, Magazines & Paper Bags
Have old newspapers or magazines laying around the house? Use them for wrapping paper or make a DIY envelope! Paper bags can also be repurposed as book jackets to protect your books and textbooks from wear and tear.

3.  Old Furniture
Instead of purchasing new, see what’s around your house or at local thrift stores that can be refurbished with a fresh coat of paint and new handles or reupholstered! Not only will you be saving money, you will be salvaging old furniture from ending up in a landfill. Have an old dresser or table you’re looking to get rid of? Donate or sell it to a thrift store or consignment shop. Odds are, someone else can make use of it!

4.  Donate Old Clothes or Make Something New!
Do you have any old clothes that don’t fit anymore or you just don’t find yourself wearing? Donate them to a thrift store! Someone else can wear them. On the flip side, start shopping at thrift stores! You never know what hidden gems could be waiting for you. Thrifting clothes is extremely environmentally friendly. Making one t-shirt takes roughly 713 gallons of water. [5]


 Recycling is one of the simplest ways to get involved with sustainability. As a general rule of thumb, cardboard, paper, food boxes, mail, beverage cans, food cans, glass bottles, jars (glass & plastic), jugs and plastic bottles & caps can all be recycled. When recycling, make sure all items are free of food and liquids. Plastic bags, electronics, clothes, compact fluorescent light bulbs, batteries and so much more can also be recycled, but not in curbside bins.

Check out for recycling rules and restrictions in your area and for locations to drop of non-curbside recyclable items.

How you can make a difference

How you can make a difference

You can make a difference by picking up trash that you may see on the beach, on our nature trails, or even just on the street. Keeping trash out of areas where wildlife has easy access to it helps prevent unnecessary harm. Additionally, reducing your everyday consumption of waste by using sustainable alternatives and recycling all recyclable materials can make a huge difference in the amount of waste filling up our landfills.