8 Ways to Reduce Waste at Home to Save Money & the Planet

Simple, actionable ways to reduce waste at home and on-the-go that help the planet by lowering the amount of garbage sent to landfills, and save you money at the same time. 

8 Ways to Reduce Waste

Products IN, garbage OUT.

Imagine the typical home in the United States. Each week bags full of groceries and household goods come in the front door and each week large bags of trash go out the back.

Even if you are buying healthy, organic food, non-toxic cleaning products and natural beauty & personal care, there’s still a lot of stuff coming in one door and eventually out the other.

I’ve heard from many of you who want to prioritize reducing waste in your home. You want to stop this cycle of stuff cluttering up your home and eventually heading for the landfill. We know it’s terrible for the planet and frankly, too much stuff makes us feel out of control and unhappy.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to reduce your garbage output, without drastically changing your lifestyle. All it takes is a bit of preparation and a mindful outlook toward what you bring in the front door in the first place.

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Benefits of Reducing Waste

FACT: The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day.  That’s over 1500 pounds per year – a crazy amount!

So you can imagine how the environmental benefits of creating less waste are huge. When you create less waste you are lowering the amount of stuff sent to landfills or the incinerator, which in turn reduces greenhouse gasses and creates less pollution.

FACT: 9 million tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. And 40% of that plastic is single-use. What a waste!

Read up on a few more statistics on the plastic waste crisis and you’ll want to reduce your plastic use immediately. The less plastic you buy, the less will end up in our oceans, waterways and in landfills.

FACT: For every one garbage can of waste you put out on the curb, 70 garbage cans of waste were made upstream in factories to create the stuff in that garbage you put out on the curb. (Source: Story of Stuff)

The amount of energy and materials required to create the products we use is something we don’t often think about. Using fewer products and less packaging can lead to lower pollution around the world.

FACT: Making a conscious effort to reduce waste can save you money.

For starters, buying from the bulk bins is usually cheaper than buying packaged products because you aren’t paying for the packaging and brand marketing. And when you buy only what you need – whether it’s food, clothing or other household goods, you aren’t wasting money on things that aren’t bringing value to your life.

One additional thought – depending on where you live, you might be able to switch to a smaller garbage can or even go down to one garbage pickup a month, which can lower your utility bill. Another win for a zero-waste lifestyle!

Zero waste swaps checklist

Is Zero Waste the Goal?

Zero waste is a popular term these days. You’ll find it splashed all over internet and popping up in books like Zero Waste Home or Zero Waste Kitchen. I even have some blog posts on the topic: Zero Waste Alternatives to Plastic Wrap and Zero Waste Swaps in the Bathroom

Aiming for zero waste is a great aspirational goal but almost all of us (especially those of us with kids), will still have some garbage going out. Personally, I view zero waste as more of a guiding philosophy but not the specific end goal.

Zero waste is a shift in mindset to being a more eco-conscious consumer. This mindset helps us evaluate what we buy and bring into our homes in terms of its effect on the planet.

The real goal is to reduce the waste you kick to the curb each week and know that everything you do makes a difference!

Garbage can - How to Reduce Waste at Home

How to Reduce Waste at Home

I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure

Whether you are well on your way to a green & healthy lifestyle or are just beginning to make changes to live more naturally, there are many simple changes you can make to reduce the number of bags of garbage you carry out the back door to the garbage each week.

Read through these tips for reducing waste and see how many you can start implementing right away. Keep track of your garbage output and see how low you can go! Then leave a comment with your zero waste wins and what has worked for you so we can all learn from each other!

1.  Buy Reusable, Not Disposable

Invest in durable, reusable products instead of wasteful disposables.

2.  Buy Products with Less Packaging

Reduce the amount of packaging waste you throw out by simply not bringing it home in the first place.

RELATED: Tons of Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic Use in Home & Life

glass jars with food

3.  Refill It!!

Fill up an old container instead of buying a new one.

  • Buy food from the bulk bins by bringing jars or bags from home to fill with nuts, beans, flour, granola & more.
  • Pay a deposit on a glass milk jug and bring it back to be refilled when you are finished.
  • Purchase cleaning products that are refillable like Grove Collaborative or ATTITUDE.
  • Look for refillable beauty products like shampoo, lotion or liquid soap at your local co-op or health food store.
  • Refill printer cartridges instead of buying new.

4.  Repurpose

Use something you already have instead of buying something new for the job.

  • Old t-shirts and towels become absorbent rags.
  • Plastic yogurt tubs are great for holding crayons, paintbrushes, nails etc…
  • Keep shoe boxes for storing old papers or favorite mementos.
  • Egg cartons are perfect for separating craft supplies.
  • Buy gently used clothing from thrift stores or consignment shops.
  • Shop your basement or storage locker before buying something new

Zero waste swaps checklist

5.  Be Selective

Don’t take it if you don’t need it!

  • Think twice before you buy (Here’s a whole post about How to Buy Less because that’s a whole different subject!)
  • Take a pass on freebies that you really won’t use.
  • Don’t buy it just because it’s cheap!

6.  Compost Food Waste

Turn food scraps into valuable dirt for your garden!

Discover more ideas for a zero waste kitchen here!

Recycling on kitchen counter - How to Reduce Waste

7.  Recycle Everything You Can

Go beyond curbside recycling and commit to recycling as much as you can.

  • Office supply stores often take printer cartridges and old cell phones.
  • Turn in old sports shoes for recycling at participating stores or Soles4Soles.
  • Fundraising programs like Terracycle take used drink pouches, yogurt cups and snack packages and turn them into useful household products.
  • Bring dry cleaning bags & hangers back to the dry cleaner.
  • Donate old pillows and blankets to the Humane Society.
  • Donate used clothing to Goodwill or similar thrift stores.
  • Research how to recycle anything at Earth911.com.

8.  Be Prepared

Keep reusable items in strategic places to keep you from wasting even more.

What have you done to reduce waste at home? I’d love to hear your wins in the comments!

green & healthy wishes Micaela signature


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  2. These are great tips! We do some of this. We live in an apartment that doesn’t have recycling pickup. Still I take it over to the center every other week. We also have a worm bin for compost and we get some of our food from the bulk bins and farmers market. We also don’t use disposable anything. Our weekly garbage that goes out to the curb is usually a small 3 pound bio-bag. This amazes me and yet I know we could still be making smarter purchases. It’s always a little troubling to see so many packaged foods go into my reusable grocery bag. I even have a little song I sing “I brought my own bag so you could put a bag in it…” Like everything, it is still a work in progress.

  3. MamaWendy says:

    Those are really great ideas – thanks for sharing! I’ve been happy with my own recent refill idea at home. I buy a big bottle of liquid castile soap and use that to refill my self-foaming hand soap dispenser. I only need to fill it 1/4 or less with soap and the rest with water. Cheap and simple!

  4. Very impressive. This post is interesting and useful indeed. I learned so many things from this that’s why I wanna thank the admin. I will book mark it for further info and research.

  5. Recycling is very helpful. Those plastic bags we take home are usually good for something else. These tips can serve as initial guides for people who are just getting into recycling. It’s time to save Mother Earth.

  6. Great article – I’ve just started recycling etc they say we are never too old so here goes – you’ve enlightened me. Thanks

  7. Composting, by far, made the biggest dent in my trash! I couldn’t believe it! We are a family of five and have one bag of trash per week – at most. Of course we were recycling everything we could before that.
    The other tip I have is to reduce your junk mail. It not only saves paper, but saves your time and sanity!

  8. Pingback: Top 10 Green and Eco-Friendly Blogs of 2014 | voiceBoks - The Voice of Parenthood
  9. Pingback: Reducing Waste | From Around the Web » Valhalla Movement
  10. Great tips – thanks. Here’s another: use solid soap for sinks and baths/showers, rather than the liquid soaps that come in bottles. They’re mostly water anyway, right? Solid soap bars can be cute and even wrapped in paper. Better even than the refillable liquid stuff, which inevitably comes in plastic anyway.

    Let’s ask our own mothers and grandmothers what they did during the depression and before plastic took over our lives. 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing! I usually wrap the children’s christmas gifts in strong and fancy wrapping paper, but use ribbons instead of tape or glue. That way I can reuse all of it next season. They already learned not to tear it apart 😉

  12. Thanks for this list! Great ideas and I’m *really* glad to see you putting recycling near the bottom. In my work, I often find that people think “going green” is all about recycling and unfortunately, that’s where many people stop. Reducing our consumption and reusing is so much more important, because we don’t have to worry about the resources that went into something that we didn’t buy/use in the first place!

    1. Yes, I agree Terra! We can reduce so much waste by simply being mindful of what we actually need.

  13. This is a great list! I started caring a fold-up reusable bag in my purse — and it’s come in handy more than once! I also reuse bottles from my fractionated coconut oil and glass jars from food etc. for other things. I get so excited when I can reuse something! 🙂 Also, I just added you to my green blogger round up post this week. I just love reading your posts and information! Thank you so much for getting this info out there!

    1. Yay! Great job reusing things! And thanks very much for including me in your roundup Amanda!

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