7 Ways to Reduce Waste At Home: Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

June 26, 2017

7 Ways To Reduce Waste At Home: A Guide To Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

7 Ways to Reduce Waste At Home: Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

Last week I talked about how to start zero waste grocery shopping. I got a great response from readers interested in making changes and a few comments about how these types of posts have prompted thoughts around zero waste practices in their own homes. I think it’s fair to say that reducing food waste and a zero waste home are definitely linked. Once you start consciously thinking about what you’re throwing into your compost, it’s hard not to notice what you’re throwing into your trash. However, being at the beginning of both these journeys, I get that the process may seem a little daunting at first.

Where do I start?

What do I need?

Do I really need anything?

How do I make the biggest impact without driving myself crazy in the process?

And that’s where these 7 ways to reduce waste at home come in. These are some of my favorite tips for buying smarter and greener to live more simply and save money!

Reusable Bags Are For More Than Just Grocery Shopping

I brought the reusable produce bags, I talked about a few post back, with me to our local bakery this week. Every time we go (which I’m embarrassed to admit is often), I get a paper bag for our pastries, a tissue to handle the food and a cup for my coffee, usually with a sleeve. Honestly, that’s a lot of waste for one breakfast.

This week, I brought my own bag. I used my bag to grab for my pastries so I didn’t need the tissue and I brought my own coffee cup. I was getting coffee for a friend too and didn’t have another reusable mug, so I bought her’s a mason jar. The bakery happily filled it with coffee, it had a lid to avoid spillage and it kept the coffee warm for 2 hours.

7 Ways to Reduce Waste At Home: Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

A little bit of forethought went on long way that particular morning.

Used Arts Supplies

7 Ways to Reduce Waste At Home: Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

A few weeks ago we stumbled on a little shop call The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland that sells used art supplies. I’m talking mountains of stamps, buttons, scissors, ribbons, fabric, colored pencils/crayons, even party supplies. The place might look like a disaster at first glance but if you love all things creative than this place is amazing, albeit a little sad.

I thought about all the stamps, etc. sitting there that someone thought were so needed at one point or another just for them to end up discarded. If this isn’t a textbook case for thinking twice before you buy I don’t know what is. Regardless, this company’s mission is amazing. I love that everything is being upcycled.

Noe has definitely reached a drawing phase. But I’m trying to get smarter about what we buy new vs. used. We bought her an easel off Craigslist a few months back that needs a new roll of paper. I plan to head over there in the next few days and see if I can’t just find one. Used easel, used paper = cheaper and greener.

7 Ways to Reduce Waste At Home: Buying Smarter, Greener + Cheaper

I know there’s a place just like this in Boulder and one in San Francisco so if you’re in need of art supplies on the cheap and green, look for second-hand art supply stores around you.

Thrift Stores

I’ve never been afraid of thrift stores. Yes, they require a little rifling and a bit of time. But it’s always been fun for me to find those gems. Don’t be shy about hitting up a Goodwill, Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange or any other amazing second-hand store in your area.

We have a Goodwill on the way to our gym. From time to time I pop in to see if they have any little dishes for food photography or cheap children’s books (they usually have tons for under a dollar).

The other day I found a used wooden step stool. It was exactly the kind we had just been talking about buying for Noe to help her reach the sink. It was super cheap, wasn’t plastic and was a discarded item that’s now found a second life in our home. On that trip I also found a brand new Bob Running Stroller. We didn’t need it but it just goes to show that you never know what you’ll find.

My best piece of advice with second-hand stores is don’t go in looking for something in particular, it’s not Target. But with an open mind you can discover amazing finds.


That brings me to Craigslist. Half of our home is furnished with Craigslist purchases, from the easel I mentioned above to our dining room table to our dresser and night stands. Furniture is easy to come by here and often heavily discounted.

Three tips:

  1. The best stuff usually pops up after Christmas when people are trying to make room for their new goodies or right after school ends (especially if you live in a college town like we do).
  2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. The worst that can happen is they say no but often people are so anxious to unload their goods that they’re willing to drop the price if asked. With that said, make sure you check the owner vs. dealer button. Dealers stuff is usually more expensive, often new and they don’t negotiate nearly as much as owners.
  3. Search under brand names. People tend to categorize their items under store names like West Elm, Cost Plus, Crate n Barrel. It’s a fast way to search for things that match your style.
Shop Used Kid’s Stores

There are a ton of second-hand stores in our area that specialize in kid’s clothes. They also have shoes and other baby items like strollers and chairs. I’ve had a lot of luck getting very specific items for Noe at second-hand shops. Her adorable pink raincoat, that was almost brand new, came from a wonderful use clothing store nearby.

Kids can be really hard on their clothes, luckily, these aren’t the ones that show up in these places. The buyers tend to be picky so it’s often the clothes that kid’s outgrew too fast, wore only a few times or flat out refused to wear. If you have a little one, look into used clothing stores for kids. The prices are really good, especially for jackets, shoes and specialty items like tutus, Halloween costumes, etc.

Use Up Your Cosmetics + Beauty Products

I don’t know what it is about new but we love it. Opening a new lotion before the old one is done, having two conditioners in the shower, looking in the medicine cabinet to see three open hair gels (Michael!). Part of reducing waste is using all of what we have, which slows down our need for more.

Turn the bottle upside down to get it all. Cut open the toothpaste tube to get out the last bits. Wait to open the next soap until the current one is gone. These may seem like small things but just like throwing out good chocolate doesn’t make sense, neither does tossing the last of a product.

And if you really want to get every last drop of something, put a teeny bit of water in the bottle and swish it around with the product you have left. Then you know you’ve used it all. This works especially well with liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners.

Buy What Makes Sense

I’m not saying we shouldn’t buy things. I’m just saying let’s be smarter about it.

If you need reusable produce bags then by all means buy them!

If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, find one you’ll be willing to tote around with you.

Need a water bottle to replace your plastic ones, I just discovered the S’well Stainless Steel Water Bottle for myself and Noe has two of these Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteens which are great for stroller rides and school lunches.

Sometimes you need to buy something new to fill a void that’s causing you to create waste in the first place.

I sincerely hope these tips make sense and inspire you to think outside of your conventional shopping habits.

Your suggestions are always welcome and appreciated. Comment them below!



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