Michael calls me a hippie. I think it’s because I make my own almond milk and save scraps of vegetables for stock and because I’m always bugging him about turning off lights and recycling cans and turning off the water. I grew up with parents who were strict about that type of stuff. I remember my dad flicking off bedroom lights as he walked down the hall and my parents had recycling bins before recycling was cool. Now that I think about it, they also had a compost heap in the corner of the yard, so ahead of the times! This influence gave way to years of trying, if even just a little bit, to reduce my waste. You don’t need a whole spiel on why this is important and I know there are a million other ways I could be cutting my carbon footprint but today I’ll share a few simple waste reducing tricks that I implement in my own daily life. None of the items below are earth shattering or difficult to do and once you start approaching your life through this waste reducing lens it’s hard not see how wasteful daily life can be.
-Get a reusable cup, I know, not earth shattering but are you doing it? I love this cup from Copco. I have two and use them all week as I travel between the house, the studio and work. But if you don’t have a mug or forgot yours, at least refuse the sleeve on your coffee. 9 times out of 10 I don’t need the sleeve. My coffee is not hot enough or I’m getting right into the car and setting the coffee down. Gloves are great built-in sleeves during the winter. Just take the sleeve off and hand it back. I do this all the time.
-Speaking of coffee, if you’re adding cream or sugar, don’t use one of those little wooden spoons to stir it. Just swirl your cup a few times, admittedly this works better when just using cream, sugar is a little trickier. A coffee shop around us also uses pieces of uncooked spaghetti as stirring utensils instead. Naturally biodegradable.
-Manage your groceries. In Boston I would save receipts and tack them to the fridge. As we ate our food I would cross it off directly on the receipt. It’s fascinating to see what you waste. I would then add the food we wasted each month to an ongoing spreadsheet. Seeing everything in one place made it easy to see themes. We were always wasting basil (so we planted some) and because I was the only one eating bread, buying a big loaf of fresh bread didn’t make sense, instead I started buying individual rolls.
-Speaking of food waste, my dad used every last bit of absolutely everything, a habit from years of working in kitchens where not using that last 1/2 inch of the carrot (x500 carrots) lost the restaurants serious money. If there was a bit of avocado left in the peel, he referred to it as wasting “an order”. Pay attention to how much you’re throwing out. If I’m cutting an apple into slices I always eat around the core where the knife didn’t reach. I even have Michael doing it and he’ll smile at me as he says, that’s two orders there! My dad would be proud.
-The same goes for leftovers. Sometimes we have 1/4 cup of beans left over after a meal or I’ll eat the inside of a sweet potato but am too full for the skin. Keep this stuff! I mix our leftovers up into garbage salads or stews all the time.
-Let’s talk tea bags, hehe. I don’t like my tea steeped for too long, I find the taste becomes bitter. I reuse my tea bags for several cups of tea.
-Use napkins not paper towels or paper napkins. This seems like a no brainer but for years I used a paper towel with every meal mainly because I didn’t have anything else to use. A few years back I bought some nice napkins. I have tons and once I’m done I toss them in the laundry and reuse.
-You don’t need a plastic bag for all your fruits and veggies. I only use plastic bags for small items like brussel sprouts. For larger items like onions, potatoes or apples I put them directly into the cart, no need to use extra bags.
-If you’re like me and eat a million granola bars you probably find them strewn all over your cupboard. I cut off the flaps on an empty oatmeal box and toss all my bars in there. It keeps my pantry clean and I reused a box that would otherwise have gone in the trash.
-I love my tin canteen. I bring it on all my work trips. Every airport I’ve visited lately (SFO, LAX, LGA, DIA) have water bottle fill stations. There’s no need to buy a crazy expensive bottle of water at the airport. I also carry my canteen in my purse when I’m out and about so I never feel the urge to buy bottled water.
-On the subject of bottled water, we’re still loving our SodaStream. It has saved 100s of bottles from our recycling bin since we purchased it. If you’re still considering one, do it.
-This is something I learned from my mom, use the backs of unused envelopes as scrap paper to write notes down.
-Now that we have a backyard we don’t need a million little doggie poo bags. We save plastic bags from the smaller veggies (or they are gifted to us) and we use those instead. We save our specialty bags for when we’re out and about.
Like I said, these are not new ideas. I’m sure you’ve seen all of these elsewhere but it’s always a nice reminder as you move through your day.
If you have your own simple waste reducing tricks please leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what ideas you have.
Enjoy and Exhale!