Inspiration5 min read

7 Ways to Reduce Waste with Minimal Sacrifice

7 Ways to Reduce Waste with Minimal Sacrifice

A note from Co-Founder Terry Lin

Brace yourself for some staggering statistics. The average American — a single person— produces 4.4 pounds of garbage per day. From the highest peaks of Mount Everest, to the depths of the Mariana Trench, our beautiful planet is quite literally getting buried in trash. It’s almost impossible to find a pristine location on Earth.  

Photo by Dustan Wood

I see it in my own home. My wife, myself, my two daughters, two cats, and dog produce about 20 pounds of trash per day. It was just a few years ago that our waste management company swapped our 32-gallon trash bins for 16-gallon ones. At first, I freaked. I even considered paying extra to keep our larger bins, but then decided against it. Paying for the privilege of having a bigger trash can didn’t feel right. Fast forward to the present and I’m happy to report we’ve been pretty good at reducing our garbage. The smaller bin keeps us honest, in a way. We are by no means perfect. There are weeks when we’re forcing the lid shut, but it’s a practice. We work at being kind to Mother Earth on a daily basis.

We found a handful of simple ways to cut back on waste in our own home, and I wanted to share in the hopes that some might work for you.

Think before you make a purchase

I’ve been listening to The Minimalist's Podcast for a few years now, and what most resonated with me are three questions that host Joshua Fields Millburn asks about before making a purchase:

  1. Does it serve a purpose?
  2. Does it add value?
  3. Does it bring joy?

Each home has about 300,000 items in it. How full is your junk drawer? Rather than making that impulse purchase because it’s a “lightning deal,” pause and think about those three questions. If you or your family can answer them all with a ‘yes’, then the purchase probably makes sense. If not, then maybe you should hold off on buying it.

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler

Here is a video tour of Joshua’s home where he explains how he is able to minimize the clutter and ultimately minimize the waste that he produces in his household.

Think frugally and gamify

Use a forcing mechanism like a dual trash can from Simplehuman where the trash bin is much smaller than the recycling bin. Give yourself a goal of only using one trash bag a week. That way, you will be more thoughtful about properly sorting your compost and recycling from the trash. Your garbage can is no different than your garage: If you have the space, you fill it.  

Repurpose those eggshells and coffee grinds

Eggs and coffee are a good way to start your morning. Just like humans, our plants need a nutritious meal too. Why not take the discarded eggshells and used coffee grinds and give them the vitamins and nutrients they need to produce beautiful flowers?

Photo by Caroline Attwood

Eggshells contain about 93% calcium and coffee grinds contain copper, potassium and nitrogen.

Wash and dry out your eggshells, and dry out your used coffee grounds. Once dry, you can put the eggshells into a blender to make a fine mixture. The dried coffee grounds and eggshells can be spread into your soil to boost the minerals needed to make happy, healthy plants. (Or you can take the easy route, and just dump both into your soil and mix!)

Before hitting the buy button...

Shopping trips historically fall into three categories: mid-week fill in, weekly stock-ups, and monthly stock-ups. With the rise of one- or two-day free shipping, we have been conditioned to expect on-demand everything. We oftentimes don’t think twice about ordering one low-cost item and getting it shipped to us, because shipping is free. Before you go ahead and hit the buy button, consider the carbon footprint of picking, packing, and shipping that single item. Rather than placing multiple orders a week, pick one day where you place your online orders to cut down on overuse of supplies.

Take a few extra seconds to clean your recyclables

While this may not cut down the amount of waste within your home, it ensures that the items that can be recycled will have the greatest chance of actually being recycled.  
On average, about 25 percent of the stuff we try to recycle is too contaminated to go anywhere but a landfill. These items are perfectly recyclable cans, paper, or plastic; but they’re coated in food, grease, or cleaning fluids that render them un-recyclable. Take the extra step of opening up that empty carton of milk and rinsing it out. Let it dry in the sink and boom, it’s recycle-ready.

Switch to toilet paper made from bamboo instead of wood pulp

How many squares of toilet paper do you use a day? The average four-person household in the United States consumes about 100 pounds of toilet paper a year.

Who Gives a Crap relies on sustainable bamboo for paper products

We don’t realize it since it gets flushed and is out of sight, out of mind, but toilet paper is having a significant impact on our forests—AKA the lungs of the planet. The most well-known toilet paper brands refuse to switch to a more sustainable source for toilet paper and use virgin wood pulp.

Our household has a subscription to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, which is made with bamboo and is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to wood pulp. This might be TMI, but it’s actually quite lovely on the bum too.

Opt for a different quicker picker-upper

Our go-to for cleaning up a mess was often to grab a paper towel or two. My wife weaned me off of paper towels and replaced them with unbleached cotton kitchen towels. To reinforce my earlier point, the biggest producers of paper products are still using virgin wood pulp. A paper towel is a sad reason for a majestic tree to lose its life. Sadder still to think that instead of purifying our the air we breathe, it's being used to clean up a juice spill.

Shop with eco-friendly companies

With a little extra research, you can often find high-quality goods for similar prices made by eco-conscious companies. At Outer, we recognize that the less we consume year after year, the less waste we produce. That's why our sofas are built to last, so that we can enjoy them without replacing them again and again. Additionally, we rely on recycled and recyclable materials to make each sofa, so nothing ends up in a landfill.

We vote with our dollars in many ways: Consider taking that extra step to find companies who keep the planet top of mind.

These small acts may seem insignificant, but consider the impact if hundreds, thousands, or millions of people collectively make conservation a daily, intuitive practice. Together, we can make strides toward protecting our planet, and making a better world for our children.