Environmental Studies Program: Sustainability Initiatives at Colleges and Universities
So maybe you don’t want to buy nothing and produce zero waste for a year. But maybe you want some ideas on everyday things you can do.
Here’s a list of our top ten easy steps. Not all of them reduce curbside garbage, but I think you’ll agree that they all reduce the amount of garbage in our environment. There’s an ongoing list of resources at the bottom, with some ideas on where you can get things and find services.
- Stop Using Plastic Bags.
I know everyone knows this one – they sell fabric bags in every super market these days – but still, every time I’m in the checkout line, there’s someone without one. Make a rule for yourself. No bags. If you forget your bag, don’t buy it, or carry your goods without one. Use cotton or mesh bags for produce and bulk as well. This isn’t just for groceries either. Have a pocket-size bag on you when you’re clothes shopping or just going out – you never know when you might buy something.
- Set Up Your Recycling in a convenient place.
This sounds like a little thing, but it has a big impact! We found that if we have bins for newspaper, mixed paper, and bottles and cans next to each other in the kitchen, we were more likely to use it than if we had to walk downstairs and outside every time we wanted to recycle a tin can. These are all “dry” recyclables, so they should be washed clean and won’t smell. Don’t be afraid to put them out in the open. If you have a nice set of baskets, people are more likely to ask what your system is all about, and you can share your recycling knowledge.
This is the single most effective way to cut your garbage output. According the the David Suzuki Foundation, “roughly 40% of the waste in our landfills is compostable organic matter”. That’s crazy! If you compost properly, composts don’t smell, and you can cut your trips to take out the odorous trash by half! You can get a small worm composter for your deck or kitchen or a bigger one for outside. See the resources page for more info.
everything you can. I mean everything. Look on your municipal website or give them a call to find out exactly what they take. Do a bit of research to seek out alternative recyclers – maybe ther don’t take milk containers in your curbside pick up, but they might at your local grocers. We find it helps to have a list posted on the inside of a kitchen cupboard as a quick reference. Remember that even little bits, like paper receipts, are recyclable, and small things add up.
- Give Up Take Out Containers.
And I’m not just talking about coffee cups. When you’re leaving the house in the morning, and you don’t have a lunch with you, it’s pretty obvious you’re going to have to buy something, so grab a container and some cutlery. We keep a couple “to go kits” in the car with our fabric bags. If you’re buying something simple like a piece of pizza or a muffin that you’ll eat right away, just ask for it in your hand.
- Check the Package BEFORE you Buy It.
This is another one that sounds easy to do but is also easy to forget. You can keep a reminder card in your wallet listing they types of containers your city picks up. If they’re not recyclable, we make a choice when we’re in the store not to buy them. We also try to go for “pure” packaging products like glass instead of composite products like tetrapaks that are hard to recycle.
- Buy Secondhand.
Besides saving you money, previously loved goods don’t come with packaging. Who says you need a brand new bread machine or a brand new frying pan. There are millions of them already out there, and a lot of them need a new home. Try craigslist, freecycle, or your local thrift shop.
- DIY (Do It Yourself).
You can make a surprising number of things yourself (and save some serious cash at the same time). From bread to clothing to laundry soap, check out what we’ve been making on our DIY page.
- Get Educated.
Read about recycling and going waste-free to learn about what others are doing. Watch The Story of Stuff , an eye opening animated, short film about the cycle of waste and consumerism. Search the internet for information on waste. Check out our Resource page. There is tons of information out there that can help you reduce your garbage.
- Let businesses know how you feel.
Leave your packaging at the till or mail it back to the manufacturer. Writing a letter or calling a company goes a long way; I almost always get a response of some kind