Household waste is a part of everyone’s lives. We cannot get away from it at home, work, school, or play. The household waste we produce ends up in landfills, along the side of the road, and in the waterways. Reducing the amount of waste you put in the trash keeps it out of the landfill and out of the environment. The trash that is thrown out of cars, or blows out of open trash bins or uncovered vehicles, can make its way to the Chesapeake Bay because Prince William County is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
What are some of the obstacles to reducing what we throw away? A busy life often means have to use as many convenient fixes as possible to make life run smoothly. This can mean throwing a plastic bottle of water or juice in the lunchbox before getting the kids out the door for school. It can mean selecting individual servings of cereal to grab and take instead of buying bulk and repacking in reusable containers. Relying on paper towels and napkins, along with single use plastic-ware are commonplace in many households. Some, or all, of these may apply to you. If it does, educating yourself and planning around these challenges will help reduce your part of the throw-it-away culture.
- Ditch the single use plastics. While this may seem like the “hot topic” of the day, single use plastics truly are a burden on the environment. Instead of using plates, cups, and utensils that are thrown away after a party, invest in extras from your local thrift store. When the party is done, they can be stored away for next time. Look for a set of bamboo utensils you can keep at your desk at work. They can easily be washed used again the next day. Last, but not least, ditch the single use water bottles. These water bottles are one of the most often found items at cleanups. While they may eventually break down, they become micro-plastics that are ingested by sea life.
- Packaging. When you go to the grocery store looking for tomatoes, do you choose the loose tomatoes or the prepackaged tomatoes sitting on the piece of Styrofoam and wrapped in plastic? If you are in a hurry, you probably choose the second one. Once you get home, the packaging is thrown away and forgotten. Do you have a bag full of plastic bags hanging in your closet at home? Thankfully, you can drop them off at grocery stores and some department stores, but having a reusable grocery and produce bags will cut down on the number of plastic bags dramatically.
- Plan. We plan for vacations. We plan for retirement. We make plans for the weekend. Why not add planning for your week into the mix? Making plans for what you will eat or when you need to shop will take some extra time up front, but eventually save you time during the week. Put the reusable bags in the car, chop vegetables for that week’s meals, take care of as many errands as you can at once to save gas, and make a evening meal plan for the week to cut down on excess waste.
- Organize. Buying in bulk can help cut down on the amount of packing you throw away. Is your kitchen cabinet full of spices you have to replace constantly? Purchasing one to five pounds at a time and putting what you need in old pasta sauce jars will help replace all those little plastic spice containers. Instead of buying small, single use bags of chips, buy a large bag and put a serving in a reusable container, one for each day you bring your lunch. Reduce the number of paper towels you use by using old t-shirts or towels as cleaning rags.
- Compost. How much of your kitchen garage can is filled with food that could be composted? As much as 30% of waste that fills the landfill can be composted. This may not be feasible for some living situations, but if you have the room to compost, why not do it? Non-animal foods can easily be turned into usable soil by adding some worms. When planting season rolls around, you can use the compost for your garden.
Reducing the amount of trash you throw away takes planning and ingenuity, but if it helps reduce landfill waste it will be worth it! Tell us what you do to reduce your trash footprint!