In 2015, Americans generated 262.4 million tons of trash. More than half, 137.7 million tons, ended up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the stuff we throw away most is food (221 pounds per person a year) cardboard boxes (188 pounds a year) and plastics such as bags, plastic packaging, plastic bottles and durable plastics from furniture and appliances.
Money makes the world go around, so if you need motivation to reduce waste, we’ve come up with a list of 30 ways you can cut your waste that will save you money too.
1. Stop Buying Bottled Water
Bottled water costs an average of $1.45 bottle. These single-use plastic bottles take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes, according to ValleyWater.org. Many of them simply become litter, or end up in landfills and are not recycled. Pick up a reusable water bottle for as little as $10 and fill it from your faucet. If you’re concerned about the water, a $16 Brita pitcher and a filter will replace about 1,800 bottles of water a year, and you can put a filter on your faucet for about $55 a year, if you replace it every three months, as PUR recommends.
2. Avoid Food Waste: Plan Your Meals
In 2015, Americans disposed of 37.6 million tons of food waste, according to the EPA, an average of 220 pounds a year. A family of four wastes an estimated $1,500 a year worth of food, according to SaveTheFood.com. That’s a lot of money you could be putting in the bank. Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals. Buy only what you need and will use.
3. Avoid Food Waste: Shop in Your Refrigerator First
You might have some wilting produce, or meat that needs to be cooked today. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies. Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week.
4. Avoid Food Waste: Prepare Perishable Foods Soon After Shopping
It’s easier to whip up healthy meals or snacks later in the week when everything’s washed and chopped and ready to go in a container, saving time, effort, and money. Some foods, like berries, shouldn’t be washed in advance, or they will mold. The EPA has a host of tips for reducing food waste, improving food storage, prepping food, shopping, understanding food expiration dates, and other information. SaveTheFood.com has tools for better meal planning.
5. Avoid Overnight Shipping
Eight out of 10 Americans shop online, and according to Conservation.org, shopping online generally has a smaller carbon footprint than driving to the store. But 1- and 2-day shipping means more delivery vans, trucks and planes emitting more air and noise pollution. Slower shipping allows delivery companies to work more efficiently. And it usually costs less. Even if you’re using Amazon Prime, you’re paying for that, and one study showed that Amazon (AMZN – Get Report) Prime members end up spending and shopping more. Do you really need that pair of shoes tomorrow?
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6. Don’t Get Coffee To Go
Your coffee cup and lid will live on for over 100 years, according to Reef Relief. Making your own coffee can save you hundreds of dollars a year — money you can add to your college fund, emergency fund, or retirement savings.
7. Repair It
Whether it’s an appliance, lawn mower, laptop or TV, it’s usually cheaper to clean or repair products than to buy new ones. You can even try to fix something yourself, with a little YouTube research. Consumer Reports’ rule of thumb is: don’t spend more than 50% of the cost of a new product on repairing an old one, and if it’s broken down once before, it might be better to buy a new one. Pictured is a lawn mower repair shop in Rockville, Md.
8. Clean It Up
It’s cheaper to get carpets and upholstery cleaned than to get new ones. You can buy your own cleaning machine too, most of them range in price from about $90 to $150.
9. …Share, Borrow, or Rent
Before you buy that carpet cleaning machine, see if one of your friends has one, or rent one from most supermarkets or box stores. You can share things like tools, lawnmowers, leafblowers, and other things you don’t use every day.
10. Speaking of Sharing: Rent Your Fashion
Fashion and clothing has a huge impact on the environment. The textiles system uses large amounts of non-renewable resources that are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short time, then sent to landfills, according to one report, A New Textiles Economy, Redesigning Fashion’s Future by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is sent to landfills every second, the report says. So if you must have that $1,200 designer bag or $600 evening dress, consider renting it at a site like RentTheRunway or Tulerie. And that will definitely save you money.
Above, migrant women from Burma work in a footwear production line in Thailand.