Keeping trash out of landfills and our oceans has never been more important. According to EPA records from 2014, each person in the U.S. produced approximately 854 lbs of landfill waste in a single year. These numbers really motivate me to do what I can to improve my family’s environmental impact. I don’t have one of those ‘zero waste’ households, and there is always more work we can do in going green, but I won’t let that intimidate me and stop me from taking small practical steps here and now.
In honor of Earth Day, I want to share some simple eco-friendly changes you can make around the house from your closet to your kitchen. Over the years I’ve incorporated a lot of the major waste saving solutions into our lives such as using cloth diapers, shopping with reusable grocery bags, and choosing washable cloths over paper towels, but I’m always finding new ways to go green that I hadn’t considered before.
Changing your habits doesn’t have to be expensive, and all of these green home strategies will actually end up saving you money. Here are 6 ways to reduce your family’s landfill waste.
1. Reuse produce/bulk bags and containers
The grocery shopping is done, all the apples are decoratively arranged in a bowl (or in my case, tossed wherever I can find room in the fridge), and you’re left with the flimsy plastic produce bag. What now?
Fortunately, I’m able to toss mine into the regular recycling bin, which is a step in the right direction. But knowing how much ‘recycled’ plastic mysteriously ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how long it takes to decompose (roughly 500 years), I’d like to do my part to help reduce the demand for plastic. If we can all tear fewer little bags off the rolls while we grocery shop, together we’ll make a big difference.
I plan to eventually get some of these reusable produce bags, but for now my free alternative is simply to reuse the plastic bags I’ve already brought home. As long as they’re clean and in good condition, I toss them in with all my other reusable grocery bags and fill them back up next time I’m at the store.
One important note here: I wouldn’t suggest this practice for bags that you’ve used to hold meat. Cross contamination could be a concern.
I do the same thing with containers I pick up in the bulk section. I’ve refilled this honey container about 4 or 5 times. My last streak was broken after my husband accidentally threw my old one out. David, if you’re reading this…when I run a container through the dishwasher it’s because I want to keep it.
2. Buy spices in bulk and reuse your spice jars
When you run out of your favorite spices, don’t toss the jar out! Many grocery stores have a bulk spice area where you can get refills. You can use tip #1 here and bring the little spice bags back too.
If I have a spice that I don’t seem to use and it ends up past its expiration, I empty it out, scrape off the old label and refill it with something I will use.
Some of you serious cooks out there will shudder at this advice. Apparently bulk spices can sometimes be less potent than a high quality jarred variety. I hear you, and you’re probably right, but I’m not enough of a connoisseur to care.
3. Switch to reusable makeup remover wipes and homemade cleaning solution
I’ve been mixing my own makeup remover solution for over a year and spraying it on reusable makeup remover wipes. I throw them all in a little mesh bag and run them through the wash once a week, and they come out totally clean and ready to use again. Here’s what I use:
Sam’s Homemade Makeup Remover Solution
Like a lot of women, I used to use disposable makeup remover wipes, and it feels good to know that I’ve saved at least 365 of them from the landfill in the last year and reduced the demand for single-use throw away items. If we all made this commitment, we could make a huge difference.
I’ve also saved myself roughly $50 and a whole bunch of mysterious chemicals on my skin.
If you guys are looking for a good makeup remover wipe that’ll get all the grime off easily while being gentle on your skin, I recommend these bamboo and organic cotton pads made by Omaïki. Not only do they save you money and reduce waste, you can feel comfortable knowing they’re ethically made in Canada with Canadian fabrics.
4. Check for consignment clothing before buying new
Throwing old clothing and other textiles away in the garbage adds a lot of extra pounds to our annual landfill waste, and it’s totally unnecessary! One of the best things you can do to reduce your family’s environmental impact is to rethink your closet.
If you buy low quality, fast fashion items that only get worn a few times before either falling apart or falling out of style, I urge you to reconsider how you shop and dispose of old clothing.
My two shopping mantras are fewer, better things and quality over quantity.
The western world has driven the demand for cheap clothing out of control while our planet and the poor pay the price.
One way I like to do my part in reducing this overblown demand is to shop for good consignment items in local stores or online first. I keep my wardrobe very basic, so this is not difficult. If I can’t find what I’m looking for secondhand, then I’ll look for a well-made brand new item.
5. Take your donation items to an organization that recycles unsellable items
Even if you stop buying fast fashion and commit to quality, you’ll eventually need to part with your clothing. When the time comes, bag it up and run it over to a local donation center that recycles excess donations or the items that can’t be resold. Instead of sticking your old clothes and textiles in a landfill, let them live another life as someone’s new carpet padding or car insulation.
We make our donation habit easier by keeping a special basket that we fill up with anything we don’t want. When the basket is full we haul it off to the donation center.
6. Handkerchiefs instead of tissues
Our great grandparents had it right in a lot of ways. Disposable diapers didn’t come onto the scene until the 1950s and plastic grocery bags weren’t even mainstream in the U.S. until the 1980s. They also carried handkerchiefs with them instead of a pack of disposable tissues wrapped in plastic.
As a mom of two young kids, I keep snot receptacles everywhere. My purse, my glovebox, the diaper bag, the bathroom, the changing table…
We used to go through a lot of tissues, and I didn’t even realize how they could add up until we all got hit with a head cold at the same time. The entire garbage can was full of used tissue!
I’ve washed poop out of pieces of cloth and put them back on my baby’s bottom, so why wouldn’t I wash pieces of cloth with much less offensive bodily excretions?
That’s my really gross way of telling myself, It’s just snot. Get over it.
These snazzy hankies are part of Omaïki’s new HÖM line of sustainable products designed to replace one-time-use household necessities with reusables that are high in quality, function, and style. Their HÖM line includes our hankies and makeup remover pads, as well as reusable fruit/veggie produce bags, cotton bulk bags, washcloths, carrying cases, and tushy wipes.
I’ve been really inspired by those awesome no-waste households and food markets. That is absolutely a great goal to aim for, but every little step helps. I hope you choose to incorporate one or all of these ideas into your life.
Happy Earth Day!
Win a Set of Omaïki Handkerchiefs & Makeup Wipes
One of our readers will win a set of Omaïki cotton handkerchiefs in any in-stock print and a set of 6 cotton/bamboo makeup wipes just like the ones I’ve been using. Enter in the giveaway widget below. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, 18+. All the winner’s entries will be verified.
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Disclosure: I received a sample item for review. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ. This post contains affiliate links. This West Coast Mommy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you. This income helps pay for the operating costs of my website – thank you for your support!
Samantha Levang is a contributor at This West Coast Mommy, specializing in cloth diaper and baby item reviews. She lives in Washington state with her husband, toddler son, Brooks, and baby girl, Riley. Between diaper changes and loads of laundry, she enjoys landscape photography and the never-ending process of home decorating.