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Simple Changes to Reduce Waste

To a green novice, the idea of living a sustainable life might be a bit overwhelming at first, but here are four easy ways to reduce your waste.

1. Invest in Reusable Bags Studies show the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually and only between 1 and 3 percent of these bags are actually recycled. This might be because of limited recycling options. Plastic bags aren’t accepted in many curbside recycling programs because of stringent manufacturing standards, and although some stores offer recycling programs for the bags, the size of the recycling container provided indicates that a lot more bags are leaving the store than coming back. 

However, instead of worrying about where and how you can recycle these bags, stop using them altogether and invest in a few good reusable bags (just remember to take them into the shopping center with you and to return them to your car after each shopping trip).

 2. Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle Just as prevalent as plastic bags are plastic bottles. An estimated 2.5 million tons of plastic bottles and jugs are disposed of in the United States annually. Most curbside recycling programs accept these materials, but like plastic bags, you can actually eliminate the waste before it starts. As I mentioned in my last post about the 3Rs refresher course, purchasing one good reusable water bottle, could prevent the need for hundreds of water bottles (plus it could save you hundreds of dollars).

3. Switch to Reusable Food Storage Containers On average, we probably use two plastic bags a day for lunches (one for chips and one for a sandwich). We are tossing away more than 500 bags a year. A great solution is to purchase reusable storage containers and forgo the plastic bags. Not to mention, they keep food fresher and the refrigerator smelling better.

If you really become gung ho about using reusable storage containers, consider taking them with you to restaurants for leftovers and reduce your reliance on a Styrofoam take-home container.

4. Ditch the Disposable Dishes Studies show that 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in the United States and that every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times.

While disposable dishes are an easy alternative to washing extra dishes, disposable plates and silverware our filling up our garbage cans. You don’t have to bring out the fine China, but consider using your existing plates and silverware before purchasing the plastic ones.  Also, consider taking real dishes to the office to use at lunchtime.

About the author: Molly Yeager is a corporate communication coordinator for Rumpke.

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