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Tuesday Tip: 4 Steps to Reduce Your Waste

4 Steps to Reduce Your Waste

The world has a gargantuan garbage problem.

People now produce more than 2 billion tons of waste every year, most of which is burned, buried or shoved into the sea. At the current rate of ocean dumping—one garbage truck per minute—there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050.

We truly live in a throwaway society. Ninety-nine percent of what we buy gets trashed within six months. The average American tosses out three and a half pounds of stuff each day.

But there is a solution. The three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. You’ve heard it before. You may be tired of hearing it. But it does work. Sweden is so good at recycling that it now has virtually no waste. In fact, it has to import garbage from other countries to keep its recycling plants running.

Here are 4 simple steps you can take to cut your household waste.

Bring your own bag

As noted above, plastic pollution is now a global crisis, with plastic bags cluttering landscapes and clogging oceans. If your city is not one of the enlightened few that has banned plastic bags, you can help by putting your purchases in your own cloth tote. There are many reusable grocery bags on the market. Check out these 16 different options at

You can also easily reduce the number of plastic bottles you buy if you carry your own reusable beverage bottle. Have a look at a few recommendations in our recent post.

Stop wasting food

Americans toss a lot of food. In fact, around 40 percent of the food we produce ends up wasted. That works out to an average of 400 pounds per person each year. You can limit food waste at home with a few easy steps.

Shop smart: plan your meals, make a detailed list of what you need before you go to the store and stick to it. Eat your leftovers: get good containers and label them with a date to avoid spoilage. Date labels, which many times refer to peak quality rather than safety, are notoriously confusing and might lead you to throw out perfectly good food, so read carefully.   Read more ideas in our food waste post.

Buy less packaging

It’s hard to avoid packaging when you shop. But you can choose items wrapped in less packaging when available. For example, you can buy in bulk. You can also select options packaged in aluminum or paper rather than plastic. And try to avoid items packaged in a mix of materials, such as paper with a plastic lining, because these are harder to recycle.

Bring your own cup

A lot of people think that disposable coffee cups because they’re made of paper, are as recyclable as any other forms of paper packaging waste. Many are not. To avoid leaking, some cups are coated with a layer of polyethylene. As a result, the cups are almost never recycled creating a huge problem.

For example, let’s look at Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain and a longtime target of CREDO activism against waste. Four billion Starbucks paper cups go into landfills every year because the cups are not recyclable. This is despite the company’s past promises (all broken) to develop a recyclable cup. Recently, in March, Starbucks again promised to develop a 100 percent recyclable and compostable paper cup within three years.

This is good news but until this better cup arrives (if ever) all of Starbucks’ billions of non-recyclable cups will continue to flood landfills and oceans, along with all the company’s non-recyclable plastic cup lids, straws, cutlery, and packaging.

We live in an age of convenience and the price, to be perfectly frank, is the health of our planet. Let’s all spend a little time and effort and seek out less convenient, more Earth-friendly options and do our world a favor.


60 Comments on “Tuesday Tip: 4 Steps to Reduce Your Waste

  1. Our faith community is challenging all of us to reduce plastic, in particular, by giving us a particular challenge to work on each month. It is certainly making a difference in our awareness and although we may not meet the challenge 100% of the time, we are doing it some and hopefully this will become habit for us. It is dire, for sure.

  2. The C word is what makes a difference. More people need to CARE, before they will make Earth-friendly options!

  3. Packaging, transport and wasted food account for more cost of the food or drink itself : (
    What are we doing wrong?

  4. Thank you very much for your efforts. I often think one of the biggest problems with this topic is a complete lack of awareness. I was raised in Europe where there was always more education on this topic but it seems that America has a lot of catching up to do. So thank you.

  5. i think a manufacter should provide the safe inexpensive bottles that we can purchase in a set of 12, 18, 24, so that we can fill our water bottles and cease to use the plastic that things now come in..also, water providers offer outside of the grocery stores dispensers for the filling of jugs for our at home filling
    also the idea of a bag for dining out or coffees out, where you have the items that a restaurant or coffee shop might use that are disposible

  6. One tip I can offer is to take your own containers when eating out & avoid having to bring home styrofoam ones. Just plan ahead by keeping one in a bag in your car.

  7. I crochet with my plastic bags. I’ve made laundry bags flower pot hangers and grocery bags. I’m now working on a door mat

  8. along with bringing your own cup, you can bring your own cutlery

  9. Totally agree with the 3 Rs to take care of our only planet earth.

  10. I would drink less bottled water and more tap water if my water supply was not tainted with fluoride. We should pressure utilities to leave it out. I could reduce my plastic bottle usage greatly.

  11. My daughter in law started a website called MAMA ECO
    about reducing waste. She lists good products from around the world, good tips from around the world, and good current events. Worth looking at.

  12. Costco uses boxes that came with shelf products for packing groceries. There are no plastic bags, unless you bring your own. Chain grocery stores should use this same method and dramatically decrease plastic bags.

  13. If Earth becomes uninhabitable, NOTHING ELSE will matter.

  14. All good advice. I grew up in the 50s, when “disposables” were beginning to be widely promoted by American industry, but my parents came of age in the Depression, so I’ve always been a “reducer” and a “reuser” (saver). “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without,”

    Permaculturists today have an even longer list:

    REFUSE (Don’t even take it unless you really mean to use it up.)
    Reduce (And don’t take any more than you need.)
    Reuse (There is no such thing as “disposable,” because there is no more “away” left in which to throw it.)
    REPAIR (A lost art that is being rediscovered. But industry is working overtime to make repair impossible (especially major appliances); hence, REFUSE anything that can’t be repaired.)
    REPURPOSE (Many things no longer satisfactory for their original purpose can serve a less demanding purpose, replacing things we have “refused” or “reduced.”)
    And ONLY then, “after all else has succeeded” in squeezing all possible use out of it, recycle–starting by composting food waste. Many cities now have low-profile composting services for households without gardens.

    The problem that humankind must solve or perish is resource throughput. See

  15. These are all very good tips. I’ve been doing them for years because recycling and unnecessary waste is a personal issue for me. People need to get out of the wrong headed “convenience” mentally. It’s shocking in my building how challenging it seems for young go-getters to take an extra minute to sort out recyclables properly! As said in your last paragraph, the very health of our planet is at stake…

  16. Also, don’t leave water running while teeth brushing or doing dishes. Compost food scraps if your community is involved with it. It can be frozen which actually helps in breakdown process. Eat at home to save money and your wasteline.

  17. I received from the Audubon Society several plastic bags decorated with birds that I use at the grocery. I try not to use plastic (there’s always paper) and if I do I put it in the bin for that at the grocery store.

  18. Wow, I had no idea Starbucks paper coffee cups aren’t recyclable! I find this distinctly puzzling, since Starbucks is such a progressive and responsible corporate citizen in many other ways.

  19. Hi, I started looking for non chemical ways to get rid of ants, slugs…skunk even. I found out about cinnamon and used tea leaves. Any bug or some animals do things by smell. Shake cinnamon on the ground, my peony beds and buggle weed plots no longer have ants. The skunk doesn’t walk around looking for the bugs any more. The cinnamon dries up their sense of smell and they can’t smell anything else. I put the cinnamon right onto of the ant hills and now no ants. I spread it all around the house, the front lawn….the skunk! I even put it where my husband puts his motorcycle. We actually watched a skunk walk over to it, shake his head and walk away. The tea helps with the slugs and helps keep the flower bed s phone in balance.
    It’s has all worked great for me. I like natural, common items and the no chemicals mixed in. Used coffee grounds are good to use as fertilizer for some plants as well. My Mom had beautiful Irises, everyday she dumped the morning coffee grounds around them! That was over 40 yrs ago!

  20. 1. Was hoping for better suggestions than bringing your own bag, etc. But I know it’s just a challenge for all of us. Being a vegetarian could have been listed maybe.

    2. I clicked on heading/banner on Credo Email because it indicated there was gonna be an article on children’s books for Progresdives but I don’t see anything about that information anywhere once I clicked on email- only see Encironmentally oriented article/piece.

  21. Can’t find the I infoon the children’s books! Got 2 of the same emails. It wasn’t in either one.

  22. I like the article. Should also provide practical solutions, not only point out mistakes, people are making.

  23. With Trump’s money over environment policies, these are things that each one of us can do help the situation. A little inconvenience or a dead planet—our choice.

  24. Valuable.
    I’m already doing most of this, including carrying my own reusable straw.

  25. We’re pretty good about the usual sources of waste, still have room for improvement.
    – What about recycled grocery store bags? It takes cashiers a long time to load these. Any recommendations?
    – Also I’ve noticed that when someone goes in the hospital (we’re old, parents recently had final illnesses), THAT’S the biggest source of waste I’ve seen. I understand sanitation is primary. Any improvements in sight?
    I don’t need a personal reply, but if you get more comments like mine, you could address them.

  26. Thank you! This will provide good material for discussion when I meet with my ESL student later today. I hope we can talk about waste and recycling without my having to print it out–but if I do, it will be on previously used paper (back side) which can then be shredded and composted!

    Now to figure out how to get good organizations to stop sending so much mail! With China no longer accepting paper from the US (and elsewhere), there needs to be less paper flowing into our recycle bin.

  27. In my offices, as well as the office of my doctor, the hospital and the facility that specializes in mammograms, Styrofoam cups are used for coffee. These cups are much cheaper than paper and other recycled cups. THAT’S THE REASON THEY ARE USED. Are there other alternatives? Companies are not people; they exist to make profits. Cheaper cups translate to greater profits.

  28. The three R’s start with REDUCE and REUSE. I think Recycling is great but we need to start concentrating more on the first two R’s. Using our own canvas bags at the grocery or drug store not only reduces plastic packaging, but we are reusing our own bags.

  29. We don’t live in a community (or state, for that matter) where there’s a charge for bags. We always ask for PAPER bags, which we find easier to handle. Then we recycle the paper bags as containers for our recycling. This works well, and avoids the problem of cloth grocery bags becoming filthy over time, which is what happens at our daughter’s home in Washington, DC.

    We can’t avoid the plastic bags used for produce, filled with the items we select. We do recycle them separately, with a paper bag and drawer designated just for them; they are joined with the bags in which newspapers are delivered. That way they hopefully don’t gum up the recycling machines.

  30. A few years ago I tried bringing my own shopping bag, but after two weeks I had to stop because I needed bags in which to take my trash to the compactor!

  31. Great ideas – and simple once you get started. Here are a few more:
    -Compost and grow gardens, especially if you can involve children – time for a life-long harvest-habit!
    – Recycle clothing, through family and friends, resale shops, and online. OR: re-design, cut-down, or otherwise refresh what is out dated or out grown.
    – If you’re able to grow or buy foods in large quantities, share with friends and family. Learn to freeze, can, make jam, etc…work together to add fun to functional activities
    – Start a neighborhood library…books take a lot of paper!

  32. Excellent advice- thank you. I travel in many developing countries and plastic is the scourge of their existence and future development. But we have the same problem in the U.S. No one thinks about waste.
    What about all of the plastic yoghurt cups? Also non-recyclable?

  33. I can remember when people lobbied against paper products because it was depleting the forests. Paper cups and straws were coated in wax and more biodegradable ; And bottles from coca-cola and other sodas were returned to the store.

  34. I just don’t understand why companies still wrap everything in plastic, it is absolutely heartbreaking, people will only wake up when the rivers and streams are walkways instead of waterways and when the oceans can’t breathe and we are all suffocating in our own waste. There is absolutely no need for all this plastic and those that don’t care need to wake up…..

  35. I really try to cut down. Need to buy a couple more reusable grocery bags and ask for NO cutlery at drive thrus. Rarely use it. Going to start carrying a solid plastic straw I have in the car. Hate but need straws. And FOOD! I’m older and can’t eat much at a time but restaurants think I’m a 300 pound weightlifter.

  36. These were helpful, even though I’m really good at recycling. The thing I didn’t know was that we were dumping garbage into the Ocean on purpose!!! And we call ourselves humans?!?!?!? We act like animals, no, that’s an insult to the animal kingdom!!!

  37. Re plastic bags for produce: Much fresh produce does not need to be put in a plastic produce bag to be weighed or taken home. A lot of plastic waste comprises the bags we bring our apples, pears, bananas, onions, potatoes, etc. home in. Once brought home, the bags are often thrown out if not recycled. It is just as important to reduce the use of these bags as it is the plastic grocery bags.

  38. Why don’t you go after the packaging industry? Maybe you have but it sure isn’t apparent yet. As an old person I struggle with almost all the things I buy because I can’t open them. They are all packaged in plastic, often sealed so that you can’t even get a knife into them to open. They are first line culprits in the destruction of this planet. I received something from J.Peterman catalogue the other day and was thrilled to see the package was thick paper. Even L.L. Bean, which presents itself as environmentally wired, wraps everything in plastic and delivers in plastic envelopes. Wrong. Etc. etc. etc.

  39. Manufactured items should be designed to be easily repaired. That would reduce the need for recycling and create employment for the repair and maintain economy.

  40. Everyone needs to ask, if they can let their kids deal with this 10-20 years?

  41. Right On ! Thank you for pointing out all of the things we can do to reduce waste. I live in a rural community and have a tendency to buy too much food when I shop as it’s 30 to 45 minutes away. I will make an effort to be more careful!

  42. Another tip to both lower food waste and also to say no to plastic for restaurant leftovers: bring your own container. You won’t need to transfer contents when you get home.

    Save you pizza box and bring it the next time you get take out pizza.

  43. You are so right. I take the same 4 cloth bags grocery shopping all the time – have done so for years. I even use light weight plastic bags over & over again till they tear. When I get a bonus / surprise that I don’t want or need, I give it back or find someone else who could use it – or bring it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. We don’t drink pop or beer, but when a bottle shows up, it’s put into our recycling stream (which is picked up twice a month). I fill a special mug with water where I go to exercise and fill it up again the next day.

  44. Is there a list of businesses that will let you bring your own cup?

  45. I followed the link to the list of reusable bags and found a glaring omission: Esse Reusable Bags.
    This product is amazing. The bags are made of [40%] recycled plastic bottles. They wear like iron. They come in a tote that fits into the corner of the child seat in your grocery cart. There are several styles — such as the slouch bags which can be carried in a pouch hooked to one’s purse so you’re never without a bag. And produce bags. And so on.
    The most convenient bags I’ve ever found AND they’re made of recycled plastic. What could be better?

  46. Reducing waste is certainly something everyone should be concerned with.

    As far as wasting food, it is a crying shame all the food put to waste every day. Much of this (I think) is due to regulations trying to protect us from spoiled food. Most people do not understand that expiration dates are for the store only and even meat is good for up to four days past that date. We really need better indicators of when food is beyond being safe. Though as hard as food is to come by for us lower middle class and those that are even poorer, we don’t waste in our home. We are lucky enough to have enough to get through each pay period.
    Another thing that needs to be done more of is what some few restaurants and stores do is to donate food, that is still good but they are not able to serve or sell, to nursing homes and others in need.

    Recycling, even as much as we should be doing, is difficult in smaller communities. Yes, most have some sort of recycling program, but one or two small containers don’t do very much in promoting recycling.

  47. I notice that more stores are asking whether I want a bag. By saying “no,” I can avoid
    bringing home another bag that has to be recycled.

  48. These statistics are staggering! I like to say that it does not take that much thought to be more eco-responsible! I always have canvas shopping bags in the car, drink from reusable containers, recycle all my trash and drink containers and shop mostly wholesale admittedly for cost, but even that leaves less of a footprint when all is said and done. With just a little thought everyone can do there part to help keep this planet cleaner for all of us!

  49. We have a single use bag ban in Beaufort County, SC going into effect November 1, 2018. We are the only county in the state to ban these bags and the state legislature is trying to ban all bans!!!!

  50. Compost your family food waste( not meats) and start a compost heap for your plant and flower gardens. Run your shower water into gallon jugs until hot (takes about 3 or 4 gallons) and use it in your garden- that goes into the underground aquifer that we use for our drinking water instead of through the sewerage treatment plant. Get rid of incandescent lamps (the make lots of heat and not that much light). Install florescent lighting (or diodes) in your basement. Recycle your papers and plastic-metal discards in your village recycle program. Teach your children to do the same!!!

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