Everyday Waste Reduction

Small changes add up.  My favorite example of this is the Celestial Seasonings tea company—when the factory started producing tea bags without the little strings and tags attached, it prevented 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills every year.  That’s huge!

Here are a few of the small, painless ways to reduce your food-related waste on a day-to-day basis.  Oftentimes these changes will end up benefiting (rather than restricting) your shopping and eating routines.

Grocery Shopping

  • Invest in a reusable grocery bag.  In addition to being environmentally friendly, these bags are much sturdier than paper or plastic, which means they’re more portable and less likely to rip at inconvenient times.
  • Don’t use bags for your fresh produce.  You don’t really need the extra plastic, since (hopefully) you’ll wash the fruits and veggies before eating them anyway.
  • Buy in bulk, and especially avoid individually-packaged foods.
  • Look for recyclable packaging as much as possible.
  • Avoid double-packaged foods (some cereals are available in bags without the additional boxes, which means less than half the waste).


  • If reusable cups aren’t available, bring your own mug.  Otherwise you’d be throwing away a cup, a lid, and a beverage sleeve or straw.  As an additional perk, many cafes now offer a discount for patrons using travel mugs.
  • Don’t take a straw if you aren’t given one.
  • Avoid Styrofoam at all costs.  It takes ages to decay, and the production of Styrofoam releases CFCs into the atmosphere, which destroy our ozone (not good!).

Eating Out

  • If only bottled drinks are available, bring your own water bottle.
  • Don’t use paper napkins from a dispenser.  When I started eating regularly in my college dining hall, I stopped using napkins altogether.  If you absolutely need one, have a cloth napkin handy for drive-throughs and fast-food places.

At Home

  • Stop using paper towels.  My family stopped buying paper towels several years ago, replacing them instead with rags and sponges.  I haven’t missed them once; it’s a much easier sacrifice than you might imagine.
  • Save containers from things like hummus and cream cheese—anything with a nice snap-on lid.  They work just like Tupperware containers, except they’re free.
  • Also, save jars from peanut butter and jelly and pasta sauce.  These are excellent for growing sprouts, storing items like dried beans and rice, or organizing craft supplies.

Leave a comment if you have any additional ideas for reducing waste!

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