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reducewaste

A few years ago, I was desperate to cut our living expenses so I could quit a job I hated and stay home with my kids. After making a plan to get out of debt, my husband and I committed to “living like no one else, so later we could live like no one else.” So the budget cutting began.

I quickly found some obvious ways to reduce our monthly expenses: ditch the satellite, change our cell phone plan, cancel the gym membership.

When I looked at our trash bill and decided we could do with a much smaller can, I didn’t realize that I was making a decision that would impact more than the size of our garbage receptacle. In order to switch to the smallest garbage can, we had to make some serious changes in our house, changes that we’ve stuck to because they lower our budget and lower our family’s footprint:

Recycling

I had never recycled before. Our city’s garbage service didn’t offer it as an option and I grew up in a house where everything went in the trash. When I looked at all of the garbage we were producing that could have been recycled, I knew it was unacceptable and I needed to do something about it.

We started a simple recycling system (if you could call it a system – we just put stuff in a big box) and took the stuff in to the recycling center when it got full started overflowing. I might get actual recycling bins someday.

Composting

My parents have chickens, so when I became more aware of all the waste we were producing, I decided that we needed to save our kitchen scraps (there were also efforts made to reduce food waste) to give to the chickens since we were at my parents’ house so much.

When we moved a little farther away, we started a compost pile in the backyard so we wouldn’t have to throw more stuff away. Someday, I’d like a compost tumbler or two to speed up the process.

Refusing

I was bringing in a lot of unnecessary waste and I didn’t even realize it. Food packaging was the main offender, so I got a lot pickier about the products I would buy and made sure I had my reusable grocery bags on hand when I entered the store (if I don’t remember, I’ll often just carry the stuff out, which helps me remember the next time).

Here are some ways I refuse to bring in waste:

  • Refill liquid castile soap at Whole Foods
  • Refill maple syrup
  • Purchase honey in bulk (reusable gallon jars) from a local farmer
  • Purchase food from bulk bins, either reusing the same plastic bags or using cloth bags
  • Use reusable produce bags
  • Buy milk in glass bottles that can be returned or reused at my house
  • Refill printer ink at Costco
  • Buy bulk food that comes in bigger containers, rather than a bunch of small ones
  • Take a mason jar with my cuppow or reusable water bottle when I’m out and about
  • Make my own stuff, like kombucha, yogurt, etc.

Reusing

The move to a smaller garbage can also prompted me to buy things I could reuse. I realized that pretty quickly with diapers – it’s really easy to fill a tiny garbage can with diapers when you’ve got two kids who aren’t using the toilet. The decision to ditch disposables really reduced our waste and made a huge difference in our budget.

These are some of the things we use now instead of disposable goods:

  • Cloth napkins
  • Kitchen hand towels
  • Glass spray bottles for homemade cleaners
  • Egg cartons
  • Plastic zipper bags
  • Cloth diapers and wipes
  • Menstrual Cup
  • Hankies
  • Glass jars of all sizes

This isn’t a complete list (some stuff has become so normal that I forget we never used to do it), but it’s a start. There are numerous ways you can lower budget just by addressing what’s creating waste in your home (I didn’t even talk about energy waste!).

Have you lowered your budget by reducing waste? What did you do?