4 Budget-Friendly Habits That Can Help You Cut Down Your Waste, According to Experts

published Nov 16, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Melanie Rieders

In a world of excess and waste, it’s normal if you’re searching for efficient and environmentally-friendly ways to go about your daily life. Sure, you might not be ready to limit all of your trash and waste to a single Mason jar, as Lauren Singer famously did, but you are far from alone if you want to do your part to cut back on your own waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States generated 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018, a number that translates to 4.9 pounds of waste per person in the U.S. per day. (The EPA does not provide numbers for how much of that waste was generated by individuals or by companies offloading certain goods, such as unsold merchandise or expired food.) So what can one person do? One option is to consider a lifestyle shift toward a lower-waste way of living.

According to Jen Panaro, the founder and editor of Honestly Modern, tells Apartment Therapy, “Low-waste living is a set of lifestyle habits through which one consciously makes consumption choices with the intention of reducing waste as a byproduct of those choices.” She notes that “no one can live a truly zero-waste life, due at the very least to upstream waste created in many of our larger production and communal systems,” but there are plenty of easy ways to cut down on your consumption and how much you throw out every day.

If you’ve been itching to cut down your waste, here are four expert-approved tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Analyze Your Consumption Habits

Anton Giuroiu, a co-founder of Homesthetics.net and MKR.S, a small architecture office in Bucharest, says the first step in living a lower-waste lifestyle is to look inward. “There are many ways to achieve a low-waste lifestyle but I think the easiest for everyone to do is to review our consumption habits.” 

He recommends asking questions such as, “How much clothing do you really need to buy in a year to clothe yourself decently?” which could then lead to questions about mending worn clothing, re-wearing beloved pieces in new or interesting ways, or embarking on a no-buy challenge for clothing specifically as a test run. The amount of food coming into your house each week is another area where you might want to reconsider your choices. “How much food do you need to buy and how often do you need to buy it to avoid spoilage?” Giuroiu asks. The answer might vary depending on how many family members are in your home at any given time, and what their dietary needs and restrictions are. 

“Simple things like that can make a great impact on waste production and reduce the need to reuse and recycle in the first place,” he says.

Upcycle (and Recycle) Everything You Can

One of the simplest ways to avoid creating waste is upcycling, or creatively reusing different things throughout the home into other things rather than throwing them out.“Don’t throw anything out without asking ‘what else could I use this for?’” Gladys Strickland, the founder of Road to Self Reliance, a blog dedicated to living with as little waste as possible, tells Apartment Therapy. “Begin keeping a list of what the item was and how you could have used it for future reference.” A great way to think creatively is to go through Pinterest, YouTube, and anything similar to see if it sparks an idea.

Along with upcycling, making recycling a priority is another way to go low waste. But looking more into recycling in your area is the key, says Kylee Guenther, a keynote speaker and a co-founder of Pivot Materials and Loopy Products. “Every jurisdiction has different requirements and guidelines as to what is acceptable for recycling,” Guenther notes. “Go deeper than just the guidelines. Ask where things go after they get to the recycling center.” 

… and That Includes Leftovers

You’ve likely been taught to save leftovers from meals, meal kits, and nights out. But Strickland suggests going even further and looking into how you use your scraps. “One of my favorite things to do is save up various vegetable scraps in the freezer, then make a batch of vegetable broth,” they notes. “Bonus points if you can compost the veggies after making the broth!”

Kevin Templeton, an executive chef at barleymash in San Diego, California, agrees. “Cross-utilize all items in the kitchen, minimizing the waste of product,” he tells Apartment Therapy. “When you’re cutting up vegetables for salad or a side to go with dinner, you can use the little end pieces of carrots, celery, onion, etc. to create your own veggie stock. This veggie stock can be used for cooking, including braising meats and sauce making.”

Invest in Reusable Products When You’ve Run Out of Single-Use Options

It can be quite daunting to make going low- or zero-waste an all-or-nothing effort, especially when the time comes around for your first shopping trip. “One of the best things you can do to go low-waste on a budget is purchase reusable swaps for single-use products, like plastic wrap and plastic bags,” Laura Wittig, a co-founder and the CEO of Brightly, tells Apartment Therapy. “Even though you’ll be spending a little upfront, those items last for years; you’ll get more for your money. Plus, you’ll be keeping a lot of waste out of landfills.” If you already have bags that you can reuse, there’s no need to invest in fancy new ones — after all, the purpose of going low-waste is to use what you already have.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 4 Budget-Friendly Habits That Make Lower-Waste Living Easy (Experts Swear By Them)