According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year. – Source
1,600 lbs?! That’s insane! Even 4 lbs a day seems crazy! For our family of five, that would equate to 20 lbs every day! Knowing what an immense impact this has not just for our own generation, but for our kids and grandkids, we try to be mindful of how much we throw away. We are not even close to zero impact, but at around one garbage bag a week for a family of 4 (update: 2 bags a week for a family of 5), we are doing okay so far. In sha Allah (God willing), we can keep making strides forward.
Quite honestly, since we starting house shopping, then moved into our new home, alhamdulilah (Praise God), I’ve fallen off the eco bandwagon for a while. Now that things are settling down, I’m trying to get us back to some practices we’ve abandoned. I’ve noticed something through this time of transition: in most cases, convenience is both expensive, and wasteful. It’s easy to fall back to creating garbage for the sake of convenience when we’re in a hurry.
So, above all, the best thing we can do for ourselves, and to slim down our garbage bin is to reduce our schedules
Seems a little crazy, but think about it. How often do you pick up packaged food when you’re on the run? Do you resort to paper plates and plastic utensils to save time on doing dishes? When we were in the middle of moving, I even picked up disposable baking pans. It’s one thing when it’s occasional, but let’s take steps to remove using these convenience items as a lifestyle.
So, where to get started?
Here are some things we have done, or currently do to reduce waste and start eco friendly living:
- Use email for grocery lists, to-do lists, directions to someone’s house, or other things normally used with scratch paper.
- Use a whiteboard in homeschool instead of scratch paper.
- When we have to print items, print double sided.
- Turn in homeschool assignments digitally using Google Drive, whenever possible.
- Use cloth napkins and cloth towels rather than their paper counterparts.
- Buy in bulk, and choose items with one large package rather than a large box of single-serve packages.
- Use our own cloth shopping bags.
- Refill water bottles rather than buying new ones.
- Use cloth diapers and wipes.
- Keep a compost bin for kitchen scraps and leaves from the autumn.
And of course, reducing garbage isn’t the only way to reduce our eco-footprint! Unfortunately, I think our family uses more electricity than the average family, but we do some things to reduce electricity, and emissions in general.
How we reduced electricity and emissions:
- Use high efficiency bulbs. Costco has some great prices on LED lights!
- Use sheer curtains for privacy, reducing the time you turn on lights.
- Turn the water heater temperature as low as possible, while still getting it hot enough to clean things.
- Use a power strip that turns off the power outlet to certain electronics. Our receiver/CD player always has lights on, and is such a waste of energy!
- Drive a motorcycle or scooter to work to save on gas.
- Use low flow shower heads and install water reduction toilet kits.
- We were able to get low flow faucet attachments and shower heads for free from our energy company!
- Bathe small kids together.
What are some ways you reduce waste and/or emissions?
Originally posted on September 20th, 2012. Updated September 27, 2014.