6 Effective And Easy Lifestyle Changes To Reduce Waste
There are thousands of thoughts that run through our mind every single day, but I’m betting one of them that doesn’t come to mind is how much waste we are creating every single day. As unusual weather occurrences keep occurring, we can’t have the same sort of attitude as one of the gym members statement they made to me a few weeks ago.
It was late January when New Brunswick was hit by their first major snow storm. I mentioned to a member how relieved I am that it’s actually snowing out. They laughed and remarked about how the weather is terrible and that they wouldn’t complain if our winters were more in the positive temperatures.
As much as winter can be awful and we don’t want to deal with it, it’s concerning when this weather should’ve started back in December when winter started. It’s also concerning when most of the East Cost was celebrating a green Christmas this year.
It gets you to start thinking about our own individual impact we are making on the world.
According to the EPA, the average person produces 4.40 pounds of waste. They technically produce 5.91 pounds but 1.51 pounds of it is recyclable.
That is an absurd amount of waste when you consider this being comprised of light objects like plastics, paper, cans, bottles, and foodstuffs. It’s facts like these where you can understand why people are adopting a minimalistic lifestyle.
In more recent years, this trend has risen up to people’s attention as people have discussed this in podcasts, blog posts, and books how minimalism has revolutionized their life.
The idea revolves around the idea of less is more.
Having less debt means more financial freedom.
Having less stuff means more of the right things that bring you value and meaning in life.
Having less stress means more happiness.
Producing less waste means living a more sustainable life.
It all sounds good on paper, but there is a reason for why this lifestyle is now being hailed as the “rich, white, single person” lifestyle. It’s at a point now where this specific demographic is the only one privileged to enjoy this.
Becuase of course they are.
Now, despite it being feasible to specific individuals at this point — which is a big problem — some of the other general principles that this lifestyle brings are worth noting.
I’m all for limiting how many items we should have — especially if these things are providing no benefit to our lives.
I’m also of the mind you don’t need a massive apartment or house unless you really need it. For example, getting a large house for a family of four makes sense. Getting a house for just yourself doesn’t.
But the more important value I want to touch on is that we could all be a little less wasteful. And the beauty of it is that some of these changes don’t require you to make dramatic lifestyle changes.
Ask For No Single-Use Items When Ordering Take-Out
I recently discovered a startup in New York called DeliverZero that has built a model on combatting the amount of take-out waste that New York produces. The company claims that New Yorkers specifically are incredibly wasteful than most other Americans with New Yorkers tossing away a billion takeout containers per year.
Their solution to this problem is their take-out containers. They’re free to use and are provided to local restaurants that they’re partnered with. They have around 60 partners across NYC, but their hopes is to have every — or at least the vast majority — restaurant in the city to be partnered with them.
The restaurant provides the containers for you to use and then you’ll have to return them to various locations afterwards for them to get washed.
It’s all a great system that also speaks to the multitude of single-use items that we use when we order take-out or fast food. We don’t think about it much but there are a tonne of single-use items that are given to us.
Even if you’re not living in New York and don’t have access to this, there are simple things that you can do to remove single-use items. I’d say they’re even easier now due to a pandemic going on and most people are having take-out in their home. Some ideas are:
- Once this pandemic is over, bring your own cheap silverware with you to fast-food places or restaurants that exclusively provide plastic forks, knives, and spoons.
- You can mitigate the number of condiment packets you use by using your own supply of condiments. If you know you’re eating habits, go and stock up on the usual condiments you know you’d use from a grocery store.
- Napkins are notoriously bad for most people as many are fine with tossing away unused napkins. Stop. Have a container specifically for unused napkins. You’re bound to make messes in future meals or if you’re like me suffer runny noses whilst eating and have to blow it.
- New Yorkers can deliver the containers from DeliverZero back for them to get reused again. We can use that system for our own plastic containers. Whether it’s premade salads or resteraunt containers, don’t feel the urge to toss them away. It’s basically free Tupperware so long as you wash it.
Have A Clothes Capsule
This is the one that requires the most work for anyone in this list. And the work isn’t all that difficult.
A clothes capsule is something that I did years ago and is one of the best decisions to simplify my life when it comes to clothes. For years, picking out an outfit took me some time to put together.
I was always a colourful man so picking between multiple colours was a bit of a chore.
But what inspired me to consider a clothes capsule was one fact about Mark Zuckerberg.
Think of what you will about the man, but one thing interesting of note is the fact his outfits are all the same. It’s to the point that if you didn’t realize he has a clothes capsule that he’s been wearing the same shirt and pants for several years straight.
His reasoning behind this is simple:
The more streamlined your decisions are, the more energy you’ll have to focus on more important things.
Even though we consider one decision in the grand scheme of things to be pretty minor, it’s a big deal when we have thousands of thoughts running through our head over the course of the day. And making decisions can be draining.
If you can mitigate the thought process of at least one decision, then your life can become easier over time.
I know for myself my life has gotten much easier as I have limited options in what clothes I have to pick out. Furthermore, when I clothes shop, my decision on what clothes to get is made so much easier too.
Here is how to make a clothes capsule for yourself:
- Step 1: Before tossing away any clothes and shopping, you want to consider what is going to be your colour(s). You can stick to one like Zucks has, but there is nothing wrong with two if you feel like you can’t give up every single colour. The idea is to pick colour(s) that make you feel good and that you feel comfortable in. For me, that’s blue and green.
- Step 2: Once you’ve got your colour(s) sorted, the next thing is to pick out some outfits. Living the pandemic lifestyle makes it easier but consider what sort of outfits you will be wearing post-pandemic. Since you want to keep the capsule small-ish don’t consider outfits you might be wearing. The only exception I’d make is a suit or dress for events like weddings, funerals, conferences, etc. Make a list of the items that comprise each set. This list should have all of the outfits that you’ll be wearing for a week or two.
- Step 3: Separate your clothes into two piles. The first pile should be the items that match your selected colour(s) and outfits. The other is the donate/sell pile. From there compare the items you have in the first pile to the list you’ve created.
- Step 4: Purchase the remaining clothes that you need from the list. I’d personally go to thrift stores as it’s less wasteful and usually cheaper. The clothes can also last a surprisingly long time. Most of my outfits are still intact these days and I bought them in 2018.
Get A Reusable Bottle
One of the most ingenious — and terrible — product out there is bottled water. We go through a lot of bottled water on a regular basis. To put it in perspective, the average American spends about $100 per person per year on bottled water.
Canadian’s aren’t much better since in 2015, 19 percent of Canadians surveyed said they drink exclusively bottled water.
For many Westerners, we have this dependence on bottled water when it doesn’t make sense why. We all have readily available and drinkable tap water.
It gets sillier when you consider that people are spending 300 to 2,000 times more money buying bottled water compared to getting tap water.
Also there is the fact PepsiCo admitted that their Aquafina brand is nothing but refined tap water.
Bottled water isn’t worth your time and you can ultimately save more money by picking up two things: a Britta picture (or some kind of water filtration system) and a water bottle.
One of the bottles that I recommend for people is the bottle from Hidrate Spark. They run a good $60 plus shipping, but contains some technology that’s well worth the price.
The material is also durable, allowing a single bottle to be used for years. I’ve had mine for three years now.
Beyond the material, the nice perk with these bottles is that it comes with a sensor to monitor water intake. This sensor will begin lighting up over the course of the day if you’re trailing behind on your water intake for the day too.
This is huge as you could consider going for cheaper bottles but they don’t provide you any kind of reminders at all.
This bottle will get you into the habit of drinking water regularly. It lighting up is cool and serves as a physical reminder that we’re more likely to respond to. All you have to do is keep it on your person and fill it up with tap water whenever you can.
Convert Unwearable Clothes To Cleaning Rags
There are tonnes of items that can be repurposed for other things when you think about it. I’ve seen people make chandeliers out of wine bottles, water fountains out of pianos and more.
While this idea isn’t as impressive, it’s still practical: using clothes that are crumbling apart as cleaning rags instead.
This is something very simple to do and is good to consider if you’ve decided to make a clothes capsule for yourself. Depending on the clothes you pick out for your cpasule, you’ll find that clothes get worn down faster since you’ll be wearing them more often.
Instead of throwing those outfits out, convert them into cleaning rags you can use around the house. You can use them to dry off dishes or use it for regular house cleaning.
Have Paperless Billing
It’s 2021. Who here actually checks their mailbox at this point? Unless we’re waiting for an order from the many online shopping options, you probably don’t check your mailbox all that much.
But another reason people may be hesitant to checking is that there may be bills in there, asking for you to pay for your telephone, cable, and internet bundle or some other utility bill. Whatever the case is, we have this feeling of dread for checking our mailbox because of this.
But looking at it from an environmental standpoint, it’s also a complete and utter waste.
It reminds me of the time when I was doing the accounting for an insurance company and looking at an invoice and shaking my head at it. It was concerning a bundle but the company sent out another bill saying we owe $2. It’s silly because that invoice came with the another that charged their usual rate — significantly higher.
Most people probably won’t be dealing with this kind of invoicing but it says something if the company is producing a bill to say we owe an extra amount of money that’s less than the cost of making, printing and delivering it with the other invoice we received combined. It’s even more wasteful if they did this routinely with multiple businesses.
One quick and easy switch that you can make is to simply opt for paperless billing. Most companies offer this and depending on who you’re dealing with, they can charge you less.
After all, by going paperless, you’re saving the company money from having to deliver an invoice to you every month so some will be kind enough to kick to you the little bit of savings over to you.
Buy From Thrift/Local Stores
Another large cornerstone for people looking to reduce waste is to be going to second-hand stores or local stores for everything. This includes farmer’s markets.
I’m unfortunately in a position where getting to a farmer’s market is very cumbersome, however I’ve always shopped at thrift stores for my clothing. I — nor my parents — saw the point of buying regular clothes from the various big brand stores.
Shopping local is a great way for various reasons. Not only is it mitigating waste, but you’re also supporting your local community. It comes at a time where small businesses right now are left to their own devices for staying afloat during this pandemic.
This doesn’t mean you need to stick to shopping here exclusively, but if you have the opportunity to, I’d consider comparing prices between local stores and big brand stores — particularly when it comes to foodstuff and clothing.
You’ll find some differences in pricing but overall quality too. In most cases, you might be spending more on foodstuff or other items, but you’ll be getting more quality from it.
In terms of clothing, you’ll find thrift stores to be cheaper if you don’t mind spending a few hours scouring through clothes.
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is a massive undertaking but despite the negative label to it, the principle does have some good ideas. You don’t need to be rich, white, or single to make small changes in your life to be less wasteful.
And even the small changes we make can go a long way. Even if you reduce the amount of waste you produce by a pound or so, it’s better than where it was at before. And all you had to do is make fewer decisions.