Environment Green and Clean Wellness

5 Ways to Reduce Waste


Eryn Grace - 5 Ways to Reduce Waste - Enlighten Life Blog

Hi all, I’m Eryn! I am an elementary school teacher living in Iowa City with my husband.  Just like my sister Elsa, I am passionate about wellness and living life to the fullest.  I am stepping in to write a guest post on a topic I care a lot about, waste!  I feel everyone can benefit from taking some time to consider it.

This topic isn’t particularly glamorous, but that is exactly why I would challenge you to do some self-reflecting on it, especially as we just started a fresh, new year!

So, lets talk TRASH!

Waste is an age-old issue that we often unknowingly distance ourselves from, but it is tremendously important to living a healthy life!  I would take it even further to say that whether or not you consider yourself “healthy” if you are privileged enough to be reading this, you actually have a responsibility to consciously think about your consumption of products and the impact it makes.

There is no such thing as “away” when we throw anything away it must go somewhere” -Annie Leonard

The statistics on waste in our country are gross and overwhelming.  It can get pretty intense and alarming if you really take a close look.  This post is not meant to reveal all the junk (literally, haha) that surrounds this topic, but instead positively approach this area no matter where you are already at in doing so!

My hope is that this list encourages and empowers you (yes, YOU) to know that small, simple changes really do matter and you can feel good about being a part of a solution.

I’ve compiled five easy things you can start doing NOW that will minimize your waste.  They are short, sweet, and relevant no matter who you are or where you live. Most are common sense that you’ve probably even heard before.

Before scanning the list, I would start the whole process of waste reduction by first asking yourself:

  • What do I purchase?
  • What do I actually use from those purchases?
  • What am I wasting? (what ends up in the trash bin each week, month, year?)


Awareness is honestly the most important part of this whole concept!

Awareness –> new thinking –> changing choices –> HABITS!


5 Ways to Reduce Waste


Recycle…surprise, surprise!

I hate to put this first, as it sounds oh-so-cliché but can you believe that on average over 40% of Americans still don’t recycle (WHAT?!).  I’m always a little shocked when I notice this around me.  Although there is still no national standard on recycling, meaning it is up to state and local governments to regulate, almost everybody has the ability to recycle in some way.  Check your community policies, most living situations have a system included in the garbage disposal.  If not, talk to your HOA, landlord, etc.  If nothing else, you still have the ability to go to a recycling center yourself.  Most times they are connected to a grocery store you already are making frequent trips to.  I will admit that this one may take some time and extra effort.  However, usually it’s as easy as buying (or getting a free city container) to separately discard recyclables into and taking it out along with the trash.  Get a system down and use it!  Remember throwing trash “away” isn’t real.  Throwing trash “somewhere out of sight” is the reality.

If you’re already feeling good about recycling, I would like to quick go on a tangent and argue that COMPOSTING is basically a form of recycling!  I know that it isn’t practical for everyone… but if it is, do it! It’s way easier and not as scary as everyone thinks – HERE is some information on that!

Don’t let it run – duh!

Most people only think of the ‘brushing your teeth’ scenario, but I’ll be the first to admit I love myself a good loooooong shower almost every day, sometimes I even let it run while I’m not even in it (gah!).  Cutting that shower time down is a personal goal I have, but don’t stop there, think dishes, cleaning, or any other resource you aren’t actually using.  That could include lights, fans, or even adjusting your heating/cooling system when you aren’t home.

Ditch anything that has a single usage life.

Think paper towels, coffee filters, plastic shopping bags, paper plates, plastic containers, bottled water, etc.  Not only are these inherently “cheap” products extremely costly to produce from an energy standpoint and use up many resources that immediately get tossed, many are also full of toxins that aren’t keeping you healthy.  These “disposable” items are usually the most abundant in your trash can each week and may take centuries to decompose, not to mention pollute.

I love this one because switching out for long term use items will eventually save you tons of money.  Plus you can choose items that fit your style and needs.  Here are a few alternatives:


Food Choices

Buy local, buy bulk (instead of small/single serving items), and go vegetarian at least once in a while!  I think sometimes these are seen solely as personal preferences or maybe even fads?  But think about the facts: the amount of energy to produce one calorie of meat vs. one calorie of plant protein is extremely disproportionate.  I am not suggesting that everyone become vegetarians.  However, start by trying one meal per day without a meat option or designate a day of the week that is meat free.  Think also about how far your food traveled to get to you and even the packaging it comes in!

And of course… don’t let those dang leftovers go to waste! 

Buy used items.

Need furniture for your house?  A kitchen item? Want a something for your closet?  Check the Goodwills, Salvation Armies, OfferUp, and other types of resale stores/online options before heading to the chain stores.  Not always, but often you will find something unique and better quality anyways.  Yes, there are a lot of crappy and even comically hideous things at resale stores, but many items have a ton of life left in them or may even be brand new!  I’ve furnished my entire house this way…for a fraction of the cost too (WIN!).

And there you have it!

I could dig so much deeper into each of these five topics!  If you’re interested in learning more about how this plays out in my life, or have any great ideas to share, feel free to reach out to Elsa or myself.


**Don’t be too harsh on yourself! There is no way anyone can be 100% waste free.  Sometimes conveniences does take precedence, but those times should be the exception, not the default practice.  Like all lifestyle choices, they are habits that may need to be reconstructed or built a little at a time.  Once you get into a mindset of consciously reducing your waste these habits become easy and routine as any other necessary part of your life!  It is a process that we can all continually work on improving. **

Eryn Grace