The U.S. has a huge trash problem and the solution can start with you.
On average, Americans throw away 254 million tons of garbage yearly, which is enough to go to the moon and back 25 times! This waste will go to various locations like dumps or incinerators. Some will be recycled (which is great) but that only makes up for 34.3%. Unlike some issues which seem like they will take a wave of policy changes to fix, in this case, the solution lies with us. “How?” you ask? Going waste free! This is a lifestyle in which people try to make as little waste as possible. For each person it can be different; some might want to cut their daily trash in half while others can fit five years of garbage in a mason jar. Whatever you chose to do will still make an impact.
Most of what we throw away tends to be plastic. Bottles, take out containers, cutlery, plastic bags, solo cups, straws… the list goes on and on. Although most plastic is recyclable, not all types are and consequently, they end up in the trash can. A few simple ways to reduce your plastic usage is to bring reusable canvas bags when you go shopping, say “no thank you” to straws when you’re out to eat, and drink out of one reusable bottle instead of multiple plastic water bottles. Once you get used to this, try to stop buying food with excess packaging. Farmers’ markets are usually the best places to do this because most of their products are package-less!
Recycle as much as possible
This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your waste! Most glass, paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum can be recycled. What makes it even simpler is that at Siena, you do not need to separate your recyclables, they do it for you! All you need to do is dispose of it in the proper receptacles. But let’s not just stop there; you can also recycle batteries, light bulbs, and electronics like phones and laptops. All you need to do is contact your local waste management about how to go about it because every community is different.
For a comprehensive list of every thing you can recycle, click here.
Limit your use of paper towels
Especially while living in a dorm, college students use a lot of paper towels. From drying our hands to an impromptu plate, paper towels have become part of our everyday lives. While paper does decompose quicker than other waste, it still ends up in dumps and may contain toxic materials. The best way to combat this is to use towels or rags whenever possible. So the next time you spill a drink, instead of going for the paper towels to clean it up, grab a fabric towel instead.
Minimize your food waste
40% of the food in the U.S. ends up uneaten, which is a huge amount of waste! What we first need to do is cut down on creating this excess food. Ways to reduce includes shopping consciously and not overbuying, saving leftovers to eat in the following days, and learning the most effective ways to store food. If you do find yourself with food scraps, compost anything that is non-processed. Composting is when organic materials break down into soil. Some people have compost piles in the yards, but if you are tight on space, there are small compost bins you can set up which do the same thing.
Thrift for clothes and donate
The clothing industry is the second largest polluter, and is only surpassed by gas companies. So how do we avoid this? While it may be easy to avoid some of the items that contribute to waste, clothes are not one of them. One way around this is to go to consignment and thrift stores to shop. Not only will this save you some cash, but it prevents more clothing from being thrown away and becoming waste! Other options are to buy classic, quality pieces that you can wear for years and learn to repair your clothes when they get damaged. Shopping from sustainable brands like Ecovibe Apparel ensures that the clothes you buy come from companies that have taken the initiative to reduce their waste.
Avoid single-use goods
Single use items are convenient but oh so wasteful! Coffee pods, plastic utensils, dryer sheets and Styrofoam cups of ramen are all culprits. Every time an item like that is used it has to be thrown away, making for a build-up of trash. Switch out these products for others that do the same thing but last for a long time. Consider a French press with ground coffee from your local grocery store in lieu of coffee pods. Switch out plastic utensils with silverware. Try using dryer balls or balls of wool with a few drops of essential oils instead of dryer sheets. And if you really need that ramen, avoid Styrofoam, which never decomposes.