Society these days moves quickly—and that has spilled over into the everyday items we use. Americans are conditioned for convenience, and our waste production reflects this.
Americans produce 250 million TONS of trash each year.
While this number may seem overwhelming, make no mistake: our individual, daily decisions matter.
Each one of us produces 4.43 lbs of trash per day. What if we each took steps to reduce this number?
One of the biggest producers of waste are the many single-use items that we toss in the trash as soon as we use them.
But we each can reduce our waste with these 11 ideas for replacing single-use items with reusable items.
Save money. Save the earth. Wins for your wallet and for the world.
1. Plastic Water Bottles >> Reusable Water Bottles
This one is the first item we recommend replacing for good reason: 38 million plastic water bottles end up in landfills each year in America.
Think about it… if you’re drinking a bottle a day yourself, you’re contributing 365 plastic bottles to that number all on your own!
Replacing plastic water bottles with reusable water bottles is one of the easiest ways to be kind to the earth AND your wallet.
These Brita water bottles even come with a water filter system inside.
2. Plastic Grocery Bags >> Canvas Shopping Bags
As we explained in our first post in our Recycling series, plastic grocery bags can’t be recycled in your typical curbside recycling.
Let’s get rid of these altogether by replacing plastic grocery bags with canvas (or another reusable material) shopping bags.
Most grocery chains now sell their own reusable bags directly at the store.
Forget your reusable bag at home? It happens to the best of us. When this happens, opt instead for paper bags if the grocery store offers this—paper bags are at least recyclable.
3. To-Go Coffee Cups >> Reusable Mugs or Tumblers
What’s more ubiquitous to our morning routines than a cup of coffee? And if you’re an on-the-go coffee guzzler, part of your morning may include grabbing a cup of Joe from your favorite coffee shop.
Instead of relying on paper to-go mugs, do the earth a favor and bring your own reusable mug or to-go tumbler.
Some coffee shops, like Starbucks, even offer a discount for bringing in your own reusable container!
4. Paper Coffee Filters >> Reusable Coffee Filters
Even if you make your coffee at home, you can still go green with your morning brew.
Do away with paper coffee filters and instead use reusable coffee filters that allow you to clean them between each use.
(And don’t even get us started on the waste produced by single-use Keurig K-Cups…)
5. Paper Napkins >> Cloth Napkins or Bandanas
Americans went through 7.4 billion lbs of waste related to paper napkins and toilet paper in 2015 alone.
In fact, America is the “paper towel capital of the world,” spending $5.7 billion on paper towels in 2017. No other country comes close to this sort of spending on paper towels.
Consider investing in cute, washable cloth napkins that you can use again and again with your meals.
In our family, we use bandanas—these are inexpensive, can be washed, and don’t need to be ironed! I got the idea while I was watching the show “Pioneer Woman” on HGTV, and they’ve been my go-to ever since.
6. Sponges >> Zero Waste Sponges or Cloth Dishrags
In the same vein as paper towels, sponges are another item that we typically throw away once they’ve reached the point where they’ve seen better days.
Zero waste sponges like these can be washed when soiled. Cloth dishrags also allow you to wash and reuse.
7. Sandwich Bags >> Plastic Containers
Single-use plastics are one of the environment’s arch-enemies, and for good reason. Floating in the oceans are 160 million tons of plastic, and more continues to make its way down rivers each year.
Take a break from the Ziploc plastic bags and instead invest in a set of reusable food containers for all your meal prep needs.
8. Brown Paper Lunch Bag >> Reusable Lunch Bags
Make your to-go lunch entirely eco-friendly when you switch your brown paper lunch bag into a reusable lunch bag. These are inexpensive and will last you ages!
9. Plastic Straws >> Stainless Steel Straws
You’ve probably heard the plight of the sea turtle and other marine life when it comes to plastic straws ending up in our oceans and on our beaches.
When at restaurants, decline straws before the server places them on the table (they have to throw away anything placed on the table anyways). And if you prefer the convenience of a straw, consider investing in washable stainless steel straws.
We use stainless steel straws that have a slight bend in the top, allowing for easier sipping.
10. Liquid Hand Soap >> Bar Soap
Say goodbye to plastic entirely when you switch from liquid hand soap to bar soap.
Switching to bar soap also allows you to support local artisans and organizations. Non-profits like Preemptive Love sell handmade soap and soap gift sets that support the refugee families that produce the soaps.
11. Paper Bills >> Online Bills
Do you still receive paper bills in the mail? Consider switching over your account to paperless billing. Some companies will even offer a discount for the paperless billing option.