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How to Reduce Waste: Upcycling, Reusing & Alternate Products

How to Reduce Waste: Upcycling, Reusing & Alternate Products
4 min. read
upcycle advice on black board next to reusable items

Image: Netrun78 / Shutterstock.com

It’s great to be diligent about recycling, but if you really want to help the planet, the best thing you can do is not make waste in the first place. Instead of just tossing something in the garbage or recycling when you’re done with it, consider how you might keep the item in use. Between smart reusable products and clever upcycling ideas, it’s easier than ever to make less waste.

Where to Begin

Plastic bags and single-use water bottles are bad for animals, the environment and your health. And even though plastic bottles are recyclable, many of them don’t end up in recycling. They also require an incredible amount of resources to both produce and recycle. So, if you’re looking for an easy way to reduce the amount of plastic waste you create, this is a great place to begin.

There are so many cute and functional choices when it comes to reusable beverage containers; why would you not want to have one (or several)? And not only do they help the environment, but they also save you money. Water is free if you have your own container and many coffee shops offer a discount if you bring your own cup.

Additionally, many retailers now provide reusable bags when you shop, giving you another low-cost way to reduce plastic waste. Just leave the bags in your car and grab one anytime you run into the store. They’re extremely durable and can hold more than plastic bags, so they’re better for you and the planet.

The Next Step

Once you’re comfortable taking your reusable bag and bottle everywhere, it’s time to take the next steps. There is a wide range of products on the market designed to help eliminate single-use waste. And while they may require a small investment upfront, they’ll save you money in the long run when you no longer have to buy their alternatives.

Beeswax wraps keep your food fresh and actually work a lot better than plastic wrap. They come in all different sizes, and when they wear out, they’re compostable! Once you try them, you’ll never go back. Glass food storage containers are microwave and dishwasher safe and won’t leach toxic chemicals into your food. As your plastic containers wear out, replace them with glass versions, and you’ll never need another plastic container again. Add reusable straws and travel cutlery to your collection to eliminate even more single-use waste.

Shop Local

When you shop at farmer’s markets and small businesses, not only do you help your local economy, you also reduce the amount of waste and recycling you create. Locally grown produce rarely comes in packaging and doesn’t use all the resources associated with shipping items.

If you don’t have access to local markets, choose produce without packaging and skip the plastic produce bags. After all, fruit and vegetables come in their own natural wrapping! If you like to keep your fresh food together, opt for reusable mesh bags instead.

Use the Fancy Plates

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned, it’s that get-togethers with friends and family really are special. So why not treat them that way? The next time you entertain, skip the paper plates and plastic cutlery in favor of your everyday dishes.

Plastic cutlery is not recyclable, and once they become soiled, paper plates can’t be recycled either. Avoid all that waste and save money by using what you already have. If you really want to make the day feel special, take it a step further and break out the good china.

Upcycling Makes Things Better

The next time you’re about to throw away something damaged or recycle an empty container, consider how you might give it new life instead. A coat of paint can transform an old dresser or curtain rod into something trendy and new. Add legs to an old suitcase to create a stylish vintage side table. You just need a little imagination, and almost anything old can be new again.

And things we might normally recycle can actually be quite useful if we put a bit of effort into it.  Glass jars have an air-tight seal and are dishwasher and freezer safe. Instead of buying a set of containers for your pantry, use old jars to store everything from baking supplies to leftovers. Paint the lids and add matching labels to make them look like an expensive set.

By replacing single-use products, choosing items without packaging and taking the time to find new uses for old items, we can all reduce the amount of waste we make.

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