The Essential Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Everyday Guide

Article by Tammy Pitts

Water bottles, coffee pods, and containers for take-out are extremely convenient in a fast-paced world, but that garbage is piling up in our landfills. Every year, the United States produces over 292 million tons of municipal solid waste. That's way too much trash! Here are some simple ways to reduce waste and live a greener, eco-friendly life.

Say "No!" to plastic water bottles

water jugs

Americans are obsessed with plastic water bottles. And sadly, all of that plastic is contributing to the millions of tons of waste in our landfills each year. Instead of buying a package of bottled water each week or month at the grocery store, why not invest in a quality, reusable water bottle - one that will actually keep your water cold for hours? There are plenty of flasks to choose from including double-insulated bottles that will keep your coffee hot and your water cold.

Say "Yes!" to reusable shopping bags

Woman holding a reusable bag in a garden.

Say "No!" to the plastic bags at the grocery store and bag your food items in reusable bags. I switched from plastic to reusable shopping bags a few years ago, and what a difference it has made! Not only am I helping the environment by not using plastic bags that will clog up a landfill, but my shopping experience is more pleasurable. The reusable shopping bags are sturdy and roomy and can hold way more food than the plastic, flimsy bags at the grocery store. Another bonus? There's no worry that a jar of spaghetti sauce or pickles will crack and break as I'm carrying the bags into my home.



You can keep food waste out of the trash by composting it. There are many benefits to composting including water conservation and the reduction of waste. Composting food waste also produces a natural fertilizer for gardens and flowerbeds and healthier plant growth.

Ditch single-serve and buy in bulk

reusable containers

Say "Goodbye!" to single-serve containers and hello to bulk. Snack packs and other single-serve items like juice boxes and coffee pods are popular with many families. But the environmentally friendly option to reduce waste and packaging is simply switching to reusable containers. Instead of buying single servings of goldfish crackers for snacks, why not buy an entire box and then dole out individual servings in safe, reusable containers? It's also smarter to pour your child's beverage into a reusable cup versus buying juice boxes.

Utilize social media groups

free stuff

One man's junk is another man's treasure. Something you might have designated as trash could actually be beneficial for someone else. There are plenty of "˜buy nothing' groups on social media platforms like Facebook. Join one in your area and advertise your goods as free. You might be surprised to see the inquiries pile up in your inbox asking for those "˜junk' items.

For example, a storm caused one of the trees in our yard to fall and I opted to advertise it on Facebook as free firewood versus having a company come and haul the tree away. Several people saw my Facebook post and within an hour, a man arrived at my home and chopped up the wood to use for his wood-burning stove to heat his home. Win-win!

Recycle clothes

bin pics

Recycling clothes is also a way to reduce waste and conserve responsibly, and by doing so, you can make some extra money. Online sites like Poshmark and eBay will allow you to recycle the clothes you no longer want and earn a profit. You can also help protect the planet and conserve water by donating your unwanted clothing to clothing drives like the one we held last December. If you're in the market for new threads, check out local thrift stores.

Reuse old items

The first thought for old and unwanted items shouldn't be to toss them in the garbage. Instead, find new uses for old items. For example, glass jars that once contained food can be washed and rinsed out and turned into new containers to hold food or even cups to drink out of. Mason jars initially used in the canning of food are quite popular for holding cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Worn bath towels can be cut up to use as cleaning rags.

Recycle old electronics responsibly

recycled electronics

Instead of leaving your old television or computer by the curb on garbage day, why not recycle those items? Each year, there is usually a recycling event or area program where you can safely dispose of electronics. Please consider this option to keep electronics out of landfills.

Reduce paper waste

paper waste

There are a few easy ways to reduce paper waste in your home. For starters, switch all of your bills to paperless billing and e-payments. That not only reduces the number of paper bills that are printed, but you're saving on stamps as well. Paper towels only end up in landfills -- why not replace them with reusable cloths? The same rule applies to paper napkins -- switch to cloth napkins. You can also reduce paper waste during the work week by packing your lunch in a lunchbox versus a paper or plastic bag. And instead of plastic sandwich bags to hold your lunch and snacks, opt instead for reusable containers. Ultimately, you can help save trees and support local libraries at the same time by checking out used and borrowed books versus buying them brand new. Or, another option is to switch to e-books.

In order for us to keep trash and waste from piling up in our landfills, we must do our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle on a daily basis.