Start your waste reduction journey | Guest editorial

Waste Management’s Hannah Scholes offers tips on how we can reduce waste.

Most Americans throw away about 4.5 gallons of stuff every single day. That’s a whole lot of garbage.

The good news is, we’re taking notice. Communities, businesses and local governments across Puget Sound recognize the problem and are implementing waste reduction strategies. For example, a King County coalition of 10 local governments has released a year-long assessment and is advancing strategies to reduce waste and achieve a regional approach to responsible recycling.

One key finding is that meaningful waste reduction requires behavior change — including better purchasing decisions and lifestyle choices. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your waste reduction journey.

Tip 1: Reduce! You’ve heard it before and it’s truly the best way to decrease your environmental footprint (as well as the strain on your wallet). Before buying something, ask yourself: Do I really need this? If the answer is yes, ask yourself again. When you do buy a product, think about each purchase thoroughly to ensure your new addition will be long-lasting and as low-impact as possible. Shopping at second-hand stores is a great start!

Tip 2: Quit the single-use habit. There are products we use regularly because they are convenient, but many have environmentally friendly, reusable alternatives. Next time, choose reusable coffee cups, napkins, utensils and more. Each individual item can really add up. If every American used one less roll of paper towels per year, we could save more than 550,000 trees.

Tip 3: Adjust your shopping habits to decrease packaging waste. Many grocery stores offer a bulk section where shoppers can minimize packaging and fill up on everything from dried fruit and nuts to flour, coffee and peanut butter. Some specialty stores offer an even wider selection including teas and materials to help you make your own soaps, toothpaste and deodorant. It’s simpler than you think! You can even make a green kitchen cleaner with just three ingredients: vinegar, water and scented oil.

Remember, behavior change starts with small actions, and a green lifestyle may be more attainable than you think. Keep these tips in mind on your next shopping trip and you’ll be reducing waste like a pro in no time!

Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s education and outreach manager. Learn more about plastic recycling at RecycleOftenRecycleRight.com.

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