Have you ever encountered someone who hated their job? It’s pretty easy to see, especially when they snap and chew your head off when you question why they’re throwing your recycling in with the trash. That’s how I started my day last Friday and as a consumer with a  choice, I decided then and there that we’d be switching companies. This also led me on a journey of discovery to find that recycling is a little bit of a sham right now in the United States and ultimately, on a journey to consider how to consume LESS to begin with.

What’s Going On With Recycling?

After talking with other local companies, I learned that they were phasing out their recycling programs because the places they were taking recycling to were raising their prices.  We live in the country, and the local companies apparently drop their loads at larger Waste Management drop offs.  Waste Management is raising their rates for taking recycling because China has raised THEIR rates by about 4x’s the normal price. 

Wait!  Did you say China?!  Why yes I did.  Through this process, I learned that most of our recycling gets shipped over to China to be remade into manufactured products. However, China no longer needs such a surplus and has raised rates in order to curb more items being shipped over. 

This was a little disturbing to me. I know the power of recycling and it seems to me to be a solid way to be a good steward of this earth we have to live on. So, now that I can’t recycle because there really aren’t any local options AND because even if I think I am recycling, it’s actually going in a landfill anyway, I’m feeling really disturbed.

So, for this heartbroken soul who wants to do the responsible thing, I’m wondering what do we do? The only solution I have currently comes down to starting with LESS to begin with.  As I thought through this concept, I’ve brainstormed some ideas I could try for consuming less and keeping my footprint as light as possible on this earth.

  1. Skip the straws (plastic or cardboard).  Don’t get all in a huff yet, but think about it first. You might really like straws, but are they always necessary? If they aren’t, skip em or use a metal straw instead. 
  2. Shop with subscriptions. We use Amazon subscriptions for some of our shopping, which has saved us a ton of hassle, but I’ve found that if I have a bunch of items I order at once, they often arrive in the same box.  This saves on shipping air cushions and on cardboard boxes.  
  3. Switch to reusable water bottles. In Colorado, it can be trendy to have a water bottle everywhere you go, but even still, I find myself using or accepting disposable plastic water bottles. If I got in the habit of keeping a full water bottle in the car with me every day I left, I could say no to those water bottles and have less to consume.
  4. Stop eating fast food. Eating at home produces less trash – simple as that. 
  5. Use Reusable Shopping Bags.  My biggest flaw with these is that I forget to put them in the car after using them. I just need to shake up my habit so that I don’t have to use plastic grocery bags as much.  
  6. Make my own laundry soap. I was doing this for a while and then got lazy and switched back to store-bought.  But, as I’m thinking through how many plastic containers we end up pitching, I may need to switch back to making my own dry laundry soap.
  7. Purchase products in containers that can be reused. One example is to purchase sour cream and then use the container to store other small items or for other food storage (rather than buying tupperware containers)
  8. Grow more of my own food. We already are on this green thumb train, but the more we can grow of our own food, the better (and less packaging!).
  9. Borrow from friends. We don’t always need to own every tool or piece of equipment. The more I buy, the more the stores produce.  Borrowing could be a great solution.
  10. Stop wasting food. If I can be realistic about what food I NEED to buy, that we will actually eat, then I stop buying food that I don’t need and wasting food and the packaging it comes in.
  11. Shop at Farmer’s Markets – A bunch of berries at a farmer’s market doesn’t necessarily come in a plastic container, but I still get just as much value from it, if not more.  You also avoid produce stickers!  
  12. “Shop” at the library.  Borrowing books from the library is an easy way to consume less (and help me with book clutter )
  13. Skip the wrapping paper or reuse wrapping from gifts you receive.  This is thrifty AND produces less to start.  Bags and tissue paper are easier to wrap sometimes and easy to save to reuse. Getting creative with fabric or other bags as a way to “wrap” gifts could be another possible solution.
  14. Shop less.  Simply going out to shop just to shop not only saves money, but simply doesn’t add to the stuff you potentially have to throw out down the road.
  15. Shop second-hand. While I love this for many reasons, shopping second hand for clothes, lamps, tools, and more is a fun way to have a lesser footprint and give more life to an item that might normally just go in the landfill.  
  16. Cancel magazine subscriptions.  I could easily cut these out as I’m too busy these days to fully enjoy them and sometimes they build up. 
  17. Go digital.  The purist in me hates saying this, but owning or renting books and movies with a streaming service or e-reader produces less trash or physical items.  
  18. Cut the mailers.  Take a few minutes to see what catalogs you can request to opt out of.  
  19. Stop drinking soda. This is a good one for my health and for the earth.
  20. Bring reusable containers to restaurants.  Bring home your leftovers in your own reusable container!
  21. Buy milk in returnable/reusable containers. 
  22. Raise Chickens – I’ve been digging my heels on this one for a while, but we wouldn’t have to buy any and we’d be able to reuse the same containers over and over.
  23. Use fabric napkins.  We’ve been doing this for over ten years and it’s SUPER EASY!
  24. Stop using cleaning wipes.  This is a hard one for me, but I think between my Norwex rags and just old t-shirts-turned-rags, I could cut this habit by about 50%.  
  25. Ditch sponges for dishes. About three years ago, I got the Norwex dish rag (and no, I’m not a Norwex rep) and it is amazing!  Easy to clean and reuse hundreds of times over.
  26. Use up what ya got.  Before buying a new version of something, ask if you really need a new one. Maybe your old wheelbarrow with the flat wheel actually does have more life in it (talking to myself on this one).  🙂
  27. Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.  Oh, and hey!  Our goats produce the fiber needed for these smart little wool balls.  
  28. Use rechargeable batteries.
  29. Buy reduced or clearance items at the store.  These items are often thrown out and often work just great. You also can get a deal at the same time.
  30. Forgo conditioner and other beauty products you don’t need.  I use conditioner maybe once a week if I’m lucky enough to remember. If you don’t need the products, why use them?  Why buy them?  Why waste the containers they come in?
  31. Make your own soap. A few months ago, I got to learn how to make my own bar soap.  Buy using bar soap for hand-washing and basic body-scrubbing, I could reduce the amount of liquid soap refills.  
  32. Buy a compostable toothbrush instead of plastic.
  33. Stop taking free stuff and swag.  The less I pick up free pens and junk from businesses and events, the less I have to throw away or try to use up.
  34. Say no to single use items. If you don’t need to take the hotel soaps, don’t move them.  If you don’t need extra sugar packets, don’t even move them from the jar at the end of the table at the restaurant.  Don’t give servers any reason to think they should throw out these items.  
  35. Switch to LED bulbs that last longer than other types of light bulbs.
  36. Use a high pitch mouse repellant. After trying all sorts of rodent management solutions for when we had mice find their way into our home, we finally found a thing we plug into an electric outlet that emits a high pitch that is supposed to keep mice away.  So far, it’s working and it’s saving us dozens upon dozens of mousetraps.  Well, that and the barn cats.  They’re helping manage the mice that run away from the main house.  🙂
  37. Go paperless for bills.  This one is a hard one for us, and I’ll be honest, I don’t know how easy this would be for us to do, even if it does mean less paper is being produced.  
  38. Stop using Keurig/single-use coffee pods.
  39. Stop watching HGTV shows.  I find that when I watch some of these kinds of shows, I start to envy and desire new spaces and new stuff.  The less I watch this stuff, the less I even consider needing to remodel certain spaces.  
  40. Buy quality, not cheap crap.  Yes, you’ll spend more money up front, but you won’t have to replace that item multiple times over, which in the long run will save you on money, effort, and waste. 

Let me be clear:  I’m not going to suddenly start doing all 40 things right away. Some of these are things we’re already doing and some are attainable to start.  Some, feel really hard when I consider them.  However, when I think about the alternative, my conscious starts kicking in.  Most of these concepts fall in line with zero waste living, which is something that sounds great, but I know can be a big lifestyle change.  Living with less helps start us on a path to more responsible living and we’re gonna give a few new steps toward this a try.