Trash is like lying. Those little lies of convenience that you make — you’d love to go to that party but you’re sick, oh no! — that end up piling up later until they get so big you can’t keep a lid on it all anymore. Trash is like that. U.S. landfills are so full that we ship some of our trash to other countries. There is a whole trash economy, where places pay other places to take their trash away.
This is not only gross, it’s a massive problem for the planet that we live on. The way things are going, we’re making sure that our descendants will live out the rest of their days Wall-E style on top of an ever-growing pile of garbage. Luckily, becoming a more eco-friendly society is in our control. In 2013, Americans generated 4.4 pounds of trash per person, per day. Reducing your waste by half could save 800 pounds of trash a year. That’s far from nothing.
But let’s take a step back. What does it mean to “reduce your waste”? Everyday, we buy things. Coffee, groceries, individually-wrapped portions of spiralized zucchini. All of these things come in a package. Coffee in a cup, products in boxes, food in plastic. And if you’re buying these things online? Your waste just multiplied. Reducing your waste means first taking stock of all the waste you’re currently creating, and what you might be able to avoid.
Humans are pretty resourceful in that we can create trash out of anything, from food to paper to metal scraps. These things have varying rates of biodegradability, which determines how long they will remain trash and not turn into soil. One of the worst offenders when it comes to trash that sticks around is single-use plastic.
Cutting down on single-use plastic can make a big impact all along the consumption chain. When you stop buying plastic products, you’re sending a message to manufacturers that consumers value more sustainable options — voting with your dollars, if you will. Quitting plastic waste also means slowing down the amount of trash being added to our landfills and freeing up your community’s waste management funds for use elsewhere. Even your personal energy consumption will decrease. Plastic manufacturing uses a lot of energy, as does recycling all the plastic that’s already been used. Avoiding these products means eliminating this extra pollution from your conscience. The result of a low waste lifestyle is far less environmental impact!
Rethinking your shopping routine doesn’t just benefit the Earth, it benefits you too. While considering how to be more eco-friendly, you’ll find yourself thinking about the ingredients to the products and food you’re buying, where they came from, and how they were made. All of these aspects affect your health, and you’ll find that the best products for you were never the ones that were easiest or cheapest. Buying in bulk and choosing reusable or compostable products might even save you money in the long run.