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New Year, New Habits: 7 Easy Ways To Waste Less At Home
Back in the nineteenth century, glass milk bottles were invented: customers left their empty glass bottles out for the milkman to replace with bottles full of fresh milk. This low waste system was widely used across the U.S. and other parts of the world up until the mid-nineteenth century. In the ‘60s, the first gallon plastic milk bottles were patented and sold in grocery stores. Plastic was cheaper than glass, the newly produced bottles potentially cleaner and safer than used and refilled bottles, and the large plastic gallons promoted consumption. A win for the industry, a loss for conservation.
These days, milkmen and women and their refillable glass bottles are back in some parts of the country. Dairy milk and its alternatives are available at the grocery store in paper cartons and even glass bottles. But it isn’t really about the milk. We’ve been trained to look for what’s most convenient, even if that compromises the wellbeing of our planet. Now, in order to conserve, individuals have to create their own systems within the wider system: it’s up to each of us to reduce waste. It comes down to changes in habit — how can we refocus our daily lives to prioritize reducing waste over convenience? Some things are easier to change than others, but the more habits you convert, chances are, the more you’ll find you can change. Here are some places to start:
Replace plastic wrap with reusable beeswax wrap
Because some kind of wrap for leftover food is still useful, it just doesn’t need to be disposable. Aren’t bees incredible?
Invest in reusable produce bags
If you get to the store and realize you forgot to bring them, ask for boxes or paper bags, and re-use or recycle them when you’re done. Better yet, store them where you won’t forget -- in your car, hanging next to your keys by the door, in your purse.
Clean, properly store, and care for tools and long-wearing items you already have
With proper care, your kitchen pots and pans, your makeup brushes, your cleaning supplies, your shoes … could all last you a lifetime. Instead of replacing your worn out shoes, try bringing them in to the cobbler for repairs. Wash your makeup brushes regularly. Store your mops and brooms safely, keeping bristles straight and intact. Still, it’s worth investing in products that are made a little better, even if they’re slightly on the expensive side. Chances are you’ll get more out of them in the long run.
Parents, try using cloth diapers
Thousands of tons and billions of disposable diapers wind up in landfills yearly and never (in spite of what they may claim, according to the New York Times) really decompose. If you’re looking for convenience, disposable diapers will win every time — but the tradeoff is significant.
Organize your fridge, waste less
Follow the grocery store preservation model: Every time you grocery shop, stock your fridge and cupboards according to newness: Shuffle older groceries to the front and place new ones at the back or on the bottom. This way, the old stuff won’t go bad while you’re consuming the new stuff, and less will get thrown away.
Always check the “no utensils” option on takeout
You don’t need them. If you’re really on the go, try investing in a to-go utensil kit — a handy case stocked with cutlery you can bring with you everywhere. Also, get takeout less and cook at home more. Your body will thank you. So will the planet.
If you’re a big juice drinker, invest in a juicer -- even if it’s just a small one -- so you don’t buy plastic bottles. You’ll be surprised how much you reduce your output this way.