How Do You Use Less?

I work with our city’s recycling program and sometimes I talk with the waste disposal company that services our city.  They keep telling us that the goal is not really to get our residents to recycle more, but rather to use, and throw away, less. It is fascinating that this comes from a company whose business it is to take away trash and recycling, you’d think that the more we dispose of, the more profit they make.

blue recycling bin overflowing with boxes and papers

We already emptied it once today!
What do you do to reduce?

But this post is not about that, it is about, how do you use less? And what do you say to others so that they will use less too? Our family is great at reuse, recycle and repair.  We’ve blogged at length about all of those topics.  But we just can’t seem to get the hang of reduce.

Every time I turn around our compost bin and recycling bin are overflowing. Not so much with our trash, it’s fascinating how once you get the hang of composting and recycling there’s just not that much trash left. What we can’t seem to figure out is how to reduce the amount of paper and packaging coming into our home. I am constantly breaking down boxes from various food products, smashing flat milk containers and stuffing the recycling bin full.

I’ve tried to get off paper mailing lists, but they just seem to come back. We frequently buy food in bulk, but sometimes that means there’s an outer wrapping holding two or more containers together. I feel like I’m constantly telling my children, no you can’t buy that. What I just can’t figure out is, where is it all coming from and how do I make it stop?

What do you do to reduce? If you were writing to the people of your town, or making a flyer for them, what would you tell them to do to inspire them to use less? Tell me, please!

Happy Greening!

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  1. I have to call our recyling pick-up, as I have something to dispose that I can’t recycle, a vaccum cleaner.

    I have tried to reduce paper waste with mailing lists also

    • Hi Kay,

      Local electronics retailers like Best Buy or Staples might be other options for recycling small appliances.

      Good Luck and let us know what you find out from your recycling pickup.


  2. Good point! I think about this especially when it comes to things like ziploc bags and other plastic items. Yes – I can reuse them, but it’s better to not even consume those products in the first place.

  3. This definitely got me thinking… sometimes I think we’re doing such a good job simply because we recycle so much… but then I look out how full our recycling bins are, and I know there’s more that we need to do.

  4. I struggle with this very same problem. The thing that really irks me is all the plastic they wrap everything in. I can’t rand plastic and avoid it like the plague. I will spend extra to purchase the version that comes in a glass bottle. I never buy food that has been packages in plastic including fruits and veggies. It is hard though we live in a plastic world!

  5. “Think like a pauper”.
    OK, so I didn’t say _live_ like a pauper. More like, remember when you were a student, and _think_ like that. The Salvation Army store for your clothes. The bulk bins at the Cambridge Food Coop (byo jars), eBay for your toys and electronics. And so on. Bonus: this is cheap! (that’s why you did it that way as a student. But it’s also very green).

    Another way: Picture what will happen to all parts of your purchase after you’ve brought it home. I’ve found this an effective deterrent. Except for the odd occasion that I can immediately think of a way to upcycle the packaging, e.g.. because I don’t buy ziploc bags any more.

  6. Another scheme that really sharpens your mind: Pay Per Throw garbage disposal. This is where your town prints its name / logo on garbage bags that they sell to you, usually through the local hardware store. It’s the only way public works will pick up your garbage.
    Last summer we stayed at a cottage in a town that had a Pay Per Throw scheme. We suddenly became super-mindful about what we bought!

    • Malden, MA did this a few years ago. I’ve had a number of conversations with residents that live in Malden who changed their behavior because of the pay as your throw model, which is great. I’m very glad though that our town provides one smaller trash bin as part of our taxes and we can buy supplemental extra bags if we need them for a big clean out.

  7. I find that when you reuse, by means of upcycling and using non-disposables we automatically use less. by purchasing reusables such as reusable menstrual pads, cloth diapers and snack bags you will be automatically using less and generating less trash. and upcycling containers and clothing will save you from having to purchase more.

  8. It really is so hard to reduce. We have to have most things shipped to us due to where we live, so I always have an abundance of boxes and other shipping materials. We do our best, but it’s so hard in our society as it is.

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