13 ways to reduce your garbage

I am really into simplifying my life so for the past few years I have been constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce the amount of garbage we produce at our home.  I’ve found a number of different ways that make quite a difference for us.  Read on to learn about 13 of the best ways to minimize the amount of trash your family creates.

Many shoppers now bring their own bags to the grocery store, but over time, they do tend to get pretty dirty.  (And who wants to put their groceries into a dirty shopping bag?  Not me!)

cloth grocery bag

My solution is to use a washable fabric grocery bag that I designed myself.  It’s quilted and fairly thick to provide both cushioning and thermal insulation.  This has cut down tremendously on how many plastic shopping bags we accumulate.  We put all the ones that we do come home with into a large sack and recycle them at our local grocer.

plastic bags

In the produce department, there is still the question of what to put your fresh vegetables in.  If you want to avoid the plastic bags the store provides, or even the brown paper bags that some stores are now providing, you can use a nifty mesh produce bag.  These do the job just fine, are completely reusable, and also help a lot in reducing the number of plastic bags that we have to recycle.

mesh produce bags


Since I love to cook and make most everything we eat from scratch, I tend to avoid the interior aisles (where all the processed foods are) and shop the perimeter instead.  This is where the healthy stuff is like produce, dairy, meat, and, very importantly, the bulk food section.  Here also I avoid the plastic bags that are offered and instead use my handy cotton fabric bags.  I use blue painter’s tape on the front of the bag to write the bin number which makes it very easy when going through the checkout line.

bulk food bag


When I get home from the grocery store, I store the bulk foods in glass jars.  I keep a collection on hand ranging from 1/2 pint all the way to  1/2 gallon.

quart jar split peas

I also store homemade soups, granola, salads, veggies, and nuts and many other foods in glass jars in my refrigerator and freezer. Blue painter’s tape makes a great label here as well.

quart jar stored in frig

I don’t purchase plastic containers anymore to store food because they don’t hold up like glass jars and bowls with sturdy lids. Having sturdy lids for containers cuts down on using plastic wrap.

different sizes of glass containers

Buying milk in glass bottles has cut down on the many plastic milk jugs that used to come into our home. When you buy milk in glass bottles, you pay a deposit ($1.50 at Whole Food and New Seasons) which you get back when you return the bottle.

glass milk bottle


Using stainless steel water bottles has saved us $$ and the hassle of having to recycle plastic water bottles.

stainless steel water bottles

Using refillable shampoo and hair conditioner bottles also cuts down on the amount of plastic bottles you have to deal with, and it saves you money as well.  Some of our Whole Foods and New Seasons stores sell both the bulk personal care products and the refillable bottles.

2014-02-25 20.13.02 refillable shampoo

For the shower and bath we use bars of handcrafted soap that we buy from local farmer’s markets or stores.  I buy the ones that aren’t wrapped in paper so there is no packaging that you have to get rid of.  I’ve found that the soap lasts longer if you place it on a plastic cookie cutter to keep it out of the puddle of water in the typical soap holder and so that it will dry out in the shower in between uses.

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Using cloth napkins instead of paper also cuts down on trash. It doesn’t result in my doing more laundry than I would have because I just put them in with our weekly load of dishtowels and dishcloths. They are easy to fold and so this makes a great job for children to do when they want to help.


Instead of buying paper towels, I use these smaller bar towels/cloths and just throw them in with the load of dishtowels and fabric napkins I do each week.

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We use a lot less facial tissue these days because we keep a good stack of cotton handkerchiefs handy that we can wash and reuse. These handkerchiefs last forever, and we think they are kind of classy.



So there you have it – my 13 best ways to cut down on the amount of trash that a family generates.  It’s made a big difference in our family, to the point where we now use the smallest trash bin that our trash collector offers, and even that is seldom full.  I would love to hear about ways that you use to reduce trash.  Post your comments and share them with all of us.