10 Simple Tips for Reducing Waste

With a goal of achieving 90% waste diversion at our headquarters and supply chain facilities by 2020, we are always on the lookout for innovative ways to reduce our impact. We also know that the first (and most important) step is preventing waste from happening in the first place. As a result, we were thrilled to hear from Kathryn Kellogg, an environmental advocate, educator and the guru of Zero Waste, when she visited our Emeryville office. These 10 tips from Kathryn make it easy to get started reducing waste at home, the office and on the go.

Number 1: Say good-bye to your tissues

I find carrying a handkerchief to be rather romantic. It's great for drying your hands in public restrooms, unexpected tears, wrapping up treats, and of course the sniffles. I found several frilly ones at a garage sale for a quarter and package free. Unlike tissues, I don't find my nose chaffing after several uses.

Number 2: Life’s too short for bad dish towels

I used to hate drying dishes. My dish towels were never up to the task; water was spread rather than absorbed. With woven cotton cloths, I can accomplish loads of chores. Dusting - you bet. Kitchen counters - a breeze. Drying dishes - absolutely! Wrapping a sandwich to go - of course. There are so many uses for good dish towels.

Number 3: Tupperware is not your friend

Have you ever left spaghetti in plastic Tupperware? After a couple of hours, the plastic is tinged red where the sauce has leached into the walls. The reverse happens as well. When you store food in plastic, especially if it's heated, this plastic wall will leach into your food. BPA free isn't safe either. Opt for glass or stainless not only are they two of the most recyclable products, but you don't have to worry about contamination. I love my metal tiffins. They're light weight, sturdy, and you don't have to worry about them breaking.

Number 4: Tap into tap water

We're all very aware that plastic bottles are one of the most prevalent items in landfills. They have an incredibly low recycle rate and can only be downcycled. They will always wind up in a landfill. They're also one of the easiest items to replace in your day to day life. It takes 3 liters of water to make .5 liter of bottled water. It's an unsustainable and unregulated practice. Get used to your tap water and refill a reusable bottle. There are a lot of attractive glass and stainless options. You can buy a stainless or bamboo cap for your Klean Kanteen. I found mine at a thrift store for $2.00 and ordered a shiny new bamboo cap.  

Number 5: Be “that person” in the grocery check-out line

There's an overwhelming number of plastic bags in landfills and waterways. They're incredibly wasteful and put marine wildlife in danger. It's a very easy switch. The hardest part is remembering to bring them with you. Try to keep them in the trunk of your car. Some stores give you cash back for bringing them, and there's no better incentive than that. 

Number 6: Sew your own

Even produce can't escape endless plastic. Spinach comes in plastic bags or boxes, oranges come in mesh, thin plastic produce bags at every corner, and stickers are stamped on every loose item. The farmers market is the best way to avoid these things. If you don't have access to a farmer’s market, you should bring your own produce bags and avoid prepackaged goods. It's very simple to sew your own; I used 100% cotton pillowcases from the thrift store. Or you can purchase them on Life Without Plastic. 

Number 7: Rethink that dirty dish sponge

Sponges are a magnet for bacteria, but so are rags. Bacteria like to grow in warm, damp environments. The brush is the most sanitary, but sometimes it's difficult to get a brush inside of a jar. I like to use rags for those hard to reach places. If you wash the rags regularly and line dry them, the heat from the sun will kill the bacteria and naturally brighten them. All of these things will need to be replaced eventually. The brushes are compostable/recyclable. I'm also interested in trying to grow loofas. 

Number 8: Who knew? You can brush with bamboo

You're supposed to change your toothbrush every 3 months. Over a decade one person will send 40 toothbrushes to a landfill. Fortunately, there are many bamboo alternatives you can compost. 

Number 9: Break your aluminum habit

Aluminum foil was the hardest thing for me to give up. Fortunately, they make reusable products that act like foil or cling wrap. Companies like abeego sell a moldable waxed fabric used for preservation. You can also make your own. The Egyptians were the first to use this technique. You can also use a silicone mat for lining your pans when baking at high temperatures. Or use them for freezing.

Number 10: Get the most out of compost

Composting is probably the most important step of all. I found that 80% of everything I threw away could be composted. You may have municipal compost, but you can also make a backyard compost. Finding the right one for you may be a challenge, but well worth the effort. Food can't break down in landfills. Newspapers from 50 years ago are still legible; hotdogs are perfectly preserved. Air can't circulate properly to let natural things decompose. 

For another 91 ideas, check out Kathryn’s book, 101 Ways to go Zero Waste, and her Going Zero Waste website. Thanks for tuning in and for helping make every day Earth Day.