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34 Ways to Reduce Waste Without Spending Any Money

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of discovering reusable alternatives to single-use plastic, but for those who are on a budget, looking for a place to kick off your low waste journey, or just want to brush up on fundamentals, we've come up with 34 ways to reduce waste without spending any money.

  1. Eliminate the need for paper towels by air drying or using reusable cloth napkins or rags.
  2. Say no thanks to flyers, swag, party favors, and other freebies that you don’t need or won't use.
  3. Ask for no straw, utensils, bag, or other unnecessary plastic with takeout.
  4. Acquire fewer new things. Only buy things you absolutely love, think you'll use regularly, and can't borrow, rent, or acquire secondhand.
  5. Choose fresh produce and bulk items instead of packaged goods.
  6. Avoid takeout from vendors that use plastic to-go containers, or order ‘for here’ and bring your own container to fill.
  7. Eat less meat and animal products.
  8. Bring snacks with you from home to avoid buying packaged snacks when you’re out and about.
  9. Before you order anything, try to pre-empt any unwanted plastic by thinking about whether or not your order might come with plastic. If it’s an option, try ordering something you think won’t come with plastic (example: burritos usually come wrapped in foil or paper. Soup often comes in a container with a plastic lid. As if you needed another reason to a burrito...). It’s always safe to ask first and request no or minimal plastic ahead of time.
  10. Skip plastic bin liners for your recycling. You can also avoid plastic liners for your landfill garbage if you compost!
  11. Let your produce go bagless at the grocery store. Use reusable produce bags or just let them be free. You're going to wash them anyway, right?
  12. Leave plastic coverings and hangers behind at the dry cleaner.
  13. Refuse paper receipts, which contain BPA and cannot be recycled.
  14. Consider simplifying your personal care routine. Do you really need every product you use? Streamline by eliminating products when you can, reducing how much you use, or using one product for multiple purposes. (Some examples: the no poo method, washing your face only in the evenings and just splashing water on your face in the morning, or using a multipurpose bar soap that works for face, body, hair, and shaving.)
  15. Make sure you are carefully following your municipality’s guidelines for recycling and compost. Avoid materials that can’t be recycled. Check out our blog post "Recycling Demystified Part 2: What & How to Recycle" to learn more.
  16. Walk, ride a bike, take public transportation, or carpool instead of driving alone.
  17. Conserve water by limiting your shower time, turning faucets off in between use, collecting water while it’s running (like from your shower) in a bucket to use for watering plants.
  18. Save energy by turning off lights and unplugging electronics while not in use. You can also save energy used for maintaining data centers by minimizing extra internet searches and deleting unnecessary emails, photos, and other data.
  19. Opt in to paperless billing and other communications.
  20. Use cold water instead of hot when you can, like when doing laundry or washing your face.
  21. Hang clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.
  22. Avoid replacing items with new versions until the other item has been completely used.
  23. Save reusable containers like glass jars as storage for bulk. Don’t forget small containers for spices and DIY personal care products.
  24. Learn how to sew and patch clothing.
  25. Borrow items you don’t need to use very often like tools or shoes for a special occasion.
  26. Swap clothing and other items with friends when you want to switch up your wardrobe.
  27. Use the library and other free resources instead of buying new books and other media.
  28. Use commonly found household ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, coconut oil, and honey as personal care solutions.
  29. When hosting a gathering, avoid disposable plates and utensils and use your reusable dishes instead. If you’re hosting a larger event, you can encourage people to bring their own reusable cups and even offer incentives for people (like gift certificates to your favorite low waste store, i.e., Good Intent) who bring their own.
  30. Reserve a special spot for items that easily get misplaced (lip balm, bobby pins, keys, hair ties). Make a point to always place those items in their reserved spots when you’re done with them.
  31. Make a grocery list while in your kitchen so you can check to see what ingredients you already have before you leave the house. This helps to avoid duplicating ingredients unnecessarily.
  32. Repurpose damaged clothing and other textiles that can’t be donated as rags, reusable wipes or napkins, and dust cloths. Or you can sew them into reusable facial rounds, tote bags, bulk or produce bags, or costumes.
  33. Save plastic utensils from takeout orders for parties, camping trips, picnics, or to loan your friends when you're eating out.
  34. Wash plastic baggies to use them again.

Anything we left out? Share your tried and true tips below!

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