Happy Earth Day!

Few of us are likely to describe ourselves as materialistic or consumeristic. Yet for many, myself included, it is common practice to hastily purchase items that we really don’t need or use. Shopping becomes a past-time. We want to own the latest and the greatest, we want our coffee in plastic cups on the run, and we don’t want to wear clothes that look faded – unless, of course, we bought them to look that way in the first place.

Oh, and don’t forget the lure of a big sale …

Let’s be honest here. A lot of us continue to live in a culture of wastefulness. At the very least, we can all agree that needless consumerism results in clutter. It also wastes our money; not to mention the cost of maintaining waste removal, landfills, recycling depots and other methods of managing waste disposal.

Yes, the problem with consumerism is that it comes at a cost. Firstly to our pocket books, but then also to our planet. As we consider the drain that excess trash has on our earth’s natural resources, it becomes apparent that the acquisition of consumer goods comes with a whopping price tag to our society as a whole.

Are we considering the impact of our personal wastefulness to our environment?

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For instance, packaging accounts for 50% of all paper produced in North America. We toss out 25 million plastic bottles every hour, and use almost 1 million plastic bags every minute. The average person in the United States uses anywhere from 80-100 gallons of water per day, and approximately 95% of the water we use at home ends up down the drain. Or go peek in the fridge, because 40% of food waste occurs in the home!

Reducing what we throw out in order to minimize our environmental footprint is certainly a huge part of the overall solution. But we all consume resources and produce waste. So, what are other ways in which we can better do our part when it comes to waste reduction?

Here’s a strategy that can help us become more considerate about what we consume, and some reminders to steer our actions toward becoming less wasteful:

  1. Prevent food waste by purchasing only what is certain to get consumed, considering the expiry dates and shelf-life of perishable foods.
  2. Go paperless, both at home and in the office. Electronic devices can keep your life in order using calendar, notes, or reminder apps. Eliminate all junk mail and maintain an electronic system for receiving bills and mail. Scan and e-file pertinent documents. Print on paper only when you really need to.
  3. Prevent water wastage by taking showers whenever possible, in place of a bath. This can save up to 2.5 times the amount of water!
  4. Hold-off on pressing the start button on washing appliances with dirty dishes or clothes until there’s a full load to run. Switch off lights, appliances and gadgets (including computers and televisions) when they are not in use.
  5. Save on fuel costs and emissions by using alternate forms of transportation. Walk or cycle when possible, and make every effort to carpool or take public transportation to work (or to regular scheduled outings).
  6. Make sure recycling bins are organized at home for an efficient and effective system.
  7. Sell or donate household and clothing items that are no longer used. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure – don’t toss useful items into the garbage!
  8. When it comes to gift giving, consider vouchers for services or activities. Or, purchase an item which you are sure that the person will really want or need.
  9. Prevent plastic waste by carrying recyclable bags for shopping. Keep them in purses or cars.
  10. Save paper or plastic cups by bringing your own when ordering coffee takeaways on the way to work.
  11. Be a responsible consumer by being conscious of what you purchase and how it was made. When it’s possible, buy items that are constructed with recycled goods.

Buy only what you need and make replacement purchases only when it’s necessary.

How important is it, to you, to produce less waste?

Image via Michelle Mosqueda

2 comments

  1. My parents divorced young, and I was raised with one foot in earth-consciousness and the other in wastefulness. My mother is earth-loving; in her house, food was never wasted, leftovers were placed in tupperware (or cleaned and reused ziploc bags), we never forgot our reusable bags when we went grocery shopping and plastic water bottles were banned from our home. At my dad’s house, whenever I asked what to do with what was left over of dinner, the response was “toss it”, the fridge was stocked with plastic water bottles and the air conditioner was pumped up so high in the summer that we’d all wear sweaters indoors. Thankfully, I’ve followed in my mothers shoes! I’m never without a reusable bag and water bottle. Great post!

  2. Great tips! There were some I hadn’t thought of, so I’m glad I found this post. I definitely feel it’s important to recycle and think about our purchases. We often over-consume (I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it at times) and don’t think about how it might affect the environment. Thinking about purchases more consciously and buying from companies who practices are Eco-friendly are steps in a better direction.

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