When you read about a woman who makes only a Mason Jar worth of waste per year, it's hard not to think you're doing life wrong. We all want to do right by the environment, but getting started along the path to a more sustainable lifestyle can seem daunting.
The good news is it really is easy being green. By making small modifications in your daily life, you can significantly reduce your waste output. Check it out:
1. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth
Here's a cold, hard fact for you: We use 127 percent more water today than we did in 1950. That number doesn't look to go down dramatically anytime soon, but it could certainly be impacted slightly if we stop mindlessly running the tap water while we brush our teeth. Did you know that doing so burns through up to two gallons of water per minute?
2. Switch to cloth napkins
Because paper napkins are single-use, they fall under the umbrella of products that are inherently wasteful. However, a switch as simple as using cloth napkins—which, bonus, you can get from upcycling old towels—produces much less trash, thereby benefitting the environment.
3. Print on both sides of the paper
If you work in an office setting, you undoubtedly know what it means to burn through reams of white paper. You can slow down your paper (and ink, and energy) consumption, though, with a ridiculously easy hack: Just print on both sides of the paper!
4. Get in the habit of flipping switches and unplugging
Picture the appliances you currently have plugged in. Coffee maker? Check. Blender? Check. Toaster oven? Check. The list goes on. Although you likely aren't using these appliances at this very moment, they are still drawing energy. In fact, the average home contains 40 idle products, which could account for up to 10 percent of household energy use. Get into the habit of unplugging extraneous items and, while you're at it, make sure you always flip light switches off when leaving a room.
5. Carry a glass water bottle
Americans imbibe more bottled water than any other nation in the world, resulting in 29 billion plastic water bottles—with only one out of every six actually making it to the recycling bin. Not only does swapping your standard plastic water bottle for a glass one shrink your carbon footprint, but it also guarantees toxic chemicals from the plastic aren't leeching into your agua.
6. Eat leftovers
What I'M about to tell you is terribly disheartening, but here goes: According to a report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute, about one-third of all food produced worldwide (about $1 trillion's worth) gets wasted. So why not make leftovers your new lunch buddy? Plus, you can always compost anything you can't bring yourself to consume.
Something. Anything. Everything. The quickest and most surefire way to create less waste is to use what is already available to you. Fortunately, virtually anything can easily be repurposed with a little creativity – think using plastic yogurt containers to house office supplies or turning old shoe boxes into receipt receptacles.