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How to Live More Waste Free

Living a waste-free lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. However, small changes can add up and help you and your family produce less trash that will end up in landfills. Here are 10 ways to cut down on the amount of trash you generate.

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paper towelAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Cut Down on Disposables

Think about all the disposable items you use daily and discover how to reduce that number. Replace paper towels with reusable rags, use non-disposable dinnerware, bring your own shopping bags to the store and pack sandwiches and snacks in reusable containers or reusable sandwich bags.

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Learn to Love Leftovers

Food waste in the United States is estimated at 30 to 40 percent of the food supply, which was about 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, according to the USDA. Make a commitment to safely using leftovers in other dishes, such as lunch the next day to cut down on food waste.

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buy in bulkBlue Lemon Photo/Shutterstock

Buy in Bulk

Stop buying food in individual packages whenever possible. Bring Mason jars to the grocery store to buy bulk spices. Also, buy items such as cereal, dry beans and meat, if possible. If you need more kitchen storage space for all of those bulk items, consider these clever kitchen storage hacks.

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cold lunchProstock-studio/Shutterstock

Bring Your Lunch

Instead of going out for lunch, bring your own. This will not only help you use up those leftovers, but it will cut down on your use of to-go packaging such as Styrofoam and plastic utensils.

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thrift store clothes shoppingSpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Shop at Thrift Stores

You can help cut down on global emissions by purchasing clothing and other items at second-hand stores. You’ll not only reduce emissions caused by shipping, but help keep things that are still in good condition out of landfills.

Looking for more ways to minimize the trash? Here are simple ways to cut down on holiday waste without giving up on the joy of presents and holiday feasts.

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disposable bottlesmonticello/Shutterstock


Recycle everything you can, including unbroken glass, paper and cardboard, some plastics and aluminum cans. Not sure how to get started with recycling? Create recycle bin hangers for your garage.

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tabletDevrim PINAR/Shutterstock

Go Paperless

The average office worker uses 2 pounds of paper and paperboard products per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Learn how to go digital. Take notes on your laptop and use e-mail instead of paper.

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cleaning suppliesGeo-grafika/Shutterstock

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

White vinegar, baking soda and lemon are all-natural cleaning products. Learn how to make your own cleaning solutions to clean the bathroom, kitchen and even carpet and furniture. Not only will you help the environment by using natural cleaning products, you’ll cut down on packaging. Learn how to make homemade cleaner.

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dfh17sep038_160161059_01-1200x1200 compost pile dirt garden egg shells lettuce soil fertilizerMarina Lohrbach/Shutterstock


Learn how to compost. Composting will not only prevent items from ending up in the landfill, it can help your lawn and garden.

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man shavinglightwavemedia/Shutterstock

Use Reusable Personal Products

By using an electric razor, you’ll save disposable razors from ending up in the trash and save money in the long run. You can also buy toothbrushes with handles made of bamboo instead of plastic. The bamboo handles are biodegradable.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.