The average American creates 4.4 pounds of waste a day. If you’re the type who brings their own bag to the grocery store and takes recycling pretty seriously, 4.4 pounds may seem like an exaggeration. But in order to go waste free, it’s important to understand what exactly constitutes waste: And that’s essentially everything that’s no longer of use. (Don’t forget: Recycled goods require energy to process.)
Taking on the #NoTrashChallenge really begins with reducing the amount of waste you create, finding ways to reuse your stuff, and if all else fails, recycle. While it might seem daunting at first (especially when you start thinking about how many times you walk to the trash can each day), you can totally make it work — and we’ve spelled out some simple waste-free guidelines to help you along the way.
① Don’t buy packaged products
Bring your own, reusable containers* when you grocery shop, and prepare to buy in bulk. If you must buy something pre-packaged, always opt for glass, cardboard, or paper over plastic, and be sure to reuse (preferred) or recycle those containers once you’re done.
*Ideally cloth bags & glass jars instead of a plastic container. Most stores will allow you to place produce in cloth produce bags, but check the bring-your-own container policy before you put things in your own jars or bags. (Bulk foods stores and grocery chains with bulk food sections, like Whole Foods, are more likely to be okay with it.)
② Bring your own stuff
Keeping cloth hand towels, napkins, and handkerchiefs on hand helps you avoid using paper towels, napkins, and tissues at home and in public spaces. And don’t head to work without your own water bottle, travel mug, and/or cup!
③ Say no to future trash
Tell cashiers you’re skipping the receipt, ask waiters to bring you your drink without a plastic straw, add a note to your Seamless order explaining that you don’t need utensils, napkins, or ketchup packages. Anything you can do to avoid an extra trip to the garbage can.
④ Compost (if you can)
Food actually can’t break down properly in landfills, so if you can, compost your food waste so it has the opportunity to be reused as fertilizer. ( Here’s a quick guide from the EPA about how to compost.)
⑤ Find ways to reuse
Instead of instantly throwing stuff in the garbage can or recycling bin, see if you can find something else to do with it. Not all recycled goods can be recovered and reused (not to mention recycling requires energy).
⑥ Try not to skip wasteful parts of your daily routine*
*For a real challenge! It may be tempting to altogether avoid things that create waste, but if it’s something you do almost daily, try to figure out a waste-free workaround. Eat microwave popcorn almost every night? See what it’s like to buy kernels in bulk and cook ‘em on the stove. We also strongly encourage attempting a waste-free grocery trip to really put things in perspective.
① Toilet paper
While recycled / tree free toilet paper (or a bidet) is better for the earth, we’re giving you a pass on this one for reasons we don’t need to get into. Note: If you have to buy toilet paper during the challenge, please opt for brands that come in paper packaging (and don’t forget to compost, reuse, or recycle toilet paper rolls!).
② Stuff you already own
Yes, in a perfect world, you’d be using DIY cleaning supplies stored in glass containers and a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one. But before you make the switch, it’s way less wasteful to use up what you already own. So feel free to continue using shampoo from a plastic bottle throughout the challenge — just consider finding a second use for it once you’re through and switching to something more eco-friendly (say, something in a glass container) in the future.
① Items that wound up in your trash can (we recommend storing them in a mason jar or Tupperware to help you visualize how quickly waste accumulates)
For example: packaging, food wrappers, foil, take-out containers, paper products.
② Items you recycled
For example: plastic and glass bottles and containers, aluminum cans.
③ Items you were able to reuse
④ Items you composted (if applicable)
We’re giving away a waste-free prize pack to one lucky #NoTrashChallenge participant! Here’s the deal:
① Follow our waste-free ground rules on June 8th
② Document all the waste you create in our handy form
③ Post pictures of your mason jar of trash on social with the hashtag #NoTrashChallenge*
*Note: Your profile has to be public
④ One lucky winner will be randomly selected to win our Waste Free Prize Pack, including:
Hope you have fun attempting to live without waste! We can’t wait to hear and see your stories.