I have tried so many ways so many times to reduce how much garbage we create but I realize now it really comes down to just one factor: Convenience.
If you can easily throw something where it should go, you're more likely to put it there rather than the garbage can.
For example, we have two trash cans sitting out in the kitchen. One for regular garbage, one for recycling. If I had to go all the way out to the outside bin everything I wanted to throw a recyclable away I wouldn't. Also, things like removing labels from glass jars and rinsing and drying cans are more of a nice thing for you to do. Most large recycling centers will do that themselves.
Every day I put out a small bowl for compost scraps. You can even put paper products or cardboard in your compost too but again, the point is to have a compost bucket convenient in your kitchen so that it's more likely to make it outside instead of thrown in the garbage.
Our compost pile is not pretty. It's just a couple of boards nailed together. But it get the job done.
I also keep out a bowl for leftover cooking liquid. When I cook veggies in water or steam them I always save the water, let it cool, and give it to my plants. It's kind of creepy to think about giving broccoli water to my baby broccoli plants but this stuff is seriously liquid gold. Never throw it out.
And finally, my favorite way to reduce garbage is to reduce my consumption!
- Specifically look for products with less packaging
- Be sure to take your reusable grocery bags and produce bags
- Never buy things on the spot. Go home, think about it, and come back. Impulse buying is a great waste of both product and money.
- Find a way to reuse old wood, windows, bricks, that broken lamp, whatever. Pinterest is full of people who, instead of throwing something away, looked and wondered what they could make of this junk. And they make a lot of really wonderful things.
- Don't assume it's garbage just because you didn't want it. When my parents re-did their bathroom they sold their jacuzzi tub online for about what it would've cost them to have the garbage guys come and haul it away. They made some money, someone got a new tub, and nothing was thrown away.
- Don't underestimate what donation centers will take. Just because fabric scraps or your holey t-shirt doesn't look like something anyone would want, many donation centers sell those things to be recycled. And often, even if you don't want something, it doesn't mean it isn't exactly what someone else was looking for.
- Really take note of how much you use. Many people like to buy in bulk because it saves money per item, but if you have to throw out half of those tomatoes because they went bad before you could use them, you aren't saving any money at all. My MIL once told me she stopped buying food in bulk because she realized if it was in the house her boys would eat it! It wasn't that they NEEDED to eat that twelfth pudding cup...it was just there, so why not?
- Remember even yard waste can be reused. Many people with wood stoves would love that big limp you lobbed off your tree, and those bushes you didn't like and dug up may be perfect for someone else. Always list things on craigslist, for free or for a fee, and you'd be surprised at how much stuff you can get rid of. Yard clippings and small sticks, even weeds, can and should be put in your compost.
- Before you buy new, check out used. Almost anytime I want to buy something I find a product, grimace at the price, and check at thrift stores, antique stores, and on craigslist. Just the other day I was at World Market and saw tons of cute things, but they were so expensive, especially when I knew I had seen something really similar, for much less, at the antique store before. Just because it isn't your "garbage" doesn't mean that you can't help prevent it from going to the dump!
- And remember the alliterative moto: Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle...in that order!
Now go plant a tree!