Tips to Reduce Waste at Home

Follow these simple steps to reduce waste when grocery shopping, packing a lunch, purchasing new products for your home and more!

Be a Thoughtful Shopper

Keep unnecessary packaging materials out of the landfill! By making simple choices when you shop, you can reduce the amount of plastic wrap, cardboard and other packaging that comes with your purchase.

  • Handpick your fruit and vegetables from bins and barrels and place them directly in a reusable shopping bag. Avoid purchasing overly-packaged produce that is sold at retail giants, such as the all-too-familiar pre-sliced fruit in plastic containers.
  • Buy groceries in bulk. Leftovers can be stored in reusable, airtight containers or frozen for use at a later date.
  • When packaging is unavoidable, choose products with lightweight or recyclable packaging. Lightweight packaging contains fewer materials, which reduces energy consumption during the packaging manufacturing process and cuts back on fuel used for transport.
  • Most toiletry and cleaning supply brands offer extra-large or refillable containers. Whenever possible, take advantage of these offers. For instance, buy one reusable hand-soap dispenser and a 56-ounce industrial-sized bottle of hand-soap, rather than a 12-pack of 7.5-ounce bottles. By doing so, you can save money and reduce waste.
  • Whenever possible, shop at grocery stores that offer unpackaged products in bins. Bins reduce the need for structured, stackable packaging that is generally found on shelves.

Recycled Products

Next time you shop, look for products made with recycled content. These products will usually mention their recycled content on their label. Tip: the more post-consumer content, the better.

Follow these tips the next time you go shopping:

  • Encourage others to think of the environment by gifting recycled content. Take it a step further by wrapping your presents in cloth or in old newspapers.
  • Before buying your next necessity or accessory, check online to see if a recycled version of the specific item exists.
  • Visit the Recycling Guide under “Household/Secondhand” to find a local community thrift store close to you. No matter which establishment you visit, you’re sure to find interesting items, many of which have never been used.
  • Acquire recycled items for free—use online sites to find everything from thumbtacks to automobiles.

Reusable Containers

Planning ahead cuts down on waste! Use these tips to avoid collecting and throwing away take-out containers.

  • Pack tomorrow’s lunch today. Don’t forget to include a set of non-disposable utensils.
  • For a refreshing drink at lunch with your homemade sandwich, freeze your reusable water bottle tonight, and let it defrost throughout the day.
  • Avoid single use paper coffee cups. Use a travel mug every time you purchase coffee. If you forget to bring your mug with you, ask for a non-disposable cup—most coffeehouses will accommodate you.
  • Keep a tote bag with three to five reusable food containers in your trunk and under your desk at work. Bring your bag of containers with you when you dine, and use the containers for leftovers.
  • If a single-use disposable container is unavoidable, make sure you recycle it!
  • Even when camping! Invest in a reusable propane fuel container for your camp stove. Click here for more information and store locations.

Stop Junk Mail

Help reduce the amount of paper wasted in Marin each year, and get rid of the headache of unwanted junk mail. Go paperless by removing your name from mailing lists, opting out of catalogs and more.

  • When you receive a credit card offer, company catalog, newsletter or coupon booklet that you did not request, immediately contact the sender and ask to be removed from their mailing list.
  • Contact your bank, credit card company, internet service provider, utility provider, homeowners’ association and/or landlord to inquire about paperless billing and email notifications.
  • Buy an e-reader, so you can download magazines, monthly newsletters and coupon offers online.
  • For a how-to guide on how to opt out of various junk mail services, check out the Bay Area Junk Mail Reduction Campaign and electronically download a Stop Junk Mail Kit.

Paper Towels

Have you ever thought about how many paper towels you use in an average day? It’s probably a lot more than you think. Consider these tips to help reduce your paper towel use, and save money.

  • Reinvent your old t-shirts, sweatshirts, pajama pants, bath towels, beach towels, sheets and socks—turn them into reusable rags. Then spill, wipe, rinse, wash, and reuse—it’s that simple.
  • Buy cloth napkins and use them with every meal. Bring your family shopping with you, and have each member choose their favorite. Consider buying two sets, just in case one is in the wash.
  • If you absolutely must purchase paper towels, reach for the ones made from recycled content and make sure to put them in your compost pail afterwards!
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