Don’t Go Out Without Your Umbrella and Other Timeless Tips on How to Reduce Your Waste

eco friendly shopping bagsWhen I was little, I found it fascinating to rummage through my grandma’s purse. Here are the items that inhabited her purse at all times: wallet, pen, notebook, make-up bag, hard candy in a tin box, cotton handkerchief, glasses, foldable cotton bag and umbrella. Naturally, I preferred to make use of the candy box, although my grandma found the handkerchief most useful for my occasionally sneezy nose.

One particularly sunny day, I felt compelled to question the unchanging content of her purse (umbrella?), and asked her why she still carried it. She simply answered: “I want to be prepared.”

When I first made a conscious decision to minimize my waste, I realized how idea of preparedness was an important one to adopt. Yet, the beginning was filled with rookie mistakes and there were numerous situations when the unnecessary waste (and an occasional umbrella, from being caught in a sudden rain) lurked into my life. I learned over time that the steps to waste reduction (besides the obvious preparedness) are recognizing my own patterns and prioritizing.

Here is my “top 20 list” on how to make the most of your shopping, but produce the least amount of waste.

  1. Even if you do have reusable shopping bags that you take on your planned trips to the supermarket, there will be a situation when you will have to buy something even though you didn’t plan to shop. Don’t be caught unprepared. Carry a lightweight, foldable bag (buy or sew your own bag) in your purse or stash one discreetly in your car. This way you can always pull it out in case you spot an item that you cannot afford to miss.
  2. Avoid buying prepackaged produce. In a supermarket, put some food items directly in your cart (bananas, melon). For other items use either produce bags or containers with lids.
  3. Buy or sew produce bags in different sizes. Make sure your produce bags are not only durable but also washable since they will be in contact with fruits and vegetables and (inevitably) soiled.
  4. Carry containers (of all sizes) with secure lids and use them when buying delicate items such as berries, grapes, cottage cheese, fish and shellfish.
  5. Buy fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits and avoid frozen meals, canned, or individually packaged food items.
  6. Avoid hidden waste: buy local as much as possible to reduce the volume of the raw materials and energy that go into the production and the transportation of goods.
  7. Don’t buy boxed foods if you can make those foods at home.
  8. When buying packaged foods, opt for packaging that has a smaller impact on the environment. Choose paper and glass over plastic and styrofoam.water bottle and travel mug, great travel companions
  9. Buy in bulk. Think candy, beans, peanuts and so on.
  10. Avoid unnecessary hurdles between you and your food. Make tea from bulk herbs, rather than teabags. Avoid rice packed in ready-to-cook bags.
  11. Don’t throw away empty containers, cans and jars. Rinse, dry and store them so you can reuse them.
  12. When buying cosmetics, toiletry and cleaning items, purchase products in reusable bottles.
  13. Instead of packing your own or your kid’s sandwich or fruit in Ziploc bags, use lunchbox that you can reuse. Carry your travel mug to work so you don’t have to deal with disposable cups. Don’t forget to fill up your reusable water bottle before you leave home and more importantly do not forget to take it with you. It happened many times.
  14. Avoid fast foods, takeaways and drive-troughs –they generate an enormous amount of waste. At restaurants, bring your own containers for leftovers.
  15. Reduce what you buy. Try to repurpose or donate your item before sending it to the landfill or a recycling facility.
  16. If you still didn’t do it, opt for electronic bank statements, newsletters, and other electronic correspondence.
  17. Don’t buy a disposable item if there is a reusable version. Think razors, tissues, diapers, napkins, plates, forks, pans, party items, pens and many more.
  18. Don’t buy water in plastic bottles. If you are concerned about the quality of your water, install a water filter and carry a reusable water bottle instead.
  19. Buy quality items that last. You will go to the store less frequently, you will save, and you will not be throwing out items too son.
  20. If you travel by car, make sandwich(es), carry bottles with water, fruits and healthy snacks so (in case hunger hits suddenly) you will not be tempted to eat foods at fast food and drive-through restaurants.

And, of course, don’t go out without your umbrella. Seriously.

tin lunch box with fruit

Tin lunch box photo courtesy of Bunches and Bits

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