By the time I was in third grade, I had memorized the motto: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!” While the three Rs are simple to remember, it can be much more difficult to actively implement them in our everyday lives. From food to plastic, Americans waste an exorbitant amount of food each year which can cause a substantial impact on our planet and society.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food waste makes 30-40 percent of the food supply. Food waste occurs at every stage of the production and supply chain. Many factors contribute to the problem including exposure to insects or bacteria at the farm gate stage and culling of blemished products at the retail level.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also stated that Americans generate about 254 millions of trash per year and only about 34.3% of that is recycled or composted. While the USDA has joined with the U.S. EPA to cut our nation’s food waste by 50% by the year 2030, there are simple things we can do each day to do our part as well to cut down waste overall.
1. Be a minimalist.
One of the most efficient ways to cut down on waste is to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. Living as a minimalist isn’t just about spending less money on unnecessary expenses, but focuses on experiences to satisfy you rather than materialistic commodities.
Living a minimalist lifestyle varies from person to person. Begin by getting rid of what you don’t or rarely use. If you haven’t used a certain item in the past six months, you probably don’t need to keep it around. This isn’t to say that everything you don’t use needs to be thrown away per se, but rather that it can be given to someone that will make good use of it.
2. Reduce your use of plastic.
According to the National Ocean Service, about 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year. That’s about 90 aircraft carriers.
Although certain kinds of packaging can be easily broken down such as cardboard, plastic doesn’t decompose and can be harmful to marine life. You can avoid plastic by reducing your use of disposable items such as plastic straws or water bottles.
These items may be tempting to use because it’s convenient, but they contribute to a larger problem. Instead, purchase metal straws, get a reusable water bottle or leave out the to-go cutlery when ordering out.
3. Freeze your food when possible.
Oftentimes we allow perfectly good fruits, vegetables, and meats to spoil in the fridge. But you can avoid this by planning out perishable items, such as eating certain foods that spoil earlier than others.
Almost every meat, fruit, and vegetable can be frozen to keep it fresh for weeks or even months. Change of dinner plans? Freeze the chicken you were planning on using. Bananas getting brown? Freeze them for a smoothie or homemade banana bread.
It may seem that by practicing ways to waste less has a minuscule impact on the health of the planet. But in reality, making small changes in our everyday lives leads to substantial benefits.
Although becoming a minimalist is one of the most efficient strategies to ensure less waste, contributing to a better environment doesn’t require an entire lifestyle change. By simply avoiding plastic straws or getting a reusable water bottle, you can easily make an impact.