More people are thinking about how their individual choices may impact the natural world. Small shifts at home often cost very little while having a cumulative, positive impact on the environment. We offer 13 great ways to reduce your household's waste.

By Lisa Waterman Gray
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Founded as an environmental education day. April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Today, observances take place across the globe, and sometimes encompass an entire week.

Add climate change concerns to the mix, and more people than ever are considering how their individual choices may impact the natural world and the future. Small shifts at home often cost very little, while having a cumulative, positive impact on the environment. Here are 13 great ways to reduce how much waste your house makes:

1. Minimize packaged produce purchases.

Does your grocery store package zucchini on a foam tray, wrapped in plastic, or can you choose your own unpackaged vegetables? Whenever possible, look for loose fruits and veggies over pre-wrapped produce. The more often we avoid unnecessary packaging, the more the demand for it will decline, resulting in less non-recyclable trash.

2. Reduce food waste.

After learning how to use every part of your produce, stash remaining food scraps in a countertop closed container. They can then become backyard compost material, to nourish your garden. Not a gardener? Designating a spot in your yard to dispose of food waste still reduces your environmental impact.

3. Skip those coffee pods.

Did you know K-Cup creator John Sylvan regrets inventing this coffee pod system, given its highly negative environmental impact? Instead of filling your trash can with those single-use plastics, choose a filter-free coffee maker and reusable ($9; amazon.com) or unbleached compostable filters ($9; amazon.com).

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4. Change out your grocery sacks.

In addition to large cloth shopping bags, consider adding washable, cloth bulk food bags to your repertoire. They're available at some stores for as little 99 cents, or order reusable mesh produce bags ($9; amazon.com).

5. Revise your food storage habits.

Buying glass refrigerator containers ($28; amazon.com) saves money and landfill space, when compared with frequent replacement of plastic containers. You'll do your health a favor, too. As plastic ages, it breaks down into microplastics (plastic fragments of up to .20 inches in length), which can end up in your food.

6. Replace your plastic wrap (and bags).

Beeswax wraps ($13; amazon.com) are a great replacement for 'cling wrap,' which may feature harmful toxins. This wrap can't be recycled, either and it remains in landfills for hundreds of years. The beeswax wraps are a perfect way to cover dishes, produce, cheese, and much more, without harming the environment.

7. Swap your baking accessories.

Did you know recycled aluminum foil ($3; amazon.com) requires less than than 10 percent of the energy needed to produce virgin aluminum? More stores are carrying the recycled version; we found some at Whole Foods. And baking enthusiasts won't see any functional difference between 'regular' versus silicone-coated, chlorine-free parchment paper ($6; amazon.com).

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8. Reconsider your paper goods.

Using cloth napkins ($15; williams-sonoma.com) or cloth cleaning towels ($20; williams-sonoma.com) is another environmentally-friendly choice. But if you still want paper towels, consider purchasing paper towels made from recycled paper (from $20; amazon.com) that was not bleached with chlorine. This is a chemical which may exacerbate indoor air pollution.

9. Nix plastic water bottles.

The average American uses more than 150 plastic water bottles annually. That's an enormous amount of trash, including microplastics, put back into the environment. Using stainless steel ($15; amazon.com) or glass reusable bottles ($17; amazon.com) can make a huge difference in how much trash a family produces.

10. Eliminate single-use straws.

On average, Americans 'consume' a staggering 1.6 non-recyclable plastic straws, per person, in a single day. That equals billions from this country alone. Now, multiple it by the world over, and you can understand the mass problem these simple devices present. Help to reduce the straw problem by telling waiters you don't want a straw, or always carry a washable bamboo straw ($10; amazon.com) or a stainless steel straw ($4; amazon.com) with you.

11. Up your recycling game.

Place a recycling container beside your trash can. Even if you stash your trash beneath the sink, there's likely still room for a small recycling bin too. Having the bin so close will encourage you and every member in your household to quickly separate actual trash from things that can be recycled and have a longer life outside a landfill.

12. Make your kitchen cleaning products.

Many homes already have all of the ingredients on hand to make your own cleaners. But if you still prefer packaged cleaners, choose those made from natural ingredients and offering large bottles of refill product.

13. Replace dryer sheets.

A household staple for five decades, these sheets can contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals, which may stay on your clothes, adhere to skin, and end up in household air. That can potentially trigger asthma. Multi-use wool dryer balls ($17; amazon.com) are a great alternative. One ball will last months, which will save a load of landfill waste.

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