One of the most visible effects our modern lifestyle is having on the environment can be seen any time you walk outside. From your backyard, to mountain tops, to the Mariana Trench, we are quickly burying even the most remote places on earth in our waste. Most waste that ends up littering the environment and waterways isn’t purposely thrown out. In fact, much of it is blown out of trash cans, or landfills, or garbage trucks. Reducing your waste, and recycling as much as you can, is a great way to protect the environment, protect wildlife, and reduce your carbon footprint. Below we break down how to do this.
Top Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint from Waste
#1 – Reduce Your Food Waste
Americans waste 55 million tons of food per year, or a whopping 40% of the food supply. This food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of CO2 emissions (or ‘CO2e’). The average family generates 1,800 pounds of CO2e per year from food waste, while the average individual contributes 440 pounds of CO2e per year. Challenging yourself to waste little to no food by purchasing only what you need, and composting any scraps or peels you can’t eat, will have a major impact on your carbon footprint. Specifically, you can reduce your footprint and save money by doing the following:
- Waste no food for a year: -440 LBS CO2e and -$300 saved on average
- Waste 75% less food for a year: -330 LBS CO2e and -$225 saved on average
- Waste 50% less food for a year: -220 LBS CO2e and -$150 saved on average
- Waste 25% less food for a year: -110 LBS CO2e and -$75 saved on average
#2 – Use Reusable Products and Less Packaging
Ditch Disposable Diapers
If you’re a parent, one of top things you can do to reduce your impact is to stop using disposable diapers. It’s estimated that babies go through around 4,000 disposable diapers from birth to potty training. These disposable diapers give off methane gas and CO2e as they slowly decompose in landfills over 500 years.
By switching to reusable diapers, and hand washing these diapers, parents save 1,433 pounds of CO2 emissions, and nearly $800, on average.
By switching to reusable diapers, and machine washing these diapers, parents save 177 pounds of CO2 emissions, and nearly $400, on average.
Ditch Single-Use Feminine Care Products
Close to 20 billion maxi pads, tampons, and applicators are dumped into US landfills every year. Often wrapped in plastic bags, this waste can take centuries to biodegrade. With the average woman using over 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, this waste becomes pervasive and lasts far beyond the lifespan of the humans that create it. This waste burden isn’t the only ecological impact of disposable feminine hygiene products. Their creation and degradation also gives rise to carbon emissions. Skipping all disposable feminine hygiene products for one year reduces your carbon footprint by nearly -12 LBS CO2e and saves you around $135 per year.
Use Reusable Water and Drinking Bottles
Taking action to eliminate your plastic use is especially important since the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters the world’s oceans each minute. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish. You reduce your footprint by -0.18 pounds of CO2e for each plastic bottle you don’t use.
Use Reusable Coffee and Tea Cups
Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, or 146 billion cups per year, thus making the US the leading consumer of coffee in the world. If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 pounds of waste in one year. To add to this, Americans throw away 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups each year. According to a study conducted by Starbucks and the Alliance for Environmental Innovation, each paper cup manufactured is responsible for -0.24 pounds of CO2e.
Rethink Your Personal Care and Cleaning Game
One big way you can reduce your impact is by revamping your personal care and cleaning routine. Most stores now offer bottle-less personal care products, such as soap and shampoo bars. For each plastic bottle you don’t use or buy, you reduce your carbon footprint by -0.18 pounds CO2e. Alternatively, you can make your own personal care products. You reduce your impact by -0.7 pounds CO2e for each personal care product you make yourself.
#3 – Recycle As Much As Possible
Recycling is an important and generally easy way to reduce your waste, live more sustainably, and reduce your carbon impact. According to the EPA, you can reduce your footprint by the below amounts by doing the following for a year (365 days):
- Recycling all recyclable products you use: -290 LBS CO2e on average
- Recycling all paper products you use: -140 LBS CO2e on average
- Recycling all aluminum and steel you use: -90 LBS CO2e on average
- Recycling all plastic you use: -36 LBS CO2e on average
- Recycling all glass you use: -25 LBS CO2e on average
To better understand CO2 emissions generated by waste and other activities and how to offset them, see our carbon emissions calculator.