12 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly: Reduce Waste and Recycle at Home

Reducing your waste and recycling are the first steps to an eco-friendly home. Here are a few tips to keep in mind on your sustainable home journey!

Published on
June 14, 2023
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12 Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly: Reduce Waste and Recycle at Home


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Most people have heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” at some point in their life but may not know how to put this saying into practice. While most people in the United States understand the importance of recycling and being more environmentally friendly, a study found that more than half of the participants did not know how to properly dispose of most recyclables (Paper and Packaging Board, 2021).

Having the knowledge that you should recycle and reduce waste can only get you so far if you don’t know the proper ways to recycle. Reviewing how we interact with materials and our daily consumption at home can be a great place to start. Here are some tips you can try out to reduce waste and refresh your recycling practice!

Reduce waste:

When we are not mindful of how much we consume, our waste can pile up. Minimizing your material consumption is the first step to having a more sustainable home.

  1. Reusable bags for everything

The daily trip to the grocery store and other excursions can create a lot of waste. Bringing a bag wherever you go can cut down on the amount of plastic and paper bags you collect over time (The Nature Conservancy, 2022).

  1. Make shorter grocery lists and take more frequent trips

If you go grocery shopping every two weeks, try going more frequently. When you try to make food last longer in your house, it is more likely to spoil and end up in the garbage bin. You may also overestimate the amount of food you need, giving the same unfortunate result. More frequent trips will help prevent food waste to help save the environment while also saving your wallet (The Nature Conservancy, 2022).

  1. Composting

Composting can be a great way to eliminate the amount of garbage that is sent to the landfill and it is a great way to give back to the environment. When you save your food scraps from going into the garbage bin and repurpose them into your compost, you can turn around and use the compost as fertilizer for your yard (The Nature Conservancy, 2022).

  1. Donate used items instead of sending them to the landfill

The first practice to consider is whether you can reuse unwanted items. If reusing is not an option, the next best thing you can do is donate those items you want out of your house. Donations can give a second life to these items, ultimately preventing them from ending up in a landfill (The Nature Conservancy, 2022).

  1. Eliminate paper and go digital

Paper materials can account for a lot of our waste. Most mail, receipts, magazines, and newspapers can be viewed and saved digitally without creating waste from paper copies (The Nature Conservancy, 2022).

Recycling tips:

Recycling at home can get complicated fast. Every state and city has individual rules and regulations around what they accept in recycling bins. Therefore, if you have not learned your local recycling rules or you recently moved to a new area, it’s important to get acquainted with your location’s recycling program (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. No plastic bags in the recycling bin

Plastic grocery bags are technically recyclable but they shouldn't be put into your recycling bin. These bags can ruin an entire crate of recyclable materials because they can easily get caught in the machinery and shut down the equipment. This is why your recycling bin doesn’t come with a plastic bag to contain your recyclables. If you bag them, the recycling facility will likely send them to the landfill instead. The same goes for sandwich bags, bubble wrap, and other thin plastics. To recycle these, find a drop-off center that accepts plastic bags in your area (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Small materials do not go in the recycling bin

Small items like straws, plastic cutlery, bottle caps, and more should not go in the recycling bin. Anything smaller than a credit card can get stuck in the machines and shut down the equipment (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Clean, empty, and dry recyclables only

Recyclable materials become contaminated when they are exposed to food. They should not be put in the recycling bin unless they are fully cleaned. Around 25 percent of recyclables in the U.S. are contaminated by food waste. When cleaning your recyclable materials, it’s recommended to recycle items you would deem clean enough to use again (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Combined materials are not recyclable

Combined materials are usually not recyclable if they cannot be separated. Items like to-go coffee cups that have a plastic coating, and paper envelopes with bubble wrap aren't recyclable because they cannot be separated (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Plastic types

When it comes to plastic, there are seven different types and not all are easily recyclable. Most recycling centers accept plastics labeled 1 and 2 but the higher the number the more difficult it can be to find a recycling center that will accept the plastic. To learn what plastic numbers are recycled at your recycling facility, you can visit your local recycling center’s website (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Only recycle what you know is recyclable

Don’t put anything in the bin if you find yourself having to guess at its recyclability. This can cause more waste than just throwing one item away because if it is not recyclable it will contaminate the entire bin. When too much trash is mixed in with recyclable materials it could end up being sent to the landfill, creating an unintentional effect of more waste (Earth Day, 2022).

  1. Learn more about recycling non-recyclables

After learning what is recyclable and what your center will accept, you may realize you have more items that seem like they should be recycled but aren’t. Materials like electronics, wood, and paint cans may be recycled through a special drop-off location. If the item is still in good or decent condition, consider donating or selling it before putting it in the trash (Earth Day, 2022).

Incorporating sustainable home practices can be daunting at first, but taking the first step will make it easier. Choose a couple of practices to work on and soon enough you will be on your way to a more environmentally friendly home!


7 Tips to Recycle Better

The Nature Conservancy 

The Paper and Packaging Board

20 recycling tips for effective recycling at home

Photo by Anete Lusina: https://www.pexels.com/photo/book-with-ornament-near-apple-and-spool-of-thread-4792658/