Less Waste, One Step at a Time

January 16, 2023 | Christine Hradek

plastic utensils and straws

During this same week of 2021, I wrote a blog about my efforts to use fewer single-use plastic products at home. I didn’t like the idea of these products building up in the landfill nor did I like the idea of spending money on something that is meant to be thrown out. I focused on trying to cut back on using zip-top bags. I tried to use reusable bags and containers where I could and set the goal to use just one box of zip-top bags over the course of a whole year. In the first year, I made it about 10 months before I ran out. I am glad to say I can now meet that goal easily; it has become a habit. For context, I am the only person who lives in my house.

I have taken a few more steps to ‘up my game’ beyond just cutting down on the zip-top bags. I looked at the other ways I was using single-use plastic that ended up in the trash. Two big culprits for me were small plastic containers for dip or salad dressing in my lunch and plastic spoons and forks. I generally take my lunch to work and I found myself using these items pretty often. Switching to reusable containers for dressing and dip was a pretty easy swap, the containers are little steel cups with a tight lid that each holds 2 ounces. I got six of them for about $10.00. The silverware was a bit more difficult. I tried to remember to put a fork or spoon in my lunch bag each day, but whenever I forgot I ended up with a plastic one from my cabinet at work. So, I decided to get tough on myself and once the little box at work was gone, I did not replace it. Instead, I spent $2.00 on a bundle of mismatched silverware from my local thrift store. I now keep that at work. When I have to use one, I just wash it and put it back.

It can feel a bit overwhelming trying to live in a more sustainable way that produces less waste, but these small steps have helped me feel like I am working toward that goal. What things have you tried to reduce waste in your home? Share with us in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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