Top 3 Ways to Reduce Waste at Your Home

By MNR News posted 04-26-2023 16:27

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The lesson is this: You have to start small before accomplishing anything big. 

This ancient bit of wisdom rings true when applied to homeowners looking to reduce waste in the name of sustainability. But sustainability is such a complex and global concept that it can feel like some faraway destination that you, as one person, are powerless to ever reach or meaningfully influence. You might think, Does my home’s waste output really make a difference in the grand scheme?  While many major obstacles to a sustainable future require international government cooperation and forward-thinking global solutions, finding ways to cut back on the waste your household generates does matter.  

Think of it this way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American creates about five pounds of municipal solid waste per day. That’s 1,825 pounds of trash in one year. If you kept that pace of daily waste generation for 20 years, you’d have created over 35,000 pounds of waste from one person! Multiply that number by 335 million Americans, and that’s an enormous footprint of trash on our communities, regions, and planet. 

Every small step or action you take right now to eliminate the waste from your household makes a long-term difference. You can control your output and inspire family, friends, and neighbors to do the same. We’ve outlined the top three easiest ways to get started reducing your home’s waste.  

Compost Organics 

Composting is an earth-friendly process that converts organic materials into a kind of nutrient-rich mulch by way of natural decomposition. Locally, data shows that 20% of the trash in Ramsey County is compostable food waste.  

If you live in a city or county with composting services, like Hennepin or Ramsey County, you can buy a compost bin from your municipality in which to deposit organic materials bi-weekly at your home. The compost in these places will be picked up along with the trash or recycling. If you don’t live in a place with this service, there are organics collection and drop-off programs located all across rural and urban Minnesota that take organics to a commercial composting facility to be processed. 

Compost in your backyard! If you’re an avid gardener, composting your own organic materials can also pay dividends for your soil. For under $100, you can purchase your own composting system at a local hardware store or online. Simply search for home composting systems on Google. These enclosed bins encourage faster and more thorough composting because the outer portion of the pile acts as an insulator that creates higher temperatures near the center, according to the University of Minnesota’s home composting guide.  

What materials are compostable? 

All kinds of food waste including coffee grounds, eggshells, meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, bread, bones, and oils. You can also compost paper food packaging, which includes egg cartons, pizza boxes(!), coffee filters, and paper cups. Other materials include woodchips, grass, straw, chopped-up branches, sawdust, and even small amounts of pine wood.  


Recycling home goods reduces waste, saves energy, and generates profit for the state of Minnesota. This doesn’t just apply to cardboard boxes and glass bottles but also to broader aspects of your lifestyle.  

You can and should recycle electronics and certain appliances with approved local programs. Pristine or lightly used furniture such as couches, bedframes, and end tables can often be donated to thrift stores. You can recycle batteries at authorized facilities located across the state. Donating clothes, handheld tools, unused toys, coffee mugs, and anything else can not only benefit others but keep your output low. 

Before you buy something new at a store, consider whether you could purchase the item secondhand, whether the product is clothes, appliances, furniture, or tools. Buying fewer new items reduces the amount of packaging you bring home and ultimately have to throw out.  

What can you recycle at home? 
Glass, paper, cardboard boxes, steel and tin cans, magazines, some empty beauty products, and other items as specified by your county or municipality.   

BYOB & Unsubscribe 

Bring your own reusable bags when you shop for groceries, home improvement materials, and other household items. Keep extra shopping bags in your car in case you forget when you leave home. This simple but easy-to-forget action can make a major difference in waste reduction. If you must use a bag in a store, opt for paper.  
Implement this bring-your-own strategy in other areas of your daily life. Bring a reusable mug or container for your morning coffee, water, and other beverages. Eliminating one-time-use containers has a massive effect on overall waste generation in America. This also means avoiding single-use utensils when possible. Washable and portable utensils are a good way to fight this specific type of waste. 

Finally, cut down on home waste by eliminating as much physical mail at your home as possible. This action not only keeps the earth cleaner but also frees up the mail “drop zone” area of your home. Though you’ll likely still receive flyers, scam letters, and other miscellaneous correspondence, many of your bills and invoices can be moved online in our digital age. Consider taking an afternoon to unsubscribe from receiving paper mail from the various entities you interact with, whether that’s news, entertainment, or medical and utility bills.