Twenty Tiny Ways to Turn Down the Waste

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Cut down your carbon footprint with these tiny steps you can take today.

 

Illustration by Zara Picken

Compost in your kitchen:

Fruits and veggies rotting in landfills produce methane gas, which is even more potent than carbon dioxide. Instead of pitching your banana peels and eggshells, opt for a countertop compost bin and turn your scraps into nutrient-rich dirt for the garden.

Ditch the single-use coffeemaker:

Coffee pods and single-use filters add up quickly. If you can’t live without your Keurig, try a reusable pod. Partial to pour-overs? Plenty of online stores sell reusable mesh and cloth filters to wash in the sink after brewing.

Stock up on cloth diapers:

Is it glamorous? Not at all. But disposable diapers account for nearly 7 percent of waste scattered across landfills in the U.S. Cincinnati-based Real Cloth Diaper will deliver fresh supplies to your front door each week and do the dirty work for you.

Shop the farmers’ market:

Supporting your regional farmers isn’t just good for local business, it’s also good for the planet. There are dozens of farmers’ markets dotting the Cincinnati landscape. Pick your favorite, grab a reusable bag, and make a day of it.

Plant bee-friendly ground cover:

Freshly mowed, chemical-and-water-hungry yards are a curse on our natural ecosystem. Try replacing your grass with clover. It’s low-maintenance, drought-resistant, and a godsend for our local pollinators.

Say no to plastic straws:

Single-use straws don’t just cause harm in their full form; they also break down into microplastics that are nearly impossible to control once in the ocean. Silicone and stainless-steel straws are readily available online, and more restaurants are replacing their plastic supplies with compostable options.

Bring your own produce bags:

Those single-use plastic bags in the produce section of your local grocery store are as bad for your food as they are for the planet. Skip the roll and purchase reusable cotton produce bags to transport all your leafy greens and keep them fresh for days to come.

Swap out period products:

Reusable silicone menstrual cups, which are washable and durable, can replace thousands of tampons and pads. Better yet, you’ll save money. It’s a win-win.

Invest in reusable bottles:

Bottled water is convenient and clean, but awful for the earth. Instead of spending the money on a 24-pack of plastic bottles, invest in a reusable water bottle and a refrigerator water filter.

Take your bills digital:

Banks, credit card companies, and utility suppliers all offer online billing and payment options. With just a few clicks, you can ditch the mailbox full of bills and go paperless.

Fill your tires:

Quit ignoring that blinking light on your dashboard. According to the EPA, keeping your tires properly inflated can reduce your vehicle’s carbon footprint by an average of 327 pounds each year.

Cut down on shower time:

According to the EPA, the average eight-minute shower uses at least 16 gallons of water, so trimming just a few minutes can make a huge difference in your energy consumption and water bill. Also consider a water-saving shower head.

Take the streetcar:

Cincinnati’s downtown streetcar isn’t just convenient and fare-free, it’s also a greener way to travel. Choosing public transportation (as well as walking and cycling) over single-occupancy vehicles cuts down on carbon emissions.

Thrift your next outfit:

Thanks in part to the confluence of Marie Kondo and cyclical fashion trends, local thrift stores are a treasure trove of gently used, on-trend pieces. If you prefer to shop online, sites like threadUP and The RealReal sell quality secondhand goods.

Choose rags over paper towels:

Instead of reaching for the paper towel roll whenever you need to clean up a spill or wipe down a counter, designate a few cloth rags for drying dishes, wiping up messes, and drying hands.

Switch out lightbulbs:

It’s not just about turning off the lights when you’re not using them. Swapping incandescent bulbs for LEDs means your lights will last longer, burn cooler, and save you money in the long run.

Request an energy audit:

Qualified Duke Energy customers can request a home audit to assess your insulation, check for air leaks, and determine how energy efficient your appliances are.

Wash clothes in cold water:

Skipping the hot water rinse on your washing machine doesn’t just save energy, it’s also better for your clothes. Cold water is less likely to shrink and fade fabric and can reduce wrinkles.

Recycle electronics:

Next time you upgrade your phone or laptop, don’t just throw the old one in the trash. Local programs like Habitat for Humanity will gladly accept your used electronics, and many national retailers offer their own recycling programs and credit toward your new device.

Donate kids’ stuff:

Blink, and your kids have grown out of cribs, strollers, and onesies. So long as those products are gently used, you can give them a second life through local organizations like Miranda’s Closet, which provides the essentials to pregnant women and mothers in need.

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