So you want to reduce your waste. Where do you begin? You don’t have to immediately go on a shopping spree for stainless steel drinking straws and bamboo cutlery. Make a few small manageable changes you can stick to and go from there. Here are 22 ways to start today.
1. Refill your toiletries. Terrace Park-based Plaine Products packages their toiletries in aluminum bottles, and include a return label with every shipment. When you get low, order a refill and return your empty bottles; the company covers shipping costs.
3. Buy staples in bulk. Instead of buying cans of beans, plastic bags of rice and grains, and containers of nuts, fill your own bags in the well-stocked bulk sections of Dean’s Mediterranean Imports, Madison’s at Findlay Market, Clifton Natural Foods, and Fresh Thyme.
4. Stock up on bags. Amass enough reusable shopping totes and produce bags to keep some at home and some extras in your car for last-minute grocery runs. Indigenous stocks totes illustrated and printed by Elizabeth Ross at Chestnut Street Market, and DeerHaus Decor carries washable produce bags and other sustainable home goods.
5. Trade tea bags for loose leaf. Some tea bags are manufactured with the sealing plastic polypropylene, and resources are still wasted in the making of biodegradable tea bags. Ditch both by brewing loose leaf tea from Churchill’s Fine Teas, Essencha Tea House & Healthy Cafe, and Coffee Emporium.
6. Grow your own herbs. The clamshell packaging most major grocery stores use for herbs can quickly add up. Limit how many you collect by growing your favorite herbs indoors or outdoors. Not a green thumb? Take a gardening class at the Civic Garden Center and become one.
7. Drink beer made here. Aluminum cans are generally known as being more environmentally-friendly than glass bottles, but you can reduce your waste even more by getting your own growlers filled at one of Cincinnati’s 40-plus local breweries.
8. Visit the butcher counter. Meat packaging can’t be recycled because of food residue, but you can still reduce your waste by visiting your local butcher. The butcher paper most use will decompose, unlike styrofoam trays and plastic wrap.
9. Reclaim building materials. Keep construction waste out of landfills (and save money on renovation projects!) by shopping at centers that sell used and overstocked materials in good condition, like the Cincinnati ReUse Center and Building Value.
10. Bake naked. With a silicone muffin tin from Artichoke, there’s no need for cupcake liners to prevent cupcakes, muffins, and cornbread from sticking.
11. Compost food scraps. Stop trashing food scraps and start building better soil. Learn the basics at a free, one-hour composting seminar with the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.
12. Drive less. Ride the bus, streetcar, or a bike to reduce your carbon footprint. The free RideShare program from the OKI Regional Council of Governments also connects commuters for carpooling and vanpooling.
13. Rent games, toys, and puzzles. When kids tire of toys, they become clutter or trash—unless you’re a member of the Play Library, where you can exchange last week’s toy for something new this week. For the adults, there’s also a solid collection of 1,000-piece puzzles.
14. Join a CSA. With Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you can buy directly from your local farmers. For an upfront fee, members get a weekly share of fresh produce. Many farms also offer a workshare option, which requires members to volunteer on the farm for a set number of hours throughout the season. Local farms offering CSA’s include Carriage House Farm, Our Harvest Cooperative, and Turner Farm.
16. Dine in. Reduce the amount of plastic and styrofoam containers you bring home by dining in at restaurants versus ordering takeout.
17. Donate used computers. When it’s time to upgrade your computer (or it goes kaput), donate it to the Cincinnati Computer Cooperative, a nonprofit that provides area children, adults, seniors, nonprofit organizations, and schools with computers. And if it can’t be refurbished, it’s scrapped for parts or recycled.
18. Fill your own olive oil jars. In lieu of buying a new bottle every time you run out, fill your own jars of olive oil at The Spicy Olive or Mt. Kofinas Olive Oil. Pop a pour spout onto the jar (yes, these are a thing) to still get that perfect drizzle.
19. Shop secondhand. Whether you scour the racks at Valley Thrift Store for deals, or shop high-end vintage shops like Down to Mars Vintage, shopping for gently used clothes comes with all the thrills of discovering that perfect piece, without contributing to the waste produced by “fast fashion.”
20. Read used books. Check out books from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (including free e-books), or shop for used books at Ohio Book Store, Duttenhofer’s Books, or the library’s The Used Book Store at the Warehouse.
21. Buy local. Before you order something online, ask yourself: Can I buy this locally? Two-day shipping in particular produces excess waste in the form of packaging, since items are often sent individually, and greenhouse gases, since rush shipping often uses air transportation instead of ground.
22. Take a zero-waste class. Simply Zero is a locally based online resource started by Cincinnati native Rachel Felous, who also hosts pop-up sessions around town.