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How to live your best low-waste life

Waste adds up fast. It might seem insignificant to toss away a paper towel or leave the faucet running while you brush your teeth, but when you multiply small individual waste by a globe full of people – the impact is much larger. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to cut down on waste at home and at work. Here are some simple tips. 

At home: 

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We’ve all heard this mantra before – because it works. The less we use, the less we waste. The more reusable items we use, the less waste ends up in landfills. Disposing of paper, glass, metal and plastic in the recycling helps local waste management handle them properly.  

Conserve water. Fix leaky faucets and install devices that regulate the flow of water from taps in your home. Shorten your shower time. Only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.  

Focus on kitchen waste. Reduce food waste by planning meals ahead of time and finishing leftovers or repurposing them in another dish. Composting is a great way to dispose of organic waste.  

At work:  

Build low waste into meeting agendas. For large group meetings where food and beverages are served, opt for reusable eating utensils. Encourage attendees to bring refillable beverage containers.  

Make sustainability convenient for everyone. Strategically place recycling bins and remind folks how they can contribute to a low-waste office. This helps bring others into the conversation. When everyone knows how simple it is to participate, more people are going to want to adopt sustainable practices.  

Smart commuting. Encourage your coworkers to join a carpool group or use public transportation. Some workplaces even offer incentives for walking, biking or using public transportation to get to work.  

If you’ve already tried most of these tips, it can feel like you’ve reached a sustainability dead end. Here are some steps to escape the dead end as you cut down on waste in your routine: 

Use items you already have. Do you have a drawer full of condiment packets and plastic utensils? Consider using those items first before collecting more from food delivery services and takeout. Better yet, request not to receive any disposable items or condiments. Instead, use dishwasher-safe utensils and bottles of condiments already in your fridge (or your stockpile from that drawer). 

Focus on replaceability. Take stock of things you use once and throw away, then replace those items with reusables. Start by switching out plastic water bottles for dishwasher-safe reusable ones.  

Take it space by space. Whether you’re at home or at work, focus on one space or practice at a time. Identify any waste and strategize ways to reduce it. For example, ask yourself questions like: 

  • What do I already have that I can use in place of single-use items? 
  • What single-use items can I replace with reusable ones? 
  • How can I encourage behaviors that support low waste? 

Living your best low-waste life doesn’t have to involve drastic overnight changes. Small, consistent efforts can positively affect the environment. By incorporating these simple steps into daily life, you’ll contribute to a more sustainable future in no time.  

Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.

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