In 2015, Americans generated 262.4 million tons of trash. More than half, 137.7 million tons, ended up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the stuff we throw away most is food (221 pounds per person a year) cardboard boxes (188 pounds a year) and plastics such as bags, plastic packaging, plastic bottles and durable plastics from furniture and appliances.
Money makes the world go around, so if you need motivation to reduce waste, we've come up with a list of 30 ways you can cut your waste that will save you money too.
1. Stop Buying Bottled Water
Bottled water costs an average of $1.45 bottle. These single-use plastic bottles take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes, according to ValleyWater.org. Many of them simply become litter, or end up in landfills and are not recycled. Pick up a reusable water bottle for as little as $10 and fill it from your faucet. If you're concerned about the water, a $16 Brita pitcher and a filter will replace about 1,800 bottles of water a year, and you can put a filter on your faucet for about $55 a year, if you replace it every three months, as PUR recommends.
2. Avoid Food Waste: Plan Your Meals
In 2015, Americans disposed of 37.6 million tons of food waste, according to the EPA, an average of 220 pounds a year. A family of four wastes an estimated $1,500 a year worth of food, according to SaveTheFood.com. That's a lot of money you could be putting in the bank.
Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals. Buy only what you need and will use.
3. Avoid Food Waste: Shop in Your Refrigerator First
You might have some wilting produce, or meat that needs to be cooked today. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies. Plan an "eat the leftovers" night each week.
4. Avoid Food Waste: Prepare Perishable Foods Soon After Shopping
It's easier to whip up healthy meals or snacks later in the week when everything's washed and chopped and ready to go in a container, saving time, effort, and money. Some foods, like berries, shouldn't be washed in advance, or they will mold.
The EPA has a host of tips for reducing food waste, improving food storage, prepping food, shopping, understanding food expiration dates, and other information. SaveTheFood.com has tools for better meal planning.
5. Avoid Overnight Shipping
Eight out of 10 Americans shop online, and according to Conservation.org, shopping online generally has a smaller carbon footprint than driving to the store. But 1- and 2-day shipping means more delivery vans, trucks and planes emitting more air and noise pollution. Slower shipping allows delivery companies to work more efficiently. And it usually costs less. Even if you're using Amazon Prime, you're paying for that, and one study showed that Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) Prime members end up spending and shopping more. Do you really need that pair of shoes tomorrow?
Photo: Cari Rubin Photography / Shutterstock
6. Don't Get Coffee To Go
Your coffee cup and lid will live on for over 100 years, according to Reef Relief. Making your own coffee can save you hundreds of dollars a year -- money you can add to your college fund, emergency fund, or retirement savings.
Photo: icedmocha / Shutterstock
7. Repair It
Whether it's an appliance, lawn mower, laptop or TV, it's usually cheaper to clean or repair products than to buy new ones. You can even try to fix something yourself, with a little YouTube research. Consumer Reports' rule of thumb is: don't spend more than 50% of the cost of a new product on repairing an old one, and if it's broken down once before, it might be better to buy a new one. Pictured is a lawn mower repair shop in Rockville, Md.
Photo: Nicole S Glass / Shutterstock
8. Clean It Up
It's cheaper to get carpets and upholstery cleaned than to get new ones. You can buy your own cleaning machine too, most of them range in price from about $90 to $150.
9. ...Share, Borrow, or Rent
Before you buy that carpet cleaning machine, see if one of your friends has one, or rent one from most supermarkets or box stores. You can share things like tools, lawnmowers, leafblowers, and other things you don't use every day.
10. Speaking of Sharing: Rent Your Fashion
Fashion and clothing has a huge impact on the environment. The textiles system uses large amounts of non-renewable resources that are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short time, then sent to landfills, according to one report, A New Textiles Economy, Redesigning Fashion's Future by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is sent to landfills every second, the report says.
So if you must have that $1,200 designer bag or $600 evening dress, consider renting it at a site like RentTheRunway or Tulerie. And that will definitely save you money.
Above, migrant women from Burma work in a footwear production line in Thailand.
Photo: catastrophe_OL / Shutterstock
11. Give Up Plastic K-cup Coffee Pods
A Keurig coffee maker costs five to seven times that of a perfectly decent drip coffee maker, and, according to Reviewed.com, K-cups cost about 47 cents per cup and ground coffee around 21 cents a cup. If you still like the single-use pods, look for reusable filters for these machines, even Keurig (KDP - Get Report) makes one.
Photo: Dave Nelson / Shutterstock
12. Go Digital With Documents
Save documents electronically instead of making hard copies. The U.S. produces more than 30 pounds of office paper waste per person per year. Save money on printers, ink cartridges, and paper.
13. Go Digital With Bills
By paying bills online and getting statements and e-bills through your bank's website, you'll be reducing waste and saving on stamps, envelopes, paper, and trips to the post office.
14. Go Digital: Use E-Books
New releases of e-books are often cheaper than hard copies, plus they are easier to store, use less resources, and you can read them in the dark.
15. Use the Library
If you still prefer to hold a real book in your hand, libraries are the original reducers and reusers. Depending on how much you read, you can save a lot of money this way. Plus, most libraries have e-books instantly available.
Composting raw food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves in your yard will yield a valuable soil amendment that will make your garden grow healthier, and you'll save money on buying amendments and fertilizers.
17. Use a Cloth Instead of Paper Towels
Switching to microfiber cloths to wipe spills and clean counters could save you about $100 a year, if you're going through two rolls of paper towels a week. You can save money ditching other wipes too -- makeup wipes (use a face cloth) disposable mop pads (use a mop) and disinfectant wipes.
18. Use Washable Diapers
Diapers end up in the landfill, and the EPA estimates that 4.3 million tons of disposable diapers were tossed in 2015. Cloth diapers have come a long way from the baggy safety-pinned ones of yore. These days, they have hook-and-loop or snap closures, adjustable sizing, flexible fit and thicker, more secure elastic around the legs and back, according to the Natural Baby Company. They are better for the baby's skin, and you only need around 40 for as long as your baby uses them. An initial investment of $300-$500 in cloth diapers can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars compared with the cost of $1,400 to $2,500 you'd spend on disposables.
19. Sign Up for Freecycle
You can get free stuff on Freecycle, anything from appliances to wood to furniture. The organization's goal is to keep stuff out of the landfill. It's also a good way to get rid of things you don't want anymore -- post them on the Freecycle board and if someone wants it, they will contact you and come pick it up. You'll be surprised what people will pick up, free. Membership is free, too.
20. Use Rechargeable Batteries
Every year in the U.S., Americans buy, use and throw out billions of batteries, the EPA says. Not all items that use AA or AAA batteries are worth the investment of rechargeable batteries, but according to Mr. Electric, an electrical installation and repair company, if you have to change the batteries on something every 30-60 days, switching to rechargeables can save you money in the long run. Four Energizer rechargable AA batteries and charger are $9.99 at Target, (TGT - Get Report) and they last up to five years. Four disposable AAs cost around $4. If you swap them every 30 days, that's a savings of $48 a year, and $240 in five years.
Photo: Huguette Roe / Shutterstock
21. Lose the Sponge
You may have heard of Kathryn Kellogg, author of "101 Ways to Go Zero Waste," who, in her efforts to reduce waste, can fit two years of trash into a single 16-ounce jar, and estimates that she has saved at least $18,000 in her efforts. Ditching kitchen sponges is one of her strategies. Use a washable cloth rag and a brush for scrubbing. It worked fine for people 100 years ago.
22. Use Vinegar for Cleaning
Try vinegar and water instead of all those pricey cleaning products filing up your broom cupboard. This is another strategy of Kellogg's, and lots of other people who have concerns about the toxins they are exposed to from cleaning products, and their effect on the environment. You can make your own cleaning products using things like vinegar, borax, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda or lemon, according to Better Homes and Gardens.
23. Use Glass or Stainless Steel Food Storage Containers
This is another recommendation by Kathryn Kellogg, author of "101 Ways to Go Zero Waste." You can purchase glass or steel containers (or reuse glass jars, like the kind for spaghetti sauce comes in) instead of the disposable plastic Tupperware-types for storing leftovers, and buy food in bulk instead of pre-packaged.
24. Get a Low-Flow Showerhead
The average household water bill is $104 per month in 2019, that's up more than 30% in less than 10 years, CBS reported. So, even if you don't live in a drought-prone state, a showerhead that puts out less than 2.5 gallons a minute can save you money in the long run.
25. Ditch the Plastic and Paper Plates and Cups
Before disposable plates came along, people used melamine or tin picnic dishes that worked just fine by the pool or in the park. If you want to avoid plastic, look for bamboo or metal products that can be washed and reused.
26. Get Reusable Sandwich Bags
Whether it's Baggies, ZipLocs or plastic wrap for sandwiches, leftovers, or your toiletries for the airport security line, you're spending money on these one-use disposables that use a lot of plastic and will probably end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There's a variety of alternatives, like these Rezip bags, that are reusable, washable and made from silicone, canvas, wax paper or linen, and they'll probably pay for themselves by the year's end.
27. Get a Reusable Razor
Disposable razors last about three to 10 shaves, according to Gillette. Reusable razors have a razor handle that you keep, with detachable blade cartridges you refill as needed, these blades usually last five to 10 shaves. Unlike your grandfather, who might have stuck the used blade into a slot in the bathroom wall, with these razors you replace the cartridge, or head. Gillette sells a reusable razor with four replacements for $12, and eight disposables for $7. This actually translates to savings of about a penny or more per shave, as the reusables last longer. You can also buy a metal safety razor, and just replace the blades.
28. Buy Used Clothes
Instead of paying full price for clothes, try rifling through your local thrift store, Goodwill, or consignment shop. It's one way to find high-quality clothes for a fraction of the price. Popular online sites for both buying and selling clothes include thredUP and Poshmark.
29. Buy a Used Car
Depreciation of a new vehicle in just one year can be as much as 30%. According to AAA, depreciation accounts for almost 40% of the cost of a new car, roughly $3,000 a year. So you can save yourself thousands by buying a used car, especially those that have the highest 3-year depreciation, netting you, the buyer, the most savings.
30. Buy Less Stuff
There's good reason the minimalist trend has gained momentum, tiny houses are all the rage, and Marie Kondo has a show on Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) . Physical clutter and buying new things leads to mental clutter, according to Psychology Today, creating distractions, using up your mental energy, and causing family and financial stress. The Minimalists say that the concept is about letting go of everything that's in the way, and allows you to focus on what is meaningful in your life. Reducing your consumption reduces waste, saves you money, and saves precious resources.