Minimizing Household Waste



  • Stop junk mail by visiting Junk Mail Stopper or DMA Consumers and you can establish ways to stop getting useless junk mail for free. Also consider signing onto ForestEthic's Do Not Mail Campaign urging a national registry for Americans to finally have control over their unsolicited mail.
  • Pay your bills on-line to avoid getting so much paperwork in the mail.
  • Some individual companies (i.e. Credit cards) send you a paper that lets you "opt out" of having your name in the databases they sell. Use this option! It'll not only help the environment, it'll help the counter top stay uncluttered with less mail to go through.


  • Turn off the lights, TV when you are not using them to cut down on your electrical bill. Also unplug appliances, cell phone chargers and other devices when not in use. Check out this green buying guide if you are in need of a new air conditioner.
  • Install a ceiling fan to use in the summer, freeze grapes for a cool snack, or do what you can to avoid using the air-conditioner during peak hours.
  • Buy energy efficient light bulbs. They last for around 10 years and will also save you money in the long run, as well as cutting down on your electrical bill. Learn what CAW is doing about energy efficient lighting here.
  • Turn your computer monitor off when leaving for more than an hour. Yes, the rumor is true - monitors use more energy than your computer does.
  • Get a bike. Do you drive five minutes to pick up a loaf of bread at the supermarket? 25 percent of all car trips are less than a mile. By riding a bike or walking for short trips, you'll save energy and money, and you just might slim down in time for swimsuit season.


  • Reduce hazardous waste associated with cleaning products by substituting some less harmful cleaners. For example, some tried and tested techniques: vinegar and scrunched up newspaper for cleaning windows; baking powder and water for removing mould and mildew, and vinegar for cleaning toilets. See SF Environment's Easy and Safe Cleaning Products for the Home for more information.
  • Seventh Generation and some other companies also offer an array of non-toxic, renewable household cleaning products.


  • Install a water saver in your toilet to reduce the number of gallons your toilet uses every time it flushes. Even if you have to flush twice, you'll be saving water.
  • If you're not addicted to the continual shower stream, turn off the flow while you scrub up and turn it back on to rinse. This saves a few minutes of your water use, which adds up.
  • When brushing teeth, just wet your toothbrush at the beginning and rinse at the end; no need to have it turned on the whole time.
  • For most places, you don't need to buy bottled water (unless local non-profit organizations or health/water agencies advise otherwise), which only uses up the plastic in which it is contained. Some bottled waters are bottled from tap sources, and many tap waters have stronger health regulations than bottled water does.
  • A comprehensive guide to water conservation and teaching tips for parents and educators (hat tip to Amy B. in Mrs. Fowler's Fourth Grade Class)


  • Save one-sided used paper as scrap for shopping lists, notes and drawing paper for children.
  • Save wrapping paper in bins to re-use in following years.
  • Wash and save jars to contain bulk food items
  • Remember that re-use is higher in the hierarchy than recycling. Use refillable pens, pencils and tape dispensers. According to the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, Americans throw out 1.6 billion single-use pens each year.
  • Bring your reusable bags to grocery stores. Learn more about the problem of plastic bags.

..and In Your Yard

  • Mowing the lawn - leave the cuttings on the lawn. Called 'grasscycling,' this practice will feed the lawn and provide better growth. The process works best if the lawn is cut regularly and you don't remove more than a third of the leaf blade length.
  • Recycle organics! Around 50% of household waste is made up of organic material, such as garden material and food scraps, which can be composted to produce an all-natural fertilizer for your garden. Plastic food trays and yogurt containers make good seed trays or can be used for sprouting seeds like mustard, cress and other spices. Fill an old flower pallet with compost to make an herb garden. Paint it if you want something more attractive.
  • Before you head out to the grocery store for some fresh salad greens or garnishes, step out to your backyard and take a look around. Dandelions are very useful plants from roots to flowers. The roasted roots can be used as a coffee additive or replacement. The leaves make great salad greens, and the crowns can be steamed or deep-fried for a unique side dish. Violet flowers when crystallized add a special touch to cakes and other desserts and can also be used in tea. Rose petals can also be prepared as a sugared delicacy (make sure you're raising them organically, though, naturally) Did you know that the sunflowers seeds aren't the only edible part of the plant? Cooked sunflower buds are very similar to artichoke hearts. The possibilities are endless.

Click here for more ideas! Need some ideas for the classroom? Check out this website to promote environmental awareness in the classroom. 

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