*This blog post does not use affiliate links. Read the disclaimer about affiliate links and PR products/gifting HERE.
When Plastic Free July rolls around, I tend to see a common pattern: there are the people who are already living a more sustainable lifestyle that jump in to promote their tips and tricks and then there are those just beginning to become more conscious of their daily consumption and waste production. While browsing #plasticfreejuly on instagram is incredibly inspirational, many people that are starting to consider living more sustainably can get overwhelmed and wonder where to start.
From experience, you’ll soon learn that every “topic” under the umbrella of sustainability has so many layers to it and it’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed. Take fashion for example. Let’s say you make the decision to start buying more sustainable fashion options, but then you learn that it’s not just where the material is sourced that is of concern. It’s also about taking into account the garment worker’s rights, the greenhouse gas emissions from producing the item, etc. You’ll eventually find yourself calculating the carbon footprint of the item when you soon get overwhelmed, take a step back, and remind yourself, “I just wanted a new bra!” After you realize you are several hours into researching sustainable brands that check all of the sustainability boxes, you find out the perfect clothing item is out of budget. What the heck do you do then?!
Living sustainably is a lifelong commitment and process. Fortunately, all of that initial research done on sustainable fashion wasn’t for nothing. Please rest easy knowing that the next time you go to buy a piece of clothing (in this example), you won’t have to spend that much time understanding why you are shopping for a more sustainable option because now you will know why. But this process can leave a lot of people dabbling in the idea of living more sustainably asking, “where the heck do I start?”
I’ll give you a great first step… look in your trash can.
I know, I know, digging in your trash is not as glamorous as purchasing a new dress from a brand with ethical practices and is made of sustainable materials. But when you think about the plastic pollution problem, it’s our waste that is ending up in the environment causing damage. It’s also a great way to customize the beginning of your sustainable lifestyle. By paying attention to what you throw away, you have a starting point for making changes that will reduce your impact on the environment. How do you do that?
Let’s do a TRASH AUDIT…
Step 1: Go through your trash to make categories.
You have to start off by understanding what you’re actually throwing away to know how you can make changes to your routine. Start off by looking at the items you throw away and put them into categories on a piece of paper or use a worksheet (like this one HERE). For example, use categories like “Hard Plastics”, “Plastic Film”, “Cans”, and so on.
Step 2: Tally the items you throw away.
The easiest way to do this is by dumping out your trash bin and writing down or using a worksheet to tally up the amount of each item. Another way to do this (and the less messy option) is to keep track of your trash for a week by using the same worksheet/tally system. Either way, after really taking a look at what you throw away, you’ll have a clear picture of your daily habits and how they can be tweaked to be more sustainable.
Step 3: At the end of the week, assess your trash count and make changes.
The next step is to make changes. What could that look like? For example, that could mean you invest in a reusable water bottle to eliminate disposable plastic bottles from your waste. Another example, you start a small bin to collect plastic film and look up the closest collection location on plasticfilmrecycling.org. Before you know it you won’t have to put your trash bin on the side of the street for trash day because there will hardly be anything in there! Haha! Wouldn’t that be great?!
Step 4: Repeat the process.
As we enter different phases and stages of life, the types of trash we produce will change. When people go from living alone to having a family, adding a pet, or moving to a different part of the world, the type of trash will change. It’s important to complete trash audits every so often to figure out how you can continue to reduce your impact on the environment.
Let’s Wrap This Up So I Can Get Started…
No one can go zero waste overnight. It’s just not possible so let yourself off the hook. The key is to make small conscious changes so that you can learn, make progress, and continue to become more passionate along the way. In short, you’ll avoid burnout. Since we’re talking about trash specifically though, regardless of whether you choose to dump out your trash and tally up everything at once or track your waste for the week, this is a great place to start making goals to reduce your daily waste output.
I hope this post helped to inspire you to conduct your very own Home Trash Audit. To conduct my own audit, I decided to put together a worksheet that I could use to complete the process; I couldn’t help myself, I’ve always been a sucker for a good spreadsheet or a good worksheet. If you would like a copy of the PDF worksheet, click below to get it sent to your email to download and complete whenever you are ready to start diving in!
Click HERE to subscribe to my blog for future zero waste, sustainable, and plastic-free alternatives to products that we use everyday.
Until next time,