Healthy Monday Tip #2: 8 Steps to Reduce Packaging Waste

Healthy Monday is a public health initiative founded in 2005 in association with Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Syracuse University. HM’s goal is to end chronic preventable disease in the U.S. by offering people and organizations a weekly prompt to start and sustain healthy behaviors, intentions, actions and initiatives. For most Americans, the week begins on Monday. Studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet.

Gaby’s comment from last week’s Healthy Monday gave me the idea for today’s post. I’m going to be running Healthy Monday indefinitely so if you ever have ideas for a Monday Tip just send them along.

Reduce Packaging Waste (food packaging or otherwise)

I buy a lot of things online, but sometimes I skip Amazon’s packaging in favor of something more eco-friendly. I’ve noticed more and more that I will order something and it comes with (unnecessary) bags of packing peanuts, or arrives in a gigantic box, or is contained within obscene amounts of plastic.

I’m a big fan of moderation, so I am not going to suggest anything that is difficult to implement or easy to forget for reducing packaging waste. Sustainability is all about just that – making changes that are sustainable.

Here are 8 quick and easy tips to reduce your packaging waste immediately:

  1. Buy food from bulk bins rather than individually packaged, if possible. (However, don’t buy in bulk if you have to buy more than you will need.)
  2. Avoid buying “single serving” packets of food (for example: buy 6 fresh cookies from the bakery that come in one paper bag instead of 6 individually wrapped cookies that come inside another wrapper).
  3. Don’t let cashiers double-bag your purchases unless absolutely necessary. (Or don’t let them bag them at all.)
  4. Bring your own grocery bags (re-use them).
  5. Try re-usable (travel) coffee mugs instead of new paper or plastic mugs each time you buy or make a cup of coffee or tea.
  6. Buy a loose piece of fruit instead of a bag of candy for your snack.
  7. Try eating less meat (it’s Meatless Monday today). Not *no* meat, just less. Meat is high up on the food chain so it takes more energy (and more waste) to produce than, say, a vegetable.
  8. *Buy Less Stuff In General*. Ohhh, snap. Yes I did just say that. Maybe we should all just cut back on how much we purchase. Is all of it necessary? Nope. Try going a week without buying anything non-essential. It’s hard. But it makes you realize how much you buy that you don’t really need.

Why Reduce Packaging Waste?

Because the earth will thank you. Have you heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a massive area in the Pacific ocean filled with bits of plastic and crap that humans have tossed out irresponsibly.

Maybe if we just took a few of the steps outlined above the whirling gire of crap wouldn’t be quite so titanic.

What are your tips to reduce our trash production?

There are a lot I didn’t mention because they are (unfortunately) not that reasonable. People will balk at you if you ask them to stop eating out, make everything from scratch, and save their greywater to wash dishes in. To affect change you have to introduce change gradually. (Humans are bad at change.) That’s why I hope my 8 tips are not too crazy 🙂

15 Replies to “Healthy Monday Tip #2: 8 Steps to Reduce Packaging Waste”

  1. I think these are great tips! One thing I am anal about is people leaving lights on when no one is in the room. Shut them off, please!!! And unplug your appliances when you’re done with them. The toaster and coffee pot don’t have to remain plugged in 24-7. 😉

    1. @Krista: That’s a very good point! Sometimes I leave the bathroom light on and I know I should make an effort to turn it off when I’m not using the room. I do unplug my cell phone charger – I’ve heard that can leak energy too.

  2. When I do get boxes, I like to save them, if they are sturdy. You never know when you randomly need to pack or ship something.

    I’m not always the best at reducing my carbon footprint, unfortunately, but I try to always keep my water bottles/coffee mugs with me on campus.

  3. Maggie,

    Thanks for outlining these tips! They are not too crazy. Although I will say that when California falls into the ocean as the glaciers melt, that garbage island might come in handy. 😉 Hehe, kdding.

  4. I try to reuse yogurt and cottage cheese containers and wine bottles for vases. This is where Real Simple magazine comes in handy cause they always have tips for reusing stuff. I hate nothing more than liter and trash so thanks for this!

  5. I really liked your tips! I don’ know how it is in the U.S., but in Germany recycling and appropriate separation of waste is a big topic, and many people do it. Therefore, I have 5 bins for different kinds of waste in my kitchen: organic, paper and cardboard, glass, plastic and tins, and residual waste (pieces of cloth, sanitary pads, tea bags, etc). I sort everything and bring it to different waste containers. I also buy toilet paper from recycled paper, and waste gabs from recycled plastic.

    Another thing that comes to my mind: I you go grocery shopping, take a couple of cloth bags with you, instead of buying plastic bags to store your groceries every time! I have several cloth bags in different colors I use alternatingly. And I can simply wash them if they need it.

    1. @Kath: I remember it being similar to that when we visited Italy! I thought it was so cool that people would actually take the time to separate all their different kinds of trash. Americans are so lazy 🙁

  6. your tips ROCK and I do them all~ yeah, one area were I already am pretty good at! shew. how’s that for a nice “monday” (now Tuesday)

    I reuse my cloth bags at Fresh n Easy …I buy re-usable things, even starting to wash my zip lock baggies more…(budget is tight) and absolutly live by the if I can live without it…forget it!

    I also have been making my own snacks for the fam….home made cookies and breads and what not. healthier too.

    that way when I hit the Target dollar bins and spend 5 bucks I feel like I’ve SPLURGED! hehe

    Happy Tuesday

  7. Great tips Maggie! A couple years ago, every time I went grocery shopping I bought another reusable bag until I had 10 – that
    patiently sit in my car which I forget to use almost every time I shop!

    I’ll be more mindful! 😀

  8. Just found your blog and glad I did!. I am now a subscriber! Great tips! Can’t wait to read more…

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