These are 5 EASY ways to reduce waste and increase self sufficiency in your home (plus one bonus!). You can start them all today, and they will make a difference right away!
When my husband and I began thinking about homesteading and self-sufficiency, waste reduction was honestly not on the top of my list. I was more interested in cooking from scratch, growing our food, and making things by hand. But what I didn’t realize until just recently, was that as we’ve continued to go down this rabbit hole the past few years, the amount of trash and waste we create has gone down substantially. Like BIG time. We have an infant, and even then, we create one bag of trash per week.
How much waste can I really produce?
I did some research, and the average family creates 18lbs of garbage per day. The average full trash bag weighs between 15-22 lbs. So, theoretically, families are going through a whole bag of garbage EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. That is a ton of garbage! And a ton of money being spent! Garbage bags aren’t cheap! Especially if you don’t want them ripping and dumping all your trash everywhere…
So if you don’t care about reducing waste, at least you can care about saving some money!
Plus, for those homestead-minded folks like myself, all of these tips help hone other homesteading skills you might already be working on 🙂
5 Easy Tips for Reducing Waste and Increasing Self-Sufficiency
Without further adieu, here are in no particular order, 5 easy ways to reduce waste and increase self-sufficiency in your home.
1. Eat leftovers!
I have always loved leftovers, and was surprised to find out some people don’t! I know of several families that just throw out whatever they don’t eat at the end of dinner. Down the disposal. That makes my heart hurt!
If you don’t like leftovers, try revamping them. So for example, if you roast a chicken on Sunday night, you can make chicken salad for lunch on Monday, and chicken noodle soup for dinner on Tuesday. Especially if you stick to a simple meat and veggie diet, it is SUPER easy to switch things up and keep leftovers exciting.
Also, if you really don’t like leftovers, or something has gone off in the fridge, you can always feed it to the pigs or chickens (one day we will do this, but we’re still dreaming about our animals… comment down below if you have livestock!)
2. Compost as much as you can. Recycle what you can’t compost.
Especially if you have a garden, this is a no-brainer. Any organic materials that aren’t meat should be composted! It is GREAT for your soil, great for your plants, and great for your wallet. Again, buying compost can get pricy. And I can say from experience that fresh, homemade compost is way better than anything store bought! If you don’t have a garden, there are often organizations in your town that will take compost, so be sure to look them up in your area!
While composting is great, it can get a bit smelly. And you don’t want to have to walk out to the compost pile every single time you cut up some veggies. So I would definitely recommend getting a compost bucket for your kitchen counter! We use this one, and it is sleek and discreet. No one will even know what’s in it!
3. Repurpose cardboard, old burp cloths, etc.
If you ever order anything from Amazon, you are no stranger to cardboard boxes. Also, if you’re like us, the garage is where cardboard goes to die. Or used to!
Cardboard (without any colors or stickers on it) is actually a great way to sheet mulch any area you are looking to prep for gardening! It can take a while to break down, so I’d recommend covering the area you want to prep a few months ahead of time. Check out my blog post on How to Grow Your Best Garden in 2021 to read more about sheet mulching.
Also, if you’re little one is not so little now, don’t throw away your burp cloths! They make wonderful dust rags, and you don’t have to go through a million paper towels. We got these burp cloths, and I plan on keeping them for just that reason once Charlie is older!
4. Repair or donate clothes instead of just throwing them out.
Here’s one we need to work on. My husband has a tendency to get holes in the elbows of his work shirts. The shirt will look perfect, except for these stinking elbow holes… so we normally end up throwing them out. I feel bad doing it, but he also can’t wear hole-y shirts to his office job. I’m sure we all have some kind of dilemma like that. We’re really good about donating our old clothes and things we have grown out of, but that particular situation has led to a lot of shirts just getting tossed.
So, one of my goals is to get better at repairing rips in shirts, pants, etc. Either by patching them or just sewing them closed. I know not every shirt will be saved, but it will be a lot better than the alternative. Plus, I view this as a low-pressure way to improve my sewing skills! Another homesteading skill we can always improve.
So, if you’ve got a sock thats great except for one hole, or a shirt that is missing a button, do your best to repair and re-wear it! You’ll learn a new skill, save some cash, and lengthen the life of your wardrobe!
5. Only buy / harvest what you need.
If you’re like me, grocery shopping can be one of the most fun, most difficult tasks. There are always new things and pretty displays competing for your attention. Especially snacks… And there are so many fun and exciting restaurants tempting you to leave what you bought in the fridge and go eat out!
Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out as much as the next person. But since we’ve shifted our focus to a more self-sufficient and health conscious way of life, eating out happens a lot less. We’ve got food in garden that will go bad if we don’t cook it up! And even though composting is great, I still hate throwing moldy food away.
My point is, if you eat out every day, don’t buy a bunch of groceries! Or if you do buy a bunch of groceries, use them! Try and cultivate an awareness of what you eat in an average day/ week, and buy just that. Harvest just enough for the meal you’re cooking (unless you’re preserving things, of course). Or plan your cooking around what is ripe. You’ll get a better feel for how much you need to grow to sustain your family, and eat fresh, healthy food in the process!
Bonus: Use reusable items wherever possible.
Last but definitely not least, consider using reusable items whenever possible. Instead of paper towels, use dish cloths. I was sort of against dish cloths for a while because of the smelly ones in my grandma’s sink when I was growing up… lol! But if you have one or two for every day of the week and cycle them out regularly, you don’t have to worry about that!
Another thing I’ve just become aware of is reusable coffee filters! I am a huge fan of pour over coffee, but I find myself buying filters every couple of months. Even though it’s only a few bucks, that cost adds up throughout the year. All you need is some muslin cloth and a sewing machine, and you can make your own! If you have a serger, you can make them look really slick, too. I plan on making some of these in the near future and getting them in the shop, so join my email list to be notified when they are in stock!
Why does reducing waste matter?
In the end, one person or one family doing this isn’t going to make much of a difference. But if we were able to make this type of living the norm, the results would be phenomenal.
Reducing our waste is obviously better for the environment. But beyond that, it encourages us to be more independent and learn skills that help us thrive in a variety of ways. Being able to fix things on our own, grow our own food, and get the most out of our resources.
What are you going to do?
Comment down below with what way you’re going to reduce the waste in your home! What skill are you going to learn? Or do you already do all these, and have another tip? I’d love to hear it!
Tag me @sweetgumspot on Instagram or Facebook so I can see what you are up to! Any pictures of your washcloths, your compost pile, or your patched up shirts! I’d love to see them 🙂