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Improving Shopping Habits


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Other Ways to Reduce Waste

Reducing School and Office Waste

Reducing Party Waste

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Not very long ago, most people realized that their survival depended on the wise use of resources. Although this is much less obvious to us in our daily lives now, the well-being of humanity (as well as most other living things) still depends on our wise use of resources. This page has some ideas to help you reduce waste and still have fun.

General Waste Reduction Ideas

Reduce the waste in your life

Have you ever taken a close look at the waste we, as North Americans, generate? We have become so used to disposables, that we consider it normal to generate much unnecessary waste.

Ways You Can Decrease Waste

Improve Your Shopping Habits

  • Before you leave home, make a list of the purchases you need to make, and stick to your list
  • Avoid using shopping as a hobby or form of entertainment; if this doesn't work, try and fulfill those desires by frequenting your library and second-hand stores
  • If uncertain whether the item will be in stock, check online or phone ahead
  • Keep your belongings well maintained
  • Use your belongings as long as possible, mend and repair them if possible and only replace them when absolutely necessary
  • Make the life expectancy of the item one of your main priorities when making purchases
  • Avoid major sources of advertising
  • Avoid impulse buying--research your purchases by reading reviews and consumer reports so you buy the item that fits your needs best
  • Consider the distances the goods you purchase have travelled, the packaging they come in, and the resources needed to produce them when shopping
  • Bring along your own reusable bags or bins when shopping
  • Combine trips so you won't need to travel as much while running errands
  • When giving gifts, ask recipients what they need, give a homemade item, or consider tickets to an event or gift certificates, and whenever possible, provide a gift receipt to make exchanges easier if necessary


  • As much as possible, avoid processed foods and prepare your own
  • Buy organically grown foods whenever possible
  • Consider joining a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) in which you purchase shares and receive locally grown organic produce on a weekly basis
  • Know where your food comes from, and choose local food when possible
  • Shop at Farmers' Markets and get to know the people who grow your food
  • If you can, grow some of your own produce either at home or in a community garden plot
  • Avoid fast food restaurants and especially drive-throughs
  • Pack your own lunches and snacks when travelling, using your own reusable containers
  • Minimize your intake of high-intensity / distantly grown foods such as coffee, chocolate and sugar
  • Reduce your meat consumption, and consider becoming vegetarian if you aren't already
  • Avoid using vending machines
  • Bring along your own reusable bags or bins when shopping
  • When travelling, especially with children, bring along an emergency snack and reusable water bottle from home
  • Avoid single-use water and beverage bottles

Transportation and Lifestyle

  • If you can work from home, do so
  • If you must travel walk, cycle, use transit or carpool (transit and car pooling give you extra work or "down time" that sitting at the wheel in traffic wastes) whenever you can
  • Do not idle your vehicle; it is bad for your vehicle as the oil does not move through the engine properly, it pollutes the environment and it wastes gas
  • Teach your older child how to safely ride transit and encourage him or her to do so with friends (offer to pay for their bus pass, but not for gas)
  • Combine trips
  • When planning a vacation, consider local attractions as well as more distant ones, and also consider what your family truly needs so that everyone enjoys the experience
  • Make your next vehicle purchase a hybrid (or a bike)
  • Very few people actually need a four-wheel drive SUV, especially if they live in a city--be realistic about your vehicular needs and buy for practicality, not social status
  • Keep your vehicle serviced and your tires inflated properly
  • Try and use one less vehicle per household than you do now--experiment by taking one off the road for a week or two to see what changes and if you can make it work for you

  • Buy clothing that will outlast a fashion season--clothes that are classic and always in style
  • Choose clothing for quality, not quantity
  • Darning socks may be a lost skill, but anyone can sew on a button--try and mend your clothes when you can
  • Shop resale when possible, and donate your own used clothing
  • Reduce your use of cosmetics and limit your use to natural products
  • Procrastinate purchases, and research items before buying

  • Research any prescriptions you are given; many are necessary but some are not (like preventative dental pain relievers, for instance), and make a note of how any medications affect you; remember, doctors and pharmacists are human too, and it is only reasonable that you also take some responsibility for your healthcare
  • Limit your use of over-the-counter medications, and be sure to let your doctor and pharmacist know about those if you add another medication (and do your own research as well)
  • Ask questions, especially about medications suggested/prescribed for children, and consult more than one reliable source for your information
  • Return unused medication to your pharmacist (they will often also take unused veterinary medication as well)
  • Medications such as those containing hormones and those containing antibiotics tend to be overprescribed--do your research and learn about your options whenever possible
  • Avoid using anti-bacterial soaps as these can contain ingredients that can break down into dioxin upon contact with the sun; and some contain triclosan which is suspect (see David Suzuki's cosmetics article for more info)

    When choosing a new place of residence, consider the following:
  • layout and your own use of the space at least as much as the square footage so you can choose a smaller home that still fits you well
  • the proximity to work, schools, parks, transit, grocery stores, libraries, etc. (see this site for a "walkability score" for any given North American address, but also check for yourself based on your own needs)
  • the proximity to friends and relatives you visit frequently
  • the energy consumption associated with the house: check utility bills, insulation, doors and windows, heating (and cooling) source, passive energy savers including tree shelter, passive solar construction, water saving fixtures, etc.
  • Research your builder's past track record

Other Ways to Reduce Waste

  • Use your local public library and used bookstores rather than buying all you read
  • Share a newspaper, or better yet, get an online subscription
  • Ask to be taken off of mailing lists that you don't need, and post a "no flyers" sign on your mailbox
  • Use refillable pens and mechanical pencils
  • Borrow or rent larger equipment if you don't use it often
  • Set your computer and monitor (and other electronics) to power save mode and shut them down at night and at each break
  • Ensure that lighting is turned off when it is not in use (consider installing motion sensors)
  • Look in your waste baskets and recycling for further ideas as to where to reduce waste
  • Ensure that your school or workplace recycles and composts to their full ability
  • Let your local politicians know these issues are important to you, and vote accordingly
  • delay making purchases/upgrading equipment by using items as long as possible
  • keep equipment well maintained
  • Use tried and true cleaning solutions rather than commercial ones; vinegar has disinfecting properties, baking soda is a great mild abrasive and deodorizer, salt added to a cold water wash removes blood and other body fluid stains, lemon juice and/or vinegar in a shaker with olive oil makes an excellent furniture polish, and a paste of baking soda and dish soap will clean nearly anything--search the internet for more ideas

A Word About "Trendy Disease"

    Trendy Disease is what I call the perceived need to continuously update to the newest fashion, electronics, toys, etc. with little or no consideration for the actual need involved in such purchases.
    As humans, we have some basic needs that cannot be ignored including food, shelter, clean air, clean water, a sense of personal security and a sense of belonging--love. We do not really have a need for a new IPod or bling. We do not really need to own a brand new sports car and an SUV. These are desires, not needs. Those with "Trendy Disease" find this distinction difficult to make.

    Wherever we go, we are bombarded with advertising, so it is no wonder that we all suffer from this to some degree. But this is a disease we cannot afford to ignore. It is one thing to become conscious of it for ourselves, but much harder to shelter preteens and teens from its debilitating effects. And it is important, for the earth, yes, of course, but also for the psychological and emotional well-being of our kids to solve this one. So many of us become lost to our culture's intense materialism--owned by our possessions--that we lose sight of ourselves and the things that are truly important to us. We become defined by status symbols (and judge others by theirs) while losing our identities.

    I don't have many answers for this one, but I am working on it, and I encourage you to do the same.