Reduce is the practice of making and having less and inevitably disposing of less. Waste reduction is our ultimate goal, not only because it protects our environment from waste and doesn’t add to our landfills, but because it avoids the destructive process the happens upstream of our materials, the harm of extraction and manufacturing.
The world’s population is growing. Economies are growing. Countries all over the world are striving towards the American level of consumption. We cannot continue our rate of extraction on a planet with finite resources and without systems in place to efficiently reuse and recycle the resources we already have taken, our most effective path towards Zero Waste is to reduce. Reducing can look like a few different types of behavior changes:
- Just pass: The simplest, yet sometimes the most emotionally difficult can be to ask yourself ‘Do I need it?’ Sometimes this answer is just ‘no’ and we can go about our lives without the new thing. This could be the latest model of phone when our old phone still works well, or a new wardrobe with this season’s fashions even though last season’s clothes are still in good shape. There may be many areas of a person’s life when they realize that the cost of having the thing does not outweigh the benefit.
- Bring Your Own: Reducing gets a bit more complicated when we have to figure out how to get the stuff we want without the stuff you don’t necessarily want (ie disposables). Like the boy scouts discovered many years ago, the best technique is to always be prepared!
- Go without: Or if we are not equipped with our own tools, can we go without the disposable item? Is the minute of convenience that a bag provides worth having that bag in the ocean for a millennia or can we carry four tomatoes in our hands without a bag? Everyone has a line of how willing they are to practice their balancing act.
- Refuse: When we are prepared or ok to go without, the next step is to learn to say no, sometimes deemed its own R for refuse. Though it can sometimes be uncomfortable to make a fuss, that little act of courage to step outside the norm and politely ask the cashier to remove the plastic utensils from the take out bag is so important. It doesn’t just save the little bit of extra plastic, it also lets the business and all the other consumers around know that this matters.
A little bit trickier in our quest to get stuff without the associated disposables is to find things that are not packaged.
Keep an eye out for unpackaged produce you can find at most stores, or especially at farmers markets.
Many stores will let you fill your own containers in their bulk sections. Bulk does not mean buying large quantities, it means you can buy in the precise quantity that you want so it is also a great way to reduce food waste. Use any container but make sure to weigh it at home or ask the cashier before you fill it. This weight is important to “tare” our of your purchase so you are not paying for the weight of the container. There are so many different items you can buy in bulk, find a store that offers bulk buying by you.
There are also specialty stores for all kinds of package-less and bulk items you wouldn’t even think of. The Nada Shop in Encinitas sells bulk and package-free personal care products. And in addition to getting delicious smelling soap without creating waste, when you shop at these stores you are also supporting brands whose values align with yours, using your money to make a better world!
Less or Better Packaging
Sometimes it’s just not feasible for us to get something without the packaging. In these cases we can look for items in less packaging or better packaging. Not all materials are created equal, and while all stuff has environmental impacts we can go for materials that have less. Click to learn about the different types of materials and their impacts on the planet.
Whether it’s paper, plastic, compostable, or any other material, we need to be moving away from single use items as a society. A big part of reducing waste is going with reusables! The next best option on the waste hierarchy is to reuse. Read more about how reusing helps you reduce.
If it’s something you only use once in a while, we can reduce by borrowing instead of buying. We’re going all the way back to our childhood lessons when we remember that sharing is caring, and support a society where we have fewer things used by everyone, instead of everyone having many things that are rarely used. We have all heard of libraries for borrowing books, but did you know you could also borrow sports equipment, clothing, furniture, tools, party equipment, and so much more. Solana Center has some loan programs, check it out below.
Solana Center Services
Our Green Convene program helps you Zero Waste your party. Instead of using disposable plates and forks and such, borrow our tasteful party set and enjoy your celebrations guilt free!
Need a tool but don’t want to buy an expensive piece of equipment that will just gather dust most of the year? Borrow a tool from our diverse collection of useful supplies for gardening and home projects. Check out our free Tool Lending Library.