Back to the Basics for 2021: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

As the New Year starts, add a low-waste lifestyle to your list of resolutions. Reducing waste keeps materials out of landfills, saves energy and valuable natural resources, and helps protect the environment. From takeout dining to buying in bulk, we have eight simple tips to help you conquer the three R’s everyday—reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce: 

  • When shopping, always ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is there a more sustainable way I can get this item? This checkin is a great way to think about what is truly necessary and evaluate whether there are better options without excess packaging waste. 
  • With California’s single-use carry-out bag ban in place, most stores are again allowing customers to bring reusable bags with them. Reusable bags are an easy way to eliminate some unnecessary plastic waste. Call ahead to make sure the store you’re planning to shop at is allowing reusable bags into the store. Alternatively, place unbagged groceries into your shopping cart and bag them into your reusable bags when you get to your car. Bonus points for using reusable produce bags, too. 
  • When shopping for groceries, buy bulk whenever you can, and avoid individually-wrapped foods. Stopping at the butcher shop or farmers market allows you to buy exactly how much food you need while also cutting back on plastic waste from packaging – a double win! 
  • Make home-cooked meals with real ingredients by shopping on the perimeter of a store and avoiding the middle aisles where food tends to be over-packaged to preserve shelf-life.
  • If you’re ordering takeout to eat at home, let the restaurant or delivery service know that you do not want plastic cutlery or a plastic bag. Fed up with all the foam and plastic takeout waste? Try making more meals at home.
  • Make your resolution with a buddy. Although we might not be able to gather together right now, we can set goals together! Share your commitment with friends and check in with each other regularly about new creative ways to reduce waste. 

Reuse: 

  • Choose to reuse.  Reuse, sell or donate items that you no longer need. Before making purchases for new items, look to see if they might be available second hand. There are many websites and “virtual garage” social media pages that offer an impressive array of products from home goods and furniture to clothing and toys, among other items. And as a bonus, many items are priced well below similar brand new items. 

Recycle:

  • Recycle Right! Kick-off the new year by correctly disposing of those materials that you can’t reduce or reuseCheck SanJoseRecycles.org if you are unsure of what goes where. Recycling Right reduces waste, keeps materials out of the landfill, and helps protect the environment. 

Looking for more of a challenge? Go beyond the three R’s and add Refuse and Rot. Find out how here.