Reducing Waste by Building Habits at Home

Posted Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:00

Practicing waste reduction at home builds a strong foundation for reducing waste in our everyday lives. While spending more time at home this winter, we can examine our daily habits and think about the ways we can be more sustainable. Reducing our personal waste is an important part of preventing potential marine debris; let’s kick off our new year with resolving to do so. Here are a few simple ways to get started at home:

Switch to cloth napkins: Consider using towels or washcloths rather than paper towels. By using washable towels, you will not only drastically reduce the amount of paper waste, but you will also save money by avoiding the cost of repeatedly purchasing single-use paper towels and napkins! Using cloth napkins has the added bonus of creating fun, brightly colored table settings.

Cloth napkins and plate.
Cloth napkins will not only reduce waste, but will also save money while adding decorative flair to your kitchen and dining room (Photo: Unsplash).

Shop in bulk and/or fill your own containers: Much of the plastic and waste we produce is from single-use packaging. Look for items that use little to no excessive plastic packaging. When you shop, seek out stores with bulk goods, especially those where you can bring your own containers. You will generate less single-use packaging waste and save money to boot! In many cases, buying in bulk is less costly than individually-packaged items.

Glass jars filled with dried goods.
Some stores offer shoppers the option of using their own containers. This reduces the amount of single-use plastic packaging that many food and grocery products usually come in (Photo: NOAA).

Skip extra plastic when ordering takeout: If placing takeout or delivery orders, ask for single-use utensils or individually wrapped condiments to be left out of your order. Many establishments now have this option when placing online orders. Using utensils, condiments, and napkins from your own kitchen is free and reduces additional takeout waste.

Switch to wool dryer balls: Dryer sheets are disposed of after a single use. Wool dryer balls are an excellent alternative to dryer sheets that can be used many times, and decrease drying time for your clothes. You can even add and change the fragrance through the use of different essential oils, or keep them fragrance-free.

Opt for reusable instant coffee pods: Many of us start our days with a fresh cup of coffee, and single-use coffee pods are a popular choice. Making your own coffee at home and opting for refillable coffee pods can reduce waste from discarded coffee cups and pods, and can save you money.

Marine debris is a human-made problem, which ultimately means that we are the solution. There are many ways we can reduce the amount of waste we all produce on a daily basis, and home is a great place to begin building these practices into habits. Cheers to the new year and waste reduction resolutions!

Reducing Waste by Building Habits at Home

Posted Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:00

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Janice Murphy

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 13:16

If we eat out (appropriately distanced, of course), we try to fill our own reusable containers with any leftovers. It’s easier to make it happen right now since the servers are leaving the packing up to the patrons in most cases.

K. Anderson

Sun, 01/10/2021 - 03:22

Beeswax paper is available for storing cheese and produce instead of plastic bags or plastic wrap and biobags made from a corn starch base are now available for many of the uses that you currently use plastic bags for. They are widely available online.


Sun, 01/10/2021 - 23:41

Many restaurants still use the old type of clamshell foam containers for takeout service. Customers should ask for cardboard containers instead. The foam style is much worse for the environment. Also, ask for condiments only if you plan to use them. A lot of plastic containers are used for the condiments but are tossed out unused. Chinese hot mustard, soy sauce, etc.


Wed, 02/10/2021 - 03:37

That's a good post. Very helpful.


Fri, 08/06/2021 - 19:25

Where do I buy that sick NOAA-branded reusable utensil bag?!! I hope someone knows.


Mon, 11/28/2022 - 01:24

good post